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History channel’s survey of human history opens with a sadly skewed story.
Mankind: The Story of All of Us, a new 12-hour miniseries, premiered this week on the History Channel. Promotional materials say this program shows “how mankind’s path is guided by events that stretch back, not hundreds, but thousands, even millions of years.”1
The episode opens with the big bang and then jumps to the appearance of humans on earth, a planet suited for life because it has liquid water. The molecules-to-man evolutionary story is left out, as the time constraints in the series are packed. But picking up with the story of early man—depicted by stereotypical modern African tribesmen— already evolved in African grasslands, the program proceeds to depict the standard evolutionary view of man’s development.
Though the show replaces the conventional ape-like ancestors with natives decently clothed and in their right minds, “expert” narrators keep the evolutionary party line before us. Early humans are depicted as hunter-gatherers. While spear-toting tribesmen stalk dinner, “military expert and former Navy SEAL” Richard “Mack” Machowicz explains that to compete with animals and secure food, man had to walk on two legs and invent tools. “You have to be on two feet,” he emphasizes.2 “You have to free up your hands, and freeing up your hands to work with tools changes the game, and there is no other species on this planet that committed to weapon use and tool use like us.” The voice-over then explains that we would “spend the next hundred millennia perfecting weapons that kill at a distance.” (While the timeframe, 100,000 years, is an evolutionary distortion, the violence of human history is at least a reality.)
Shifting gears momentarily from its military sneak-peek, the program presents the evolutionary version of the Promethean myth. Fire is “the element that makes us who we are.” How? “Cooking our food gives us a second stomach outside of our body” to begin digestion, explains popular TV health show host Dr. Mehmet Oz. As a result, Oz says, “We get a smaller stomach and therefore a bigger brain.” The voice-over adds, “Better nutrition boosts the human brain. Over 2 million years, it more than doubles in size with trillions of connections—the most complex structure in the universe—letting us think, communicate, and love.” And to emphasize the point, chef Anthony Bourdain explains, “It could be argued that society, any kind of society, began with the cooking of meat over flame.”
This assessment of course ignores the got-to-cook-the-veggies-to-grow-a bigger-brain evolutionary stage,3 but then natives gathering roots and nuts aren’t as visually appealing to TV viewers as natives stalking antelope. To make its superficial survey of history interesting, the producers designed a program that, according to the LA Times “with its emphasis on battles, weapons and gadgetry, is clearly aimed at engaging the easily distracted preteen male.”
Thus, as early man trudges out of Africa and eventually learns to farm, we see the textbook evolutionary version of history. Though not illustrated with microcephalic ape-men becoming human, the evolutionary thread is clear. Bipedality allegedly allowed our ancestors to use tools to get better food that they could then cook, facilitating evolution of bigger brains. They then moved out of Africa and learned to farm, steal, and use weapons against each other.
Needless to say, the program ignores biblical history. The Bible does get a literary mention with an allusion to the biblical association of Megiddo with Armageddon. But the narrator says that Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III’s battle at Megiddo was “the first recorded battle in the story of mankind,” ignoring the biblical historical record of battles that long preceded it, such as the battle of kings in the valley of Siddim in Abraham’s time, as described in Genesis chapter 14.
By ignoring biblical history, the producers present a distorted view of civilization’s earliest development. Missing are the historical Adam and Eve, the Genesis 4 record of man’s early competence in metallurgy and musical instruments, the fact that man started out as a farmer not a hunter-gather, and of course the global Flood. Also missing is the pivotal dispersion from the Tower of Babel, the watershed moment from which sprang people groups that eventually developed into tribes and nations.
But then, to acknowledge the Bible’s legitimacy as a historical document might lead viewers to believe what it says about God. It might lead people to consider the Bible’s explanation for all the death and violence that make up much of our history. And it might lead people to then seek an answer for their personal guilt and need for an eternal purpose in Jesus Christ.
The Bible is a reliable source of history, and to simply ignore it in favor of an oft-told secular humanistic saga is a dangerous omission for viewers young and old.
The LA Times mentioned an advisory regarding the “coarse language” that crops up in the program. We would issue a “reality advisory.” The program’s first episode does not depict history accurately. The Bible is a reliable source of history, and to simply ignore it in favor of an oft-told secular humanistic saga is a dangerous omission for viewers young and old—including the “easily distracted preteen male.”
The evolutionary aspects of this episode, since they skip the molecules-to-man story, are more insidious for its absence. The notions that bipedality freed our hands to use tools and that cooking fueled the evolution of bigger brains don't look so absurd when modern African natives appear in the ancient roles. These evolutionary ideas may go unrecognized by the unwary. Many people don't realize that evolutionary humanistic claims go way past Genesis 11.
Moreover, cooking our food didn’t make our brains grow big enough to “think, communicate, and love.” God created Adam and Eve in His own image, able to think, communicate, and have loving relationships with each other and with Him. He even allowed them the freedom to rebel against their Creator. That rebellion is the key event to explaining the violence in history, and trusting in the love and grace of God from creation to Christ is still the key to solving our worst problems.
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