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Creationism and social history

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Christian young earth creationists would have us believe that the world is somewhat over 6000 years old, having been created shortly before 4000 BCE. This chronology is taken almost solely from the taking the Bible as a literal history of the world, and counting backwards from some known dates for events during the Roman empire's domination of the middle east. During the 4000 years between the creation of the world and the birth of Christ, creationists assert there was a world destroying flood that left only a single family of people alive. [1] This flood is believed to have occurred some 1000 to 1500 years after creation, placing its date between 3000 and 2500 BCE depending on which version of the Bible used as source material for the claim. In this article, we'll generously assume the earlier date is correct.

A firm and believable social history of the Middle East, Northern Africa and Aegean civilisation begins sometime around 1000 BCE with written records of Egyptian, Phoenician, ancient Greek and various other Middle Eastern civilisations being preserved and verifiable from multiple sources. This leaves, at most, 2000 years of history in the region for which the chronology may be disputed, and historical convention relies heavily on a combination of sources such as verbal chronologies recorded in later periods, radiometric dating and assumed population dynamics interpreted from the distribution of artifacts.

This period largely covers what mainstream historians would describe as the transition from the neolithic age to the bronze age, the date of this transition tends to be earlier for Mediterranean civilisations and later for other parts of Africa, Europe and Asia. The currently most widely accepted scientific theory of human population dynamics is that the first modern human society originated in east Africa about 190,000 years ago, in and around what is now Ethiopia. From this origin point, humans migrated throughout the world forming separate societies each developing to agrarianism at their own pace with little contact with human society beyond the local area. This theory of population dynamics has come to be known colloquially as Out of Africa theory. [2] To support this theory, scientists present a body of archaeological evidence backed by radiometric dating, and studies of modern population's mitochondrial DNA familial lines and language groupings. Creationists tend to dispute the accuracy of these methods on various, often spurious, grounds.

Creationists, on the other hand, believe that all humans alive today stem from a single family that survived the great flood, led by their patriarch, Noah. In evidence they present a single "historic" document, the Bible. It is unclear if creationists have an accepted, unified theory of population dynamics stemming from this single family. Creationist social history tends to be created on an ad hoc basis to answer challenges to Biblical chronology, supported by very little evidence.

Discrepancies between creationism and recorded social history

Alcoholic beverages

The development and widespread production of alcoholic beverages was one of the most important factors in the development of agrarian society, and the transition from the nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes that typified neolithic societies to fixed settlements that allowed development of culture and technological artefacts, and eventually the bronze age with small scale metal smelting. Alcohol is a powerful anti-microbial agent, which in concentration will kill the majority of pathogens in a drink (along with yeast that produces the alcohol.) This is important in ancient civilisations that have no other effective means of sterilising the water they drink. Alcoholic beverages have been the primary drink of the majority of cultures throughout recorded history.

In the accepted mainstream chronology of civilisation, beer was first intentionally fermented as much as 10,000 years ago.[citation needed] In evidence, historians present neolithic stone brewing jugs. In recorded history, beer and wine production was both known and important to the ancient Egyptian and Babylonian civilisations both as a beverage and for religious ceremonial and funereal purposes in 2700 BCE and before. [3] In the Mycenaean civilisations of Greece and its islands, the art of Wine making became widely known around 2000 BC, however before this time there is a considerable history of the production of mead as the main beverage for consumption, as well as ritual purposes.

For creationists, the first recorded production of wine in the Bible is by Noah himself. One of Noah's first recorded acts after the great flood is to plant a vineyard, and to use the grapes to produce wine. [4] This suggests that the cultivation of grapes and the production of wine was widely known before the flood, and that knowledge was continued afterwards. If the creationist view of population dynamics is to be accepted, then it must be assumed that every culture that stemmed from the one original family must have known about the production of alcohol.

However, it is hard to reconcile this assertion with the known facts of the spread of alcoholic beverages. There is considerable evidence of significant agrarian communities to whom the production of alcohol is entirely unknown, despite the ingredients for its production being readily available. One example would be the neolithic peoples of what is now the British Isles. Despite having agrarian civilisation in earlier years, it was only with the migration of the so-called Beaker people from central Europe that alcohol in the form of mead was introduced. In a more modern example, before European settlement, alcohol was effectively unknown to the native peoples of north America, but quickly became a part of daily life for them in both consumption and ritual use.

It seems unlikely that any civilisation would knowingly give up the production of alcohol. We can see that alcohol bestows a considerable survival and competitive advantage on any civilisation that knows how to produce it. Indeed, in the example of the ancient British cultures, the migrating Beaker people tended to be both bigger and stronger than the native ancient Britons. The Beaker peoples' way of life was quickly adopted by all the peoples of the area, without much in the way of armed conflict, simply because it presented a considerable advantage over previous modes of life. The evidence of the spread of the production of alcohol strongly favours a view of population dynamics that includes the migration of early humans who were ignorant of the production of alcohol, and its later discovery and spread as opposed to the migration of civilisation who already knew how to produce alcoholic beverages.


The proliferation and diversity of organised religion

According to creationists Noah and his family had been the recipients of direct communication from God, and were fully aware of the consequences of angering him, i.e. wrath in the form of a world destroying flood. Noah and his descendants were all remarkably long lived. Shem, a son of Noah who had been aboard the ark, is said to have been 98 years old when the flood ended, and to have lived a further 502 years. This means that people who had direct and meaningful contact with God were supposedly still alive comfortably past the middle of the third millennium BCE. [5]

Nimrod, described in the Bible as a "mighty hunter before the LORD", was said to have been a great grandchild of Noah and the founder of a number of cities. In the Islamic tradition, Nimrod is also the ruler who is said to have ordered the construction of the tower of Babel and at the time of its construction evidently Nimrod's kingdom was still worshiping the Abrahamic god.

However, only a scant 200 years after the last survivor of the Ark is said to have died, there is firm evidence that there was considerable organised religion not in the Semitic tradition in the region. The dominant religion of the Sumerian people seems to have been the worship of a pantheon of gods, led by the moon god Sin. We know from writings about the high priestess Enheduanna that the Sumer religion was firmly established in Akkad (one of the cities founded by Nimrod) and that there were several other cities engaged in the worship of the Sumer pantheon by 2300 BCE. [6]

The Sumerian people built great temple in worship of their gods, such as the Great Ziggurat of Ur which was built in 2100 BCE on the site of an older temple. [7] Some of these Ziggurats are far older, though the dating depends on radiographic methods and so is disputed by creationists.

During the same time period, many other cultures were worshiping other, unrelated gods. From the earliest pyramid inscriptions of the 5th and 6th dynasties in Egypt, we know that the Egyptian culture was engaged in the worship of Thoth, Set and Horus amongst other gods.[citation needed] It is also surmised from archaeological evidence, though not confirmed with any discovered texts that the Indus Valley civilisation had their own system of religious beliefs. This proliferation of religion sits uneasily with a world where every person alive descends from a family who worshiped a single god.

Footnotes

  1. http://www.conservapedia.com/Great_Flood#The_Genesis_account
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recent_single-origin_hypothesis
  3. http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/Controversies/1114796842.html
  4. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=1&chapter=9&version=31
  5. Gen. 11:10
  6. [http://www.cddc.vt.edu/feminism/Enheduanna.html Biographic information about Enheduanna
  7. http://www.islamonline.net/english/In_Depth/Iraq_Aftermath/2003/07/article_02.shtml