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Whether at Chauvet or Somewhere Else, Something Happened

Peter Robinson is the uncommonly charming host of the Hoover Institution vidcast Uncommon Knowledge. Writing at Ricochet, he describes the experience he and Mrs. Robinson had watching Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams, about the thirty-thousand-year-old cave paintings at Chauvet.

Robinson cites a passage from Chesterton on evolution, to the effect that with the appearance of art in the historical record, "Something of division and disproportion has appeared; and it is unique. Art is the signature of man." Robinson reflects:

Chesterton is not, be it noted, offering an argument against evolution per se. What he is offering is an argument that evolution, understood as some sort of slow, steady development from slime to, let us say, Michelangelo, is, at the very least, incomplete. At some point, something happened. Men became wholly and utterly different from every other form of life on the planet -- different, as Chesterton writes "in kind and not in degree." When you look at the paintings in Chauvet, again, what thrills you and shocks you is the stark inescapable sense of recognition. They were as human as we.
In the film, Herzog observes, "It is as if the modern human soul had awakened here." That's well said and, whether it happened in southern France or somewhere else, it happened with a suddenness like a bolt of lightning from a calm sky.

That is also, I think, the ultimate takeaway message of our new book Science and Human Origins. As Robinson says, at some point, "Men became wholly and utterly different from every other form of life on the planet." And evolutionary theory, incomplete as it is, cannot explain what happened.