The History of Life: Arphaxadian Epoch

From Devotional BiologyLearning to Worship the Creator of Organisms, Chapter 15.4, pgs. 322-328

The Flood. The Flood in the days of Noah was unlike any other event in earth history, before or after. The biblical account suggests that it lasted for a year and ten days (compare Gen. 7:11 and Gen. 8:13-14) and that it was violent, breaking up ‘all the fountains of the great deep’ (Gen. 7:11), and destroying all land organisms on the entire planet except those on the ark (Gen. 6:17; 7:21-23). The evidence left over from it, however, suggests it was even more violent than might be deduced from Scripture alone.

Packages of sediment hundreds of feet thick are sitting hundreds of feet above present sea level, draped across entire continents, sourced thousands of miles distant, laid down by east-to-west flowing currents, and containing vast numbers of bodies of mostly marine organisms. Such sediments seem to be explainable only by an ocean with sea level thousands of feet higher than present flowing rapidly across all the continents of the world. Noah’s Flood is the only reasonable explanation for these things. If so, the same rocks indicate what else happened in the Flood.

Evidence exists that continents on crustal plates moved thousands of miles across the earth’s surface, crashing together to form mountain chains, uniting to form a supercontinent (Pangaea), and then separating again to get to their present locations—all under the waters of a global Flood. This moving ocean scoured tens of thousands of feet off the tops of mountains and thousands of feet off the tops of continents and redeposited that sediment thousands of miles away. Supervolcanoes, superquakes, and meteorite impacts rocked the planet with unimaginable destructive force. Seventy percent of the crust of the earth sank deep in the earth’s interior and hot magma in its place contacted global ocean waters to generate a line of tens of thousands of miles of geysers that spewed water miles into the atmosphere and dramatically heated the oceans of the world.

As the Flood advanced from the ocean onto the land, the organisms of the antediluvian world were swept up and buried to produce the Paleozoic and Mesozoic fossil sequence. In the first moments of the Flood, chunks of the earth’s crust that dropped quickly enough and deep enough to be beneath the scouring of the Flood, preserved the only known fragments of the antediluvian surface. In the uppermost Precambrian sediments of these blocks we find the only known direct evidences of what the antediluvian world was like in the centuries or years preceding the Flood. In Cambrian rocks—the lowest rocks of the Paleozoic, we find marine organisms from the edges of antediluvian continents. Atop these rocks, organisms swept off the floors of the shallow continental oceans are preserved in the remainder of the Paleozoic rocks.

As this was occurring under water, the forest floating atop the ocean was also being destroyed, ripped apart from the outside in, and its components buried with the sea creatures below. The core of this forest was buried in upper Paleozoic sediments to form the coals of the Carboniferous. It seems as the Flood waters rose, sands on the shorelines of the world were picked up and redeposited to cap the Paleozoic rocks in what is known as the sands of the Permo-Triassic. In these sediments and above, the rising Flood waters picked up the land animals of the world (including its dinosaurs) and buried them in the famous Mesozoic rocks of the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous.

A New World. The transitions between the Creation Week and the Edenian epoch and then between the Edenian and antediluvian epochs primarily involved a substantial change in how God related to His creation. The different rules instituted after the Flood suggest that God relates differently to the current world than He related to the antediluvian world.

However, the primary difference between the antediluvian world and the world after the Flood, was a physical one. When the ark’s inhabitants stepped off the ark, the world was radically different than it was when they entered the ark. The Flood completely remodeled the antediluvian world. Land masses were moved around, thousands of feet of sediment were apparently shaved off the top of continents and redeposited, mountain ranges existed where none did before, the ocean appears to have been 20 degrees Centigrade (68 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer, and the earth’s climate was warmer and wetter. All humans and land animals—except those on the ark—were destroyed. Most of the land plants and sea creatures were probably destroyed as well. When the ark organisms disembarked, at most only a few thousand land animals representing something like a thousand species existed on a single mountain. Land animals were nowhere else. The world at the end of the Flood was truly a new world.

A Command to Recover. Only an extremely small percentage of the organisms alive at the beginning of the Flood survived the Flood. Although the ark preserved representatives of every baramin of land animal, the number of species descended from them in the present suggests something like one tenth of one percent of the number of species before the Flood survived the Flood to repopulate it. Since God chose the survivors of the Flood (e.g. Gen. 6:20), it is likely that He selected them not just to preserve baramins, but also to illustrate His character.

However, such a low diversity could not possibly illustrate His character as effectively as a world full of organisms. It was therefore imperative that the earth be quickly re-filled and re-populated. The full diversity of life was intended to illustrate the invisible nature of God so that every person would be without excuse (Rom. 1:18-20). Thus, it was also necessary that the biological recovery from the Flood occur well within a single human lifetime. The first human listed after the Flood was Arphaxad, Shem’s son. He was born two years after the Flood and lived for 438 years (Gen. 11:10-13).

Biological recovery from the Flood must have occurred, then, in less than four centuries. This explains the commandment given to Noah while he was still on the ark that all organisms on the ark were to leave the ark ‘that they may breed abundantly on the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth’ (Gen. 8:16-17). That this recovery was actually accomplished in that amount of time is confirmed by the existence of late-arriving species of lions and camels only a few centuries after the Flood (Job 1:3, 17; 4:10-11, 38:39-40; Gen. 12:16; 24:10-22). Since this recovery occurred during the lifetime of Arphaxad, the period of Flood recovery is referred to as the Arphaxadian epoch.

Geologic Recovery. It is perhaps not intuitively obvious that the rocks of the earth should have to recover from the Flood, but the Flood did not just displace organisms, it moved lots of sediment and rock. In some places, more rocks were piled up than had been there before the Flood, and gravity would force these areas to sink into the earth. In other places rock was taken away and gravity would force these areas to rise. Some rocks were buried so deeply that the earth’s heat would heat them up and melt them. But the Flood often moved things around more quickly than gravity could raise or lower them or more quickly than the earth’s interior could heat them.

In fact, although a majority of the recovery was probably completed in a few centuries, the earth has not yet fully recovered and it may take many more thousands of years to completely recover. This recovery explains why we experience volcanoes and earthquakes today—especially earthquakes in places that should have no earthquakes if the mountains were actually formed millions of years ago (e.g. the three to four earthquakes a day that occur in the area of Cleveland, Tennessee in mountains that are radiometrically dated at hundreds of millions of years old).

Immediately after the Flood, when geologic recovery was most rapid, the earthquakes and volcanoes would have been quite spectacular. This explains why older and older volcanoes experienced larger and larger eruptions. It also explains how the volcanic dust came to preserve so many fossils during the Arphaxadian epoch (in what are known as Tertiary sediments).

Climatic Recovery. The Flood also changed the earth’s climate. Fossils indicate that the world’s oceans heated up about 20oC (68oF) to an average temperature of 25oC (77o F) at the end of the Flood. Creationists hypothesize this heating occurred due to molten rocks from the earth’s interior that erupted during the Flood. Warmer oceans would not only have made the earth warmer after the Flood, but it would have made the earth wetter as well. Since the continents cool rapidly at night, warm wet air from over the oceans would move across the continents and cool. Creationists reason that during the Arphaxadian epoch clouds dropped many times more rain over the continents than they drop over them today.

Although the warm, wet conditions would encourage plant communities to recover quickly from the Flood, the rain would also cause a lot of erosion, explaining the thousands of feet of Tertiary sediments found in many locations around the world. The rain would also fill lakes such as Lake Bonneville (the Great Salt Lake being what is left) and the lakes upstream from the Grand Canyon (which may have spilled out catastrophically to carve out the Grand Canyon, perhaps in only a few weeks’ time, a couple centuries after the Flood).

During the Arphaxadian epoch the evaporation which generated the rain would gradually cool the oceans back to antediluvian temperatures. During the Arphaxadian epoch in North America, the warm, wet forest ecosystem evidenced by fossils soon after the Flood, gradually transformed into a cool, dry temperate grassland in the interior, and a cold, dry tundra in the north. Some centuries after the Flood, temperatures should have fallen sufficiently in certain locations for rain to fall as heavy snow. In Antarctica, Greenland, Hudson’s Bay, and high in many of the world’s mountains this snow would accumulate into great thicknesses of ice. Some of this ice would get so thick as to flow down mountain valleys and across continents (such as in eastern North America). Climate models suggest that this ice advance occurred within centuries of the Flood and melted back to its current extent in only a few decades.

Diversity Recovery. Since God had chosen the remnant that would survive the Flood (e.g. Gen. 6:20), it is reasonable to assume that He chose the organisms that would be best suited to restore the proper diversity of life. Then, during the centuries following the Flood, the remnant obeyed God’s command, rapidly increasing in numbers and diversity.

Whatever the mechanism God placed in organisms that expresses the hidden diversity, it was activated in Arphaxadian baramins of the land, sea, and air to increase diversity about a thousand-fold in only a couple centuries. As is often the case with natural processes, rates of diversification probably declined exponentially during this period. At the peak of this intra-baraminic diversification, new species may have arisen hourly. Such diversification would explain evidences that modern species have arisen from other species. That such a diversification occurred immediately after the Flood only several thousand years ago would explain why the genetic evidence of the diversification has not yet been lost in most of the species of a baramin. This intra-baraminic diversification might also be the only way to explain the many examples of biological change evidenced by fossils.

Biogeographic Recovery. Since God had chosen the remnant that would survive the Flood (e.g. Gen. 6:20), He probably also chose organisms that would be best suited to spread out from the landing site of the ark and fill the earth. High sea level, warm oceans, and cool continents immediately following the Flood probably created rather effective migration routes along the shorelines of the continents. Whatever the temperature preference of an organism, it could move the appropriate distance from the ocean and follow that temperature along the shorelines of the world. This would permit organisms to spread across the globe—even more effectively when one considers that the ark landed near the geographic center of the earth’s land-masses. 

As for crossing oceans, billions of logs ripped up from antediluvian forests would be floating on the world’s oceans for decades and centuries following the Flood. The kinds of surface winds that propel ocean currents of the present would blow these vast vegetation mats across oceans. Although these log mats would gradually disappear as the plant material became waterlogged and sank, for decades after the Flood they could rather effectively transport organisms across the oceans of the world.

Transportation by such log mats explains many disjunct species (species found in widely separated areas, such as Geochelone tortoises in South America, the Galapagos Islands of the Pacific, and the Aldabra Islands of the Indian Ocean), why many of the locations of highest diversity are places where ocean currents approach a continent, why organisms got to many locations from the direction that they did (e.g. Australia from South America), and why organisms of certain sizes are found on islands (such as the only elephants on islands being dwarf elephants).

Human History. In some ways the human story of the Arphaxadian epoch is different from that of the remainder of the biological world. The appearance of land animals in the oldest Tertiary rocks across the planet suggests that animals quickly and effectively obeyed God’s command to spread out, multiply, and fill the earth. Humans, though, disobeyed God’s command. They settled on the plain of Shinar (Gen. 11:2) and stayed together, apparently for at least five generations (Gen. 10:25), and began work to build a city and a tower (Gen. 11:2-4). It was only after God confused their language that humans finally scattered across the planet (Gen. 11:7-8).

For centuries, the designated rulers of the biological world did not even attempt to claim the breadth of their kingdom. By then, organisms had reached even the most inaccessible places, and most of their diversification was complete. The fossil record was already full of diversification evidence. Human fossils and artifacts first appear in postFlood sediments at the beginning of the Quaternary (above the Tertiary). This is why some have looked at the fossil record and deduced that humans evolved from the primates and apes that left evidence of their diversification in Tertiary sediments below the first evidence of humans.

Among all organisms, it is very possible that most of the intra-baraminic diversification occurred in small populations as they spread across the planet. Several different mechanisms for rapid biological change occur only in small populations. The same is probably true for humans, so whereas humans increased in number at Babel, they probably did not develop different body forms (for example, races) until after they left Babel. Rapid independent diversification in each small family group as it left Babel probably generated the small differences we see between races in the present and the somewhat larger differences we see between human fossils in different locations in the fossil record. It may have been because humans waited so long to spread out from Babel that they did not diversify as much as other organisms.

It should be noted that there is genetic evidence that modern humans had a common origin only thousands of years ago as Scripture indicates. The fact that there is no difference in some regions of the Y chromosome among men across the planet suggests that all human males descended from one man within the last 10,000 years—directly consistent with biblical history. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) suggests all modern humans had a common ancestor in one female, but there is more variation than is found on the Y chromosome. If one assumes that after its origin the human population never experienced a population bottleneck, where it was reduced to a small population, then there is about 600,000 years of large population change.

However, according to biblical history, the human population experienced two population bottlenecks—one through Noah’s family on the ark and another through the families departing from Babel. Since change occurs so rapidly in small populations, each population bottleneck should reduce the estimated time of change by about 90% (10% of 10% of 600,000 years ≈ 6000 years). With the Y chromosome evidence, this suggests that all modern humans were descendant from one man and one woman who lived less than 10,000 years ago. This is not only consistent with biblical history, but provides independent evidence that human fossils are as young as biblical history would suggest.

Although the humans spreading out from Babel were intelligent and cultured, they struggled to survive once they were separated from a cultural center. Not knowing where the resources were located, they had to survive with what they had available, first gathering nuts and berries, hunting game, modifying sticks and stones, and seeking shelter in caves. In this first stage they left evidence of lithic (stone) culture. In the course of individual lifetimes, many people improved their tools (‘paleolithic’ to ‘mesolithic’ to ‘neolithic’ styles), in many cases skipping cultural stages when discoveries allowed it.

Some people located and mined metals and developed bronze and iron cultures. Some may have not only skipped cultural stages, but also progressed through the stages at different rates. Some people groups never developed past the original lithic culture, and still use that culture today. This explains why cultural sequences at different locations have to be associated with separate chronologies, and why stages are absent at many locations.

The Frontiers of Research. The Arphaxadian epoch is the one most similar to the modern world. In fact, it is part of the modern era, for after the Flood we have no indication of a change in how God interacts with the animals or plants of this planet. There is also no single catastrophe following the Arphaxadian epoch which should have destroyed much of the evidence from this time period—only the gradual erosion over the four thousand years or so since Arphaxad died. So, of the four epochs of earth history described above we know the most about the Arphaxadian. Yet so much happened in the Arphaxadian, that it could be said there is more that we do NOT know than any other epoch in history.

Research questions are many, and a few include the following: From where did land animals spread? What organisms actually survived the Flood and how did they thrive on a planet still experiencing large catastrophes? What paths did organisms travel? What stimulated intra-baraminic diversification and why did it stop? How did organisms change into the forms most appropriate for the environment they found themselves in? What caused the change in human longevity? How many humans and what size groups spread out from Babel? How much change did humans experience? Why is there less variation in modern humans than is evidenced in the fossil record?

The author, Dr. Kurt Wise, has graciously granted New Creation permission to publish selected sections from Devotional Biology: Learning to Worship the Creator of Organisms. To purchase a copy, please visit our online store.

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