I ran across this article in the Huffinton Post. The headline proclaims, “Farming May Have Started Way Earlier Than Scientists Thought.”
Claims like this no longer surprise me. That’s because it’s not uncommon to find articles demonstrating how surprised scientists are about a particular subject. In this instance, the article provides an excellent example of what happens when scientists make incorrect assumptions about the past.
I bring this up because many people view science as an authority that shouldn’t be questioned. If a scientist makes a particular claim- especially if they’re in the mainstream- then what they say is often accepted as fact, and any opposing views are rejected.
This article explains how scientists once believed that farming began about 12,000 years go, but a new study suggests that agriculture began as early as 23,000 years ago on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Researchers examined plant remains and found evidence of domestic wheat and barley, as well as weeds that flourished along with those types of crops. They also found flint tools that could have been used during harvest.
But what really stands-out to me are the comments from the researchers. Dr. Ehud Weiss, a professor at Bar-Ilan University in Israel said, “This is one of the most amazing finds a researcher can dream on. No one had previously imagined humans had started cultivating in such an early date.”
And Dr. Marcelo Sternberg, an ecologist at Tel Aviv University said, “While full-scale agriculture did not develop until much later, our study shows that trial cultivation began far earlier than previously believed, and gives us reason to rethink our ancestor’s capabilities. Those early ancestors were more clever and more skilled than we knew.”
But why should this discovery be the cause of such surprise and amazement? Why hadn’t anyone previously imagined that humans were capable of such ingenuity? Why hadn’t scientists previously believed that agriculture happened so early? And why didn’t these scientists know that our early ancestors were so clever and skillful?
Well, I’d suggest that the answer lies in evolutionary thinking. These scientists were probably taught that humans evolved from an ape-like ancestor several million years ago, and that early humans weren’t all that intelligent and were incapable of the type of complex thought necessary to farm. So it’s no wonder they’re surprised to learn just how clever and skillful these people were.
However, if we believe what the Bible says, then we learn that humans were created in the image of God and were farming right from the beginning of creation. Adam and Eve had a son named Cain, and he farmed the soil and offered part of his crop to God as an offering (Genesis 4:1-3). So we really shouldn’t be surprised that humans were smart enough to farm.
What’s really surprising isn’t that scientists were wrong, but just how far off they were. Their belief about when farming first began has nearly doubled! But it gets worse. And that’s because the Bible infers that humans- based on genealogies- were farming much less than 10,000 years ago. That means that scientists are now even further off than they were previously.
I think it’s important to realize that scientists base their dating methods on certain unprovable assumptions about the past, and this article provides a prime example of the limitations of science. Scientists can only base their conclusions on present-day observations; so there may be certain unknown factors they haven’t taken into consideration that could affect their conclusions. In this case, scientists missed some key evidence; therefore it took a future discovery to reveal previously unknown information about the past. And of course there are certain things we may never discover about the past, making it impossible to confirm certain scientific claims.
This is also why it’s important to distinguish between operational science and forensic science. Operational science is based on observation and experimentation in the present. This allows us to innovate, create technology and make advancements such as computers, airplanes, medicine, and even farming techniques. Forensic science, on the other hand, studies the unknown past, so we have to piece it together like a puzzle with a lot of missing pieces. And that’s why there are countless unsolved murder mysteries and crimes; it’s impossible to observe the past, and that forces us to draw conclusions based on the best evidence available, and it also requires us to make assumptions that may or may not be true. Our knowledge about the distant past is even more incomplete, so it’s impossible to verify whether or not our conclusions are correct. Therefore our conclusions will necessarily be based on faith.
The bottom line is that we don’t need to accept the millions and billions of years and evolution that scientists insist upon. There’s plenty of evidence that contradicts these beliefs, as well as evidence to support a young earth. Science is very helpful, but it needs to be understood for what it is, and that means it’s helpful to remain skeptical about certain claims… especially those claims that contradict the Bible. I would suggest that the Bible is more reliable and accurate simply because it’s God’s revelation to man.