Genesis and Technology

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

A summary on how the first chapter of Genesis ties up and relates to scientific facts known today, the origin of man and how the Bible shaped our world.

Genesis and technology

The most fascinating book in the Bible, out of the viewpoints of geology, history, technology and the origin of everything. Somewhere during our years in school the geology teacher explained to us the origin of the earth and that the earth was 4.5 billion years old. I told him this could not be, because Adam and Eve go back a few thousand years and the earth was created in 6 days. His answer was that that was a discussion for another day and for the purpose of this class we’ll stick to the scientific facts. In standard 5 I have read the children’s bible front to back 5 times. One of the reasons for that was that in those days books were not available in the quantities they are today, especially if you live on a plantation station. Some other incidents also bothered me. Jonah got swallowed by a fish and then he lived there for a week or two. And then one day he just steps out of there as fit as a fiddle. I have not yet figured out King Solomon. A wise man with excellent advice, but how serious can you take a man who had 1000 wives?  Considering the responsibilities and careful navigation required to live with one wife what he did was an act of lunacy. Metusalah reached the age of 900 and something. Let’s say the quirks and indispositions of old age caught up with him at the age of 500. Then for the next 450 years he lived with arthritis, hypertension, gout, failing eyesight and the pains caused by old injuries, not to mention all the women who broke his heart. In 900 years you can have a lot of girlfriends. This was one tough guy. I was told this is mythology and the Bible is the truth. Of course mountains of research have been done on the origin of man, with a lot of different outcomes. Scientists and biblical scholars have a lot of different views which is good. Actually it’s terrific, as the biggest enemy of progress is conformity. All that writing was done by scientists and individuals with impressive credentials and very impressive qualifications. Research by paleontologists, archeologists, anthropologists and medical professionals span decades and their findings are well known and well documented. To us as laymen in these fields these persons have no ordinary job. They can dig up old bones and after analysis tell you that this person lived fifty thousand years ago, he was of this blood type, this was his diet and he suffered from these diseases. For researchers to track the human trail through the layers of time is a long and difficult road. The Bible on the other hand is the oldest, most read, most studied and best documented book in human history. So what is the point of writing about issues on which so much has been written? This short story is not a paper on biblical facts, neither is it a paper on scientific research. It’s just a discussion about Genesis, the man who wrote it and a reflection on human history. The main sources which were used are the Bible, the Barberton Museum and the World Heritage site at Maropeng. That is Barberton in the old Eastern Transvaal, now known as Mpumalanga, South Africa. That is where we grew up, on a sawmill station outside of Graskop. We lived right next to a sawmill and bloekom poles and planks were in abundance. During the time of primary school I built a lot of things out of that timber and I discovered that to build something and to build something that actually works is not really the same thing. I questioned Genesis from a very early age. The earth was built in six days, and everything works? At the time that did not sound right. That was just before the time of television, cell phones and google. Unlike today other continents were literally a world away. The adults at the time were not as clued up as those of today, so if you had a question and they or your teacher couldn’t help you your last and only source was the library. Over the years whenever I came across anything related to this issue I studied it and made mental notes. This short story is a bit of an anti-climax. It took an hour or two to get the numbers right and then notes made over many years culminated in a piece of writing that takes 10 minutes to read. It serves one purpose; to get scientific data and bible facts about the same topic in some kind of order.  

Moses was the author of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament. He wrote these books on Mount Sinai, as far as is known the first written words on the history of the earth and Adam and Eve. Put yourself back in time thousands of years and try to imagine the environment at the time. Some of the world’s citizens were farmers and some were hunters and gatherers. Just to get clean drinking water must have been a mission every day. Medicine was none existent and wild animals would come scavenging for your food supplies. From the Old Testament it is clear that in and around the Middle East some nations or tribes were always at war somewhere. There could hardly have been much in the line of law and order so criminals trying to separate you from your belongings must have been a constant threat. At the time of Moses, 1400 BC writing has been done for some time on clay tablets and only the rich and political elite had the technology of paper and pens to write with. Everyone was in a battle for survival so keeping written records of history could hardly have been a priority. Moses lived more or less 2500 years after Adam, who dates back in the biblical calendar from 5700 to 6240 years from the year 2020, depending on which calendar you choose. So at first the question is where did he get his information? Moses was guided by God as he wrote about events that happened billions of years earlier, with no indication of historic records at the time.

In the 2nd verse of the 1st chapter of Genesis it is written: the earth was void and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the spirit of God moved upon the waters. This refers to the time of 4.5 billion years ago, when the planet was just a collection of matter, fluids and gasses. Then God created light, so that would refer to the creation of the sun. Then the light was separated from the darkness. That refers to the stage in which the earth was no longer just a rock hurtling through space but were adopted by the sun and started its orbit and its rotation, causing the periods of day and night as it evolved into a planet. Then the sky and dry land were separated from the waters, corresponding with science that at a point billions of years in the past there was this one big supercontinent and one ocean. On the 2nd day God created vegetation, plants and trees bearing seeds. On the 3rd day God created space and the stars and the light that shines at night. This also corresponds with science. The light that shines at night is the moon. Somewhere in our distant past a massive object hit the earth with such a force that a piece of the earth broke off. This piece was thrown into space and became the moon. On the 4th day God created birds and animals living in the sea. On the 5th day God created livestock and creeping and wild animals, and on the 6th day God created man. That is creation according to Moses.

Now the question is how does this compare with science. According to what you will find in Barberton’s museum a giant meteorite hit the earth at Barberton 3.5 billion years ago. As you go up the mountain east of the town towards the border with Swaziland you get a good view from the top. The town of Barberton lies at the edge of a giant dome, my guess would be 80 kilometers across, the kind of crater that could be caused by a meteorite, so the meteorite theory checks. With this meteorite came the first living cells to arrive on earth. These living cells multiplied and formed plants. These plants evolved into sea animals, which later came out of the sea and evolved into land animals. As the evolution cycle continued it evolved into chimpanzees, which evolved into a range of homo species. Up to here it sounds plausible, as humans are just 2 chromosomes away from chimpanzees. Homo erectus happened when one of these apes decided that it is possible to walk on two legs instead of four. Homo erectus evolved into a more intelligent type of caveman and developed the skills to make stone tools. Remains of these different types of homo and homi species were found in caves at Sterkfontein in South Africa. Mrs Ples, a fossil found at Sterkfontein in a region called ‘The cradle of humankind’ was a hominid, that is an ape that walked upright with 27% of the brain capacity by volume of what we have. She lived 2 million years ago and all she had in common with us was that she walked on two legs. What made her special is that she was the piece that fitted into the missing link puzzle. What makes Sterkfontein special is that it has the largest collection of pre-human fossils ever found. All the details of this part of evolution have been well researched and are well documented. The theory of those first living cells falling from space is not too farfetched. We’ve known for some time that earth does not have the only organic life in the universe. Recently the astronauts onboard the International Space Station noticed droplets forming on their windows. They analyzed it and found that it contains hydrogen, oxygen and carbon. This is one of a number of proofs that were found that organic material drifts through space.

The real Y chromosome Adam lived 200 000 years ago and the real Mitochondrial Eve 160 000 years ago, in North Africa or the Middle East. These figures are not based on physical evidence but on calculations made by genetic scientists. A hugely complex process which involves taking DNA samples from hundreds of persons living today and then making those calculations based on the mutations of chromosomes. That is to find the birth of the x and y chromosomes, indicating the start of the molecular clock which defines us as modern humans. This moment in history is very well depicted in the painting of Michelangelo where the finger of God nearly touched the finger of Adam, at that moment creating man in the image of God and spiritually transmitting to him his intellect and awareness and eternal soul. ‘In the image of God’ is a phrase open to interpretation, as in this painting Adam was already physically in the image of God. Except for the timeline the series of events defining the creation of earth and the creation of man as described by Moses show remarkable similarities with the results of scientific research. The order in which it happened corresponds. The Bible version was created by one man on a mountain over a short period. The scientific version was compiled by a large number of scientists over a period of more than a century. There are however a few hiccups with both versions. Human skulls were found in the Middle East and Europe dating back beyond the birth of modern humans. The analysis of these skulls indicated that we had ancient ancestors who had bigger brain capacities than us. The scientific versions of man’s origins are a lot more complex than the Bible version. The progeny of Mrs. Ples developed into other homo species and somewhere between 600 000 and 800 000 years ago Homo Heidelbergensis split up into Homo Sapiens and Homo Neanderthalensis, the last survivors of the Homo range. Homo Sapiens evolved roundabout 300 000 years ago into modern man somewhere in Africa and the time and place has been for some time under dispute by South Africa, Ethiopia and Morocco. The oldest modern human remains ever found was at the Omo Kibish site in Ethiopia dating back 195 000 years and at the Jebel Irhoud site in Morocco, dating back 300 000 years. The oldest and only modern man remains in South Africa were those of the San found in caves on the coast of the Western Cape near Stilbaai and Knysna, dating back 130 000 years. All of these sites are accepted as the Cradles of modern humans. Note that there is a difference between the Cradle of Humankind and the Cradle of modern man.

Neanderthal left Africa for Europe. Maybe this group of Neanderthals decided to take a swim from Morocco to Spain, or maybe they built a raft. Or maybe the sea levels were so low that the Gibraltar Strait was dry and they walked over. Maybe after they crossed the sea levels rose and cut Africa off from Europe. However, how they landed in Europe and Sapiens remained in Africa remains a mystery. Their paths did not cross again until 60 000 years ago when our ancestors entered Europe via the Middle East. This is where it gets interesting. Remains of this Heidelberg version were found in South Africa, Zambia, Ethiopia, China, Germany, France and Spain, that is on 3 continents. Maybe the ancestors of the Heidelberg version did not originate in Africa. Maybe they originated in Asia or Europe and migrated to Africa.  Maybe the split never happened in Africa, maybe it happened in Europe or Asia. Or maybe Neanderthal never crossed into Europe, they were born there. Or maybe that magic moment in history when our ancient ancestors changed into modern man happened on 3 different continents thousands of years and thousands of miles apart. Africans moved into the Middle East and started agriculture. We know that Asians built sea faring ships thousands of years ago and they invented gunpowder. Neanderthals mastered fire and they made decorative ornaments. Very little is known about modern man’s early history in Africa south of the equator. Africans entered Southern Africa roundabout 1000 years ago and settled mainly on the eastern side of the sub continent in what is today Mozambique, Zimbabwe and KZN. The only documented activities happened fairly recently in Great Zimbabwe, known today as the Zimbabwe Ruins. This city thrived between 1100 and 1500, trading in gold and ivory and it is the biggest stone structure in Southern Africa from that time. The San/Bushmen are regarded as the first inhabitants of the region. Their ancestry has been dated back to the Stone Age and stone paintings place them in all Southern African countries as far back as 26 000 years ago.  Between them and Neanderthal they are regarded as the world’s oldest artists. Maybe all of them developed into modern man on their own continent and on their own time. Two decades ago scientists in Europe suggested that wildlife like rhino, apes and antelopes migrated into Africa 7 million years ago out of Eastern Europe. Maybe the ancient ancestors of Mrs. Ples were born on the shores of the Mediterranean. That is a lot of maybes and this can get really tangled. To pinpoint our origin to one specific location at a specific time is chasing your own tail. These are however just observations so please feel free to disagree. Most of the points mentioned in this paragraph are under dispute. Getting back to our more recent past we also have only a few pieces from a very large puzzle. During the ice ages sea levels dropped dramatically. It is reasonably safe to assume that our ancestors liked to live next to the ocean just like us. It is also reasonably safe to assume that ancient cities lie buried under the water just off our coastlines yet to be discovered. The stories about magnificent cities disappearing under the waves could be more than mythology.

When discussing our ancestry it is worth taking a look at Neanderthal, the closest and only family of Sapiens. How we migrated over the globe is well known but what Neanderthal did from 500 000 years ago until recently is a bit of a mystery. If one takes a look at their environment it becomes incredulous how they survived for a few hundred thousand years through Europe’s very long ice ages. For a long time we believed they were spear and club carrying cave dwelling savages. Until recent research unveiled them as much different than what we believed. They were well adapted to a very brutal environment, they were clever and innovative and they had social structures that can be associated with a civilized society. If we were dropped in that ice environment with no support or tools, even with all our knowledge we will probably not make it, unless your name is Bear Grylls. There is the possibility that they had superior intellectual abilities to what we have, challenging the theory that we as Homo Sapiens are the most intelligent of species that ever lived.  We have on average a brain capacity of 1300 cc and theirs were 1460. They had a more powerful build than us, they had better eyesight and they could run faster than us, a lot faster. 10 seconds for the 100 meter sprint is considered fast, they could do it in 6.5 seconds, theoretically. Actually that sounds a bit insane. For reasons unknown 40 000 years ago they just vanished off the face of the earth. Of all the species that went extinct they were our closest relatives. This very important piece of history is not mentioned in the Bible. Research on their history up to now was difficult and slow mainly because their remains are extremely rare. Not one complete Neanderthal skeleton was ever found. Discussions on them over the last few decades has been controversial because of their seemingly superhuman abilities. It is sad that we have so little clear facts about them, as every human outside of Africa today carry 3% of their genes. Let’s say hypothetically speaking we went extinct and they survived. If they progressed to their 1st industrial revolution and beyond they would today be building skyscrapers, drive cars, travel the oceans and walk in space, hypothetically. Stupid they were not. That more or less sums up the scientific version of our origin.

Moses started the written history of mankind and in the time after him other authors completed the other books of the Old Testament. From the book of Malachi to Matthews there is a lapse of 400 years in most bibles. Five more books were written during this period called the Apocrypha, which is available if you ask for it. The New Testament was written in the 200 years following the start of the Christian Calendar with the difference that all the authors are well known. After that there wasn’t really a bible as we know it today. Parts of the old and new testaments were in possession of individuals and church institutions, some of them written in different languages and being held in different countries. To trace and collect all of the more or less 2500 manuscripts must have been a massive undertaking. It is not sure when the fully composed bible first appeared. The English Bible, the Geneva Bible and the King James Version all appeared from roundabout 1450 to 1620.

With all that technical data aside, when Moses started to write Genesis he also started a book that would take 1500 years to complete by 40 known and an unknown number of unknown authors. It shaped culture, literature and values for centuries to come. The history of the evolution of the Bible is as fascinating as its contents. You can be in Academia, an artist, an artisan, an explorer or a hunter; this book can act as your spiritual guide. As that world famous preacher/farmer from Greytown said: the Bible is his agricultural manual. All taken into account, with the knowledge we today have on these events Moses did a remarkable job on that mountain. He was the first known author in human history. He wrote about history of billions of years in the past and the sequence in which it happened with remarkable accuracy, with absolutely nothing to use as a source except for the guidance of God. He might have had it wrong with a billion years here and a billion years there, he might have had it wrong about a few facts here and there, but he did not suck the 1st chapter of Genesis out of his thumb. The Bible is the truth; it’s just a matter of interpretation. God gave us Genesis and the ability to master science. Just maybe he also expects of us to go and figure it out.




The Bible

The Barberton Museum

The Maropeng Heritage site which includes Sterkfontein

Neanderthal:  Meet your ancestorsBy Andy Serkis and Ella al Shamahi

References on the real Adam and Eve: Courtesy of findings by Dr. Carlos Bustamente, University of Stanford

From Google  Omo Kibish, Ethiopia  Jebel Irhoud, Morocco/ Great Zimbabwe  San, the world’s most ancient race  Who wrote the bible?


Submitted: October 22, 2020

© Copyright 2020 Steven du Preez. All rights reserved.

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