By: Jim Virkler
Previous discussions of the agricultural and domestication revolutions have highlighted startling results for human life. Paramount is the Neolithic agricultural revolution and its effect on human population on our planet. Several other more recent agricultural revolutions have resulted in expansion of the human food supply and population. The works of God did not end after the six creation days of the first two chapters of Genesis. God’s transformational and sustaining miracles have transpired until this very moment. Theologians agree that divine miracles have resulted in wonderful ongoing and advancing conditions for human life.
Why did the agricultural revolution not commence before the last and most recent Ice Agent ended? During the Ice Age climate variability precluded the beginning of a human agricultural revolution. An inspection of the graph of world temperatures (proxy readings derived from ice cores going back as much as 250,000 years in Greenland) clearly shows a succession of jagged temperature ups and downs for the past 100,000 years. After the last glacial maximum occurred about 20,000 years ago, there were two “final” cold snaps, one from 14,700 to 13,400 years ago, and one from 12,800 to 11,500 years ago just before the ice sheet melted entirely. During events of the Older Dryas and the Younger Dryas, temperatures were altered temporarily for early humanity. The former period transformed Europe from forest to tundra while the latter period froze Europe solid within a matter of months.
The end of the coldest Ice Age about 10,000 years ago initiated major climate changes. Not all of these changes occurred immediately. For example, the current St. Lawrence River drainage pattern of the US Great Lakes toward the Atlantic Ocean began only about 3000 years BC, not long before God’s call to Abraham: “Go to the land that I will show you.” A few Ice Age phenomena persisted and yet persist even though we have entered a period of remarkable climate stability. For example, the crust of the earth is still experiencing “isostatic rebound” in Great Lakes regions where two-mile thick ice had depressed the earth’s crust. This rebound raises surface elevation several feet per century. In our last post we stated that there has been a 7600-fold increase in human population since the agricultural revolution began. The “food trigger” was the onset of the agricultural revolution which was triggered by the end of the deep planetary Ice Age.
What was the Creator’s role when Planet Earth sustained a human habitation of only one million (or less) during the vast eons of the Wisconsin Ice Age but later expanded to a population 7600 times larger since 10,000 BC? Early humanity during the unpredictable climate of the Ice Age subsisted by hunting and gathering. Substantial amounts of their time was consumed in their search for food. That explains why the existence of the prehistoric temple at Gobekli Tepe in southeast Turkey, dated at nearly 10,000 BC was an incredible marvel of human intelligence, engineering, and cooperation. The realities posed by this temple remain a mystery. We are struck by the strength and resilience of humanity when life’s existence was a major challenge.
Life today is also challenging, but in vastly different ways. Most of the human population enjoys plentiful supplies of food. Many agricultural nations cope with an oversupply of some grain products. In the current year US farmers agonize whether to cut back on some crops owing to overproduction while ramping up planting of crops which may be in undersupply. Their discomfort relates to their financial bottom line.
God’s work did not end after the six Genesis creation days. Geologically recent climate stability resulted in triggering the agricultural revolution. This is an example of what some theologians consider a “transformational miracle.” Our planet’s climate has been miraculously transformed. Current agriculturists also enjoy “sustaining miracles” each growing season as crops develop from springtime seed to summer and autumn harvest. Many plants are perennials, reviving themselves each season to produce our annual harvest. This is commonly described devotionally as the “miracle of growth.” The exponential growth of a tiny mustard seed in Matthew 17:20 into a full sized plant could be described as a sustaining miracle. Most living things grow exponentially—one, two, four, eight cells…until maturity.
Other agricultural revolutions resulted from the application of human intelligence, insight, and skill. Our species is uniquely gifted with the Imago Dei, the Image of God. The climate change food trigger we have described is the result of a “transformational miracle”—one of hundreds evident on our miracle planet. In November 2017 we posted three articles on miracles. We link them in the most meaningful sequence:
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Jim Virkler, a retired New Jersey public school science educator, now devotes his time investigating the harmony of scientific discoveries and Christian faith. He and his wife, Eleanor, now reside in the mid-west near their children and grandchildren.