Every now and then I delve into a subject in a very scientific manner, so for those who seek theology in this entry, it is here, but it is also very scientific in nature, as it is used to answer the question. The title, "Science in Brief," may be a bit misleading, as topics like this are not brief. Thankfully, many things have been written on this subject, and this entry is merely an overview of the selected observances.
When a change occurs, regardless of what type of change, there is a point where things change, where things shift. For example, once someone loses a limb in an accident, it cannot grow back, no matter how hard they try. Once you burn a log, and it has turned to ash, you cannot change it to its previous state. The energy is still consistent, but the form has changed. When certain changes occur, they cannot be undone, a bit like a rubicon - a point of no return.
Why is it that all organisms are programmed to die even though they could live longer? To draw a valid, scientific, logical approach to this subject, we need to look at the point of change. In this instance, there are two major points. God created the world around 6,000 years ago, 4004 BC. The Global Flood occurred around 2348 BC. When Satan tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, all of creation fell to sin.
Adam and Eve were created without sin and with the ability to live forever. However, when they sinned, they lost this ability - and could only live to the age of 1000. God had commanded them not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, for if they did, they and their descendants would die. (Genesis 2:16-17) This came to pass. Since Adam and Eve disobeyed God's command, they lost the ability to live forever, and died spiritually - the physical death did happen, but not until much later in life.
Merely because people do not live as long today does not mean that in the past, people could not live longer. Flavius Josephus, a 1st Century historian believed the reason why our ancestors lived longer is because they had better food. Take this into consideration: when we see that the average age around, perhaps, Middle Ages, was around 30-40 years of age, does that means that people could not live longer? No. We find that, occasionally, there were older men and women who were eighty years old. Merely because of an average age does not mean we are limited to such an age.
We find that in recent studies, in the last century alone, people have been able to live longer. Why is this? Better sanitation, better nutrition, better medical care, the like. The question is, if people could live to be at least 900, why can we not live this long today? What changed? As pointed out, the Fall of Man limited our life - now everything which has a beginning must have an end. But there must have been another catalyst. What substantially and irrevocably changed the world? The Flood did.
When we take a look at the first 1500 years after creation, men and women lived for long periods of time. This changed after the Flood. Methuselah lived to be 969, holding a record, the youngest being Lamech at 777 - both men between Adam and Noah. (Although Enoch lived to be 365, but like Elijah, was translated into Heaven by God. See entry: "Who Was Enoch, The Man Who Never Died?")
However, when we take a look at the 1000 years following the Great Flood, we see that while Noah lived to be 950, living for 350 years after the Flood, there is a progression in the aging from the time of Shem to Abraham - 600 to 175, and even to Moses - at the age of 120. (Deuteronomy 34:7) Moses was actually considerably old for the period he lived in, as he said in Psalm 90:10, "Our days come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away."
Many people assume that God set our lifespan at 120. Genesis 6:3 is cited, "Then the Lord said, 'My Spirit will not contend with human beings forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years." As Moses stated in Psalm 90:10, the average lifespan of a human being nowadays is between 70-80, though some live longer. People who live to be over 100 become known as centarians.
In my youth, I'd believed that God meant that we were only able to live to be 120. However, many people after the flood lived to be an average of 450, eventually winding down to about 80-120 years. It is true that now, we can only live around 1/10 of our original ages before the Flood. However, when God said "their days will be a hundred and twenty years," he was referring to this: 120 years passed between the time he made that statement and the completion of the Ark, followed by the Flood. He had only given humanity 120 years left - aside from the eight people on the Ark.
There is also plenty of extra-biblical evidence to support long life spans. Take the Sumerian King list, for example. The list mentions a great flood and gives the lengths of the reigns of kings who lived before and after the flood - and their ages. The lifespans seen support the biblical account. Now, what are some of the causes that changed the aging process, decreasing our life spans so drastically?
When we look at the fossil record, we see that before the Flood, the Earth appears to have had a tropical environment. Due to the Flood, there was a dramatic change in climate across the globe - one of which is the Ice Age (which lasted for 700 years after the Flood) that covered almost 30% of the Earth with ice - though it was primarily in the northern regions. Some people believe that diets may have affected aging.
Before the Flood, people had a vegetarian diet. (Genesis 1:29) We can look at the prophet Daniel also, who had asked to have a vegetarian diet while in Babylonian captivity. (Daniel 1:8-16) The issue? Having a vegetarian diet has not been shown to make one live longer than someone who kept meat in their diet. Others point to the environmental changes, as aforementioned, as mechanisms for change.
After the Flood, the vegetation, sea life, and land life had all been dramatically reduced and, for the most part, had to start over again. Some Creationists believe that there was a "water vapor canopy" that surrounded the Earth before the Flood that protected humans from harmful UV Radiation and such. While there are issues with the Water Vapor Canopy, it is plausible.
But what causes aging in our body? Even today, after much biomedical research, we still do not have a definitive answer to that question. There are factors, determinants, if you will, that can affect individual aging: hereditary diseases, genetic traits, mutations, what have you. Mutations are merely any change within a sequence of DNA, and cause a loss of information, not an adage of information. We can inherit mutations from our parents.
What about genetic bottlenecks? Genetic bottlenecks occur when large portions of a population die of or small portions become largely isolated to only a few. We see a bottleneck occur at the time of the Flood, when the population of the Earth dropped from millions, perhaps billions of people - to only 8. When we look at lifespans of people born after the Flood, Eber, over 464, has the longest lifespan. (Genesis 11:16-17)
We do see examples of genetic determinants affecting our life spans. Telomeres, for example. Telomeres are long, repetitive sequences of DNA that are located at the ends of human chromosomes. They are believed to play a vital role in aging. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres shorten because of the inability of an enzyme that copies DNA - to go to the end of the chromosome. (Credit to: P. Monaghan and M. Haussmann)
When the telomeres becomes too short, the cells stop diving. This serves as a mechanism of aging control. The longer your telomeres, the longer you can live, because your cells can replace themselves more times. Each time a cell divides, it is copied, as stated. As it moves along, copying the DNA, it takes up room on the DNA, and when it gets to the end, it stops - and cannot copy the rest of the DNA. Hopefully, this will make sense.
If the first men and women could live to be 1,000 years old, and now there is a defect in our system, and we live to be 70-80, sometimes longer, some have suggested that we have a long-term progeria. Progeria is defined as "a disease that produces rapid aging, beginning in childhood." It has been suggested, what if we do not realize that we are suffering from a type of rapid aging disease - that causes short telomeres?
Reproductive cells have an enzyme called telomerase. It goes to the end of replicated DNA, and makes the telomeres longer. In the past, this may have been different. This gene is turned off during the development of the fetus. Inside your cell is something that would help you to live for longer, if not hypothetically forever - but it is turned off.
Before I continue, I want to point something out. Our body does not truly get older as we age. Many parts of our body are continually replicating and repairing themselves. For example, your body is creating - and killing - 15 million red blood cells per second. Your body entirely replaces your red blood cell count in 90 days, whereas white blood cells are replaced nearly every week. We are made up of about 100 trillion cells.
Some other examples are as follows: the cell lining in our intestines fully replaces itself every four days, epidermal cells that cover the surface of our skin never get older than one month - new cells are produced deep in the epidermis, whereas older cells come off the surface. There are many other such examples, but since this blog is supposed to be salvation centered and about the truth at heart, we will attempt to bring the point home.
Why do we age, then, if our body is constantly repairing and replacing itself? Ought we live forever, hypothetically? Hypothetically, yes. It is because there are certain parts of our body - key parts, mind you, that fail to replicate themselves. Take nerve cells from our brain for example - along with nerve cells from our inner ear and eye. From the time of birth, we lose thousands of nerve cells each minute from our system, and are never replaced. That is the reason why, as we grow older, we loose the ability to see, hear, recollect, taste, smell, the like.
In the 1960's, Leonard Hayflick discovered that human fetal cells can only divide between 40 to 60 times. (The Hayflick Limit) He had discovered that there is a built-in genetic clock that limits the growth. This seems to be what controls our aging process. So even though cells can repair and replace themselves, there is only a certain number of times they can do so. This is the limiting factor.
So why would the ages have declined from Noah to Shem in the first place, if change did not occur at first? Noah lived for 350 years after the Flood, as pointed out earlier, and was the third longest lived person recorded in the Bible, after Jared at 962 years and Methuselah at 969 years. The environmental changes may have affected aging, yes, but the change may have been gradual. Going back again to genetic bottlenecks.
There may have been eight people on the Ark, but it was only six of these that had offspring after the flood. Noah and his wife had no more children after Ham, Shem, and Japheth. (Genesis 10) All three men inherited their genes from the same parents, though their wives did not. After the Flood, ages do drop suddenly. Shem may have died from a hereditary disease on his mother's side, as she is not mentioned 106 years later when Noah is drunk, and may have died shortly after the flood because of a disease.
The Tower of Babel was another genetic bottleneck. The ages drop from around 450 down to 235 for a few generations after the dispersion at the Tower. Immune systems may have also not been as good due to atmospheric and environmental changes, resulting in an easier spread of infectious diseases. The question, "Did the First People Really Live To Be Almost 1,000?" deserves an answer.
The answer is yes. We have sufficient evidence to prove that people lived this long in the beginning. Old Earth Creationists may point out that death and suffering were around before the Fall of Man. However, if this were so, then it would be calling Jesus Christ, the Son of God, a hypocrite, for he said in Mark 10:6, "But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female."
It is because of the Fall of Man at the beginning of creation that we require a Savior. The Law given to Moses also requires us to follow it - the Ten Commandments. However, because we have broken God's Law, and because the wages of sin is death, (Romans 6:23) we are all condemned to a literal place - Hell. How can we be saved? By accepting the truth - the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus Christ, who entered into his creation to die for all of humanity, that if you accept him as your personal Lord and Savior, and believe in your heart that he died and rose from the dead, asking also for forgiveness of your sins, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
Thank you for taking the time to read this entry of, "The Truth." I know this has been a long entry, but a good question deserves a good answer. For more information on this subject, be sure to visit AnswersInGenesis.org or Evidence4Faith.com - both of which are good, reliable Creationist Organizations and trusted Apologists. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, email firstname.lastname@example.org, comment below, or visit the facebook. God bless, dear reader. Troy Hillman