I recently had an opportunity to ask some old earth creationists (who shall remain nameless) approximately when they thought that Noah’s Flood occurred. And even though we all agreed that the Flood happened, we had varying answers as to the time period of the Deluge. One person said it would’ve been 7,500—12,000 years ago, another said 50,000—60,000 years ago, one individual said 20,000—30,000 before the present, another one believed it transpired 10,000—12,000 years ago and I even had a couple of old-earthers give late dates for the Flood (2900-2340 BC). Even though this issue is secondary to Christ and salvation through Him alone, I felt that, as an old earth creationist, I needed to arrive at some sort of certainty about this. But where to start? Let’s begin by examining a little about what science calls Homo Sapiens Sapiens.
Homo Sapiens Sapiens—otherwise known as modern humans—are believed to have emerged from other hominids several tens of thousands of years ago. As an old earth creationist, I do not believe that we are descended from hominids, but that modern humans were created separately, bearing God’s image, as Genesis 9:6 describes. Anthropologists, archaeologists, and certain old earth creationist authors and scientists say that Homo Sapiens Sapiens originated anywhere between 30,000—70,000 years in the past. (1) It’s been referred to as a cultural ‘big bang’ moment in time (2), where tools, artistry and manufacturing dramatically increased in sophistication from what the Neanderthals were able to craft and produce.
Several years ago, the paleoanthropologist Christopher Stringer wrote: “For millennia upon millennia, we [he means ‘hominids’] had been churning out the same forms of stone utensils, for example. But about 40,000 years ago, a perceptible shift in our handiwork took place. Throughout the Old World, tool kits leapt in sophistication with the appearance of Upper Paleolithic style implements. Signs of use of ropes, bone spear points, fishhooks and harpoons emerge, along with sudden manifestations of sculptures, paintings, and musical instruments… We also find evidence of the first long-distance exchange of stones and beads. Objects made of mammal bones and ivory, antlers, marine and freshwater shells, fossil coral, limestone, schist, steatite, jet, lignite, hematite and pyrite were manufactured. Materials were chosen with extraordinary care: some originated hundreds of miles from their point of manufacture…It is an extraordinary catalogue of achievements that seem to have come about virtually from nowhere…” (3)
Considering the fact that Scriptural genealogies can sometimes have significant gaps in them (4), and that even though advancements with livestock, music and metallurgy occurred in pre-Deluge societies, sustained, larger-scale agriculture was not a thing prior to 11,500—12,000 years ago (5), I think a reasonable estimate for the beginning of man was 45,000—50,000 years in the past, and that the Flood wiped out almost all of humanity at around 14,400–15,000 years ago.
There are so few signs of agriculture prior to 13,000 BC—in fact, the only ones that I’m aware of are located at a site on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, at a locale that archaeologists have dubbed ‘Ohalo II’, where near-ripe, semi-green wild cereals were shown to have been harvested 23,000 years ago (6). Why is there such a paucity of any traces of agriculture prior to 13,000 BC? There are several answers to this question, but first, we must go to the Biblical root of the issue, and that involves the curse pronounced on the land after Adam and Eve sinned. Remember what God told Adam? “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground…” (Genesis 3:17-19). Adam and his descendants, prior to the Flood, would till the ground, but it would not yield its full bounty—at least not until after the Flood, when the curse on the ground was lifted (Genesis 8:21) In the pre-Deluge epoch, Noah’s father, Lamech, was lamenting over the “ground which the Lord has cursed” (Genesis 5:29) With these verses in mind, let’s have a brief look at what occurred on Earth with climate changes–and astronomical events–between 50,000 years ago and 13,700 years ago.
The period of time between 50,000 and 13,700 years ago would be known as the last half of the Late Pleistocene epoch. Now considering that humankind began probably between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago, what would the climate have been like during that era? Would agriculture—large-scale agriculture—have been feasible between 50,000 and 13,700 years ago? The answer from science is no. From a report in a 2001 edition of American Antiquity by Peter J. Richerson, Robert Boyd, and Robert L. Bettinger, they write: “During the last glacial (Pleistocene epoch), climates were variable and very dry over large areas. Atmospheric levels of CO2 were low. Probably most important, last-glacial climates were characterized by high-amplitude fluctuations on time scales of a decade or less to a millennium. Because agricultural subsistence systems are vulnerable to weather extremes, and because the cultural evolution of subsistence systems making heavy, specialized, use of plant resources occurs relatively slowly, agriculture could not evolve.” (7) The Society for American Archaeology issued this statement about the Pleistocene: “No plant-rich intensifications are known from the Pleistocene, even from the late Pleistocene when human populations were otherwise quite sophisticated. Recent data from ice and ocean-core climate proxies show that last glacial climates were extremely hostile to agriculture—dry, low in atmospheric CO2, and extremely variable on quite short time scales.” (8) From the abstract of a report published in February 2009, we find these words: “We cannot identify precisely when cultivation started but the possibility of cultivation is not excluded for the late Pleistocene, however we argue that it did not become a reliable means of subsistence until the Holocene [the epoch from 11,700 years ago to the present]. This period coincides with a decrease in the amplitude of climatic oscillations and global warming.” (9) The consensus among these reports is that climate change was too drastic for large-scale agriculture to occur. Which is not to say that humans didn’t try to till the soil and grow things, just that it would have proven to be difficult, at best. It’s not surprising that many humans in that epoch resorted to being hunter-gatherers.
There were also cosmic threats from supernovae—four such events occurred at intervals of 44,000, 37,000, 32,000 and 22,000 years ago at distances ranging from 360 light years to 820 light years away. “At a distance of 5,000+ light years,” writes Dr. Hugh Ross, “supernovae pose no threat, via their cosmic radiation, either to Earth’s ozone shield or to its climate stability (both are critical requirements for sustaining globally productive agriculture) or to human health.” (10) However, at distance of 360-820 light years, the situation would be much different. In an article from Physics World in 2016, a team of researchers from Washburn University looked at what would happen in a scenario where a supernova blast occurred within 325 light-years of Earth. The high-energy cosmic rays emitted by the supernova would penetrate Earth’s magnetic field, even go through the stratosphere and into the troposphere which, while not eliminating all life on Earth, would cause cell mutations and what the article called “’minor’ mass extinctions” (11) A scientist named R.B. Firestone wrote an essay about supernovae in a 2014 edition of The Astrophysical Journal. Firestone describes, among many other things, how global carbon cycles were affected by the cosmic blasts (radiocarbon production in Earth’s atmosphere increased from the effect of cosmic rays). With the supernova that occurred 44,000 years ago at a distance of only 360 light years from Earth, the consequences were very significant: “When SN44kyrBP exploded life on Earth would have received ≈40 times the modern cosmic radiation dose near the time of the explosion and ≈4 times the normal dose annually for 1500–3500 yr following the explosion. It has been confirmed by evidence from Antarctic lake sediments (Hodgson et al. 2005) that during the late Pleistocene radiation was ≈3 times higher than during the Holocene. Radiation exposure from near-Earth SNe, while not catastrophic, may have led to punctuated increases in global mutation rates and somatic changes following each event. Cancer deaths would have increased by ≈3% at the time of the explosion but only negligibly later (Pierce et al. 1996).” (12) Subsequently, he writes: “Cosmic rays are also proposed to cause ionization in the atmosphere seeding cloud formation (Stensmark et al. 1997). This implies that if the cosmic ray rate were to increase, the additional cloud formation would increase Earth’s albedo radiating more of the Sun’s energy into space and leading to global cooling.” (13) One could imagine how this would affect any sort of attempt at sustained agriculture on this planet! I strongly believe that the affects of these four supernovae, exploding at time intervals of 44,000, 37,000, 32,000 and 22,000, contributed to reinforcing the “curse” that God had pronounced upon the soil, making agriculture in that era difficult, if not impossible at times.
However, once the Flood waters receded from the Earth, and when Noah and the seven others with him were finally able to step off of the Ark onto dry land, build an altar and offer sacrifices to the Lord, God lifted the curse from the Earth: “I will never again curse the ground on account of man…” (Genesis 8:21). This would have to have occurred approximately 13,000 years ago because, after that time, agricultural progress began to be made on several fronts. Larger-scale agriculture began to take root in the Levant, Mesopotamia, the Zagros Mountains, the mountains of southern Asia Minor (now southern Turkey), and in other regions. It would lead to what is known as the Neolithic Revolution. Earth’s climate would begin to stabilize around 11,000 BC, and no supernovae have erupted any closer than 5,080 light-years in recorded history since 1006 AD (14)
As to my thoughts on the geographical extent of Noah’s Flood, though—that will have to wait until another article.
(1) Contextual Focus: A Cognitive Explanation for the Cultural Revolution of the Middle/Upper Paleolithic by Liane Gabora, https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1309/1309.2609.pdf ; The Origin of Modern Humans by Cassandra Turcotte, Bradshaw Foundation, http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/origins/homo_sapiens.php ; Who Was Adam by Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross, 2015, p. 55, 99, 252; Modern Humans 200,000 Years Ago? Not Quite… by Alexander Young, https://objectivechristianworldview.weebly.com/blog-posts/modern-humans-200000-years-ago-not-quite
(2) Human Nature and the Evolution of Society by Stephen Sanderson, 2014, p. 32-34
(3) Christopher Stringer and Robin McKie, African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity, 1996, p. 156
(4) Dr. Michael G. Strauss, Genealogies and the Creation of Heaven and Earth, June 24, 2017, http://www.michaelgstrauss.com/2017/06/genealogies-and-creation-of-heaven-and.html#more ; The Genesis Genealogies: Are They Complete? by Dr. John Millam, http://www.godandscience.org/youngearth/genesis_genealogies.html ; http://crossexamined.org/are-the-biblical-genealogies-helpful-in-establishing-the-age-of-man
(5) George Willcox, Pre-Domestic Cultivation during the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene in the Northern Levant, http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.722.8729&rep=rep1&type=pdf ; Rhitu Chatterjee, Where Did Agriculture Begin? Oh Boy, It’s Complicated, July 15, 2016, https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/07/15/485722228/where-did-agriculture-begin-oh-boy-its-complicated
(6) Iris Gorman-Yaroslavski, Ehud Weiss, Dani Nadel, Composite Sickles and Cereal Harvesting Methods at 23,000-Years-Old Ohalo II, Israel, November 23, 2016, http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0167151 ; Drs. Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana write that “Adding to the finds at the Ohalo II site is a survey of archaeological sites in Italy, Russia and the Czech Republic that uncovers evidence for the processing of plant matter and maybe even evidence for the production of flour about 30,000 years ago. ” (from Who Was Adam? p. 359)
(7) Peter J. Richerson, Robert Boyd, and Robert L. Bettinger, Was Agriculture Impossible During the Pleistocene But Mandatory During the Holocene? A Climate Change Hypothesis, 2001, https://www.unl.edu/rhames/courses/current/readings/richerson-agri.pdf
(8) from the Society For American Archaeology, http://www.saa.org/Default.aspx?TabId=675
(9) George Willcox, Ramon Buxo, Linda Herveux, Late Pleistocene and early Holocene climate and the beginnings of cultivation in northern Syria, February 1, 2009, http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0959683608098961
(10) Dr. Hugh Ross, Improbable Planet, 2016, p. 216
(11) Keith Cooper, Nearby supernovae could have affected life on Earth, July 18, 2016, Physics World
(12) R.B. Firestone, Observation of 23 Supernovae That Exploded <300 pc From Earth During the Past 300 kyr, June 11, 2014, The Astrophysical Journal, http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/0004-637X/789/1/29/meta
(14) Dr. Hugh Ross, Improbable Planet, 2016, p. 216
***published January 12, 2018***