Thursday, May 10, 2018

Intervention Started Early on Road to Humanity

There is a lot which early Genesis chapter one does not say about creation. The language on days five and six in particular lend one to believe God intervened personally and repeatedly in fashioning the creatures of the land and seas. Most particularly, they point towards His intervention in the formation of the human race.

Well genetic biology is not my field, but I have an acquaintance who is an expert in that and he is both a Christian and an evolutionist. He believes that God guided the process in some way undetectable by science but that evolution was the process that He used. I myself have pointed to some gray areas between theistic evolution, intelligent design and special creation but I see the text as much further on the creationist side of things with humanity in particular.

At any rate we were having a dialogue about the Cambrian Explosion. He was insisting that it was not a problem for evolution. I said the molecular clocks showed more time was needed than the fossils showed they had in order to develop 70 new phyla of life. He chalked it up to inadequacies in the fossil record from the period when soft-bodies were the thing, along with a clock that only worked on closely relate groups. I countered that perhaps it only works for closely related groups because that was as far as nature could go with evolution. The distinct groups themselves then would have come about by some sort of special creation and diversified from there.

He countered that the link between chimps and humans was very strong, which should not be so if they were not related. Previously we had had a discussion where I had thought that there was more difference than time allowed between the two genomes but I was going off of old research. The latest research "looks like" it should look if they had a common ancestor six million years ago. Did they just re-measure until they got a value that fit their biases? I am not versed enough to say so, but he is and he doesn't think so. Of course that is a measure of mostly "noise" in the genome rather than functional change, but it shows what it shows.

So I was looking for "the fingerprints of God" in the genome. Places where change happened at a rate too fast for normal evolutionary mechanisms, indicating that something else was happening. I wasn't finding it anywhere between Chimps and humans. Of course He could, and I am sure does, operate in ways both subtle and sublime. We may not be able to detect His action, even if it permeated reality under certain models. Particularly with our current level of science (or as my associate points out maybe never and if we could science still could not demonstrate it was God's doing, just an anomaly).

At any rate, I think I found it. The anomaly, the fingerprints, whatever you want to call them. Again this can't be shown scientifically to be God's action, but it can be shown to be something out of the norm. It is up to humans to ascribe meaning. In this case the big fast change did not occur between chimps and humans, but according to this study it happened between chimps and humans together vs. everything else.

Here is a sample of what they found..

Eichler's research team found an especially high rate of duplications in the ancestral species leading to chimps and humans, even though other mutational processes, such as changes in single DNA letters, were slowing down during this period. "There's a big burst of activity that happens where genomes are suddenly rearranged and changed," he says. Surprisingly, the rate of duplications slowed down again after the lineages leading to humans and to chimpanzees diverged.

Well, that sounds a lot what special creation would look like. Maybe the special creation was not a human but it was more like a "test model". One branch of the test went one way and another branch went another via the significant but not unlimited amount of evolution which can and does occur. In other words chimpanzees are not the original form but a derived form of something which was originally less adapted for living in trees. The other branch led to the hominids. Perhaps there were no more "major reorganizations" between human genomes and that of chimps because the rest of the job could be done with relatively minor tweaks in the genetic code that did not stick out from genetic background noise. Not many changes to that hominid template need be made when forming humanity, because they were already made on the changes which got us to that template.

In other words, using the chimp-human genomes to say there are nothing like Divine fingerprints to be found is just cherry-picking the data. The fingerprints are found just before that point. Does that mean this was the only place God intervened and humans just evolved from a common chimp ancestor from that point? Not at all. It could just mean that the other interventions were too "light touch" to be detected as anomalies by our present level of understanding. But we don't need to locate every fingerprint to make the case for some form of special creation. Finding a few of the big ones makes the point.

I would also say that the Christ-centered framework for early Genesis make more sense out of this possibility than traditional models. Why get some forms all the way up to "near human" before finally creating Man? In the Christ-centered model the second Person of the Trinity fused with humanity in Genesis 1:27. Whatever traits are temporarily set aside when a member of the Godhead takes bodily form would be in play, whatever limitations which may come from that would be in play. So the Logos got things prepared so that when He assumed the more anthropogenic form of God often referred to as "Yahweh" there was only so much left to do - just create and form man. He did not have to do the body part of humanity, or the DNA part, from "scratch". He just took the DNA code from the hominid line and made some tweaks. The changes in the soul and spirit part were greater, though hard to measure through science.

Understand that there is no necessity to detect God's fingerprints on creation. He could have done it all "light touch" if He wanted to. And even if we find them, we can't scientifically prove that this is what they are. Evidence is a mirror which says as much about the person viewing it as it does the natural universe. But I am in favor of looking none the less.

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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Why Didn't the Ark Riders See any Mountains?

My model of early Genesis has a regional flood in the highlands North and East of Mesopotamia as the epicenter of the flood. Mesopotamia got a "glancing blow". The target was not all of humanity, nor all animals, but rather the Adamic line which was given to produce Messiah and had gone badly astray. This was around 6,500 years ago.

One of the challenges in this model is the charge that it should not have taken so long for the tops of mountains to be seen if indeed it was a regional flood in the highlands. I did speculate as to why this may have been so, but I wasn't using the text. In retrospect, I should have gone to the text.

First let's look at a couple of basic facts about spotting things on the horizon.....

The ark was 30 cubits tall, which we think is about 45 feet. The text hints that the draft of the vessel was 15 cubits because it says that the mountains were covered to at least that depth (Gen.7:20). So the top deck was about 22.5 feet off of the water. If their view was otherwise unobstructed this would be consistent with a visual horizon over the water of 5.8 miles.

Even if they were in some depression, say near Lake Urmia, until the east wind blew them unto the "mountains of Ararat" there were still some mountains which loom many thousands of feet higher than the surrounding terrain. It strains credulity to claim that those highest peaks were underwater for any length of time, especially for months. For example, a peak 5,000 feet higher than the surrounding terrain- be it earth or water, should be visible from sea level 86 miles away. A peak which soared 10,000 feet high, and there are several like that in this area even if the water was still 1,000 feet deep, should be visible a whopping 122 miles away with clear viewing. There is really not sufficient room for a vessel to drift for months without coming near to at least some of them.

Never the less, they (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) reported early on that "all of the mountains were covered". This report could be based on the fact that they drifted for months without ever running aground. It was not until the seventh month, the sixth month of their ordeal, that the ship ran aground. And it was not until two and a half months later, in the tenth month, that they reported "the tops of the mountains appeared".

I think some of the confusion can be cleared up if we put out of our mind the picture we have of the ark and instead go back to the text and see what it says things were like. I mean, if they drifted around for months with a crow's nest like modern vessels without seeing any land of course that strongly mitigates against a regional highland flood. But the ark was not built like that. The pictures and recreations we see of the ark with a row of windows on the upper deck are not what the text says that it looked like.

Instead, ark was built with the top cubit unfinished except for the spines to support a covering. This is the "window" mentioned when God is giving instructions for the ark. It's not really a window, and another word is used for the window which Noah opened to release the birds later in the account. Instead, that last 1.5 feet was left unfinished except for the framing for lighting and ventilation. A "cover" or "roof" was stretched out over the top of this, and based on the word used it was likely made of animal skins. Lamb skin perhaps? This was very much like what we would think of as an "awning" to keep the rain out.

So far as we can tell, that is all they had for visibility. The "door" of the ark was shut with pitch and could not be open and shut easily. There is no indication that Noah ever opened the "window" which he used to let the birds out until he in fact used it for that purpose after the ship ran aground. It is likely that opening the window broke the pitch seal, which would have been problematic if it rained again.

In the same way 8:13 is written like Noah and his family don't get a really good look at the surrounding landscape until they cast aside the cover of the ark. Again, he seemed very reluctant to take that cover off. I would imagine if they took it off too early and found the ground a swamp, replacing the cover from inside the ark would have been a difficult to impossible task. If they had taken off the cover and found a swamp they were in trouble if it rained again.

This is a strong hint that the eaves of the awning extended far over the sides and limited their view from these openings until it was removed. That would also explain Noah sending out the birds in hopes they would find dry ground. They couldn't see very far until they removed the cover or roof. They didn't have a row of unobstructed windows in the top of their vessel from which they could view the horizon and beyond. They could have drifted within a few miles of mountain tops and never seen them.

In verse 8:5 it says that "the tops of the mountains were seen". I had always assumed that meant distant mountains, but now I realize that the text does not support the idea that they had such visibility. Instead it was referring to the mountains on which they had run aground a month or two before. Earlier in the text there is a mention of "high" or "exalted" mountains. These are just mountains. They can start to see the tops of the mountains rising up out of the water in their immediate area. This leads them to wonder if there is not higher and drier ground just a couple of miles away. So they release the dove to go check. Because they can't see that far due to the awnings.

So once again, the solution to the paradox is to be found in the text. The text describes a situation where the ark-riders had limited visibility until the cover was removed from the ark. Thus, the regional highland flood model remains plausible.