Tom McFeely is the National Catholic Register’s News Editor. He lives in British Columbia.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that, “The family is the original cell of social life.”
And as regularly happens with respect to Church teachings about the nature of man, new scientific evidence has confirmed this truth — that the one-woman, one-man family has always been the basic social unit of humanity.
“New genetic and chemical analyses of 4600-year-old burials in Germany suggests that family togetherness has deep roots, going back at least as far the beginnings of agriculture in Europe,” Michael Balter of Science magazine reports in a Nov. 17 article entitled “Prehistoric Family Values.”
What’s new about this finding, from the perspective of anthropological science? Until now, anthropologists had only been able to confirm that the nuclear family was the basic unit of society during recorded history, after humans had become well established in communities based on the practice of agriculture.
“Before humans settled down and began to farm, they lived as nomadic hunters and gatherers,” Balter notes. “Many anthropologists have assumed, based on observations of sometimes polygamous modern-day hunter-gatherers, that the basic social unit of early humans was the band or tribe rather than the family.”
But by conducting DNA testing on a prehistoric burial site in Germany, a team of researchers led by geneticist Wolfgang Haak has demonstrated that the skeletons of close family members were buried together at that time.
“At the early farming site of Eulau, German archaeologists found four graves containing 13 individuals who had apparently met a violent death,” Balter reports. “Two graves were particularly well-preserved: In one, an adult male and female had been placed on their sides, face to face and arms intertwined with two boys; in the other, an adult woman was buried facing away from two girls and a boy. Working with the German team, Haak and colleagues were able to extract enough mitochondrial and nuclear DNA from the skeletons in the first grave to conclude that the two adults were the parents of the two boys. In the second grave, the team concluded that the three children were probably brothers and sisters, although the adult female was not their mother. Rather, the researchers suggest, she might have been an aunt or a step-mother.”
According to Haak, “We have established the presence of the classic nuclear family in a prehistoric context.”
On the basis of this evidence from the science of anthropology, here’s a question that defenders of traditional marriage can put to the homosexual activists who are lobbying to redefine the timeless definition of family to include same-sex “marriage.”
Looking at the issue scientifically, isn’t it foolish in the extreme to try to tamper with the universal social unit that has served as the foundation of human societies from the time of the caveman continuously up to contemporary times?
— Tom McFeely