In the Indian magazine Swarajya (December 2017), author Aaravindan Neelakandan politely criticizes me for supporting the accounts of extreme human antiquity found in the Puranas, the historical and cosmological texts of India’s Sanskrit literature. This is somewhat ironic, given that Swarajya is the Hindi word for “independence.” Although India gained political independence from Great Britain in 1947, many of its intelligentsia remains under the influence of British, or Western, ideas. India has yet to achieve intellectual independence.
Most scientists say that humans are machines made of molecules, in an accidental universe. Humans like us first appeared less than 200,000 years ago, they say, having evolved from ancient apes. The Puranas say we do not live in an accidental universe. We are not just machines made of molecules. We are eternal conscious selves, originally independent of matter. But we have forgotten that. God gave us the universe, and the human body, as an opportunity to revive our forgotten nature. The human body did not evolve from apes. It has been available for souls since the beginning of creation.
And when was that beginning? The basic unit of Puranic cyclical time is the kalpa, or day of Brahma. Its duration is 4.32 billion years. According to the Puranas, human bodies and other kinds of bodies are manifested at the beginning of each kalpa. The original human ancestor is Manu. The current kalpa began about 2 billion years ago. That means humans have been around for a long time.
In the eighteenth century, the British rulers of India were astonished by the vastness of Puranic time. In those days, before Darwin, many scientists in Britain accepted a Biblical chronology, which put the creation of Adam (and the earth) at a little over 4000 BC. Sir William Jones (1746–1794), a British official and scholar in India, identified Manu with Adam and put their appearance at 4006 BC (The Works of William Jones, 1799, London, vol. 1, p. 313). Ideas like this were promoted in the Indian education system set up by the British.
In the nineteenth century, along with accepting the ideas of Darwin, British science gave up the short Biblical chronology. It accepted the vast time spans of geologists like Charles Lyell (millions and billions of years). This time scale for the age of the earth is like the Puranic time scale. But instead of placing the first humans in the beginning of this new time scale, science came to believe that humans like us evolved from apes and appeared less than 200,000 years ago. Despite India’s political independence, the education system set up by the British continues to operate. Indian scientists and scholars continue to accept the Western scientific view, whatever it happens to be at the time, and to reject the Puranic ideas about human origins and antiquity. Neelakandan’s opposition to my work demonstrates this.
One impetus for Neelakandan’s critique was one of my columns in Atlantis Rising magazine. In that column (see AR #123), I described my research visit to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, England, where I studied some simple stone tools (eoliths, or “dawn stones”), discovered by geologist A. Rutot at Boncelles, Belgium, in deposits belonging to the Oligocene period, which extends from 23 to 34 million years ago. In my column, I noted that the museum catalog entry for the Rutot collection said: “These are regarded by many archaeologists as non-artifact, and the very early geological horizon appears to preclude Man’s intervention.”
Neelakandan then quoted my thoughts on this catalog entry. I had written: “Scientists influenced by Darwin’s ideas think that the first tool-making human predecessor (Homo habilis or a variety of Australopithecus) existed around three million years ago. Tool-making in the Oligocene? Impossible!… This is a good example of what I call the knowledge filtration—the writer thought these objects could not be tools because toolmakers and especially human toolmakers, should not be present in Oligocene.”
Neelakandan then said, “Science simply does not work this way. Darwinian evolution is not a religious dogma. It is a scientific framework. While humans, even those ascribing to evolution, can tend to become dogmatic or fixated in certain hypotheses or theories, Darwinian science of evolution itself has evolved.” And my point is that there are more than a few of “those ascribing to evolution who have become dogmatic and fixated,” and this has placed some limits on the extent to which the science of evolution can “evolve.”
Neelakandan argued that eoliths were rejected by science, not from dogmatic adherence to evolution’s timeline, but because researchers such as Samuel Hazzledine Warren demonstrated that eoliths could be formed by natural forces. But if we look carefully at Warren’s study (Journal of the Geological Society of London, 1921, vol. 76, pp. 238-253), we see that, despite his attempt to appear objective, Warren could not conceal his implicit commitment to the evolutionary timeline. He presented pieces of flint that he claimed were exactly like eoliths. These pieces of flint came from the Bullhead Bed in Essex, England. This was an Eocene formation. The Eocene goes from 34 million to 56 million years ago. Warren assumed that reasonable persons, even supporters of the eoliths, would agree that humanlike toolmakers could not have been present in the Eocene, and that, therefore, natural forces can only have formed these “eoliths.” But in the Bullhead Bed, Warren found not only objects resembling quite simple eoliths, but, also, objects resembling more advanced stone tools of the Mousterian industry. Modern archeologists assign the Mousterian tools to Neanderthals or early anatomically modern humans and give them an age range of 40,000 to 160,000 years ago. Warren himself said of one such object (p. 248): “This, a good example of a trimmed-flake point, is the most remarkable of the group. If considered by itself, upon its own apparent merits, and away from its associates and the circumstances of its discovery, its Mousterian affinities could scarcely be questioned. But… I dug it out of the Bullhead bed myself in circumstances which preclude the possibility of mistake.”
So let us consider the facts. Warren finds an object that he admits is exactly like a Mousterian stone tool. He tells us that any archaeologist who saw it by itself would characterize it as a Mousterian trimmed-flake point. He further informs us that it definitely came from an Eocene formation (the Bullhead Bed), meaning it was of Eocene age, and there was no mistake about this. So what is one to conclude from these facts? If one were not under the influence of the idea that humanlike toolmakers could not have been present in the Eocene, one might take this discovery as evidence for a humanlike presence in the Eocene. But, if like Warren, one was somewhat dogmatically committed to the idea that humanlike toolmakers could not have been present in the Eocene, one might conclude, as did Warren, that natural forces were responsible for producing not only simple stone tools like eoliths but more advanced stone tools such as Mousterian points.
There are other examples of dogmatic resistance. In 1880, in his book The Auriferous Gravels of the Sierra Nevada of California, geologist J. D. Whitney published reports of human bones and human artifacts (including stone mortars and pestles) found in deposits modern geologists assign to the Eocene. In reply, anthropologist William Holmes stated: “Perhaps if Professor Whitney appreciated the story of human evolution as it is understood today, he would have hesitated to announce the conclusions formulated, notwithstanding the imposing array of testimony with which he was confronted.” (Smithsonian Institution Annual Report 1898–1899, p.424) In other words, if the facts did not support evolution, they should be discarded.
In his article, Neelakandan also discusses the recent discovery on Crete of footprints 5.7 million years old. He mentions that the footprints indicate their maker was bipedal, as are modern humans. He correctly says this extends by a million years the previously accepted age for upright walking on two legs, and he takes this as proof that science is not dogmatic and can change in response to new evidence. But I propose that evolutionary preconceptions establish limits to the changes that can actually be considered. Neelakandan, like the discoverers of the Crete footprints, assumes their maker must have been some primitive hominin, akin to Ardipithecus or Australopithecus. Neelakandan, like the discoverers, does not appear to fully appreciate the significance of the many features of the footprints that show their form to be very much like that of modern human feet. Someone not committed to the overall human evolutionary scenario might take the very humanlike Crete footprints as evidence for a human presence 5.7 million years ago (as I suggest in my column on these footprints in AR #127).
In light of this, I suggest that Neelakandan reevaluate his negative assessment of the truth-value of the accounts of extreme human antiquity found in the Puranas. After all, if he is correct in his assessment of science, that it is always evolving, perhaps its path of evolution eventually may take it in the direction of the Puranic conclusions.
Michael A. Cremo is the author, with Richard Thompson, of the underground classic Forbidden Archeology: The Hidden History of Human Race. He has also written Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory (see http://www.humandevolution.com).