The late archeologist Steve J Gould well into his career came up with a twist on evolution that was termed “punctuated evolution” (PE). PE was the first real acknowledgement that uniformitarianism was not the only principle at work in the earth sciences and biology. There was just so much evidence that something other than slow, incremental mutations and slow, incremental erosion, that sooner or later someone was going to have to bring in the sudden bursts and extinctions into the mix. Gould was the guy who did it, and I give him credit for doing it.
But, like all changes that come from within, PE was only a half step, a conservative step, one that had to be limited in its scope in order to be at all acceptable in his field. Evolution itself came from without. Alfred Wallace was not an academic, and if he hadn’t written Charles Darwin about his ideas about natural selection, Darwin might never have gotten around to publishing his ideas. Literally. Darwin knew it was too big a sea change and was trepidatious about putting his ideas out there. Without Wallace’s full conclusions about natural selection, one has to wonder what timid half step Darwin might have taken, if and when he would have gotten around to publishing anything.
But evolution or punctuated evolution, there is still a lot more evidence out there that something happened along the way that interrupted, not only natural selection, but the flow of human history. It may not even be a coincidence that the very demarcation between history and pre-history is laid out at the same time as the extinction of the mammoths and other megafauna in North America and the extinction of full-sized mammoths everywhere. But whatever it was, it was more extreme – in the time of man – than what is covered by Gould’s modification to Darwin’s theory. Mankind’s development did not stop with the advent of homo sapiens sapiens. at the individual level. Once sapiens began collecting in units larger than matings, his real devlopment took off.
So, more than punctuated evolution, as regards the development of h. sapiens sapiens. , there was the development of homo civilus. And it didn’t happen only once, unless I miss my mark.
…There is currently a rousing debate going on having to do with the sudden beginning of a period known as the Younger-Dryas Stadial. The furor is that in 2004 Dr Richard Firestone and a large group of scientists has – using an interdisciplinarian approach – arrived at the conclusion that Clovis man did not wipe out the mammoths, but that a comet impact did the deed instead. While some scientists have publicly disagreed with Firestone and the Y-D impact theory, as time has gone on more and more evidence has come along to support the basic premise. Since this time was also the end of the Pleistocene and the beginning of the Holocene, lets use the term “Holocene Start Impact” (HSI) favored by at least a few of the researchers in the field.
Is it real? Time will tell. Some features have not panned out well – so far. Some have – and will continue to be – sticking points. One big issue is: Where did the HSI happen, if it did? The problem is that the impact site area that seemed likely was on the North American ice sheet, somewhere around the Great Lakes. With the ice not only taking the brunt of the impact, but also doing its ice age moraine thing as warming took place, you’d think that evidence is going to be tough to find. And you’d be right. But is lack of evidence really evidence at all? Whatever there is going to be compromised and probably ambiguous. Add to that the real world fact that astronomers and geologists are by nature very conservative, and they had a really tough time admitting that anything at all fell from the sky – and now that they accept it, they have a very narrow view of what is acceptable evidence of “stuff” falling out of the sky. Rocks was bad enough, but they now define an impact as where a meteor fell – which means it has to have a rock buried in the bottom of the crater.
But what happens if it is not a rock, but a ball of loosely agglomerated ice and dust? Well, obviously the remnants will not be an Iron-Nickel chunk? The wheels of scientific progress don’t move that fast. After all, Bill Shoemaker had a helluva a time convincing anyone that even Meteor Crater (Barringer Crater) was a meteor crater. And that was only in the last 40 years. Like I said, scientific progress and all that…
But let us suppose that a comet did hit 12.9 kya (12,900 years ago), on the ice that was a mile or two thick. That IS what I think happened. Assuming it did, as the evidence is increasingly showing, what would it do to to human development?
I have just read a presentation by the astronomer Victor Clube, one of the authors of “Cosmic Winter.” I do invite you to go read that presentation. He’s been giving it or a version of it for about 20 years now. He gave the talk to the Kronia Group in 2008, but they no longer owns the URL kronia.com which is shown on the link above. I was unable to find them via Google.
Kronia Group has to do with Immanuel Velikovsky. For those who don’t know the back story, please read up on it starting with Wikipedia.
This post is not so much about Velikovsky as it is about comets and their impact on mankind. Even as I read his books back in the early 1970s, I disagreed with V’s conclusions. I started out with “Earth in Upheaval,” which was the most solidly earth-scientific of his three books back around 1950, so I loved all the evidence he brought in. People are still today going to the same sources he did. I strongly suspect that since Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacted Jupiter in such a dramatic way in 1994, that people are stealing V’s stuff and not crediting him at all.
Certainly something catastrophic has happened to the Earth in the past, and I am not speaking of 65 million years ago or the Permian Extinction. Velikovsky was right in using an interdisciplinarian approach. Who knows? Maybe he was ahead of his time? As the first to do it on such a broad scale, he was certain to step on toes and piss off the Pope – which he certainly did. Science was broken down into such separate disciplines at the time, and he shook them up, and all of them ganged up on him (for not being one of their own, as much as anything). I’ve always said that it didn’t matter that he got the conclusions right, dammit – the important thing is that he got us looking at the stuff the science was sweeping under the carpet.
Under what carpet? And what was being swept under?
Well, things like mammoth extinctions, for one. Yes, the Clovis scientists had that all figured out: A few thousand guys with stone-tipped spears chased all over every inch of the Americas and killed them – for meat, I guess, even though that was a LOT of waste. Ten guys bringing down a mammoth can eat just how much before the meat goes bad? And then, instead of hunting whatever local small game or deer (much, much less dangerous), they went off looking for another mammoth. And they did it in such a vast sweep that none of the mammoths were able to sneak around their hunting party and start grazing the area just denuded of pachyderms. That scenario seemed to hold water for the academic community, but I never fell for it. Besides, it never explained why it happened also in Asia at the same time. And why it didn’t happen in Africa. So I don’t buy it. But still, the mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers did disappear at that time. Being a global warming skeptic, I also don’t hold with the “climate-done-it” argument, either. A degree or two of climate change would not kill all the mammoths. Especially not fast enough so that one frozen one had buttercups in its stomach still.
Right now there are plenty of markers other than a ‘smoking gun’ for believing that an impact did happen at that time, even without a specific site spelled out yet.
Clovis man himself seems to have died out at that exact same time, as Clovis points stop right at the same time that the mammoths did. (Perhaps the only guy who knew how to make them died intestate.)
I am making the tie-in here is that there was plenty of human societal activity before the HSI, and that the impact wiped out nearly all evidence of their having existed, and that this erasure in itself created the line between our pre-history and our history. I am going to argue that prehistorical humans were not prehistorical at all. They just got wiped out by the HSI, and that, in having to start up ‘civilization’ again, they seemed to be inventing it for the first time – agriculture, mining, the wheel, domestication of animals, etc.
In oding so, I make the argument that human development isn’t just punctuated, but that from time to time it gets erased and that we have to start all over.
The miraculous art work in the caves at Lascaux? Done by civilized artistic people who survived and still had the urge to paint, but had no easels or canvases, so they painted the best they could as muralists – even getting their kids into it.
The truly megalithic ancient sites around the world? The only remnants of pretty advanced technological societies.
Now, Velikovsky talked about how he read in the Bible the story of the Sun moving around in the sky in erratic ways. He reasoned that if it wasn’t a mass hallucination or just imaginative imagery, then there should be evidence in the tales of other ancient peoples around the world. He argued that if the Sun moved back and forth, it was certainly not the Sun really moving, but was instead the Earth’s rotation being stopped and re-started somehow. And if in one place it was UP in the sky, moving back and forth, then somewhere else it was delayed in its rising, while somewhere else the Sun would have appeared to rise than go back DOWN, before rising again. In his writings that relates that that is exactly what he found in the tales of ancient cultures.
That part no one has ever picked apart, not that I know of.
Right now, I am showing minimal evidence to support it, but in time hope to be able to do just that. There is enough to persuade me, so I will try to add enough evidence to convince others, in bits and pieces. But I wanted to lay out for now where I am going with this. Clube talks about several impacts having happened in the last 20,000 years, due to the breakup at that time of the Comet we now call Comet Encke. He talks about how twice a year – in late June and then again in early November – we pass through the remnants of that comet. He notes that the Tunguska blast of June 1908 happened right when the Taurid comet shower happens. If Tunguska is fairly typical of comet remnants, we might be at risk, even right now. How is that for alarmism? I disagree with the global warmers and their version of alarmism, but I do it, too, in my own way. I see the two differently, of course, or I wouldn’t do it. I can see that if Tunguska had been a little bit bigger and if it had made it to the ground, what kind of damage would it have caused? And what if it hit in the Pacific Ocean, which covers over 30% of the surface of the Earth, making it the most likely single are to be hit? It isn’t a slow change that we can adapt to; it is an instantaneous smack down of whoever is alive on the planet.
And it seems from evidence that it has happened before. In the time of man.
The next question has to be: If it happened once, has it happened before, too? And if so, how many times has man had to have to start civilization again?