September 29, 2011

Long Life Spans of the Pre-Flood Patriarchs

Note: I use my own term 'pre-human' to refer to Homo sapiens living prior to Adam. I believe the Bible clearly teaches that Adam and Eve were the first humans. Homo sapiens began c. 200 Ka, whereas humans (in the biblical definition) only began c. 60-70 Ka, I believe. There are, of course, other more prominent old-earth views, the most notable of which says that Adam and Eve lived c. 80-120 Ka, and all Homo sapiens were true humans. Anthropologists, obviously, do not make any distinction between 'humans' and Homo sapiens.

Plausibility of Thousand-Year Life Spans

People up until the Flood of Noah's days lived on average about 900 years. Is it possible that people could really live that long? Or, is the Bible mistranslated or misinterpreted? If you believe evolution happened randomly and was not a designed mechanism, then you probably can't deal with the long life spans of the pre-Flood world. However, if humans were designed by God then there is no reason to doubt the long life spans of Genesis.

Scientifically, there is no reason to believe that very well-engineered organisms could not live indefinitely. All it would take is some masterful genetic coding. Biologists and geneticists, if they're honest, will openly admit that there is no good reason (other than diseases) why humans couldn't live much, much longer if genetically modified. I have seen some evolutionary biologists who have candidly admitted as much [6,7,8]. There is still a lot to learn about aging and what controls the life span of an organism, but all the more reason to believe that it is really possible. If God, the perfect Geneticist, wanted, He certainly could have made Man able to live many hundreds of years initially.
Valter Longo is one of the small but influential group of specialists in this area [the study of ageing] who believes that an 800-year life isn't just possible, it is inevitable. ... "We're very, very far from making a person live to 800 years of age. I don't think it's going to be very complicated to get to 120 and remain healthy, but at a certain point I think it will be possible to get people to live to 800. I don't think there is an upper limit to the life of any organism."[7]
Also, in December 2013 scientists discovered a way to extend the lifespan of worms by a factor of five:
Living to the age of 500 might be a possibility if the science shown to extend worms' lives can be applied to humans, scientists said. Two mutations set off a positive feedback loop in specific tissues that enabled worms to live to the human equivalent of 400 to 500 years.[8]
There is plenty of reason for geneticists to believe that human's DNA could be altered to enable them to live much longer. What the upper limit might be is hard to say, but 1000 years does not seem impossible.

Consider the wide range of average life spans in nature. Fruit flies, some species of which are as genetically similar to humans as primates,[1] live typically only 2 weeks.[2] Some animals can live past four hundred years, like a type of mollusk. Some bowhead whales (mammals like us) can live in excess of 200 years, also.[3] Then you have the middle of the road mammals like mice that live only roughly 3 years, which is still about 78 times as long as fruit flies. On the high end of things, you have plants and simple organisms like sponges that can live thousands of years. One pine tree was about 4,900 years old when it was cut down.[3] One sponge was estimated to be in excess of 2300 years old. A tortoise named Jonathan has lived at least 183 years.

Fruit flies. As I have said, and you may want to check my reference[1] to verify this, some fruit fly species are genetically very similar to humans. The genetic differences in such a case are minimal and yet the life spans of humans are on the order of 1500 times longer. Small genetic difference can make a huge difference in life spans, clearly. Is it improbable that relatively minor divinely orchestrated changes in Homo sapiens resulted in a huge difference in life spans? Not at all. Man only lived about 13 times longer in Adam's time.

The Drastic Changes in Life Spans

Young earth creationists believe that the environment was much better before the Flood and mutation rates were very low. After the Flood, mutations proliferated and caused people to become less healthy and live shorter lives, the hypothesis goes. The problem is that that is pure speculation and not stated in the Bible at all. All we know is that people lived long, long lives before the Flood, and then afterwards people lived shorter and shorter lives until about the time of David (c. 1000 BC). Even during Moses' time people were still living longer. Amram lived 137 (Ex 6:20). Moses lived 120 years, which is nearly miraculous by modern standards. Aaron also lived a long time by today's standard (123 years). A major problem with this hypothesis is that Noah's son Shem, who was born before the Flood, only lived 600 years. Mutations could not account for him living so much shorter than his father, since mutations generally occur at conception. Even if the post-Flood environment caused health problems for Shem, that does not fit with Noah who lived more than a third of his life after the Flood and seems to have suffered no ill effects. So, this young-earth hypothesis is not stated in the Bible and it is not scientifically likely to be true.

But, the old earth view seems to present even more of a problem in explaining the sudden, rapid decline in life spans after the Flood. The answer, though, is hinted at in the Bible, I believe. First, we learn that there was intermarriage between the "sons of God" and the "daughters of men" (Gen. 6:1-2) both before and after the Flood, which by itself could mean many different things. From genetic research, though, we learn that humans interbred with Neanderthals in Mesopotamia[4] (probably before 60 Ka and the Flood) and perhaps Denisovans (probably after 50 Ka and the Flood), both of which may have been non-human hominids. It is reasonable to believe that the Bible is talking about this interbreeding. Second, we learn that Noah was spotless in his generations (Gen. 6:9), which could easily be a reference to the purity of his bloodline -- meaning he personally was not contaminated by pre-human DNA. There is the good possibility that Noah's wife and the son's wives were not pure humans but had been contaminated by the pre-humans. Third, we learn in Genesis 47:8-9 that Jacob was rather unusual in living 130 years [he died at 147], but he was not unusual in his own family; the Egyptians apparently did not live that long, according to the Bible. Egyptian records also indicate that this is true. (By the way, the young earth hypothesis discussed above does not as easily account for this disparity of life spans.) So, apparently Abraham's line was somehow different.

What do these three hints lead to? Well, here is one answer. Adam and Eve were originally genetically superior to previous hominids. Some genetic change took place with Adam, maybe as a result of eating of the Tree of Life or maybe just because a bundle of new genetic information was activated by evolution or by a direct miracle. That genetic change allowed him to live to be 900 years or indefinitely if partaking of the Tree of Life. Neanderthals and other hominids were not able to live any more than 30 to 60 years. Noah's line remained uncontaminated allowing them to all live hundreds of years. But, because there was intermarriage with Neanderthals among other people groups before the Flood, many other people were not living that long anymore. Some of these contaminated women married Noah and/or his sons. This resulted in Shem living much shorter than his father. The other wives of the sons of Noah were likely even more contaminated and resulted in a sharp decline in life spans immediately after the Flood. Due to ongoing, occasional but consistent contamination with Neanderthals and other hominids after the Flood, life spans consistently declined for thousands of years. At the point of the Tower of Babel (c. 50 Ka), when people spread out rapidly across the world, the average life spans had probably decreased to almost modern, short life spans. However, the godly line of Noah, a faithful remnant, understood that marrying the "sons of God" was wrong, and so Abraham's line remained more pure than most other people groups. We see from the account of Abraham getting a wife for Isaac that they were careful not to marry into foreign families (Gen. 24:2-4). As a nice side-effect, Jacob and Isaac and others in that line lived longer than most others living in other parts. And so, all of the Bible pieces of the puzzle fit nicely in this alternative, old-earth hypothesis.

By the way, the people of South and Central Africa live the shortest lives on average in the world (~48 years). Studies have shown that these people groups are genetically closest to the Homo sapiens who lived in Africa before Adam. This implies that the humans who lived in Africa, who migrated from Mesopotamia after the Flood, intermarried more with the ancient Homo sapiens (evidence of this is now coming to light[5]).

It should go without sayingbut I'll say it anywaythat once a human intermarried with a pre-human, the children were all fully human. People either have a spirit or they don't. There's no such thing as a partial spirit. It is the spirit that makes people aware of God and the spirit world and arguably makes us have a great intellectual edge over the animals; it clear that all people groups today are spiritually aware and have the image of God that defines us as 'human,' biblically. The exception to that is the possible case where demons were possessing non-humans, in a minority of cases, especially before the Flood. Such hybrids resulted in 'mighty men,' apparently. Some of the ancient people of Canaan appear to have been this kind of hybrid (cf. Num. 13:33).

Here's a graph of average life spans through time for your viewing pleasure. I know that the dates are not consistent with some other posts, so take them more as big approximations. The precise time of the Flood and the Tower of Babel incident are not well established. The Flood could have been from 70-52 Ka, perhaps, and the Tower of Babel anywhere from 68-50 Ka. I'm just using the late dates in this graph. Obviously I forgot to put the units, "years," on the vertical line.

Final Note

In support of the Bible, humans live the longest on average of any mammal (from 70-80 years). Elephants come close, at about 70 years for their life spans, but they are relatively unrelated to humans. The genetically closest-related organisms to humans, apes and gorillas, live only about 60 and 50 years, respectively. The longer life spans of humans is indicative of some genetic superiority, as the Bible indicates. This genetic superiority, however, is only a remnant of a much greater genetic superiority of the ancient past, when humans were closer to their Edenic state of 'perfection'.




September 28, 2011

What About the Curse?

For those who are not familiar with the specific details of the Curse as specified in Genesis 3, here is a breakdown of God’s judgment on the three parties involved in the Fall:
1.   On the serpent
a.   Cursed more than any beast of the field (v.14)
b.   Required to move about on its “belly” (v.14)
c.   Enmity put between its seed and the woman’s seed (v.15)
d.   Its head would be bruised/crushed by the woman’s Seed (v.15)
2.   On Eve
a.   The difficulty of childbearing would be “multiplied” (v.16)
b.   Her desire would be for her husband, but he would “rule over” her (v.16)
3.   On Adam
a.   He would work the ground with “pain” and with sweat (vv.17, 19)
b.   Thorns and thistles would grow for him (v.18)
Now, because the serpent was controlled by the devil, the curse on the serpent is also a curse on the devil. This is justified by other Bible verses, which I shall not bother to investigate at the moment. But, 1(c) and 1(d) are definitely directed at the devil rather than the animal called the serpent. 1(a) could be referring to the devil, also.

The language used in these curses is somewhat poetic in nature, it seems. We should not assume that everything here is obvious in meaning. 1(b), for example, may or may not be saying that the serpent had legs beforehand and was now loosing those legs. “You shall eat dust” (v.14) is clearly not literal. No one—including Moses—believed that serpents literally ate dust! That is poetic language meaning that the serpent would be slithering along the ground.

Did the serpent have legs before the Fall? The fossil record does show that snakes once had hind legs that were functional. Now, most paleontologists will tell you that snakes lost their legs many millions of years ago. However, since the fossil record for snakes is incomplete (there are only a few snake fossils), it would not be inconceivable that one or two snake species kept their legs until very recent times (i.e., c. 60-80 kya). It would be quite plausible that a snake in Adam’s time had legs, and then in the next few generations lost those legs. Under the standard evolutionary theory this would not work, but with rapid, designed evolution it is reasonable. But we dare not assume that this happened; it is just one possibility.

As for the curses on Adam and Eve, I don’t think we should be hasty in assuming that all the curses are necessarily meant to be on all humankind for all times. There is nothing in the Bible text itself—that I can see—that proves that these curses are intended for all of Adam and Eve’s descendents as well as them. It is unclear, but I do believe that the curses were meant for all humankind. (I just want to point out the assumptive nature of the standard interpretation of this passage.)

Let’s systematically go through the three physical curses on Adam and Eve, and see what possible interpretations exist for these curses. It’s not my desire to present a single interpretation of these, but just to show that at least one meaningful interpretation exists for each curse in the Old-Earth view. You can choose the interpretation that sounds best or most reasonable.

For 2(a) (increased suffering in childbearing), the possible interpretations are thus:
1.   Through time, the anatomy of women would be altered such that childbearing would become worse (consistent with the imperfect tense of the word “multiply” in Hebrew).
2.   Eve could have been supernaturally altered genetically to make birth more difficult for her and her female descendents.
3.   The emotional pain during pregnancy and birth—especially—would be worse for women because of the Fall and sin entering in. All of life is harder emotionally because of relationship problems.
4.   This was a curse specific to Eve, not her descendents; her emotional and physical condition deteriorated, causing problems with bearing children.
In defense of #2, we see that the text says that “pain” would be “multiplied,” which seemingly required there to have been the potential of pain during childbirth previous to the Fall. In defense of #3, the Hebrew word for “pain” can also mean literally “grief”. So, perhaps God was saying that there would be lots of emotional suffering (“grief”) associated with childbearing now that Adam and Eve had sin problems and relationship problems. No matter the case, there is no reason to believe that childbearing woes (emotional and physical) did not become worse for Eve and/or her descendents. We don’t have before-the-Fall pictures of Eve on display at the Smithsonian, and we certainly didnt get her DNA sequenced before the Fall, so we can’t really say how human anatomy did/didn’t change after the Fall. (We could say that because pre-Adam Homo sapiens are nearly identical to modern humans that it is unlikely that Adam and Eve were significantly genetically different from us, but even that is speculative.) I won’t bother defending #4, since I think it is farfetched.

For 3(a) (working the ground would be difficult), we have these options:
1.   The Garden of Eden was lush and fertile and easy to tend; being cast out of the garden (v.23), Adam (and his descendents) were put in a place where farming was much more difficult.
2.   God would have supernaturally blessed the ground abundantly for Adam and his descendents if he hadn’t fallen; instead, after the Fall, the ground would be cursed and hard to work (like it occurs naturally).
3.   Again, the emotional struggles with Adam would cause his work to be more “painful” and seem more like drudgery.
4.   The ground everywhere was supernaturally altered to be less productive (no evidence of this exists).
In defense of #1, a similar curse to the “ground” was made to Cain in Gen. 4:11-12, seemingly related to Cain being removed to a different location. So, it is reasonable that this curse on Adam was related to his expulsion from the Garden of Eden. As far as #3 goes, we would still need to explain the part where God says that Adam would need to work in the “sweat of his brow” (v.19); however, that is easily explained by seeing that there is no indication that this was a change. The supernatural explanations (#2 and #4) really don’t need any defense.

Now for the famous curse 3(b)—thorns and thistles. The fossil record is clear in declaring that thorns existed long before Adam and Eve. So, here are some possible interpretations:
1.   This was a specific curse on Adam, mostly. The Garden of Eden was free from thorns and thistles. Being expelled from the garden meant dealing with thorns and thistles.
2.   God is simply stating a fact of life, not a part of the curse. As another example, the phrase, “you shall eat of [the ground],” which is included in the overall Curse, also isn’t meant to be a curse but only a statement of fact.
3.   The plants may have been supernaturally altered such that thorns and thistles became more abundant (no evidence exists for this).
In summary, logically speaking, it is certainly possible that the Curse was real and meaningful for Adam and Eve (if not everyone else). There is no evidence showing that Genesis 3 isn’t a real and factual history of two real people. I believe some of the above possible interpretations are literal and reasonable interpretations. There is no reason to believe that the first chapters of Genesis are allegorical, even if you believe in (created) evolution. Too many evolutionists ridicule the Genesis account because they are assuming the traditional interpretation of the first few chapters. Another good interpretation does exist that is consistent with an old earth and the fossil record.

September 21, 2011

OFFBEAT: Order of Domestication

...He had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys, and camels.
-Gen. 12:16
According to Wikipedia and other sources, the order in which animals were domesticated is as follows: sheep (<9000 BC), cows and oxen (~8000 BC), donkeys (~5000 BC), and dromedaries and camels (~4000 to 2500 BC) [1]. Servants or slaves were used regularly roughly about the same time as the domestication of donkeys was taking place (somewhere from 6800 to 4500 BC) [2]. So, the order here in Gen. 12:16 fits perfectly with the order of domestication and the use of servants. The text says nothing about domestication, obviously, but it would not surprise me if the order was done intentionally this way, since this is the first reference in the Bible of camels, oxen, or donkeys. Considering that the odds of this being randomly correct is about 1 in 120, I would like to believe this is not just coincidence.

So, there you have it -- my huge speculation for the day.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestication; et al.
[2]
https://www.freetheslaves.net/SSLPage.aspx?pid=303; et al.

September 20, 2011

What About the Genesis Genealogies?

The best biblical counterargument to an old earth is not what you would expect. It is not found in Genesis 1 or 2, nor is it found in the account of Noah’s Flood. To me, anyway, those passages are easily interpreted to be consistent with an old earth using standard rules of hermeneutics. Biblically speaking, I feel comfortable with the old-earth interpretations of those passages. No, the best counterargument is found in the genealogies of Genesis, namely Adam’s genealogy in Genesis 5 and Shem’s genealogy in Genesis 11. Personally, these genealogies probably prevented me from believing in an old earth more than any other argument. So, I guess it is time for me to explain why these passages are not truly problematic for old-earth creationists.

But first the problem. Simply put, if we take the genealogies of Genesis as complete records without missing generations, we must conclude that Adam existed only about 4000 BC (or, 4004 BC, if you appreciate Ussher). Compounding the problem, the genealogies of Gen. 5 and 11 seem to interlock each generation with the next generation in a way that seems to guarantee that no generations are missing. If it weren’t for this latter fact, it would be fully reasonable to presume that many generations are missing.

The answer is not obvious, and I have never heard a strong biblical defense of how there can be missing generations. However, I believe that there are good reasons to believe that the genealogies of Genesis have been telescoped—truncated to a bare minimum. What follows are those reasons.

1. It was common practice to condense genealogies by skipping generations

There are several examples of obviously telescoped genealogies in the Bible. I’m not going to bother going through all of them in any detail, since that would be a major study. I’d just ask you to ‘trust me’ on it, or read a good article that goes into some detail about these examples [1]. Some examples are Matt. 1, Moses’ lineage (cf. Ex. 6:16-20; Num. 26:57-59; 1 Chr. 6:1-3; 23:6; 23:12-13), and Num. 16:1. It seems to have been a common practice to only highlight important ancestors. This was likely done to make memorization of genealogies much easier and so to better preserve the roots of an individual.

2. Unique poetic flare of the two genealogies indicates potential for unusual interpretation

There are two strong indications that these two Genesis genealogies are partly poetic. That certainly does not mean that these people were not real, but it could indicate an unusual interpretation is required. Both lists in Genesis 5 and 11 have perfectly unique structures from all other genealogies in the Bible. As a result, it does not seem unreasonable to think the author had something different in mind.

The repeated phrase, “And he had sons and daughters,” is likely a poetic flourish to the lists. Why doesn’t it specify the number of sons and daughters? Why bother mentioning that they had other children? I think I have an answer to those questions, which I’ll mention soon.

The other poetic aspect of these lists is that there are precisely ten generations from Adam to Noah (inclusive) and from Shem to Abraham (inclusive). The parallel nature of these two genealogies seems to be intentional, similar to the repeated fourteen generations of Matt. 1.

Each generation in Gen. 5 and 11 repeats the same phrasing, which is often a poetic device. We see this exact thing in Gen. 1, where, “It became evening and it became morning…” is repeated at the end of each day of creation.

3. Genesis minimizes intermediate periods of time

If you consider the whole of Genesis for a minute, regardless of whether you believe in an old earth or a young earth, you will notice that Genesis focuses on three periods of time: (1) Adam’s time; (2) Noah’s time; and (3) Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s time. Even under a young earth interpretation, the vast majority of Genesis—46 of 50 chapters—is devoted to a few hundred years of time out of about two thousand years. So, only parts of four chapters, Gen. 4-5 and Gen. 10-11, deal with around 2000 years of history (or more); whereas, the remaining forty-six chapters cover about 350 years of history. Even in the young-earth view, this would mean that there are about seventy times more words per year dedicated to the 350-year period compared with the number of words per year for the other 2000 years! Clearly, Genesis has little to say about the vast majority of time up until Abraham.

It would be little surprise, then, if Gen. 5 and 11 were merely highlights of important figures in the genealogical history. It would be consistent with the whole focus of Genesis if these two lists were majorly telescoped. No matter what your view is of the age of the earth, Genesis does only highlight a few crucial time periods in the ancient history of mankind. There would normally be no reason to believe that the genealogies are complete lists. If many thousands of years had passed until Abraham, it would make much sense to condense the genealogies from hundreds and hundreds of individuals to only twenty significant individuals.

4. The significance of year figures is hard to determine

Some young-earth creationists assume that the main reason for the year figures in Gen. 5 and 11 is to let us calculate total elapsed time. However, that is probably not true for two reasons. For each individual, there are three year figures in Gen. 5: (1) the age of the individual when they begot the next generation, (2) the number of years the individual lived after they begot the next generation, and (3) the total number of years the individual lived. Only (1) is needed to determine the elapsed time from beginning to end. Either (2) or (3) is entirely unnecessary for computational purposes, since (3) is always just the sum of (1) and (2). There seem to be several purposes, then, in listing these year figures.

Another reason why elapsed time does not seem to be the purpose is that no total length of time is given at the end of the lists. When the total is important and a main point, it makes sense to list the sum of all previous figures. In the numbering of the people of Israel, we see that the totals were given (Num. 1), since the total was very significant. No totals are given in Gen. 5 or 11.

The total age that each person lived seems to have little other purpose than to show us that people were blessed with very old age before the Flood. The Septuagint, which was likely used by the apostles, contains several different year figures than the standard Hebrew Massoretic text. Apparently, God was not too concerned about these figures being preserved accurately for all ages. (The Hebrew version is preserved, by the way.)

The bottom line is that the genealogies contain year figures that serve little more purpose than to remind us repeatedly of the reality of these people and of their highly unusual life spans—that and to add to the poetic nature of the lists. For sure, the numbers are not there just for mathematicians and chronologists to have fun and figure out the age of the earth (if that is a reason at all).

5. There is another possible interpretation that fits with the old-earth view

I indicated earlier that there does not seem to be an easy way to reconcile these genealogies with an old earth. True, there’s no obvious way, but I believe there is a reasonable interpretation that fits with the old earth view.

The phrasing that is used over and over again in these passages could reasonably be translated as follows, I believe:


Person-X lived A years, and [then] was begetting Person-Y.
 
After he [started] to beget Person-Y, Person-X lived B years;
And he was begetting male and female descendents.
*So all the days of Person-X were A+B years; and he died.


(*This last sentence is only used in Gen. 5.) Without getting into a detailed explanation of this, “son” in Hebrew can mean “male descendent,” “daughter” can mean “female descendent,” and “beget” can be loosely used to mean something like “produce a descendent.” For a defense of this, please see the article linked to below [1].

So, to explain the above phrasing, let me paraphrase and offer an amplified version of the first half. The latter half does not need any amplification.

Person-X lived A years, and then he begot the next progenitor of Person-Y, continuing his ancestral line.
After he begot the next progenitor of Person-Y, Person-X lived B years…


The Hebrew verb form of the first “begot” in this repeated phrase is in the imperfect form, normally indicating ongoing, incomplete, or a progressive action. From what I understand, the word “begot” can genuinely be translated as “[he] was begetting/generating” in both Gen. 5 and 11 for the first instance of the word in the repeated phrase listed above. Most genealogies do not use this verb form for “begot.” The use of “begot” in the imperfect tense is relatively rare when associated with a male subject. There are 499 cases of the Hebrew word “begot” (Strong’s Word H3205), and there are several forms of the word. Genesis 5 and 11 use two rare forms of “begot,” basically meaning “[he] was begetting” and “[he] caused to beget,” though there are no English equivalents to these Hebrew words. The “[he] was begetting” form is used 49 times in the Old Testament but only 14 times outside of Gen. 5 and 11. Of those 14 other times it is usually used in connection with begetting multiple descendents, as you would expect since the verb form can indicate ongoing action. The “[he] caused to beget” form is only used 18 times in the whole Old Testament and only once outside of Gen. 5 and 11. Also, only the genealogies of Gen. 5 and 11 use these verb forms consistently with each new generation. I don’t think the significance of the uniqueness of these two genealogies can be overestimated.

So, the “beget”-verb forms are very unusual and consistent between Genesis 5 and 11 and supports the interpretation that many generations are missing. That being said, it looks clear that there are no generations missing between Adam and Seth, Seth and Enosh, Lamech and Noah, Noah and Shem, and Terah and Abraham. However, for poetic reasons, I suggest that Moses intentionally kept all the verb tenses the same.

Finally, the repeated, consistent use of the phrase, “And [he] was begetting sons [male descendents] and daughters [female descendents],” is another possible indication of missing generations. The “sons” and “daughters,” as we’ve noted already, can mean more generally male and female descendents. So, there is no need for this to mean that every individual had at minimum five children: the primary male descendent, plus two sons and two daughters. All this could indicate is that they had children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren—many descendents of both gender. This phrase is nonspecific, I believe, because it is poetically drawing attention to the fact that large time intervals passed, and countless descendents were born. If it was only speaking of the immediate next generation of children, then it would have been significant to mention how many sons and daughters were born, as in 2 Chr. 11:21 and 13:21, or as in the case of Job 42:13. It makes better sense to interpret these references to male and female descendents as an ongoing multiplication of children and grandchildren, etc. In that case, it would be impossible or insignificant to place a specific number on the male and female descendents born.

In line with this interpretation, we see that when specific information is given about children, as in the case of Noah and Terah, the father of Abraham, they do not always have five or more children. Noah had only sons and no daughters (Gen. 5:32). Terah had apparently only three sons and no daughters (Gen. 11:26). In the Gen. 5 genealogy, we have the first eight generations having, “sons and daughters,” but the last father, Noah, only has three sons and no daughters. Similarly, in the Gen. 11 genealogy, we have the first eight generations having, “sons and daughters,” but the last father, Terah, only has three sons and no daughters. To me personally, that seems like much more than an unlikely coincidence. It fits in beautifully with the interpretation of these genealogies as being telescoped with countless generations missing.

Here’s an example to help summarize this interpretation. When it says, literally, “Eber lived 34 years, and [then] was-begetting Peleg,” it means that after Eber lived 34 years, he begot the specific child who belonged to the ancestral line leading eventually to Peleg. The “was begetting” verb allows for this interpretation by being imprecise and possibly alluding to ongoing, multiple births or generations that produced the descendent Peleg. When it says, literally, “After he caused-to-generate Peleg, Eber lived 430 years,” it means that Eber lived 430 years after he begot the specific child belonging to the ancestral line of Peleg. You see, Eber probably had several children who were not a part of Peleg’s ancestral line. When Eber begot the child who was a part of that line, he did his part to cause the eventual birth of Peleg. Eber could do no more than provide one link in the chain leading to Peleg. Once Eber made that link in the chain, he lived 430 years, and had many male and female descendents, and then he died.

Summary

The genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 are clearly unique in several ways. They are poetic in nature to some degree, which allows for a more flexible interpretation. The Hebrew language that was originally used by Moses is very flexible and nonspecific. The genealogies utilize rare verb forms that could indicate ongoing or progressive action (multiple generations) was involved in the “begetting” of a descendent. The ancient Hebrew culture seems to have often telescoped genealogies by habit to make memorization of lineage easier. Doubtlessly, the focus of Genesis is on specific time periods within a long period of time, with only brief summaries made of the intervening periods. Genesis 5 and 11 are a part of those summaries, and we would not expect a detailed listing of individuals if hundreds of generations had passed. All of these points make it reasonable to interpret these genealogies as being telescoped. I believe we have seen that even a literal understanding of the Hebrew can support this interpretation, and the specific Hebrew wording is best explained by realizing that there are missing generations.

[1] http://www.godandscience.org/youngearth/genesis_genealogies.html

September 16, 2011

Theological Implications of Animal Death Before the Fall

(Warning: This is a somewhat disorganized ramble.)

Much ado has been made over animal death existing before the Fall. Some young-earth creationists (YECs) have even gone to the extreme of saying that God could not be a loving and good God if He allowed pain and death to exist before sin entered the world. Where are they getting this from in the Bible? (I have discussed this topic somewhat in a previous post [1]. Please refer back to this post for other thoughts about the topic of sin and death before the Fall.)

The Bible actually says nothing about there being no animal death before the Fall. The closest you can come to finding that thought is in the phrase, “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). However, the description “very good” is purely subjective. What about the creation was “very good”? There are two places in the Old Testament where the current state of creation, which includes plenty of death and pain, is deemed “beautiful” or spoken of in connection with “good” (Ecc. 3:11; Psalm 104:28). The current condition of the world definitely has much good in it, whether or not it is merely a shadow of its former beauty. It is not logically sound to assume that God would not have called the current state of the world “very good,” since there are many ways in which the current world is indeed good. Is it impossible that God would have called the world “very good” when there was animal death? I think not. It is mostly our emotional bias that hesitates to think that God would consider this current state of the animal kingdom to be good.

Romans 8 is a good place to go to see how God views the pain and death and futility of the whole of the world. If you read this chapter, you will see plainly that the earth was subjected to futility by God because He wanted to build anticipation for a future perfect world. There is no indication in the passage that the “birth pangs”—the sorrow and futility—of the world in general were caused by sin, namely the fall of Adam. Yes, human suffering and death are from sin and the Fall, and that is important to understand theologically, but the rest of creation was subjected to unpleasantness because of God’s mysterious eternal plans. The Creation is as a woman that is about to give birth. There is pain associated with the birth process, but something beautiful is happening. The birth of the child pictures the New Creation to come that is perfect. Such a perfect state has not been born yet, and it has never existed. Before the Fall, it was not perfect, just “very good” using some measure.

So, is there a problem with animal death before Adam? If there was animal death before Adam, should we feel sorry for the poor animals and shake our fists at God and say, “You are not just and good”? There have been some who have abandoned the Faith because of the cruelty of life. How could God be so good and loving and just but have created a world filled with violence and pain and death? The YEC answers this by trying to shift all the blame to human sin, and more specifically the Fall of Adam. But, does the Bible justify that blame, and does that answer our concerns about suffering and futility of all of Creation?

The objection that YECs raise concerning death before Adam is fundamentally flawed in three ways. First, there is no Biblical passage that indicates that animal suffering and death began because of the Fall of Adam. YECs, in my opinion, abuse Romans 5, Romans 8, and 1 Corinthians 15 severely. These passages do not in any way directly tie animal death with Adam’s Fall. That is important to note. If we are trying to say that Adam’s sin caused all the “woes” of the world, then the Bible should say something to that effect. It does not. The Fall caused all human woes but not necessarily any other problems. If the Fall caused all problems in the world, then you would expect that to be pointed out somewhere in the Bible. Surely the Curse detailed in Genesis 3 should have said something about animals suddenly having pain and suffering and dying! But, no, God does not say to Adam and Eve that the animals would suffer in that way because of their sin.

Second, the YECs use bad logic to suggest that if animal death existed before the Fall, then God subjected the animal kingdom to unjust punishment—i.e., punishment not the result of any sin. This is flawed logic on at least two accounts. For one thing, animals are amoral and never commit sin making them worthy of punishment. There is no reason why Adam’s sin should have been imputed to innocent animals in the first place. Adam’s guilt did not make the animals guilty and worthy of punishment. Animals are worthy of neither paradise nor painful futility. God can do with them as He pleases. Soulful animals are devoid of knowledge of God and receive the rewards of their ignorance and vanity. They act in ignorance and so receive the fruits of ignorance: futility, pain, and death. Only knowing and serving God brings unending life. The animals were never inherently worthy of unending life.

For another thing, even if we did believe that all the “woes” of the world need to be connected with the Fall, God knows the future and could just as easily have placed the curse upon all Creation before the Fall as after it. Logically, there is no reason why God would need to wait until after Adam sinned to place the curse on Creation. Take redemption in Christ as an example. People before the Cross of Christ were able to have Christ’s perfect blood applied to them long before He shed His blood, because God knew the future and knew that Jesus Christ would come and make atonement for people. It is perfectly fair for God to act in the past based upon knowledge of the future. It would be perfectly fair for God to place a curse of futility on all animals long before the Fall precisely because of the Fall, knowing that it was going to happen. Logically this is a possibility, even if it is not what God was doing.

There is no reason why animal suffering and death necessitates injustice to them. Even if amoral animals were somehow deserving of a lifetime free from pain, there is no logical reason to believe that God could not somehow balance out the pains with pleasures. There is no reason to believe that God could not ensure justice for the animals, since He governs every ‘random’ event in nature. Animals receive the undeserved gift of life and pleasure in it. They have their rewards. Justice demands nothing more than a “net zero”—a tooth for a tooth. There is no saying that animals that do harm to other innocent animals do not receive punishments in life making for justice. There is nothing, in purely logical terms, as farfetched as it may be, for God to also make for perfect justice for the animals at the point of their death. The point here is that there are possibilities that may be beyond our limited notions of what God could do to ensure perfect justice throughout the animal kingdom, regardless of there being pain and suffering and death. All of this, once again, is under the presumption that animals somehow deserve a higher justice. I am not convinced that they are worthy of anything.


A very important point is that if animals deserve no pain in life, we should not be allowed to kill them. Killing animals involves some measure of pain for them. God would never have required animal sacrifices if animals are so innocent as to be worthy of paradise. Clearly, pain and death of animals is not always an injustice to them. The Fall of mankind didn’t magically make animals suddenly deserving of pain. If animals do not now deserve a painless life that never ends, then they never deserved it, not even before the Fall.

Third, the YECs pretend to solve the dilemma of general problems in the world by placing all the blame at Adam’s feet (and all mankind, since all people were in Adam), even though justice doesn’t work that way. Just imagine if I robbed someone and a judge said that he was going to fine me $100 and also kill all my neighbor’s pets as my punishment. How is it just for my neighbor’s poor pets to be killed because of my transgression? It is not! Justice, in general, only applies to the one offending and the one offended. To somehow try to make animal suffering about justice pertaining to Adam’s sin would be absurd, in my opinion. The animals did not deserve to be punished for Adam’s sin. The most we could say is that the world has been subjected to futility to teach man about his sin. If that is why God put the world under futility, then it is even more obvious that God could have prepared the world far in advance for this lesson for humanity. Again, God did not need to wait for Adam to Fall, even if the world is primarily suitable for after the Fall. I hope that is clear. YECs ultimately solve nothing by tying animal woes to man’s sin, I believe; and, YECs prove nothing by assuming that all death must be the result of the Fall. Any way you look at it, God would be perfectly just and fair to subject the world to decay and death before man arrived on the scene.

The problems in nature could have served as a lesson to Adam before the Fall. It would have shown him that life apart from God is vain and futile. It would have amplified his sin if he could see what death was all about. It would have made him appreciate the life he had with the Lord even more! Is that not consistent with how that in eternity there will be those who are lost, and we will forever be fully aware of what we’ve been saved from? If Adam and Eve lived in a less than perfect world, doesn’t that make the importance of knowing God all that much more evident?

So, is there anything we can say about the nature of God if problems existed in nature before Adam sinned? Yes, I believe there are some possible implications. God would then appear to be One who is planning far in advance, who enjoys building anticipation, who makes things better and better in time, who gives people no excuse of ignorance (not even Adam and Eve), who consistently shows that ignorance of Him is not bliss, who rewards only those who seek Him (animals don’t seek Him), whose plans and counsels stand without fail, and who does not punish others (even animals) for someone else’s sin. I don’t see how any of this is inconsistent with God’s nature as revealed in the Bible. The theological implications could be worse, I think, if you believe that futility did not exist before the Fall.

What about God’s goodness? There are two possible answers, to reiterate what’s above. Animals may be under bondage because of Adam’s sin, even if that bondage preexisted the Fall. More likely, animals generally receive God’s goodness in life, and their suffering is more the result of their own ignorance of Him and His holiness. Just as God says that He is good to all, since He sends the sunshine and rain on all people (Matt. 5:45), He is good likewise in sending the rain and sunshine on all animals. The animals enjoy good things in life. Their suffering, by the way, is less than for humans, since they have a much lower degree of awareness. God is, and always has been, good to the animals.

It is true that many animals need—and are designed—to kill other animals, but they are mostly ignorant of what they are doing. God says that lions are “filled with good” when they go out and kill other animals (Psalm 104:28). At the same time that a gazelle receives pain, a lion is being rewarded with a good thing in life. However, most gazelles, if they could live and talk after death, would tell us that life was worth it, even if they did get eaten by a lion. So, even the sad fight for survival in the animal kingdom does not nullify the goodness of God in life. (By the way, there are plenty of creatures that die of old age and escape being killed by other animals. Generally those animals with less awareness are lower down on the food chain—like insects—and hardly care if they’re eaten.)

I’m not saying that this isn’t a difficult and emotional topic to navigate through. I do empathize for the poor animals. But, I think if we carefully consider this topic, we’ll understand the goodness of God. We’ll understand that He has a higher purpose for subjecting the world to futility. We’ll understand that animals generally receive more good than evil in their lifetimes. This topic reveals more about us than God. Are we optimists or pessimists? Do we understand true justice? Do we limit God and assume to much about what He can or cannot do? Do we think God’s goodness is a gift or inherently deserved?

How was the world “very good”? It was very well designed. It was filled with beauty and complexity and intricacy. It was perfectly suited for the future unfolding story of redemption. It was very well planned. It was filled with good things, from foods to rainbows to sunsets to mountains to kinship to unfailing laws. The whole of nature is very well organized. Order fills Creation. We could perfectly truthfully say, “Creation is very good in its design, but yet filled with futility and suffering for God has subject it in hope of a better world.” Should it astonish us that Genesis 1 and 2 focus on the goodness of Creation and ignore the problems in it? The lesson to take away from that is that when a person is walking in a pure and undefiled relationship with God even the problems of life can’t get them depressed. A perfect relationship with God makes life so much more beautiful. Adam and Eve were so grateful and impressed at the goodness and wisdom of God. They had no reason to let the problems among the animal kingdom get them down. Just think of the implications this has for our own happiness in this imperfect world! “Know God, know peace; no God, no peace.”

[1]
http://createdevolution.blogspot.com/2011/07/bcoe-what-about-sin-and-death.html

September 15, 2011

Things Evolve, But How Much?

The purpose of this blog is not really to support evolution of any kind, but rather to elucidate the veracity of the Bible by showing that the evidence in creation is consistent with the Bible. If a form of designed evolution is true, then that must glorify God in some way. I am convinced that Genesis 1 leaves room for some kind evolution of life. However, considering some of the marvels of nature, I cannot help but wonder if even a designed evolutionary process can account for all the complexity. It is fully possible that God has been creating new life forms for hundreds of millions of years. I would leave that door open. What should be intuitively obvious, though, is that a designed evolutionary process is exceedingly more plausible than an un-designed one.

It seems clear to me that there are countless small evidences that macroevolution of some kind has happened through the ages. All of these small evidences seem to amount to a significant pile of evidence. Yet even so, I would not be shocked if these evidences are wrongly interpreted and God has simply been taking existing designs in nature and tweaking them and creating new species at His leisure. The apparent macroevolution could be nothing more than miraculous redesigns by God. That seems a bit strange to me, but I really don’t know God well enough to say He would not do that. Who has known His infinite mind, anyway? The fact that there is so much genetic similarity between all living organisms does not prove evolution, only that there has been a common origin for all life. The common origin may be nothing more than God’s mind. Who is to say that God could not have intentionally left a sort of fingerprint on all living things? Common designs could just as easily indicate a common Designer. (Now, Reasons to Believe is the place to go to find resources pertaining to this basic idea of old-earth creationism.)

There are other possibilities that fall somewhere in between the two ideas—designed evolution and old-earth creationism. There may have been a good measure of limited macroevolution occurring through the ages and instances of new creations by God. It is clear that God has made animals capable of microevolution and some speciation.

There is definitely potential for some kinds of evolution in all life. There is even an example of a strain of bacteria that was shown to be able to re-evolve the ability to metabolize the sugar lactose in a unique way. I hesitate to show these kinds of examples because I—again—am not trying to prove evolution on this blog. Michael Behe tries to explain why this is a bad example of macroevolution resulting in an irreducibly complex feature [1], but much of his explanation is apparently shown to be inaccurate or insufficient [2]. However, even this example of evolution does not show an “unlimited evolutionary potential” even according to the godless evolutionists. All it shows is that organisms are really good at changing genetically to survive, which could show design as much as anything else. Did the bacteria really randomly mutate, or was it programmed to genetically reorganize and “intelligently change” as needed? I do not know if there was any investigation into whether or not the bacteria truly “mutated” randomly. I believe the evolutionists merely assumed that the bacteria randomly mutated the necessary new pathway to metabolize lactose. From what I have heard, it looks as if chance and randomness cannot explain the efficiency of the adaptation. Evolution, whatever the scope, is designed and efficient. (See Answers in Genesis' analysis of this example of evolution for more info and what appear to be good reasons why this does not support un-designed evolution [3].)

I’m not comfortable agreeing with Michael Behe’s concept of irreducible complexity, partly because I believe that designed evolution may be so brilliant and efficient so as to allow for the evolution of “irreducibly complex” components. The key question to answer, in my opinion, is do purely chemical processes explain the origin of DNA-based life and the rest of the complexity in life? The answer seems to be a resounding “no!” Pure chance—luck of the draw—could never explain the immense complexity of cellular life. It is so complex that our understanding of “simple” cells has only just begun. Random evolution also should not have resulted in an overabundance of complexity in designs among all living creatures. Randomness and evolution completely fail to explain all of life. And as best I can tell it hasn’t been getting any better at explaining it, only worse the more complex we understand everything to be.

In the end, however, it all boils down to faith. Proof of God is impossible, just like proof of Him not existing is impossible. Proof of the Bible is also impossible. But, there are plenty of reasons to believe in Him and His Word. It isn’t proven, but regardless of the nature of evolution, the Bible has plenty of support from the evidence.

[1] http://www.trueorigin.org/behe02.asp
[2] http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/DI/AcidTest.html

[3] http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/aid/v4/n1/analysis-of-barry-halls-research

September 09, 2011

Human Migration

Here's another chart for those people, like me, who appreciate charts. This chart shows the possible migration of pre-humans and humans from Adam's time onward. The dates are estimates. I believe that this explains all the genetic evidence we see today, such as that the Africans are genetically most closely related to the "pre-humans" (early Homo sapiens living in Africa). The genetic history of mankind is complex, given that there has been intermarriage between humans and "sons of God" (pre-humans).

To the unbelieving world, Adam and Eve would appear to be nothing more than highly-evolved humans who lived in Mesopotamia, and the Flood of Noah's day would seem to be nothing more than a large, local flood in Mesopotamia. The Bible gives us invaluable insight into the past events and helps us understand that there has been a huge difference between pre-humans (nothing more than animals) and humans (made in God's image).

[EDIT: Most believe that humans did not get to the Americas until somewhere around 16 Ka, but this date has been pushed back[1] to about 30 Ka recently, and I suspect the actual date is closer to 50 Ka, as shown in the picture.]

[1] http://phys.org/news/2013-11-ancient-giant-sloth-bones-humans.html


Click to see a larger version.