Go Fish

You are what you eat. That trite truism has been kicking around for a few decades now, and although it has been an aphorism to encourage healthy eating it does convey a deeper truth. Scientists working in Africa have determined that the hominid diet of roughly two million years ago led to rapid brain expansion (rapid on an evolutionary scale, of course), according the New Jersey Star-Ledger. Remains found in Kenya, featuring a Rutgers University archaeologist, have indicated a widely varied diet of fish, turtles, and crocodiles among ancient hominids. Apparently these animals provide valuable nutrients for brain development, a somewhat disturbing piece of information for us vegetarians.

The more I have pondered this information, the more it has become evident that the concept of God has undergone considerable evolution. As I have noted several times in the past, religious behavior emerges at the very least in the Paleolithic Era of human development. What those non-literate ancestors thought or believed about “God” is long lost, but it seems to have persisted into modern conceptions of divinity. Belief in supernatural beings is attested world-wide, and therefore is a true human universal. (There are, of course, non-theistic religions and individuals, but all cultures show some measure of belief in the supernatural.)

In those moments when I am free to ponder what this might mean, I wonder about the earliest conceptions of the divine. It seems likely that this being was like a hominid, able to respond in kind to placating gestures on the part of early humans. An abstraction simply doesn’t fit easily into minds focused on the practical aspects of survival without the guidance of professional theologians. That early God was able to, but not obligated to assist our fearful ancestors with the struggles of daily life. That aspect of the divine being has not changed in many millennia. Even today many religious individuals still consume fish, a food approved even for meat-free days, by God himself.

Early images of God?

6 thoughts on “Go Fish

  1. I use to be religiously vegetarian, no my family is unabashedly and almost evangelically carnivore. I am convinced that a carnivore diet is much more healthy than a vegetarian diet. We even raise our own birds to fill our freezer. Why are you vegetarian? (Save the earth? Kindness to animals? Health? Green?)

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    • Steve Wiggins

      Hi Sabio. The vegetarian aspect has been part of me since a kid, but only fully active for the last decade or so. As a child it bothered me that we kept animals as pets but also ate animals. I remember asking my mother what part of the animal it actually was that we were eating. She answered with a non-committal “meat.” When a grad student I gave up red meat for health reasons, and later gave up all meat for conscience’s sake. I respect all life, and truth be told, I wish there were an alternative to eating plants! I’ve always been a “walk lightly on the earth” kind of person, not wanting other people (or animals) to be inconvenienced by me. Eating them falls into that same category, I suppose.

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  2. Henk van der Gaast

    Remember that little rule about correlation and causation?

    Forgive my materialness card being played so early in the piece (you have to admit its a good trump). I claim materialness as usual!

    a) You wouldn’t have gotten that from misinterpreting Frans’ authoritive tomes. As far as we can see in the fossil record, efficient tool makers and increasingly efficient hunters made the grade to homo. Its a clear delineation from different order apes and proto hominids.

    That is to say, those that were efficient hunter gatherers were homo and brain size associations grew with a number of factors. Facultative bipedalism was one as well. What would we have said if ardipithecus was a fantastic agrarian that out competed us?

    Truth be known, a diet of animal lipid supplements makes a hell of a lot more sense.

    b) now to the claim that god is supernatural. This is the sort of claim that yahwistic apologists make of late ever since we have established that there is a natural world and make believe. In doing so, these apologetics have consigned their gods to the same corner of books you and I had reserved for ghosts and doppelgangers.

    Elsewhere I have stated that god does not wear a spandex suit or a bow tie and travel around in a police box. Its more absurd to expect him to be eternal because he/she/both is outside nature and yet can interact with nature.

    It comes as no surprise to me that breathing is stopped when you explain to these folk that god from the bible is very material indeed. He was thought to have an over god early on in the piece. God is material, god is the god of israel.

    Of course, folk like William Lane Craig spend so much time clouding argument with woofle, they forget that god is a very simple being. Many of his attributes are wasted on him/her because god is fairly dim as far as his brethren and associates went. The Ha-Satan would certainly back me up on this.

    Steve there is a lot to be said for dietary restrictions. Most of these come from inefficient preparation practices leading to mis adventure.

    Nowadays the Soylent green option may seem repugnant but its eminently achievable as protein and lipids essential acids and salts can be recycled from all parts of an animal or plant.

    I am sure that all the expiring animals in the world could be comfortably processed holus bolus for a nutritious green biscuit and (given that the Lane-O-lites of this world clearly indicate their ridiculous stances on morals and supernaturalism); god won’t hold it against you. Clearly (from their understanding), he wont even notice.

    Definition; Ontological, tooth grinding after a poor argument is presented by another arts student hell bent on being hell bent.

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  3. rey

    “Even today many religious individuals still consume fish, a food approved even for meat-free days, by God himself.”

    I love your that line. I haven’t been here in a while but I’ve gotta start coming back. I still remember the first post I read about Ugarit cola.

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  4. Henk van der Gaast

    God (Apsu) did make the world from the water.

    It only stands to reason Tiamat ate fish!

    No wonder she was so irritable waiting for grain and pumpkins.

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  5. Shufei

    “It seems likely that this being was like a hominid, able to respond in kind to placating gestures on the part of early humans. An abstraction simply doesn’t fit easily into minds focused on the practical aspects of survival without the guidance of professional theologians.”

    This and other such statements from those inducted into Western religious contexts further convince me of the desperate need for non-Abrahamic religious education in the Eurosphere. The dichotomy of the physical Hellenic god versus the transcendent and judging Semitic god is a very local cultural feature. Yet it often seems to deeply bind those raised in it. I’d ask you to consider that the true baseline of human religiosity is in the animistic world view, which often has no trouble relating to the world in a naturalistic way, with spirits embodied and not, anthropomorphized or not. Hunter gatherers betray little of this sort of Victorian assumption of what the “practical” means, but rather live fully encultured in animistic relations with very numinous spiritual powers and essences, even in very desperate straits.

    One other key facet to consider is that the relation of the animist to the spirit is plural, sometimes infinitely plural. The shifting articulations of imminent divinity perplex the animist very little, but rather fluidly spring simultaneously from the font of imagination that all mind embodies. Rarely have I seen anthropologists appreciate this: tapus placate, tapus order, but tapus always shift in context and aeon. There is typically no uniting ur-tapu to point to. No original sin. (Thus, when seeing your post on the synthetic cell, I could only shrug and smile as an animist. It’s always wonderful to see how the gods flow the primordial qi even through our fumbling explorations. True gods do not create; They generate and insist that we are part of that evolution. Yet how sad the humanist will alienate their stories, with Atlantean self-surety, from the birthright animistic vision that would illumine science as wizardry, and thereby relate the root of alchemical wisdom.)

    So, no, I seriously doubt there was a “first god” to bear relation with humans. Rather, there is an evolutionary transformation of divinity with which all life (even artificial life) may participate. Ontology indeed sits at the top of the hierarchy of needs for the sentient. I’m prepared to believe that the roots of religiosity ultimately lay not in myth (as I believe Westerns understand it) but in wordless, direct participation in a fluid, thing-less, self-thus world. In the beginning was the wordless.

    Anyway, something to consider. Your journal is fascinating; thanks for being out there.

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