Science in Christian Perspective


Letter to the Editor

 

On McGrath's and Morton's Speculations: 
Cogent and Strained

David F. Siemens, Jr., ASA Fellow
2703 E. Kenwood St.
Mesa, AZ 85213-2384

From: PSCF 50 (March 1998): 78

Gavin Basil McGrath, "Soteriology: Adam and the Fall," and Glenn R. Morton, "The Mediterranean Flood," both in PSCF (December 1997), illustrate more desirable and less desirable approaches to speculating about biblical problems with chronological aspects. The former faces the problems raised by the recorded genealogies; carnivory and death before, after, and during the Edenic period; the origin of Adam, whether involving or excluding evolution; and the Flood. Whether agreeing or disagreeing with his synthesis, one must admit that he has faced up to the chronological considerations.

In contrast, the latter builds his case on some physical similarities between a desiccated Mediterranean Basin and aspects of the Flood while neglecting the chronological problem which negates the entire speculative structure. Since the Mediterranean was dry only until about 5.5 million years ago (Mya), he needs to show that Homo sapiens, not just a hominid (p. 245), was living at the time. But the oldest known members of the genus Homo, those known as H. habilis, H. erectus, and H. ergaster, only go back to about 2 Mya. They were preceded by a number of australopithecines: Australopithecus robustus and A. boisei, contemporary with the earliest Homo species, A. africanus, 3-2 Mya, A. afarensis, ~3.75 Mya, and A. ramidus, 4.4 Mya. There were no australopithecines before the early Pliocene epoch, ~5.3 Mya. (This information comes from Encyclopaedia Britannica CD, 1997 edition.) On Morton's approach, Noah had to be a very primitive australopithecine precursor, with a brain smaller and less specialized than a modern chimpanzee's.

A related consideration involves the tools necessary to construct the ark. While unretouched stone chips were apparently used 3 Mya, the Acheulean tool kit is half that age. Did Noah and his sons, then, shape the timbers and planks for the ark with their teeth? Could they have trekked north into Europe to secure beaver teeth for the task? The possibilities are, at best, dubious.

One must grant that God could have created Adam 65.5 Mya and arranged that no trace of his descendants or their artifacts would remain until about 100 thousand years ago (Kya), when the first anatomically modern H. sapiens appeared, or even 30 Kya, the probable date of the first fully modern human beings. Adam could even have been created before the anthropoid/hominid split. But is there anything truly persuasive in this scenario?

May I suggest that, if one is going to speculate about a limited Flood, an appropriate time be a primary consideration? For example, if the human race about 100 +/-70 Kya (excluding all contemporary H. erectus, H. antecessor, H. neanderthalensis, etc.) were restricted to the African rift valleys or some other depressed area similarly rimmed by hills, it seems possible that water could flow in rapidly enough to catch the residents and yet not leave obvious enduring evidence. Is there a reasonable mechanism for this? A specific location identifiable by subtle indicators? Such a scenario seems also to fit the mitochondrial, Y-chromosome, and dispersion data currently available. But are there fatal objections? I don't know. However, I note another temporal restriction, the date of the earliest presence of human beings in Australia and the Americas, for they cannot antedate Adam if they are included in the redemption provided by the last Adam, unless we adopt an unorthodox soteriology. Though Fischer has done so in "In Search of the Biblical Adam," (PSCF 45 [1993]: 24151; 46 [1994]: 4757), this seems too high a price to pay. McGrath notes this (p. 257). See also Siemens, "Is Fischer's Search Misdirected?" (PSCF 46 [1994]: 69).