Tuesday, March 27, 2018

God's Image in Pre-historic Humanity

Humanity’s rapid move to agriculture was a startling development beginning about 10,000 years ago. The rather abrupt change from hunter/gathering is a fascinating study topic. The move to agriculture within the world population followed thousands of years of a non-agricultural human existence. Anatomically modern humanity has been present on Earth for well over 1000 centuries. Based on the congruent research discoveries of thousands of archaeologists, we affirm that fully human beings in the Image of God have been resident on our planet far longer than many people believe.

During the 1000 centuries mentioned in the above paragraph humans acquired advanced capabilities in tool making, hunting, art, jewelry, sculpture, and musical instruments. They possessed indicators of spirituality. Their intellectual achievement far outdistanced the simple toolmaking of many different bipedal creatures of genus homo in prior time periods. They lived in the Middle Paleolithic period. They were not proverbial “cave men,” even though they lived in the “Stone (Paleolithic) Age.” They possessed full humanity, but their lifestyles were far removed from the lifestyles of modern humanity. As hunter/gatherers they did not live an agriculture based existence. Moreover, they had not yet domesticated plants and animals. 

No adult older than 50 ever encountered any mention of a monumental structure known as Gobeckli Tepe in their high school or college history survey classes. The human-built structure has been known for only about fifty years. This monumental discovery was made in 1963 in Turkey and was partially excavated in 1994 by German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt. Gobekli Tepe is described as a Stone Age temple but its purpose remains uncertain. The structures were built over hundreds of years about the time when the Wisconsin Ice Age was ending nearly 12,000 years ago. It predates more famous recent civilizations by thousands of years. For example, the “Cradle of Civilization,” Mesopotamia, is a newcomer on the human stage compared with Gobekli Tepe. These much later civilizations embraced writing and the wheel, and was powered by knowledge of agriculture and domestication of plants and animals. By these standards Gobekli Tepe was not produced by a civilized society, but their building prowess indicates they possessed significant physical skills, high intellectual capability and willingness to collaborate on a project they deemed important.

A National Geographic Special—“Lost Civilization” (2012)—highlights the most important facts concerning Gobekli Tepe. A YouTube is readily available and is well worth viewing. We present a brief review of relevant facts and the significance of the Gobekli Tepe discovery. We suggest readers merge our recent citations of “anatomically modern humans” and “full humanity” with our description of incredible Gobekli Tepe discoveries.

Archaeologist Jeffrey I. Rose, National Geographic commentator in “Lost Civilization” states the discovery of the Gobekli Tepe site is “like discovering that a three-year old child built the Empire State Building out of toy brick.” When we examine the marvel of the installation spanning a 300m X 300m area of a Turkish hilltop named “Potbelly Hill,” we realize its agents of construction were not three years old and toy brick was not used in construction. The humor is not lost on readers as we investigate Gobekli Tepe events as our last major planetary Ice Age was drawing to a close.

In 1994 the surface of Potbelly Hill manifested few evidences of what lay beneath the ground. Over succeeding years Klaus Schmidt and his helpers uncovered clusters of enormous T-shaped stone pillars positioned in circles connected to each other by walls of rocks. These pillars bore realistic images of animals of the area—foxes, boars, leopards, even lizards. Human likenesses were mostly missing their heads. There were two enormous pillars at the center of each structure bearing human arms and hands. Ground penetrating radar reveals 16 more unexcavated circles in addition to the four excavated structures at the time of film production. 

Older human-built structures in the area are several millennia older. Moving forward in time, Stonehenge would not be constructed for another 6000 years; the pyramids were 7000 years in their future. Bones from the site indicate meat consumption. Wild undomesticated grains nourished hundreds of workers. Think what sort of nutrition was necessary to sustain groups of workmen who levered 14 ton rocks slowly up Potbelly Hill and placed them upright in fashioned grooves in the rock floor of the circular structures! Support personnel were semi-nomadic residents of the area, but for these challenging projects workers had to discover the temporary advantages of settled groups.

During the heyday of Gobekli Tepe prehistoric residents believed in spirits, including animal spirits. Everything had a spirit, including humans. At first, residents saw animals as superior to humans, indicated by headless human likenesses. As time passed, archaeologists noted that humans began to appear more frequently and in greater detail on the central pillars, indicating humans perceived themselves as becoming more superior than the animals. It is the conjecture of the National Geographic producers of “Lost Civilization” that this evolving “religious perception” may have nudged them out of the old stone age (paleolithic) and into the new stone age (neolithic) in which agricultural practices became more important. In this way, their new religious thinking embraced agriculture and later led to the domestication of plants and animals—revolutionary practices at the time.

The stone temple site was eventually backfilled over the next two millennia by those ancient residents, leaving barely a trace of the remarkable structures. We are left to contemplate many questions.

We apply some of the proposals made by old earth creationist scientist/theologians to the absorbing history of Gobekli Tepe. Humans inhabiting the planet for roughly 150,000 years or even before, manifest a remarkable Imago Dei, the “Image of God.” God’s image is not difficult to identify in historical humanity as our knowledge of the characteristics of God’s image confirms. Gobekli Tepe is tangible evidence of the “Image of God” present in very early humanity. We encourage readers to investigate the significance and meaning of God’s image. It is an awe-inspiring creationist concept.




Monday, March 19, 2018

Humanity's Last 2000 Centuries

Modern anatomical humans originated about 200,000 years ago. Prior to that there existed a virtual managerie of different hominid species, sometimes historically reported using the imagery of a lawn of individual diverse plants rather than a branching tree. A few of those diverse hominids may have overlapped with anatomically modern humanity. We do not possess all the answers concerning human history but certain truths emerge. During this time frame, humanity manifested many traits indicative of the “Imago Dei,” the Image of God. Prehistoric humanity in the last 2000 centuries did not possess all the traits of modern humanity. He was, however, “fully human.” The population during this time was small, perhaps owing to  the extensive Wisconsin Ice Age and the previous Illinoian Ice Age swathing large northern latitude Earth regions in thick ice the majority of those years.  

In studying the Earth’s ancient bipedal hominids we could arrive at various conclusions concerning the pace of their intellectual and spiritual development. Our public school students have been overswept by the naturalistic theory of human evolution since man first appeared on Planet Earth. Evolution is commonly assumed to be a gradual process. Therefore, the uneven pace of change in the fossil and archaeological record presents a significant mystery. Consider the catchphrase “most recent common ancestor” (MRCA) defined as “the most recent individual from which all people in a group are directly descended.” The MRCA is commonly dated at up to 200,000 years by secular, non-theistic scientists. Considering the many different ancient bipedal hominids purported to exist in the last few million years, this date for the appearance of modern humans seems quite recent. Profound physical and social changes occurred rather abruptly. 

Young earth creationists interpret the Hebrew yom of Genesis 1-2 as literal 24-hour days and they pack all creation events into 144 hours of literal time. Other time frame questions arise concerning timing and age of Earth life. Putting disagreement about those time frames aside, historical scientists agree that 200,000 years for our MRCA is minimal if we accept their overwhelming evidence for the appearance of Earth life at 3.8 billion years. Mathematically, this amounts to merely 0.0053% of elapsed time on the timeline of Earth life.

During this recent stage of anatomically modern humanity there was a constellation of events, especially during the latter stages roughly 40,000 years ago. Recent findings have pushed this date somewhat farther back. This recent period has become known as the cultural revolution, the culture explosion, or the cultural “big bang.” With rather rapid strides in tool and hunting technology, there were sophisticated  advances in clothing, jewelry, art, music, and sculpture. Evidence of worship and religious practices appeared. We have proposed that these hunter-gatherers were “fully human.”

One indicator of their full humanity was their move toward domestication of plants and animals and the emergence of agriculture, particularly in the last 10,000-12,000 years. Early man perceived behaviors and traits in animals and plants and began to artificially select those that manifested desirable traits for propagation. Domestication of plants and animals established a grip on the human race and has been part of our enriched experience ever since. The residents of pre-history did not know they were making subtle genetic modifications in the plants and animals of their time. 

Early man could not understand his domestication activities in relation to the sub-visual level of genetics. No one had seen cells, much less the DNA molecules that coded for thousands of protein building blocks of the body. But the Creator endowed early humans with curiosity, powerful observational skills, problem solving skills, and ability to understand principles of cause and effect. In the 10,000 years prior to the arrival of Christ, Earth’s population multiplied. Food supply increased as a result of the agricultural revolution in concert with the domestication revolution. The Creator gifted humanity with ability to increase his food supply even though man did not understand the genetic basis for the results he achieved. It was a dynamic, transitional period of human history.

The current post is a brief review of the subject of prehistoric human achievement. We link our more detailed 2016 posts on the domestication and agricultural revolutions:

Following these two posts are twelve more related articles. To access them, click “newer posts.” 


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Hawking's Time Discovery

In less than one month two human giants have passed into timeless eternity. The subjects of their achievements could not have been more dissimilar. Notwithstanding, for different reasons, the focus of their instruction for humanity was equally consequential. Evangelist Billy Graham passed into eternity on February 21 while physicist/cosmologist Stephen Hawking began his eternal journey on March 14, 2018.

Both giants possessed an influential worldview: each worldview was vastly disparate from the other in focus, but not in importance. One might say that one contrast in their world views revolved around the creation and the Creator. For Graham, the reality of an omnipotent Creator, His provision for our spiritual welfare within the sphere of this life, and His gift of redemption in this life and the life to follow, was paramount. Hawking, in contrast, saw the wonders of physical reality as a sort of “god.”

In several of his popular writings Hawking referenced “God.” In A Brief History of Time (1988) he dealt with the question of why the universe exists. He stated, “If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for then we would know the mind of God.” That quote and others like it excited some readers. At other times, in attempting to explain his statement, Hawking disavowed God, claiming to be an atheist. He made many pronouncements such as, “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.” (Blue touch paper is a kind of igniting fuse for fireworks.) In other words, God did not create our universe. This brilliant scientist proposed many scenarios in which the universe created itself. The universe, we all acknowledge, is full of wonder and fascination.

Hawking’s A Brief History of Time discusses many elements of time, including imaginary time which might apply to God’s time dimension which is different from our time. Chapter 9 discusses several arrows of time,—the thermodynamic arrow of time, the psychological arrow of time, and the cosmological arrow of time, all appropriate for contemplation of our experience in this universe. I have made use of some of Hawking’s insights on the subject of time in previous blog posts.  

Scientists and laypersons alike understood Hawking’s scientific brilliance and humor. No doubt many understood his humor better than his provocative science. With respect to the beginning and end of the universe, many of Hawking’s pronouncements resemble scripture’s discussions about the beginning and end of our universe’s time dimension. He claimed Einstein’s general theory of relativity implies space and time would have had a beginning at the Big Bang and an end in black holes. Dennis Overbye, science writer for the New York Times, wrote in a March 14, 2018 obituary for Hawking that, “…black holes—those mythical avatars of cosmic doom—were not really black at all. In fact, he found, they would eventually fizzle, leaking radiation and particles, and finally explode and disappear over the eons.”

Lately Hawking had expanded on his predictions of Earth’s demise. He claimed that the Earth is becoming too small for us. In November 2017 he warned that within 600 years overpopulation of the planet would cause it to become a blazing ball of fire. For that reason we should move away from Earth and look to occupy another planet. World observers of the Stephen Hawking phenomenon have devoted more credence to his observations and advice than to the truths of Scripture. Genesis uses the phrase “In the beginning.” This implies that our universe had a beginning. Decades ago the Steady State Theory posited that time had no beginning and would have no end. This belief, called the “perfect cosmological principle,” is contrary to Scripture.

In support of the concept of a beginning of time, we quote four of our favorite New Testament passages inspirationally penned by the Apostle Paul. I Corinthians 2:7, II Timothy 1:9, and Titus 1:2 use the terms before the beginning of time. Ephesians 1:4 cites the concept of before the creation of the world. At the conclusion of the existence of this universe, II Peter 3:10 posits that the elements will be destroyed by fire. We see events at the beginning and the end of time in these verses. In these cases, Stephen Hawking became an intensely prescient scientist.

We give thanks to God for the mind of Stephen Hawking. For over 50 years he battled MND, motor neurone disease, frequently manifesting as ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, during which time he manifested personal gifts which have helped humanity reveal the secrets of the universe.      



Thursday, March 8, 2018

Editing the DNA Code

The process of editing is a high level human skill. With respect to written works from high school essays to newspaper articles to drama texts, skillful editors are highly valued. When we apply editing to the human genome and making changes in human DNA we enter sacred ground. Genomic editing has made huge and sometimes frightening strides. Sydney Brenner, Nobel Prize winning laureate in Medicine states, “Progress in science depends on new technologies, new discoveries, and new ideas, probably in that order.” Never has Brenner’s statement been more appropriate than today. In the past few years genome editing has received a huge jolt with the discovery of CRISPR/cas9 technology.        

Some readers may have experienced editing their own essays or other written works. Others may have edited the writings of others. Teachers of language and writing assume heavy responsibilities in editing their students’ written work. Editing skills utilize correcting, condensing, altering, modifying, deleting, adding, and emending. When the term edit is used in connection with activities other than writing, interesting analogies may be drawn. DNA is truly a language, a coded system of communication leading to the production of proteins, life’s building blocks. 

DNA and its code provides the “key” to earth life. We have stated that without the code there would be no known formula for the secret of life. In the wisdom of God, He has enabled human scientists to discover the code responsible for life’s existence. The DNA code, in the lifetimes of people alive today, has been deciphered and its functions identified. Human intelligence has unlocked physical secrets of the code and how it functions. Knowledge of the code has enabled humanity to identify intelligence which undergirds the code. It is a divine Intelligence integrating the physical universe and life itself.

Prior to the 1950s, discoveries concerning knowledge of DNA were sparse but they laid the groundwork for knowledge gained in the ensuing seven decades. We point to the outstanding discoveries of the DNA helix structure in the 1950s. The age to follow may be termed the “golden age” of genetic discovery. Young people living in the 1950s (1946-1964) were considered “Baby Boomers.” They followed members of the “Silent Generation,” born between 1925 and 1945. I humbly count myself as a member of the “Silent Generation” without fully understanding why we were considerered “silent.” The “Baby Boomer” generation lived when discoveries concerning the “miracle molecule” of life, DNA, were beginning in full force. In the 1960s and 1970s the secrets of the DNA code were revealed by slow manual sequencing methods. Only around the turn of the millennium did we discover rapid automated procedures. We now possess the sequence of the complete human genome. In the human genome there are 3.2 billion nucleotide base pairs.

Embedded in our genome is information for about 20,000 proteins, inferred from the protein coding function of DNA. There are about 200 different cell types supporting many different tissues in the human body, each composed of many different protein building blocks and protein substances enabling overall bodily function. Advanced students of medicine have developed expertise in four major tissue types composed of these proteins, 78 body organs including five major body organs, and 11 major integrated body systems.

Because the protein building blocks of the body and the DNA which codes for the production of those proteins is so vital to human life (and all life) on this planet, any new technology supplemented by innovative ideas from the human mind are breakthroughs we should seriously consider. Several years ago news broke about the CRISPR/cas9 technology. I will forego any detailed explanation and ignore six pages of my written notes to provide for the simplest explanation I could muster. Perhaps readers could research detailed information on their own.

CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. These are snippets of DNA which were originally found in bacteria and used as their protection from harmful viruses. The transfer of this knowledge to human disease applications must be considered one of Sydney Brenner’s “new ideas” preceded by advances in new technology and new discoveries. The rapid progress in this field can only be described as bewildering. Its application permits the cell’s genome to be cut, removed, deleted, repaired, or replaced. We realize the process is a true example of editing. Writers describe the technology with the imagery of a “molecular scissors.”

The new technology is mainly applicable for treatment of genetic diseases. Most diseases are relatively rare, but they can be devastating. Diseases such as cancer appear to have a genetic component and run in families. Cancer is not a rare genetic disease. For this reason, most CRISPR research, discovery, and treatment currently relates to cancer treatments. In future years much effort will be devoted to some of the other genetic maladies. There are thousands of lesser known and rare genetic diseases.

In future posts we plan to discuss the moral consequences of tampering with the DNA code initiated by the Divine Creator. Should humans not only investigate God’s divine actions in creation of life, but also go further to actively dissect and utilize the genetic secrets of life’s existence designed by Him? These are theological questions of great significance as our knowledge base advances.