Unification News for March 1999
In a recent article we examined Hellenic history (UNews, Jan. 99). This time well go back a little farther, and take a look at the origins of humanity itself.
Famous scientists such as Charles Darwin, Raymond Dart, and Louis S. B. Leakey pioneered this field, transforming crumbled old bones into storytellers of an amazing and complex past. (Your authors interest in this subject stems from a childhood encounter with Leakey.)
This subject is covered in the Bible too, so well see how its account squares with the conclusions of science. In practice, the relationship between Archaeology and the Biblical record is a never-ending dance of conflict and confirmation.
In its recounting of human origins the Divine Principle follows a literal Biblical timeline, even while inviting scientists to do the precise dating, and to color in the details.
Our Earth is 5 billion years old, and life has thrived here from almost the beginning. At first all life forms were simple -even feeble- by todays standards, but that certainly changed!
Physically we humans are mammals, warm blooded and bearing live young. The first mammals were small, seemingly insignificant creatures that coexisted with the dinosaurs. Far from being the evolutionary failures we once pictured them to be, dinosaurs ruled the Earth for 130 million years. Only their sudden, asteroid-wrought extinction allowed mammals to gain the upper hand.
Humans are primates, as are lemurs, apes, and monkeys. The first primate was a mouse-sized creature that lived some 20 million years ago. Perhaps 5 million years ago the lineage of humanity split off; thus humans share a common ancestor with the apes, but do not descend from them. The hominids rapidly evolved into a variety of species; scientists arent calling it a "family tree" any more, but rather an "entire bush!" From Africa they spread outwards in succeeding waves.
By 3.6 million years ago, hominids were walking upright. At Laetoli in Tanzania, the footprints of three individuals are clearly preserved in ash. (Volcanic ash can be isotope-dated quite precisely.)
Scientists are trying to determine when hominids developed language. Since researchers dont have a time machine handy (yet), they can only determine when hominids would have been able to speak. This is done by examining the remnants of their brains, larynx, nerves, etc. It turns out they may have been speaking more than 400,000 years ago!
This ability implies a high degree of intelligence and social organization. Scholars William Calvin and Derek Bickerton posit that language and dexterous skills developed together, "boosting" each other, since they employ the same basic areas of the brain. They add that speech is such an advantage that it would have evolved quite rapidly, despite the resultant danger of choking on ones food, due to the lowering of the larynx.
It was once theorized that modern humans developed separately in several places, but it is now almost certain that humanity springs from a single mother (the "Mitochondrial Eve"), who lived in Africa about 250,000 years ago. She wasnt the only person alive at that time, but rather, a woman with very fortunate children. She and her band were not fully developed Homo Sapiens, as the Biblical Adam and Eve are presumed to have been.
By 130,000 BC, Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon "cave men" had mastered fire, big-game hunting, and fine craftsmanship. Both types spread from Africa throughout Eurasia, and down towards Australia. In the Middle East they lived side-by-side for tens of thousands of years, and it isnt known if they ever interbred. Eventually, for still-unknown reasons, the Neanderthals died out.
Archaeologists arent sure whether advanced tool use, art, and music originated in a single place. Theists can assume that they did, as manifestations of our (newly) God-given humanity.
Adam and Race
The oldest known organized burial was recently found in southern Egypt. It dates to 80,000 BC, and is the clearest possible evidence that these people possessed souls. We can assume that, by then, the Biblical Adam and Eve had already lived.
Even so, people continued to live in nomadic hovels for millennia afterwards. The Principle states that Adam and Eve "would have" advanced rapidly, but for the Fall and the resulting barbarism. The Bible does mention the gradual advance of civilization (Gen. 4:17-22).
No one knows exactly how or when the modern races developed. It is a subtle conceit to assume -with zero hard evidence- that Adam and Eve were members of the Caucasian, Oriental, or any other currently existing race.
On the other hand, Dr. Sang Hun Lees new book speaks of angels who belong to several different races! Therefore, either those particular angels were recently created, or the idea of diverse races was part of Gods original blueprint.
Scientists once claimed that the races arose in certain regions, due to factors such as sunlight and temperature, then spread slowly outwards. This classic theory is undergoing serious review. Genetic typing has revealed numerous differences -and similarities- that do not match external appearances. Also, the Australian aborigines may carry some older, hominid traits. Their predecessors were crossing the nearby, open seas 800,000 years ago!
Closer to home, the well-known "Ice Age/ Bering Strait/ Asians-to-Red Indians" connection turns out to be simplistic. The 8,000 year old "Kennewick Man," found in Washington State, was probably an Ainu-type Caucasian. (For some reason, this discovery has seriously rattled the multicultural types.)
Noah and Civilization
By 10,000 BC agriculture had developed, and cities began to organize. This gathering of resources allowed the construction of impressive structures like stone menhirs (with precise astronomical alignments); huge earthen mounds; and later, pyramids. These grand undertakings may have been conceived in many locations, or migration and trade could have spread that knowledge from a single source. Theists have reason to prefer the latter.
The oldest known city, Çatalhöyük (in present-day Turkey), was inhabited continuously for millennia, and has been excavated to a level dated to 7,000 BC. Archaeologists have just announced that there are even older ruins beneath!
A new book titled The Genesis Flood puts forth the best theory so far about Noah and the Biblical Flood. It may have been an effect of the most recent Ice Age, during which the Black Sea was a shallow, isolated lake. In 5,600 BC, rising sea levels caused a breach in the Bosporus, allowing sea water to flood its basin.
The Black Sea basin (north of upland Çatalhöyük) was probably the true "cradle of civilization," where agriculture and cities first arose. It seems likely that the Indo-European language also originated there.
The basins inhabitants scattered, bringing their knowledge and culture, westwards towards Greece, and east and south into the Middle East. The flooding shoreline advanced a mile a day, "covering all the land." They had no writing as yet, so the event would have been remembered as a spoken legend.
How does this square with the Biblical account? Pretty well. For one thing, it was not "too limited." Noah (if he lived there) and his people would not have understood the true extent of the Earth. Any child with a hose and sandbox can figure out that there isnt enough water on this planet to literally cover every mountaintop. Besides, Noah made wine in the first year, while grape vines require several to bearso all the plants werent drowned either.
Moses is another subject of controversy. The Principle stipulates a Biblical date for the Exodus of around 1570 BC. Mainstream scholars insist it took place, if at all, sometime between 1250 and 1100 BC. But new evidence (from excavations at Hazor in Israel) points to around 1400 BC. This debate is far from over!
We may now conclude that the first genuine humans, those with a Spirit Body, lived sometime between 130 and 250 thousand years ago. Adam and Eve were born to a fairly sophisticated hominid tribe, one that eventually populated the entire planet. (The old conundrum about "their sons wives" is moot, if we assume that one parent can bequeath a soul.)
We can also surmise that Noah was an actual person, who really did flee before an overwhelming Flood. His descendants, just as recorded in the Bible, soon engendered a mighty civilization in the Middle East, as well as others.
Some people find the distant past fascinating; many do not. Still, this is not just a bunch of boring, irrelevant "ancient history." Knowing our origins is crucial to our understanding of ourselves. Our self-concepts are reflected directly in our behavior and ideology, on a personal and on larger scales. An accurate understanding will, when widespread, have a profound impact on our families, popular culture, and national policies.
No doubt many more amazing discoveries await. As these age-old mysteries are solved, many skeptics will be able to accept the reality of God, and see His hand in history. Well all gain a deeper understanding of our humanity. This can only be for the good.
In my last column "Biblical History" (Feb. 1999) I wrote:
"In 1998 it was announced that a previously unsuspected system of underground tunnels, water channels, and guard towers; dating from the time of Joshuas conquest; have been found near the fabled Siloam Spring."
It should read:
" In 1998 it was announced that a previously unsuspected system of underground tunnels, water channels, and guard towers; dating from the time of King Davids conquest; have been found near the fabled Gihon Spring. "
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