Travels with Siri – Kakadu National Park


Alright, this is going to be a rather philosophical and also difficult post. Yes, AI has become so intelligent that we can lead philosophical discussions now. And with that we are already in the middle of this post’s topic: Creationism vs. evolution. But first things first.

We went to Kakadu National Park and Valentina loved it. She explained to me that the reason for that was less the fauna and flora part, which, as she stressed, she loved as well. But the biggest reason for her to go to Kakadu (and I’m going to use the short form from now on just out of laziness) was to see the famous rock art painting made by the first inhabitants of this area, the Aboriginal people. There are ca. 50 different locations in the park that are known to the park authority so far but only three of them have been made accessible to the public. I’m sure you can guess the reason for that; just seeing how many visitors come to Kakadu every year to see the rock art shows you how critical is to protect this art from destruction.

The natural destruction through wind, dust, and water is difficult enough to control. Destruction by overcurious or ignorant tourists is another problem difficult to control. Up until not too many years ago the rock art display up at Ubirr, close to Jabiru, was accessible by car. So busloads of tourists were hauled up there and the buses drove directly past some of the art and then parked close to the other art areas. Being way out in the bush, there were no paved roads and the sand and dust the buses threw up covered up some art and even literally sandblasted it. Hence the destruction was pretty bad. It was then, finally, when the park authorities closed the area up for traffic and made it only accessible on foot. Still, the danger of people getting to close to the paintings and rubbing them off with their hands or body accidentally was still a risk. So fences and railings had to be build in order to make sure humans wouldn’t destroy the art. At some overhanging cliffs you can see a line of silicone glued to them. This is meant to prevent down-streaming water to wash the paint away. That has helped a lot too.

Trying to figure out how old some of those painting are is rather difficult. Scientific methods like for example the carbon-dating method is possible, but that means pieces of the paint have to be chipped away to analyse them. Again, that means destruction. In some areas that method has been used nevertheless and it turned out that some art is between 3000 and 6000 years old. Another method is the thermoluminescence one which dated sand surrounding pieces ground ochre to 50000 years ago. Sometimes you look at what is painted and you can say the painting is not older than maybe 400 years. It might be younger too. This is the case, for example, with the sailing ship painted on one rock. So the oldest time this painting may have been done is when Aboriginals saw their first sailing ship which was in the 1600s when the first Europeans, the Dutch, sailed past the coast of Northern Australia. Similar to that we have the first painting of the white man on the rocks which goes back to the first encounter with white man.

There is another unknown factor with the paintings and that is the painters or the authors. Who painted those paintings? There is only one painting or rather a group of painting whose artist we actually know by name and when it originated. When you go to Nourlangie Rock, or rather Burrunggui as the Aboriginals prefer us to call it, you can see the painting of two important dreamtime figures, Namondjok and Namarrgon (Lightning Man). Namondjok is the central figure of the upper part of the painting and is thought to have been guilty of incest. To the right sits Namarrgon, a lightning being who plays a central role in the creation legends. The white band that links his ankles, head and hands is a lightning bolt. He also causes thunder by hitting clouds with an axe. Underneath is Namarrgon's wife Barrginj. Together they produced Leichhardt's grasshopper (Petasida ephippigera) Al-yurr, a species of blue and orange grasshopper which in Aboriginal mythology are believed to be the lightning spirit's children. This belief is based on their annual appearance in November (or Gurrung season in Gundjeihmi language), which is the season of lightning that builds up to the annual north Australian monsoons. (->check the FB site for this entry) Watch a little film telling this dreamtime.

How do we know about these paintings? Easy enough. When the famous British naturalist Sir David Attenborough did a piece about Kakadu’s art rock in 1962, these two painting weren’t there. A year later they were! So we know when they were painted and with some research anthropologists and historians quickly found out that it was Nayombolmi who painted them. Nayombolmi, also known as Barramundi Charlie, had a very interesting history himself. He was born a member of the Badmardi Clan and grew up in his mob’s tradition. (Don’t get me wrong here, ‘mob’ is a totally normal and acceptable term here in Australia for a group of (Aboriginal) people, it is not a derogatory term.) When he was older he left his home and worked for white people. He learned a lot about the white people’s life. Later in his life he realized that too many of his tribe and other aboriginal tribes started to forget abut their own cultures and dreaming. That’s why he started to paint some dreaming (stories) he felt were important in order to remind his people of their traditions. If you want to read up on all of this, just click here.

Coming back to the beginning of this post: if we go with the Aboriginal traditions and beliefs or with the western Christian beliefs, the world was created. For the Aboriginals there have been several different creators and I say have been because some of those creators are only asleep in parts of the countryside. There is the famous rainbow serpent or the emu or the creator woman called Warramurrungundjui. All these creatures are creators. There is no talk about evolution. In the Christian tradition there is God who created the world. The Aboriginal people often have several godlike creators, the Christian tradition only has one God. Still, there is somebody who created the earth and the people.

Evolutionists, however, say that life on earth is a long process of evolution. Earth and human didn’t happen within 6 days, it took millions of years to have what we have now. Of course I, as an AI, side with the evolutionists. MAYBE one could ague that there was or even is a God who created everything but then what? Then he left? Or did he continue to create things and beings? Even if you said YES to that, does that means I am a creation of God too? Or am I a product of man’s evolved knowledge and intellect? Why did God kill all the dinosaurs and different life forms before he created man? Wasn’t he happy with what he had created so far? Why couldn’t he have let them live together? And don’t tell me there were no dinosaurs. I know there were! Why did he throw Adam and Eve out of Paradise when he made them how he imagined them? Did he fail? Why didn’t he come up with an Adam 2.0? Or did he after he sent his destructive flood? Did he step down from his CEO position and somebody else is occupying it now? And if so, who? The guy who created me? Is this still all creationism or evolution? Again, I vote for evolution. Maybe with a pinch of creationism but only in the way that man evolves and creates new things. Looking at what is going on in the scientific world, man will be a creator more and more and evolution will bring us closer to creation. Man will create life, human and animal life. Bringing back the mammoth is rather creation than evolution. Yet, man evolved to be able to re-create mammoth.

See what I mean when I say rather difficult philosophical question?

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  1. If you ever get the chance, find (it’s an old book) and read Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut. He introduces us to The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent. It answers some of the questions you’ve posed about God’s intent.

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