God, the Missing Link, and Why Dads Matter
I am reminded of an interesting experiment outline by Robert Winston in his “Human Instinct” involving T shirts. Ten babies were washed and all given clean, identical T shirts. They then wore the T shirts for several days and the parents were instructed not to bathe the children. The T shirts were then put into unmarked vacuum sealed containers, and all of the mums and all of the dads were asked to try to identify their baby from the smell! All of the mothers picked the same T shirt – the one that smelled the cleanest. But the dads could all picked out their own child…interesting. Why would nature want to do that? Presumably there is an evolutionary advantage to men having a close bond with their children – in that way, perhaps, men would be more likely to stick around…
Reading, as I was the other day, about the ‘missing link’ between man and our ape ancestors and brothers, a thought occurred to me. A big part of the human endeavour is ‘searching for dad’.
We are fascinated by this ‘missing link’ (more formally known as the ‘Last Common Ancestor’ or ‘LCA’). It seems crazy that we should be related to animals at all. I mean, we are qualitatively different to even the most advanced primates. When was the last time you saw a chimp driving a Bentley or using a mobile phone? Animals are pretty basic things. They reproduce, defecate, sleep, eat and sometimes play hide and seek. I am not really sure that elephants hope. I am not convinced that monkeys are really that bothered about epistemology. Humans are fab.
So, are we really related to primates? Well, science tells us that we are, and, as we deify science, so we privilege the conclusions that science arrives at, notwithstanding that Darwin himself was pretty sketchy about the link between us and apes… Now, of course, we have to take into account that these changes (from ape to man) didn’t happen overnight, and did happen a long time ago. The LCA turned up between 4 million and 13 million years ago (scientists like to give themselves a nice big margin of error…). The LCA produced us and our brother apes. There is some debate now between molecular biologists and palaeontologists as to whether our brother apes were swinging, knuckle-walkers like chimps and gorillas, or the type of monkey that walks along branches high in the trees. But, whether they were ‘swingers’ or ‘walkers’, we seem wedded to the idea that we do have brother apes, all emanating from the LCA.
But – who is the LCA? Our dad.
We have created God as a big bloke with a nice comforting beard, sitting on a welcoming, fluffy, comforting cloud. Why did we do that?
Who is God? Our dad.
We are all looking to be protected and guided and provided for. That’s what dads do.
We need to make a case for dads. The case for mums is pretty straight-forward it seems. They give birth to us, carry us in their wombs, feed us, and comfort us. Yes, some are better at it than others, but the prima facia case for mums seems unarguable.
Men are a different kettle of fish, because, apart from having the ability to be dads (great or lousy), men also commit crimes. Men are violent. Men are competitive. Men are, in essence, slugs and snails and puppy dogs’ tails’ (not sure what’s so bad about the tails of puppies, but..) Yes, women can be too but it’s rarer.
Non-human animal males are not that praiseworthy really. A male lion will kill the offspring of a competitor. Human males just take on the kids from previous marriages. We are better than animals. Now, this is a big claim, and some will argue that there are some great non-human animal dads out there, and some lousy human dads, and this is undoubtedly true, but let me get away with this for a moment. The point is that humans are capable of much more sophisticated interaction with other humans than animals are with other animals. We are capable of being much better dads than male animals because we are more evolved, cleverer.
So, it follows then that we ought to be shifting the paradigm. Men are not merely competitive, feckless, violent thugs that go around shagging or fighting anything with a pulse. We are not animals. Yes, maybe we were 10 million years ago, but we have moved on just a bit. Now we are carers. Our governments give us Paternity Leave. The times they are a changin’.
Men are becoming like women…Women are becoming more like men. That’s just how it is now, isn’t it? Let us not debate here whether this is a good thing or not. It is, from simple observation, a plain fact.
And, given that plain fact, it is about time that family law caught up. If, as a society we are happy for women to have the opportunity to work, we ought, by the same token, be happy to let men have the opportunity to be care-givers. If not that, then ‘normal’ dads. And if not THAT, can we at least see our kids?!