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Correspondence: Virtual History

February 13, 2007

Dear Dr. Aardsma,

Your website is looking very good. It is also very easy to use. I spent some time reading some things on it last night, after having to endure an Answers in Genesis speaker all day yesterday in church. I tried to endure with as much grace as possible. =)


Most of the topics were about dinosaurs, Cain's wife, false ape-men, the flood, and the biblical creation account. However, in the very first session, in only 45 minutes, he "proved" "evolution" to be false and the Bible true! Not to mention, it only took about 5 minutes to scratch radiocarbon dating off the list. No problem. It's laughable really. Ha Ha Ha. The overall impression left is that "evolutionists" are just pretty dumb. And creationists are smart. Aren't we glad we are part of the "smart" group? All those people who don't believe the Bible are just too prideful and just WON'T believe anything else. Man, if it were that simple, Christianity ought to be spreading like wildfire!

Anyhow, like I said, I tried to exercise as much grace as possible. Maybe some of it was helpful to some people. ... I just have to comfort myself with the knowledge that God knows and sees all and one day all truth and error will be made plain.

I did get my nerve up to ask 3 questions in the Q&A session, based on some things he had said earlier in the day. First I asked -- are there any Biblical references to a 700 year ice age following the flood? (He had said earlier we should always start with Scripture. I just wondered where the starting point was for the ice age.) He said he was not aware of any biblical references to the ice age.

Second, I asked -- is it possible that God created some fossils/dinosaur skeletons, etc, in place as an interesting part of His creation? He seemed to feel that every fossil was once a true living thing. Otherwise he said God would have tricked us.

Thirdly -- Why do you think all the animal life is so completely different in the Australian part of the world? If they all came off the ark at Ararat shouldn't they be living in that region still today? (Earlier in the day he had said that kangaroos once lived in the middle east, since Noah took 2 of every kind of animal on the ark.) He said he did not have a good answer for that question, except to say that the animals must have migrated to the climates best suited to them.

Here's some things that I'm curious to find out your thoughts on:

-Do you believe there was ever an ice age? (I searched this on your site but nothing came up.)

-Why do you think the science textbooks are so set on teaching biological evolution when it is so obviously impossible? And there is no evidence for it? (I did see an article you have on molecules to man evolution so I will read that.)

-How do you think things like the Grand Canyon came to be? Did God create it like that?

Anyhow, I thought you would be interested in all this, although it's nothing new I'm sure. Usually I'm just happily oblivious to such things.

I'm also going to get your articles on virtual history.


Hello Jennifer,

Yes, I believe there was an "ice-age". Actually, there were several ice-ages. They were all in virtual history. The last one ended about 10,000 years ago. So it doesn't enter into real history, since Creation happened just over 7,000 years ago. Since my work is designed to defend the historical truth of the Bible against charges that what it reports as history is in fact fiction, I have not had much cause to talk about the ice-ages so far. (In my understanding of virtual history and the past, one can just accept what the scientists specializing in these fields are telling everyone is their best understanding/reconstruction of these past events. These reconstructions do not attack the historical integrity of the Bible in any way once one understands the concept of virtual history.)

Actually, I think there is enormous evidence of biological evolution (meaning extensive changes to flaura and fauna)---again, in virtual history. Note that the Bible does not say that biological evolution CAN NOT happen; it says that biological evolution DID NOT happen. That is, the Bible clearly teaches that we got here by CREATION, not by EVOLUTION. "In the beginning God CREATED the heavens and the earth", not "In the beginning God EVOLVED the heavens and the earth." But none of this excludes the possibility of biological evolution in virtual history. In fact, the teaching in Romans 8:20, that the creation was subjected to futility at the time of the Fall, meshes rather well with evolution being the thing seen in the virtual history data, for the hallmark of evolution is not purpose, but random chance and meaninglessness.

The Grand Canyon should also be understood just as the standard scientists describe its formation. It too is a virtual history phenomenon.

Virtual history is not a hard idea. Just think about what it means to actually CREATE something. Creating a story is a helpful analogy. Take "The Hobbit" as an example of a created entity. Now step into the book with Bilbo on page one and begin to examine the world around you. Everything you see and examine around you has already, on page one, an extensive built-in virtual history. Bilbo is in his 50's as I recall. So he has a virtual history. His house has been dug back into the hill, implying someone did some digging. If you examine the tunnels you can no doubt find tool marks left by the workmen. His front door is made of wood, implying trees grown, sawn into planks, planed, and fastened together by craftsmen, all before the story begins. And on and on it goes...Bilbo's clothing with all those stitches, and the soil in his yard and garden with humus from long-dead leaves, ...

We are living in a CREATION. The creation we are living in is a story of God's making. It opens on page one 5176+/-26 B.C. (by my best reckoning so far). The story moves from Creation to Fall to Flood to Exodus to Birth of Christ to Crucifixion to Redemption to ultimate Restoration of all things. This story is our reality, but it is not ultimate reality. (God is ultimate reality---He transcends the story just as any author transcends their created story.) And like any story, it has, necessarily, a virtual history built in from page one onward.

The big take-home point is that evidence of virtual history---of even millions or billions of years of this or that process operating in the past---does not and cannot falsify the fact of creation in a created entity. So we can let the virtual history data about the Grand Canyon or the ice ages or whatever else speak for itself and say whatever it seems to say. We do not have to resort to foolishness (e.g., denying the validity of tree-ring calibrated radiocarbon dates) to try to wipe out every trace of any natural process prior to the biblical date of Creation. We understand virtual history to be part and parcel of any created thing, so evidences of such processes do not threaten our faith or falsify the Bible's claim that we got here by supernatural creation just over 7000 years ago.

Dr. Aardsma

July 11--14, 2008

Dear Dr. Aardsma,

We are starting VBS next week and our VBS theme is "Dino-Detectives" (from Regular Baptist Press) which has sparked some interesting conversations among the church leadership about the age of the earth, etc.

Our pastor is an old-school creationist. He just can't believe how much the Bible is being questioned these days, and he's never had a problem believing the earth is 6,000 years old. He had a newer member of the church tell him recently that he disagrees with him on the age of the earth, although he would never cause division over it. He believes in the gap theory. I don't think our pastor has had many church members like this over the years and it causes him to re-think some things.

He is also thinking about this right now as he is trying to prepare a sermon for Sunday to go along with the VBS theme. I gave him some of your articles about virtual history, which he read. He came back with the question, "How does this belief differ from the teaching of the creation having the Appearance of Age?"

I think virtual history is very interesting and it makes a lot of sense to me. However, I do not know how to answer many questions about it. Would you mind answering that question so I could pass it on to our pastor? Or maybe you have an article that addresses this issue. Thanks for your help.


Hello Jennifer,

I think that, to one thinking consistently in a virtual history framework, the phrase "creation with appearance of age" seems at best a redundancy, at worst a heresy, and in the middle (just to cover all the ground) an absurdity. So there are, obviously, some differences. I haven't had to articulate these differences to many people to the present time, so it is still not easy to explain what I can "see". In addition, it gets harder to think in the Creation with Appearance of Age paradigm the longer you think in the Virtual History paradigm --- kind of like trying to make yourself play the piano wrong after years of training to play right. So consider the following comments to be a rough draft.

The two ideas share some similarity, but differ at a basic level both philosophically and theologically. Creation with Appearance of Age gives the impression that God arbitrarily painted a facade of age over the creation --- that He could have chosen to leave everything looking its "real" created age (i.e., roughly 7000 years, by my best Bible chronology reckoning) if He had wanted to, but He chose instead to make things look much older. This immediately raises theological objections: "But why would God do such a thing? Isn't it fundamentally dishonest to make something look like it isn't? Isn't God being deceitful?" (This is where the "heresy" mentioned above comes from.)

The virtual history view never encounters this problem. It says that the people who are saying "creation with appearance of age" don't understand properly what the word/idea "creation" means. The virtual history view goes to the analogy of human creations to try to show what "creation" means. It takes the creation of a story by a human author as (probably its best) analogy. It observes that in all such stories one always has a virtual history present---grown characters wearing sewn garments and living in already built houses... right from page one of the story. What is implied from page one of the story is a cause-and-effect virtual history to the story, stretching back into the indefinite past. This virtual history in no way contradicts the actual date (in the story characters' time) of creation of the story. (That "date" we would fix at page one of the book, since that is when, in the story frame of reference, the story world comes into existence.) We find by such analogies that an "appearance of age" is inherent in what "creation" means. (This is where the "redundancy" mentioned above comes from.)

But this "appearance of age" is not an add-on and is not arbitrary. Try to imagine writing a story which does not have an "appearance of age". After you have completed that exercise, try to imagine writing a fiction story which has a false "appearance of age". I find that it is intrinsically impossible to create such stories. I.e., you cannot have a "creation with an appearance of age" if you mean by that anything other than a creation with its inherent virtual history. To ask for a creation with a false appearance of age (which includes the case of a creation having no appearance of age), is to ask for the impossible/ridiculous. (This is where the "absurdity" mentioned above comes from.)

We are living in a "story" God created. God is both author and reader of this story (e.g., "For in Him we both live and move and have our being." Acts 17:28.) (Note how this works. A story-world has no existence in the book; its existence is in the mind of the author and readers.) Page one opens about 7000 years ago our time, (the only time frame we have access to). This "story" has a virtual history stretching back billions of years. We find this to be the case by computing the time it would take light to travel from remote galaxies we see in the sky, or by computing the time it would take radioactive elements, such as uranium dug from the earth in natural ores, to decay as much as they have. These great ages in no way negate the fact that page one opens 7000 years ago. Nor does our virtual history, with all its dinosaurs etc. negate the fact that we are created. All stories have virtual histories and no story yet has ever created itself---all have had an author/creator. And the fact that our (fallen) virtual history shows eons of death and savagery and futility merely says "amen" to what Romans teaches, that the whole creation has been subjected to futility by God as a consequence of the entrance of sin, in hopes of its eventual redemption (Romans 8:20). [And, if I may stray from the point a bit, the "story" is still being written/read, and God allows us to take a real part in its unfolding by our prayers and actions---so the Bible shows.]

This raises one more major point of difference, the handling of the Fall. Briefly, Creation with Appearance of Age runs into a theological snag with things like fossils of fish with other smaller fish in their stomachs: "Do you mean that God chose to paint, of all things, a facade of SUFFERING and DEATH onto the creation when He gave it this arbitrary appearance of age at the time of creation?" The virtual history paradigm recognizes simply that all creation type miracles entail a virtual history, so the Fall, with its creation type miracles (by which the nature of the creation was changed --- "subjected to futility") carried with it its own (fallen) virtual history, which is the virtual history we now see. We do not see the original utopian pre-Fall creation with its (presumably utopian) virtual history.

Hope this helps,
Dr. Aardsma

Dear Dr. Aardsma,

Thanks for taking time to answer this. ... Your answer has helped me as I have read it about 10 times trying to figure it all out in my mind. =) It seems silly to me that some creationists will assign "appearance of age" to some things like starlight (I guess what other choice do they have? You can't deny we can see light from those stars!) and trees in the garden of Eden, etc, but will insist that dinosaur bones could not have been in place from the moment of creation, because God would have "tricked us".

And, if the moments-old creation of living things did NOT have a virtual history, what exactly would the creation have consisted of? A whole bunch of NOTHING is the only thing I can think of! =) Every living thing has a history (whether virtual or real) that, like you said, stretches back into the indefinite past. I can see that by thinking about the tree outside my window. Just wanted to share my humble thoughts. =)


March 3, 2013


I am trying to understand how the Earth has only been in existence since God's creation of it. ( I am new into the study of Christianity.)

While researching many questions, including how Noah and his wife could have populated the Earth, I came across a reference to Aborigines in Australia who's rock art has been carbon dated back 50,000 years.

If you rely on carbon dating to show the validity of biblical objects on your website, how do you justify discarding it when it's also used to prove that the Earth and humans inhabited the Earth long before the Bible claims that God created it?

Thank you,

Hello Shannon,

"Christianity" is a very broad category. Christians are by no means uniform in their views on "how Noah and his wife could have populated the Earth" or on the antiquity of the earth, or on the significance of radiocarbon dating. My response to your assertions and question is not meant to speak for all who call themselves Christians.

First let me try to help you with your central quest: "how the Earth has only been in existence since God's creation of it". Use your imagination to create something --- say a cat on the floor at your feet. Now answer two questions: 1. How old does the cat which you have created appear to be? 2. How long has the cat which you have created been in existence?

Now your question: how I justify discarding radiocarbon dating for dates older than the date of Creation. Answer: I (and my BC website) don't discard radiocarbon dating at any point. I accept radiocarbon dating over its full range. The fact that God created the universe out of nothing roughly 5200 B.C. does not imply that the universe should appear to be just 7200 years old, any more than the fact that you just created a cat out of nothing a few seconds ago should imply that your created cat should appear to be just a few seconds old.

The appearance of a history in a created thing, predating its creation, is what we call "virtual history". You can read more about virtual history on the BC website.

I trust this all helps.

Dr. Aardsma

August 17, 2013

Dear Dr. Aardsma,

I just stumbled across your website this week and have been fascinated with your research and conclusions. Like you, I have been troubled by the lack of "harmony" between Biblical and secular history and science. I long to see the truth of science and the truth of Scripture reconciled satisfactorily. Being trained in history and not in the sciences, I'm still having a hard time embracing the concept of real history vs. virtual history. While part of it certainly makes sense, I struggle to see how it applies in real-world scenarios. Since I am from Cedar County, Missouri, I thought I would see if you have ever heard of the Big Eddy site. If so, I wondered if you had any comments on how to make sense of this site that seems to have been settled almost continuously for 13,000--14,000 years. Could you explain how your findings would explain this in terms of what is real history and what is virtual history and also how there doesn't seem to be evidence of a depopulation during the Flood 5500 years ago? I know you are a busy man, but would appreciate any thoughts or explanation you can offer.

Much thanks to you and may God bless your research and ministry!
Darrin Griffin

Link to overview of Big Eddy Site:

Dear Darrin,

To bring harmony to science and the Bible it is necessary to get both the science right and the Bible right. In regard to the ancient world there are several debilitating assumptions which are commonly held by moderns which hinder this harmony at present. For the Bible student, there is the assumption that the Flood was cataclysmic (which it wasn't), and that in all the world only Noah and his family survived it (which the Bible does not teach). For the student of science, there is the assumption that the Flood is myth, possibly resulting from some big local inundations over in the Middle East (while in fact it covered the northern hemisphere of the globe).

The main thing to look for in connection with the Flood at a site is termination of occupation, or depopulation. This evidences itself as a break in the cultural sequence of a site. And this leads to the archaeologists giving the new cultural assemblage a different name. This requirement is met at Big Eddy, as elsewhere. The date of the Flood is 3520 B.C. This is roughly 5500 years ago, or 5500 BP (Before Present). This corresponds to the beginning of the Late Archaic Period at Big Eddy. From the wiki page you have pointed to:

Late Archaic Period: Excavating deeper into the Late Rodgers layer (Lopinot et al. 1998:76), 1 to 2.5 feet (0.76 m) below the surface, remains can be found of the Late Archaic period, dating from 2,500 to 5,500 BP (CAR 2006).
So the Flood terminated the Middle Archaic Period at Big Eddy and ushered in the Late Archaic Period at Big Eddy.

The Flood typically results in a hiatus of a few centuries. This is not a long enough time to be easily obvious back 5500 years ago when working out the chronology of a site, so may easily go unnoticed, being overridden by the assumption on the part of the researcher of basic continuity of populations. But the hiatus eventually becomes apparent as a more detailed chronology is accumulated, generally through more radiocarbon dates.

Creation is not detectible the way the Flood is. You cannot look in the strata for evidence of Creation. Creation is an inherently supernatural phenomenon. Floods, even hemispherical Floods, are not inherently supernatural events. By analogy, we may say that the whirlwind (tornado) which took Elijah into heaven was supernaturally ordained, but tornadoes are not inherently supernatural events. Creation is an inherently supernatural event.

You can accept, by faith, that God supernaturally created the world roughly 7000 years ago, as modern Biblical Chronology seems to require, or you can reject it. If you accept it, then you are faced with the fact that the world God created 7000 years ago was created "full-blown" --- just like as if the world we presently are experiencing was created by God 10 minutes ago. (There is an important point about the Fall, and the existance of evil in the world which I am skipping over here; one thing at a time; I have dealt with it elsewhere.) There is nothing inherently illogical or otherwise wrong with this notion. God is able to have created a full-blown world just 10 minutes ago, yes? The only way we know He did not create everything just 10 minutes ago is that He has told us He did it roughly 5200 B.C., not 10 minutes ago. What IS illogical (indeed impossible), and ultimately absurd, is the notion that because God created everything roughly 7000 years ago everything must appear to be 7000 or fewer years old. That is not what the word "creation" means or requires. I challenge anybody to imagine creating anything at all (other than a fundamental physical particle, like an electron) and have that created entity not appear to have existed prior to its creation.

To the best of my understanding, there is no way at all to separate out virtual history from real history on the basis of the intrinsic properties of a created entity. When a thing is created it comes into existence with a virtual history which flows smoothly into its real history from that moment forward. Try it yourself, using your imagination once again. The only reason we can separate real and virtual history is because we know when the creation event happened. Big Eddy is no exception.

I trust this is all helpful to you.

Dr. Aardsma

August 20, 2013

Dr. Aardsma,

Thank you very much for your response. I really appreciate it. I have been trying to find a reasonable explanation to reconcile science and Scripture for several decades. I have rejected entirely the YEC [Young-Earth Creationist] doctrine both scientifically and Biblically (although unfortunately it is still widely embraced by my pastor and most in the church.) His sermon the last two Sundays was on the global flood of 2350 B.C. He even included the month and date that it happened! As you can imagine, my faith took a nosedive, and I even began to question whether I can even trust the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant Word of God. I have considered many ideas to try to reconcile science and Scripture including the gap theory, day/age, 6 days of Proclamations and Billions of years of fulfillment, theistic evolution, etc. Nothing seems to make perfect sense. Your website gave me a renewed sense of hope that the Bible is true and came at just the right time that my faith needed a boost.

As I try to wrap my pea brain around the ideas you are advocating, I did want to make sure that I understand your position correctly. Please let me know if I'm on the right track. Using the Big Eddy illustration that I mentioned earlier, this is my current understanding of what you believe:

Although it appears that people have been living in the Big Eddy area for around 13,000--14,000 years, in fact people only emerged at Big Eddy during the Supernatural Creation Events approximately 7000 years ago. These people, and all the other "pre-5200 B.C. people" were created shortly after Adam and Eve on the 6th Day of Creation. The pre-5200 B.C. fossil record and artifacts at Big Eddy are only the virtual history of those specially-created people. Nothing really happened before creation.

**This is the part I'm really struggling with: How can the pre-5200 B.C. artifacts and evidence from virtual history (firepits, bones, dishes, etc.) seem so "real" today when nothing really happened? I'm having a hard time trying to figure out what is real. I am a history teacher, and have been trained to use artifacts and documents to interpret and express what happened in the past. If I can experience something with my senses, it seems to me like it should be real, and if the artificts are "real", then the people who left them should be "real" and not virtual. Along those lines, how can we see supernova explosions and cosmic radiation today from hundreds of thousands of years ago if that time is only virtual history and not real?**

These newly created people lived at Big Eddy until they were destroyed by the Hemispherical Flood of around 3520 B.C. There was an unnoticed depopulation due to the Flood, but the area was repopulated years later by either Noah's descendents or descendents of those in the southern hemisphere that were not destroyed.

Please tell me if I'm thinking this through correctly, and feel free to comment on my areas of confusion---especially those with the asterisks.

God bless!
Darrin Griffin

Dear Darrin,

Okay, asterisks first.

You need to think over your definition of "real". You also need to think over the concept of "creation". Let's start with "creation".

We humans are really disadvantaged in regard to what "creation" entails because we don't get to bring physical objects into existence out of nothing. So, right up front we have a problem of ignorance which we need to be aware of.

This is the same sort of problem we faced with modern physics not too long ago. For example, we have no experiential knowledge of the world of the extremely tiny (size of atoms and fundamental particles) as we grow up. We tend to expect the world at the extremely tiny scale to behave like a scaled down version of the world at the normal scale we are familiar with. But it doesn't. God didn't make it that way. (God doesn't seem to have been too concerned with whether the way He made the world would make immediate sense to humans or not.) That is why Classical Mechanics fails at the level of the extremely tiny and why Quantum Mechanics is needed.

The world at the extremely tiny scale is really startlingly different from our expectations. It is even hard for us to verbalize its behavior because we don't have words to suit it---since we never experience it and thus never have to describe it in all our normal course of growing up in the macroscopic world. For example, if you roll a golf ball toward the hole in a green, it will fall into the hole if you get it to the edge of the hole. In the extremely small world, the ball can fall into the hole, just like in the macroscopic world, but it can also "bounce off" (we have no words for this, so I am having to do the best I can with what we have) the edge and come back. We naturally ask, "But what exactly did it bounce off of?" It didn't bounce off of anything. The fact is that the way God made the world balls can either fall in the hole or "bounce off" the hole. This is true at all scales, but the probability of the "bounce off" option is essentially zero in the macroscopic world. The probability of the "bounce off" option only becomes significant at the scale of the extremely small. But these two options are the true nature of balls and holes, and this simply needs to be accepted. We are not used to having to simply accept that the world is in some ways quite different than we expect it to be as adults---that our view of the world is in error---but we did plenty of this accepting when we were babies. In the final analysis, the option of falling into the hole is just as surprising to the uninitiated mind as the option of "bouncing off". We only think the first option "makes sense" because we have learned from long experience since infancy that so the (macroscopic) world behaves.

My point: we have significant ignorance of creation events---we had better brace ourselves for aspects of creation events to be quite different from what seems to us to make sense. And we had better be prepared for normal language to break down as we try to describe what happens in creation events. Specifically, in the present case, we had better be prepared to adjust our definition of "real".

Fortunately, we do not have complete ignorance of creation events. Being created in God's image, we too have some creative ability. We cannot bring material objects into existence out of nothing, but we can bring imaginary worlds into existence out of nothing. We call these creations "stories".

By analogy, we are characters in a story created by God. The whole story (i.e., history of the universe), beginning to end, was created in the mind of God. There is no part of the story which is any more "real" than any other part. The only difference we can make between parts of the story is that the book (the telling of the story) opens roughly 5200 B.C. our (inside-the-story) time, and we only know this because the Creator has told us it is so. If we look back past page one from any page in the story, we see only continuity back from where we are in inside-the-story time into the indefinite past. Notice that Bilbo Baggins, if we give him consciousness, sees grown trees and sewn clothes on page 1 of The Hobbit.

Such is the nature of creation events. To characters inside the story, page 1 cannot be located by any experiment conducted on objects inside the story. They can "see" back into the story's indefinite past, and everything they see looks just as "real" as they are "real".

One must simply accept that this is the way things are with creation events, just as one must accept the "bounce off" behavior of balls at the extremely small scale. Things are as God decides, not as we would like them to be. Creation events come with a virtual history for characters inside the event.

Done asterisks.

A complexity which must be kept in mind in regard to Creation is that there are two creation-type events involved, not just one. The Fall was also a creation-type event. In it the first Creation was supernaturally altered, making it different from the original, pre-sin, Creation. Romans 8 teaches that it was "subjected to futility" in hopes of its redemption. God altered the nature of the story at the Fall. Thus we do not see the virtual history of Creation when we look back. We see the virtual history of the Fall.

So no, I do not see the Big Eddy people, and artifacts dug up from there, as having been created on Day 6. They are all products of the Fall, not of Creation. The virtual history of Creation at Big Eddy is unknown and unknowable.

Whether the expected hiatus following depopulation of Big Eddy (by the Flood) has been noticed yet or not I cannot say. I have only read the wiki page, not looked up any of the original publications. The depopulation itself has been noticed, by the change in period name 5500 BP. That is why the name changed---because the old had ended and something new had begun.

Note that you should not see occupation there as continuous (like every day) since 13,000--14,000 years ago in any event. The picture is almost certainly one of repeated occupation through the millennia with gaps of abandonment of varying lengths. If someone were to radiocarbon date all the charcoal found at the site for example, they would almost certainly find that the dates "clumped" into periods of occupation, with significant gaps of no occupation between clumps.

Finally, it is possible repopulation was by descendants of more local pre-Flood stock (even Big Eddy stock) as well as the other options you have given. People can survive big floods by hanging onto floating debris. It would certainly be surprising if nobody in the whole world survived the Flood that way. People having boats of any kind would have had an even better (if still quite small) chance of surviving the Flood. People living near a river, as at Big Eddy, might have had boats. After the Flood, descendants might follow the river or its tributaries from wherever they landed back to their ancestral home/territory, as the Sumerians (Noahic stock) seem to have done in Mesopotamia.

Trust this all helps.

Dr. Aardsma

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