Part One: Historical Disturbances
The conventional scientist says to the catastrophist: "How convenient it is for your purposes to place your catastrophes just out of reach of true history, tantalizingly so. Is it so that the falsity of your views cannot be proven, that your assertions can remain forever in the limbo of seductive fable?"
The answer is another question: "How is it that your accuse me of something for which I am not accountable? You ask me to provide records of an event whose great force was exercised precisely in the destruction of those records? Does this not make our scores even?"
Both feel frustrated, but perhaps become a little more sympathetic, too.
Nearly every work dealing with prehistory and antiquity must lament the paucity of evidence. If there is pride in this study, it comes from having made so much out of so little -- a jaw fragment, an arrowhead, a doll, an artificial pile of stones, etc.
Under evolutionary primevalogy, there seems to be little need to build lament into a missa solemnis. If the human past was developed modestly and uniformly, a sigh over the incidents that destroyed or silted over a single site is enough and then on with the work. And so forth at whatever sites turn up. For instance, if it is believed, as Childe has said and most have agreed, that paleolithic mankind began in the British Isles with a few hundred souls, that a few hundred more dwelt there thousand years later, and so on, primevalogy might as well proceed as usual with the question of obliteration of evidence. On the other hand, if quantavolutionary theory is postulated, then a different attitude and approach are called for. Every sign of human presence in the distant past has to be taken as a survival of one in a thousand or even a hundred million events that had the potential of surviving to this day for the shovels and eyes of the primevalogist.
Furthermore, the perspective in which the residue or remain is viewed has to be radically altered. It is looked upon as strange aberration, something of an event that had a rare quality to it in addition to its bare survival, something that kept it from being obliterated along with millions of like events from the eyes of the future. It must have had a marginal quality, some special features to augment its chance of survival, and therefore is rarely to be considered typical prima facie of its culture.
The revolutionary primevalogist must also become a macromorphologist of the earth, while the evolutionary theorist can and indeed is impelled to rest with micro-morphology. The former has to look at whole areas, regions, even the globe itself, asking where the centers of human activity may have been and what might have happened to them. She or he makes different demands upon geology.
"Can you tell us," she queries, "what quantities of what material were moved, how, from where to where, from what elevation to what new elevation or depression in an area of such and such dimensions and where, if at all, would indications of settlement exist, and, if indicated, what would be the chances of detecting matters of importance, considering the capacity for obliteration of the forces involved?" The complex question is bound to elicit productive answers sooner or later. And, or course, accidental macroscopic primevalogical discoveries do occur s when cliffs fall away and streams erode canyons or coal mines are dug.
But meanwhile one should have at least some conception of the possibilities that what one has discovered micromorphologically is likely to represent but one-millionth of what was there. Or, to invert the issue and specify a hypothetical situation: assuming a population of a half-million persons in Britain in the year 12,000 B. C., what reasons can you give for the fact that only a few scattered stone tools and bones will confront the scientist of today who is working with conventional theories at the present "state of the art?"
To answer the question, one must tell what has been discovered in the nature of remains and legends of this period. Then one must say what kinds of events would reduce "then-time" surface evidence to "now-time" surface evidence. Afterwards, one queries the likelihood of such events, matching present evidence with the proposed history.
If the resulting theory is as plausible as or more plausible than the evolutionary theory, then, of course, it must be pursued, and similar inquiries launched in other macromorphological settings. A first procedure then could be to see what is left in Britain of its hypothetical 12,000 year old culture.
Whereupon one continues by conjecturing upon the events necessary to destroy beyond rediscovery the hypothetical British culture of 12,000 years ago.
After much reading and discussion, I came to realize some years ago that there was no simple checklist of kinds of disaster - all the forces, chemicals, and conditions that can destroy the biosphere. But before I came to realize it, a long time passed when I could not even think of the need for one; I could not ask the question. In modern times, both because of specialization and because disasters on a large scale are unusual, theory in its primitive form of simple questions and basic classification is missing. Frank Lane's The Elements Rage turned up as a rare and valuable discovery, because he uniquely takes up a fairly full list of disastrous natural forces, one by one. From that position, I could go on to offer a general classification in Chaos and Creation of super-disastrous forms and, by the time I was writing The Lately Tortured Earth, I could think easily of a set of very heavy, "cosmic" mega-forces interacting as such and
with a given biosphere, atmosphere and lithosphere. High-energy forces and chemical outbursts reach toward the extermination of evidence of a biosphere. Low-energy uniform and gradual forces also tend to exterminate such evidence. The truth of the past thus remains for us in the evidence of niches where high-energy forces acted but were not totally destructive - - mountains that were not leveled, elevations by-passed by cross-tides, humans buried swiftly in a clay that quickly hardened, and so on.
If at the time of Stonehenge about 3500 years ago there were a million people in Britain (for they were building other sites as well and carrying on the chores of living), and if we find no sign of them, either we have not searched very well, or there was some catastrophe that erased all signs. The very existence of the megaliths does, however, discount the notion of complete disaster -- there were no Washington Scablands barrier-bursting floods, or giant oceanic tsunamis or Biblical overturning of mountains.
And of there were a few utensils found, as there have been, and even more remarkable, a few bones (unfortunately yet not found), we should say that certain forces such as atmospheric and chemical ones may have occurred - an icy climate may have come and gone, a great flooding may have happened, a devastating fire may have fallen from the sky, and so on. Now these actors, too, might be eliminated from consideration, and we might end up with an historical view that Stonehenge has been relatively peaceful and insofar as it represents the Earth, the Earth has been likewise peaceful. Of course, some force toppled some huge stones, and several stones have disappeared, or have they?
This shows what I mean: there must exist, and we need it, some manual for quantavolutionary appraisal of sites and regions, a set of 1001 questions to ask and the kinds of answers to expect. Since we have nothing like this Field Kit of Quantavolutionary Questions, we scarcely realize that there is anything to ask about. It took a long time for science to work itself up to a set of questions about Stonehenge and we have hardly yet broached a full array of them. So when we ask how many people lived in Britain 12,000 years ago, we find that we have no intellectual tools to address the question; we lack the 1001 questions that follow the leading question.
One would think that we might find a model to consult in paleontology. But the field has not gone far beyond associating some life forms with some rock strata and not even this is done with full microscopy and chemistry on computerized data banks. The leading question, "How many species have existed at a given point in time, or ever, or even at a given place and point in time?" is not well-answered. Estimates of all the species that have ever existed have been argued on figures around 200,000 up to some 20,000,000. That's like asserting that there may be half a million people living in Canada, but then again there may be fifty million of them. We need to have surveys of what existed before, in order to learn what and how much was obliterated.