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The Age of the Human Race

by Rob Vandeweghe  
10/15/2007 / Christian Apologetics

Through the last decades science has struggled to estimate the age of the human race. Obviously, evolution would insist this occurred a long time ago, as it would take an incredible span of time for the first human-like creature (the cave man or monkey man) to develop into the sophisticated humans of today.

First, it must be observed that current estimates for the age of mankind are still all over the board. The lack of reliable dating methods for organic material is a serious challenge for all paleo-anthropologists. This might surprise you, but the only reliable dating method for organic material is Carbon-14 dating. This procedure can date organic material such as bones and teeth accurately but only to a maximum of 25,000-30,000 years. Dating older organic material is nothing more than guesswork. In many cases these guesses rely on "leap of faith" assumptions by dating the rocks found near the organic material in question, wildly asserting these rocks were formed at the same time as the bones/skull/teeth were deposited. Obviously that is not science, but only wishful thinking.

Recently the advance of genetics has opened a new pathway to estimate the age of mankind through the analysis of human organic material. By comparing samples of currently living humans with well dated DNA samples from the past, an estimate can be made for the rate the human DNA record changes. Applying this estimated natural mutation rate to a representative sampling of the DNA of today's world population, allows to estimate how much time would be required for today's human DNA to mutate ("deteriorate") from a common ancestor. As every cell in the human body contains the combined DNA from both the father and the mother, analyzing this DNA would not allow to trace the separate ancestry of the male or female. However, two portions of human genetic material do not recombine in reproduction, namely:

1) Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) This DNA resides in the so called mitochondria structures, outside the cell's nucleus. Mitochondria are the "cellular power plants." They convert food molecules into energy. Mitochondria contain DNA that is independent of the DNA in the chromosomes that is stored in the cell nucleus. Both men and women get nearly all of their mtDNA only from their mother. In the late 1980s and early 1990s a number of studies examined the mtDNA of women all over the world. These concluded that all women descended from one "Eve" who lived within the last 200,000 years. Refinements in measurements lowered these original estimates to 135,000 years and finally to less than 100,000 years. These studies not only suggest a much younger age for humanity than previously assumed, but also indicate that all humans descend from ONE woman, ruling out that humans would have simultaneously evolved in multiple locations/regions.

2) A large segment of the Y-chromosome. Only men have a Y-chromosome, most of which they receive only from their father. Since 1995 studies have been conducted to trace genes on this Y-chromosome to determine the age and descent of males. Various studies all indicate younger ages for mankind. What may well be the most reliable study published so far, calculates a common ancestor to modern man at between 37,000 and 49,000 years ago.

These studies also indicate that genetically all humans are much more alike than one would predict from Darwinian theory. Examinations of the genetic sequences of diverse modern human populations reveal minor differences, if any at all. One scientist noted: "It's a mystery none of us can explain." All this evidence suggests a recent origin for modern humans, far more recent than evolutionary theory would allow.

Evidence from archaeology and anthropology is consistent with such estimates for the age of humanity. Sophisticated works of art first appear about 40,000-50,000 years ago, and evidence of religious relics and altars date back no earlier than 25,000 years.

Archaeological finds of leftovers of human habitation date back only 15,000 years ago. Claims for older finds are rarely presented.
Accounts in the Biblical book of Genesis mention the descendents from the first man, Adam, through Noah, Abraham and Moses. Based on the literal reading of this data, it can be calculated that Adam was created by God a little over 6,000 years ago. This is also the date claimed by Six Day Creationists for the actual creation of the world. Other scholars point out the common practice of ancient Hebrew culture to skip generations in the genealogical records. Thus it is conceivable there were substantially more generations between Adam and Abraham than recorded in Genesis. These scholars generally theorize that, based on these records, Adam and Eve could have lived 8,000 to even 25,000 years ago. These views are the basis of the suggested range of 6,000 to 25,000 years old for the age of mankind. These Biblical estimates are surprisingly consistent with those supported by archaeology.

Whichever way one looks at the data, one conclusion is inescapable: as time progresses, estimates from science come ever closer to the age inferred by the Biblical accounts.

Rob VandeWeghe is a skeptic turned Christian by studying the evidence for Christianity. More articles like this by Rob are available at

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