Our recent investigations of the effects of the most recent Ice Age, the Wisconsin event, have proven personally fascinating. Planet Earth is now in an interglacial known as the Holocene Epoch but there is no guarantee that we will not descend into another glacial advance in the distant future. Perhaps our personal residences in several areas of intense past glaciation has intensified our interest.
Statistics of present and historic land area ice cover demonstrate that we are still at the “tail end” of the recent Wisconsin Ice Age. We have been in our planetary ice age cycles of 100,000 years for the past 800,000 years. Past cycles have ended with a spike in Planet Earth’s temperature. It is certain that humanity has inhabited the planet for tens of thousands of years, likely over 100,000 years. We view the issue of planetary glaciation in that perspective. What climatic conditions did our earliest human forbears endure?
Before the end of the Ice Age, did the Creator have humanity in mind? Our answer: “Of course He did.” Nevertheless, Ice Age planetary conditions south of the thick layers of ice were harsh and unpredictable. Conditions were usually cold and dry; at times they were only slightly warmer and wetter. “The climate from 120,000 to 12,000 years ago varied so radically as to render the launch of extensive cultivation and global civilization impossible,” says Dr. Hugh Ross in his landmark volume Improbable Planet. Glacial climates were harsh and inhospitable. Is it any wonder that the Agricultural Revolution did not occur until 8,000 BC, why viable civilizations were slow to appear, and why innovations such as writing and development of the wheel had not even been conceived by man? Mere survival was a challenge.
Genesis 1-11 tells the story of human events during the harsh Ice Age. We rely on plentiful archaeological evidence of difficult living for the human race when most of their efforts focused on hunting and gathering. Global environmental conditions were unimaginably different from today. World population was severely restricted. Even after the Agricultural Revolution began about 10,000 years ago, humanity needed several thousand additional years to conceive and develop skill in writing and wheel technology. After the Wisconsin Ice Age receded, agriculture with its attendant domestication of plants and animals gradually replaced hunting and gathering. These changes were impossible until global ice age conditions abated.
At the end of Genesis chapter 11, a temporal timeskip occurs in the scripture narrative. In the first 11 chapters of Genesis, surprisingly, God’s revealed word relates the narrative in only a few brief chapters. Primarily, the writer relates the story of the creation of the “heavens and the Earth,” all life, and the saga of first humans and generations to follow. The chronicle continues with an account of Noah and the ark and the generations following him. Finally, there is a brief account of the Tower of Babel events. Then comes introductory information concerning the patriarch Abraham to conclude chapter 11. Rich historical highlights from that moment are recorded in the Old and New Testaments.
How do we relate our recent discussions of the Ice Ages to the narratives of Adam and Eve, Noah, and the Tower of Babel? In terms of time frames, if we agree that full humanity has existed for tens of thousands of years on our planet, we must acknowledge that these ancient scripture characters existed during perilous glacial environmental conditions in the very distant past. There were no written records during the eons of pre-history. Information on ancient human history was orally transferred from generation to generation. We wonder about the quantity and quality of oral information. Except through the natural revelation surrounding them in their physical world, God’s direct revelation was centuries in the future. Nonetheless, God sustained their lives and spoke to them ways unknown to us through their conscience. Romans 1:20-32 could apply to conditions among prehistoric humanity.
Recently a missionary attempted to contact an unreached tribe on North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean. Authorities in India had forbidden any outside contact with this tribe. The missionary was murdered with bow and arrow by the natives who violently resist all contact with the outside world. There is evidence this tribe has occupied this island for at least 30,000 years. There exist several hundred uncivilized and uncontacted tribes on our planet. We propose that such people groups are descendants of Ice Age humans who have been Earth residents for tens of thousands of years. This includes people alive when sea level was nearly 400´ lower during the peak of worldwide glaciation.
Bible scholars such as C. John Collins writes in his 2011 volume Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care, writes in the introductory chapter that “…the authors were self-consciously interpreting their world in terms of an over-arching worldview story.” Later, he states, “Relating the Biblical narratives to the over-arching worldview story, therefore, treats those narratives as they deserve to be treated.” Worldview includes our vision of God as Creator and our relationship with Him. (Collins believes Adam and Eve were real people.)
We write this post in order to inspire our readers to “…think through these matters for yourself,” as C. John Collins advises in his above-mentioned treatise.