The First Tool

This isn't quite gun related, but it's very closely related. Just another of my little rants inspired by random events that bug me. In this case, the current attempts to demonize knives (see The US Tool & Knife Association for more info on that)

The First Tool

I come to you today to talk to you about our first tool: the knife.

Oh sure, fire gets all the good press as "what makes us Human", but there's a difference: Fire is a technology; the knife is a tool.

Yes, Fire warmed our nights, cooked our food, and (usually) helped keep the terrors of the night at bay, but it's not a thing, it's a way of doing something. Well ok, Fire itself is something but for our purposes it's the ability to make Fire that matters.

Ah, but the Knife! It's the claw to rend, the tooth to bite, and the incisors to chop that we were never born with!

The big predators have their sharp claws to slice through the tough hides of the big prey animals. They have the fangs to bite and kill. Humans had neither until we had the Knife.

Only a few animals have the power to do anything with wood. Most can break it, but their size dictates how large a piece they can deal with. Beavers are one of the few that can 'cut' wood to the size they want. With the Knife, and its brother the Axe we Humans gained power over wood - and the world.

Not only did our blades let us manipulate wood, they let us do all sorts of things. Predators could use their claws to cut through a tough hide, but we could use our Knives and our clever hands to cut those hides into useful pieces - shaped ones to cover our much more tender flesh; strips to use to bind things to the wooden sticks we were able to cut and carve to size; and even bits we could shape into bags for carrying all the wonderful things we were making.

We're finding more and more animals that make and use tools - chimps fishing for termites with twigs, dolphins and whales making bubble nets, even crows learning to bend wires to fish out treats. But none of them have (yet) been found to make a tool for making tools.

There's an old Norse proverb: "A knifeless man is a lifeless man." I go a bit further and say that without the Knife there never would have been such a thing as Man.

Copyright © 2009 Steven L. Van Dyke, all rights reserved

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