Science in Christian Perspective
Letter to the Editor
Reply to Tanner
Glenn Morton, ASA Member
16075 Longvista Dr., Dallas, TX 75248
From: PSCF 50 (September 1998): 233-234.
Dr. William Tanner's letter (PSCF 50, no. 2 (1998): 156) critical of my Dec. 1997 article raises a number of interesting issues. Dr. Tanner states:
The more-or-less sudden infilling of the Mediterranean Basin took place in Messinian time (the Messinian crisis; late Miocene), in round numbers about six or seven million years ago. Morton equated this event with the "appearance on earth of the first hominids." he used this deliberately ambiguous term ("hominids"), thus avoiding the use of "modern human beings." Early hominids are physiologically distinct from modern human beings, and this fact bears heavily on his thesis.
First, Tanner uses "round" numbers. There is no way that the crisis occurred as early as seven million years. The most recent dating of the Messinian Salinity Crisis places it between 5.9 and 5.5 million years ago.1
Therefore, the hypothesis of Morton includes, among other things, the idea that Noah and his predecessors all the way back to Adam, were not modern human beings.
The date for Noah, as implied by Morton, is about 5.5 million years ago. Homo sapiens sapiens (modern humans) first appeared roughly 100,000 years ago. Construction of the ark, presumably built of planks, required the skillful use of tools, at a level not indicated at sites where the remains of early hominids have been found. Furthermore, the genealogy in Genesis, read as a straight-forward account, appears to place Adam at less than 10,000 years ago.
As members of this forum are well aware, that is precisely what I am saying. It is the only thesis that fits the observational data of anthropology. To restrict Adam to the past 10,000 years ignores tremendous evidence of religious and other human behavior that exists prior to that time. Tanner is apparently unaware of the existence of this data, including:
fire usage (back to 1.5 myr)2
religious altars (400 kyr at Bilzingsleben, Germany)3
idols (Israel 300 kyr)4
art (1.6 myr)5
hut-building (1.8 myr)6
woodworking (1.5 myr)7
Earliest wooden plank with polish (240ñ700 kyr)8
Earliest ocean crossing (780 kyr)9
All of this took place long, long prior to 10,000 years that Tanner believes represents Adam. Tanner states:
Part of Morton's article depends heavily on expressions such as "could have been" and "possibility"º This is the phraseology that is very popular with people who do not really have any pertinent data; "could" is the tip-off that we are not dealing with facts.
The use of "could" applies equally to any hypothesis that is advanced.
I would like to hear Tanner's explanation for the above facts. It would be nice if people who were so quick to criticise would actually spend the time to examine the anthropological literature and see that what they suggest is not tenable given today's anthropological database!
I will freely admit to a gap in data needed to support my thesis, but it is not the gap between 10,000 years and 5.5 million years. It is the gap in cultural information from 2.5 million years to 5.5 million years.
1Robert Riding, et al., "Mediterranean Messinian Salinity Crisis: Constraints from a Coeval Marginal Basin, Sorbas, Southeastern Spain," Marine Geology 146 (1998): 11.
2John A. J. Gowlett, Ascent to Civilization (New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1993), 56ñ7.
3Rick Gore, "The First Europeans," National Geographic (July 1997): 110.
4R.G. Bednarik, "Comments," Rock Art Research 5, no. 2 (1988): 98.
5M.D. Leakey, Olduvai Gorge 3 Excavations in Beds I and II, 1960ñ1693 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), 269.
6Richard Leakey, "Recent Fossil Finds from East Africa," in J.R. Durant, ed., Human Origins (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 60ñ1.
7Kathy D. Schick and Nicholas Toth, Making Silent Stones Speak (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993), 160.
8S. Belitszky, et al., "A Middle Pleistocene Wooden Plank with Manmade Polish," Journal of Human Evolution 20 (1991): 349ñ53.
9M.J. Morwood, et al., "Fission-track Ages of Stone Tools and Fossils on the East Indonesian Island of Flores," Nature 392: 173ñ6,174.