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Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Attenborough's Anthropology

"Sir David Attenborough wants more women to lead like in the animal kingdom."

A household name, a national treasurer
For as long as I have been watching TV, I have enjoyed the wildlife programmes written and narrated by David Attenborough. He has a deep understanding of the natural world and a winsome way about him.

I encouraged my sons to watch his nature programmes as they were growing up (though always with their "baloney" filters turned on: they learned to temporarily tune out when he mentioned evolutionary theory, the present creation myth.)

But now Attenborough, at the ripe and grand old age of 92, has turned from wildlife to anthropology and boldly declared his wish that more women become leaders in the world of human beings. 

Pourquoi?  because females are often leaders in the animal kingdom.

Using the world of elephants as his example he notes how  the lead females have all the wisdom, bring up all the "kids" and deal with the problems of drought. Bull elephants by contrast don’t stick with the family, and, he says, dash around, trumpeting and copulating whenever they get the chance.

As in the animal kingdom so is (irresponsible men) and should be (wise women leaders) the human kingdom.

Dear Dave
Where has Attenborough gone wrong?

First, because he is wedded to the theory of evolution, he thinks that there is a straight line between the animal kingdom and the human world: Animals 'R' Us. Since human beings have arisen from the animal kingdom by the process of evolution we are to expect continuity between the animal kingdom and the world of human beings. And more than continuity - lessons about how we should order our human world.

Suppose however that evolution is a myth of the first order? Suppose it is just the latest in a long line of creation myths - this one generated by a scientific culture? Suppose the measure of continuity between the animal kingdom and the world of human beings is not account of common descent, but common Creator? Suppose that examined in any detail, there is actually a step discontinuity between the animal kingdom and human beings? And that this discontinuity is on account of humans being made in the image of God, rather than being made in the image of animals? Why then should we look to elephant communities as our guides?

For those with their eyes open, nothing is clearer than that humankind is radically and step-wise different from all the animal kingdom. Humans are made in the image of God, with minds and emotions and creativity totally and completely unmatched in the animal kingdom. When an animal thinks of food, it means an immediate digestion of the meal, for example. When a human being thinks of a meal, she thinks, what shall I eat today? Perhaps, I want to eat this meal with a friend. I will find out what my friend likes. Text friend. I will go to the shop and buy the ingredients. Come home and cook it. Text friend to tell them it is ready.  Lay the table with tablecloth knife and fork. Light scented candle - of the fragrance liked by friend. Buy some wine to go with the dish: one kind out of thousands of kinds, choose carefully and wisely. Welcome the friend into the house. Ask them to sit at the table. Perhaps say thanks for the food. Share it out - offering the guest the first portion. Talk between mouth fulls and so on. An infinitely more complex process than "feeding behaviour" at the zoo. What goes for food goes for every other comparison - the points of discontinuity far outweigh the tiny points of continuity.

So we should never look to the world of animals for our behaviour, because animals are not us. We rise infinitely and gloriously above them in every way imaginable.

Second, "Dave" is wrong to suggest that the parallels between the behaviour of some men and all bulls is inevitable.  Men are fallen creatures. Perhaps there is now, in our fallen world, an all-too-common superficial parallel between some men and the self-centred bull. But that is not the way God made men. God made Adam to love Eve, to protect her and cherish her and put her needs first. The likeness of some men to an elephant bull is not how things should be. To draw the parallel is to reinforce a false stereotype and to discourage men from rising any higher.

Shall we now follow the lead of all animal behaviour? Eat like pigs? Copulate and defecate in public? Why not? Why not?

Third, Mr Attenborough is wrong, because he is reasoning without Revelation. If we were left to our own poor intellects and certain examples of the animal kingdom, "women should lead" may be a conclusion we draw. But since we have God's Word on the matter, we know that women leading is not the way it should be nor the way it was meant to be.

God made Adam to lovingly lead his wife, not to be led by her. By leading we mean primarily loving Eve in a sacrificial way, so that she naturally wants his lead. This is the way all women uncontaminated by feminism or the dreadful example of bull-headed males think, it's what they would ideally want. Their psychology and biology desires the lead of a  kind and loving man. 

If men were what they ought to be, then the anthropological ramblings of Attenborough would gain no traction.

This kind of reasoning will be more and more common. Our children must be inoculated against it. There is no sign that the discredited theory of evolution will be replaced by something more sensible and truthful, and so we can expect more animalistic anthropology to enter the mainstream of received wisdom in our western culture.

Mr Attenborough, stick to wildlife. 

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