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The wedge of Krishna creationism
on 16 September 2013
"The Hidden History of the Human Race" is the condensed version of "Forbidden Archaeology", which somewhat confusingly has the subtitle "The Hidden History of the Human Race". Both books are authored by Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson. Cremo is the more well-known of the two, often starring in TV specials on alternative history, forbidden knowledge, and the like. Cremo and Thompson (the latter is deceased) are/were members of the Hare Krishna movement, and their books on human prehistory have been dubbed "Krishna creationism" by critics.
The authors seem to accept the old age of the Earth, while claiming that all living creatures were created simultaneously. Thus, Cremo and Thompson have to find evidence that anatomically modern humans have always existed (!), and therefore can't be late evolutionary descendants of the reptilian-mammalian line. This sounds easier said than done, but apparently a sizeable portion of the scientific community *did* believe in the enormous antiquity of man until about a century ago. Various finds of fossils, tools and scratched bones were interpreted as evidence for the existence of Homo sapiens during the Tertiary (Oligocene, Miocene, Pliocene). If true, this would create problems for evolutionary theory, since humans would be cotemporaneous with their supposed ancestors, the apes and "ape-men". Cremo and Thompson attempt to show that anatomically modern humans might have existed even earlier, during the Age of the Dinosaurs, the Cambrian or the Precambrian! They also theorize that many of the early "humans" found in the fossil record are really apes or ape-like creatures, and that these still exist. An entire section of "The Hidden History" is devoted to Bigfoot observations.
Cambrian footprints and modern Sasquatch aside, the authors' main strategy is to rehabilitate the previously held notions about Tertiary man, while casting as much suspicion as possible on later finds. Many of their arguments against the current notions of human origins mimic those of Christian creationists. Australopithecus' status as a human ancestor is attacked on the basis of studies made by Zuckerman and Oxnard, Homo habilis is hardly even a valid taxon, Java man was a gigantic gibbon, etc. An entire chapter is devoted to Piltdown man, a proven hoax. Cremo and Thompson believe that a "knowledge filter" decides what gets published or taken seriously, and what is quietly forgotten or even suppressed. The "filter" is, of course, Darwin's theory of evolution, according to which humans are descended from earlier, more primitive forms of primates.
While Cremo and Thompson are Hindu creationist in orientation, their book has become something of a general underground classic, probably because people of many different alternative viewpoints suspect that "establishment science" is hiding *something*. Phillip Johnson of the Intelligent Design movement has written a short preface to the book. It struck me that parts of the book could be accepted even by Theosophists and Anthroposophists, who do believe in some kind of evolution, while claiming that the apes are off-shots of the human line, a speculation that predicts the existence of human fossils of equal age or older than ape or "intermediary" fossils. "The Hidden History of the Human Race" could also be seen as a mega-compendium of Fortean anomalies.
Personally, I wasn't very impressed by the book. Cremo and Thompson accuse modern science of bias, but their own biases are pretty obvious: attacking everything that moves (or shows up in the official fossil record) after about 1900, while claiming that virtually all anomalous evidence simply must be true. One wonders why Krishna created humans with fake evidences of evolutionary ancestry written all over their bodies (including such trivial things as our backaches!), or why we share so many of our genes with supposedly unrelated chimpanzees? How humans could have survived in the climate of the Precambrian, Cambrian or Mesozoic is another intriguing question. How did our ancestor avoid apex predators such as T-Rex, hide from impacting meteorites or stay alive at all during the Precambrian, before dry land even existed? The simple truth is that *nothing* in "The Hidden History" makes any sense whatsoever from a modern scientific viewpoint. But this makes Cremo's and Thompson's position more similar to Young Earth creationism, than to the old earth scenario they claim to uphold. Not just evolutionary theory, but pretty much everything else would have to go if we are to interpret the Vedic scriptures (or rather a limited selection by the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition) literally. This is never explicitly spelled out in "The Hidden History". The seemingly ecumenical anomalism is really super-sectarian.
This doesn't mean that the last word on human origins and evolution has been said. Of course it hasn't, as shown by the discoveries of The Hobbit, Neanderthals genes in modern Europeans, or Homo erectus surviving into "our" Stone Age in Australia. However, the evolutionary perspective itself is so firmly written in solid rock that I can't see how it can be erased. Not even by the wedge of Krishna creationism.