I've noticed my blog is pushing at the envelope of atheistic disbelief and scientific reasoning, through the use of semi-scientific evidence and a little bit of unusual and occasionally original thought. I decided to pursue this position one more time with this post...
We all know the usual creationist/ID position, and I'm sure many have dismissed them [myself included] as forcing a modern, secular understanding of the world around us onto an ancient, religious document, with below-average success. However, I would like to explore the idea that the ancients did in fact know a thing or two about evolution, simply through observing the world around them. Using rabbinic and biblical sources, I'll show you what may be actual references to evolution in the bible.
Snakes had legs.
According to New Scientist and various other thoroughly scientific sources, snakes used to have legs, many years ago. As evolution goes, they eventually mutated into having no legs, which is why we see snakes as they are today.
The midrashim on Bereishis say that the snake in the Adam and Eve story had legs and could walk. This is allegedly how Eve was pushed onto the tree which caused the pair to sin.
The famous midrash is that before the flood, people used to have webbed hands and feet...is this a truism and left over from evolution? Or is this something made up? If the latter, the question that demands to be asked is, why would the rabbis make up the webbed hands and feet - what would they gain by it? Weave a more intricate web? Assure people that those before the flood are fundamentally different to those after it? Perhaps. Or perhaps at one point, "people" really did have webbed hands and feet. It would fit the evolutionary scale of things.
To conjecture further, perhaps people without webbed hands and feet lived alongside those with it, and a big flood wiped out the people with webbed hands and feet...? Either way, could this be another point at which the bible confirms evolution?
It is said that Abraham worried that people would think Isaac was not his son, so God made Isaac look like Abraham. I don't believe the biological fact of genes was spontaneously made by God at this point, but this aside, is this another reference from ancient times to what took humanity ages (literally) to discover? Perhaps.
OK, not strictly evolution. But is the concept of giants just fertile imagination? Perhaps people were shorter, so it was more odd to have people over 6 feet in ancient times. But to describe them as giants? We know Saul was considered very tall, but no-one described him as a giant. However, let's be vaguely scientific about this all...
1 Samuel 17:4 says Goliath, one such giant, "was over 9' tall." Now let us take a look at the tallest living people in medical history and then including the deceased. In both links, if we scroll down the page a little and ignore the pornographic pictures on the right (enjoy), we see that people up to 8 feet tall existed. It's not such a stretch to 9ft then, is it? And when we factor in that the writer of Samuel may have been incorrect in the height (let's face it, he was seen during a battle and no one would have measured him, would they) we see that the biblical "giants" may very well have existed as normal people who were way taller than everyone else.
Another explanation, perhaps describing Goliath's position...Could it be that very tall beings were observed by biblical characters as having a problem with their Pituitary gland? Perhaps. Either way, I think it likely that our modern understanding of "giant" is larger than the ancient idea of a mighty giant who stood just 9ft tall.
Could the stories of giant fish be similar to the stories of giant people? Add a bit of imagination, a small village campfire and some good ol' fashioned embellishment and I think that is likely. Further, typing "giant fish" into Google reveals many pictures of giant tuna, crayfish and all manner of massive and scary looking sea creatures. One website called Fishosaur is dedicated to finding pictures of large fish, take a look.
Massive life spans
Adam lived for 930 years, but was supposed to live forever until he sinned. People after him lived pretty long too, Abraham and Sarah - 20 generations away from Adam - lived to 120 years and beyond.
This is more of an interesting conjecture than a possibility to be scientific fact, but if you've read this far, hear me out.
I was talking with someone after the second night seder, and we eventually started to talk about scientists who are isolating the aging gene(s). After discussing how it wouldn't do to allow everyone to live forever, and who would be able to eradicate such genes (the wealthy, the powerful and the gifted), I postulated that a good use of such technology would be to discover/colonise distant planets. Given how our technology is insufficient to transport humans to other planets within their lifetimes, making beings live forever would help solve the problem. They could then decide to commit euthanasia whenever they felt the colony was getting off to a good start. I postulated Adam was one such being. The argument goes like this...
The universe is expanding all the time, so the closer to the centre of the universe you are, the older everything is. It is therefore logical to postulate that another civilisation arose closer to the centre of the universe than we are. Being older than us, the beings there mastered the technologies we are stumbling upon only now, thousands of years ago. This older civilisation isolated the ageing gene and sent an explorer(s) to a distant planet we now call Earth. Adam founded civilisation here and hey presto! Here we are today.
As you can probably tell, I'm awaiting my copy of chariots of the gods....