For the Birds? Natural Law, Astronomy and Ancient Man

In our previous posting at LawPundit, we quoted Bertrand Russell for the idea that astronomy gave mankind its first conceptions of natural law – and these conceptions ultimately led to man-made law.

This ancient unwritten “history” of law has always been a major interest of this writer. It is my view that ancient man’s view of astronomy and its regularities invariably led to our modern concepts of religion and world order, which are at the root of our modern legal systems.

In this regard, one of the things that has puzzled me greatly over the years is the remarkable (and in my view utterly unfounded) resistance that mainstream academics manifests:

1) against the idea that ancient (Neolithic) man navigated on Earth by astronomy, both by land and by sea, and;
2) against the corresponding idea that ancient man used the stars and other simple astronomical parameters in setting ancient landmarks and borders as “hermetic” marks of orientation.

How absolutely contrary to common sense (for the birds) the mainstream academic position waxes on this issue can be demonstrated by casting a glance at ornithology (bird watching), which is currently in the science news for some new insights on how birds migrate. See and their recent article “30-year puzzle solved: Light guides flight of migratory birds “.

It is not only light from the Sun during the day that guides migratory birds but also star patterns for nocturnal migrations.

As written at the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center (NPWRC, U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Geological Survey) on the Migration of Birds, Orientation and Navigation :

Using the artificial night sky provided by planetariums demonstrated that nocturnal migrants respond to star patterns. (quite analogous to Kramer’s work on solar orientation, Franz Sauer demonstrated that if the planetarium sky is shifted, the birds make a corresponding shift in their orientation azimuth. Steve Emlen was able to show that the orientation was not dependent upon a single star, like Polaris, but to the general sky pattern. As he would turn off more and more stars so that they were no longer being projected in the planetarium, the bird’s orientation became poorer and poorer. While the proper direction for orientation at a given time is probably innate, Emlen was able to show that knowing the location of “north” must be learned. When young birds were raised under a planetarium sky in which Betelgeuse, a star in Orion of the southern sky, was projected to the celestial north pole, the birds oriented as if Betelgeuse was “north” when they were later placed under the normally orientated night sky, even though in reality it was south!

My comment to all of this is – did they expect that birds oriented and navigated by magic? Obvious to this observer is the conclusion that other living things are going to use the same basic systems for orientation and navigation that are/were available to modern and ancient Man, i.e. primarily the Sun during the day and the Stars at night.

But how do we get this message through to the people who occupy chairs of astronomy or archaeology (and related disciplines such as Egyptology, Assyriology and Biblical Studies) at the world’s universities? Any suggestions anyone has out there will be appreciated.

Our question for mainstream academia is the title of this posting: “Star Navigation – If it is OK for Birds, why not for Neolithic Man?”