Correspondence: Lifespan Research
December 24, 2012
Dear Dr. Aardsma,
I just discovered your biblical chronology website. There's a lot to
think about. I appreciate your scientific outlook, but I'm also
concerned about fidelity to the text, as I'm sure you are as well. So
I'm not so sure about the flood being less than world wide, or the
concept of virtual history. But I'll try to keep an open mind.
Question--I read on your website that you're working on the issue of
why we don't live as long as people before the flood. Have you made
any progress yet? Could it be a combination of genetic as well as
environmental factors? Starting the world over again with 8 people
might lead to genetic trouble, right? On the other hand, Seth still
only lives 600 years instead of 950. Maybe that first 100 years living
under pre flood conditions was enough to protect him against some of
the environmental changes?
Linus Pauling suggested that we used to be able to synthesize vitamin
c in our bodies, but then eventually lost that ability. I don't
remember exactly the details, but that we're only one step away in the
biochemical process from synthesizing it. Who knows, maybe that's
Last January I started at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. Do you ever speak in the Louisville area?
If so, I'd like to hear you speak in person!
I am pleased to make your acquaintance. I do almost no speaking, and I keep even written correspondence to a minimum. I'm not anti-social --- I'm just burdened to spend my time and my science training finding needed answers to Bible/science questions while I am still able.
Yes, I too am concerned about fidelity to the text. I have found that it is easily possible to confuse fidelity to the text with fidelity to tradition. A given traditional view will color how we see the text if we are not very, very careful. It is also easily possible to confuse zeal for a particular view with the rightness of that view. And once we have canonized a false view, it is easy to sink into a very unChristlike Inquisitional attitude toward others who see things differently. So one must keep not only an open mind but always also a self-critical attitude and a true humility of spirit.
Regarding pre-Flood longevity: I am in the same state Thomas Edison was in after he had tested hundreds of candidate substances as potential light-bulb filaments --- he said he had made progress because he now knew several hundred substances which would not work! I continue to plug away at it.
I am fairly confident that genetics can be ruled out as a factor. There are several reasons for this. First there is Seth, whom you have already pointed out. Second, the text suggests that more than just 8 people survived the Flood (for example, the existence of the genetic line of the Nephilim both before (Genesis 6:4) and after (Numbers 13:33) the Flood). Third, the slow progressive decline in lifespans following the Flood is not well-suited to a genetic cause. Genetics proceeds through point mutations. So one is asking for a lot of point mutations in a very short period of time, and all of them in the same direction. In addition, with billions of people on Earth today, one might expect to see an occasional genetic throw-back --- somebody living out to 200 years, for example. Yet no such individual is ever encountered.
I trust these brief comments are helpful to you. God bless you as you continue to equip yourself for a lifetime of service to Him.