Considering Abel

In Ardrey’s view, it is the herbivorous A. robustus that represents Abel.  He says of A. africanus and A. robustus,

Both – most significantly – have lost in equal measure the ape’s Imagefighting teeth…. The two have likenesses and unlikenesses.  Nothing but the evolutionary experience of a common ancestor can explain the similar terrestrial specialization and the similar reduction of fighting canines.  And nothing but an evolutionary parting of the ways, a very long time ago, can account for the differences.  And so we must presume that their common ancestor – and ours – defeated by the ape of the forest, turned to a grubbing existence in the bush…. We are a mathematical improbability… The emergence of the terrestrial ape cannot be regarded as logical, normal, or to any degree predetermined.  It was a break with primate orthodoxy in the name of what can only be described as adventure.

But Preston Harold says not so fast.  In thinking through the entire legend, Ardrey’s view doesn’t quite fit the story.  Harold explains…

Suffice it to say that Ardrey sees Homo sapiens bound to the killer instinct of A. aftricanus… but two questions must be considered.  Can A. africanus rightly be likened to Cain?  Is Homo sapiens Cain’s child?  Is it not a fallacy to liken a carnivorous animal to Cain who brought as offering the “fruit of the ground” indicating that he was herbivorous?  The legend suggests that Abel was the carnivore, first to use tool or weapon to procure the fat of the firstlings of his flock that he offered.  But the meat Abel offered was not the flesh of a brother-being, and the carnivore that must kill for food is not a murderer.  A. africanus comes nearer to fitting the shoe that Abel wears in the legend.  He must be seen as both innocent and superior.  During the Pliocene, in Africa the carnivore, A. africanus, must have commanded more “respect” in evolution’s process than the herbivorous A. robustus who more nearly fits the shoe of Cain – but in that awful drought “A single commandment, unheard and unseen, overhung the birth of every infant: kill, and eat meat, or die.”  This perhaps provided the extenuating circumstance – the legend says God put upon Cain a “protective mark” after he had become a killer, before he was driven out into the wilderness.  Life could not, however, pass on unattenuated the genes of this creature who first of all murdered a brother-being.

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At this point, Harold bids us to reckon Seth, and we will do that in our next post.  Until then, peace…

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