The Fall of Nature

I’ve hinted at it at several places. That was one.

I would point to the dramatic change in climate that take place when the North American ice sheets break, causing the seas rise by 120 meters, flooding the Persian Gulf oasis, and we se the mass extinction of megafauna across the globe. There is some evidence also of a comet impact. All that happens over 12,000 to 8,000 years ago, corresponding (probably not causally) with the rise of agriculture and the rise of civilization. All this happens after 2 million years of climate stability.

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The “Fall” is a metaphysical statement. I encouarge you to not invest too much “science context” in your exploration of a “Fall” on the planet Earth.

A post was merged into an existing topic: Swamidass and BioLogos, April 2017

In theology, there is a concept of the “fall of nature” or a “cosmic fall”. This is just fun to think about. Nothing offered here is dogmatic.

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I tend to agree, mainly because using the word “Fall” in that context is bound to confuse people. It reinforces the Young Earth Creationist idea that the original creation was “perfect” [No, it was “very good”.] and then fell into a very “broken” and “imperfect” state. [Of course, I’m not even clear as to what would constitute a “perfect creation.” However, some of my YEC friends claim to know in great detail. For example, they’ve told me that prior to Adam’s sin, manure never smelled bad and nobody needed to use underarm deodorant. And a significant number of YECs even claim that The Laws of Thermodynamics didn’t apply before the Fall. Therefore, one friend told me that Adam’s sandals would never have worn out before he sinned. I asked him if a lack of friction posed any problems when Adam tried to walk and if his digestive system could operate without The Laws of Thermodynamics. I’ve learned not to push too far on this “no LOTs” position because people don’t like questions about the details.]

If Dr. Swamidas explores the issue further, I think it would be wise to choose some term other than “fall” to describe what is nevertheless a very interesting topic. Clearly planet earth has seen a lot of catastrophic and disturbing events.


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Hi everyone. There’s a very comprehensive article in Wikipedia, titled, Quaternary extinction event, which explores all of the hypotheses which have been postulated to explain these events and assesses their strengths and weaknesses. One thing is certain, though: the extinctions took place in different times on different continents. The extinction patterns in Africa, for instance, which took place throughout the Pleistocene, are very different from those occurring in North America, which in turn are very different from those taking place in Australia. I’m sure @swamidass, @AllenWitmerMiller, @gbrooks9 and @jongarvey will find the article interesting.

The conflicting timing of these events makes it difficult to refer to them all as a Fall of Nature, in my opinion.


Don’t have time to get into it, remember that falling down, physically speaking, is a process. It might have a punctuation beginning, but be accomplished as a process plays out.


The wiki article on the “Turnover-Pulse Event” refers to the 2.5 million year event you mentioned in an earlier posting. Note that there was a change in temperature without a full-blown Glacial Period as modern audiences would typically expect. However, the start of this event is marked by a permanent ice sheet (at the very least) around Antarctica!

[ Be sure to click on image to magnify fonts to their full size! ]

The 2.5 Million Year Event
A well-known example is the “2.5 million year event”, in which a mass fluctuation of temperature occurred 2.5 million years BP, causing a rapid burst of speciation. It was during this event, so the hypothesis states, that many species attempted to move from their now uninhabitable habitats and later developed different adaptations in their new environments, evolving into different species. An example of this is seen in African antelopes after these temperature fluctuations occurred. Formerly known only to feed as woodland browsers, the antelopes subsequently made a change in eating habits, eventually becoming grassland grazers. These findings further indicate rapid adaptations made by species during this event.

Data Confirming The Turnover-pulse Hypothesis
It is argued that the mammalian fauna of East Africa experienced a pulse of extinction and speciation from approx. 2.9Ma to 2.5Ma.[6] Testing done by Vrba regarding African antelopes helped demonstrate the validity of the turnover-pulse hypothesis.

During the 2.9-2.5 million year event, a rupture of extinction and speciation occurred, due to the expansion of the savannah. The rupture of extinction and speciation during the 2.9-2.5 million year event also is responsible for the turnover of the hominins; the Homo lineage originated in this event.

New mammalian fossils were found in the Busidima Formation in the Hadar study area of the Afar region, Ethiopia. This helps to illustrate the significant faunal turnover of the region.[5]

Evolutionary trends among African mammals during the Pliocene have been attributed to climate induced turnover patterns. The origin of the genus Homo was linked to global climate cooling.[7]

In the Pleistocene article, it concisely states:

"… (often colloquiallyl referred to as the Ice Age), [it] is the geological epoch which lasted from about
2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago,

spanning the world’s most recent period of repeated glaciations."

“The end off the Pleistocene corresponds with the end of the last glacial period and also with the end of the Paleolithic age used in Archaeology.”

“The Pleistocene is the first epoch of the Quaternary Period, or six epoc of the Cenooic Era.”

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Just remember that if there is a fall of nature mentioned in the Garden account, its results are… a preponderance of thorns and thistles on the agricultural land outside the garden to which Adam and Eve were exiled.

Since everything else is imaginative assumption, it’s not a great challenge to pin any changes you like to the Fall. Whatever event you choose, however, will result in some parts of the world being more habitable than before. Britain, for example, was something of an Eden in the Mesolithic, compared to being an iced-up waste for countless time before that.

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There is another place we see it.

Romans 8:19-23 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

Now, there are several ways to interpret this. I’m not at all putting forward a strong position, but its not merely the “thistles” in Genesis that bring us to a fall of nature.

Indeed, and I’ve given one elsewhere, and referred to Patristic interpretations here (the link to my book chapter is currently inoperative). But even taking this passage as referring to fall of a good creation to something else (which it doesn’t actually say, but rather the rise of a perishable creation to an imperishable one), the only part that is easily translatable into comprehensible physical terms is “bondage to decay.”

I don’t think there is any science that can support freedom from decay before the pleistocene, and neither does climate change or the most recent megafauna extinction (of many) equate to “decay,” or even increase it. The thorns or thistles of Genesis are an addition to life, not an instance of decay.

The antidote to the groaning of creation is the anticipated “freedom of the glory of the children of God,” the redemption of our bodies - which, being interpreted along orthodox lines is the resurrection to eternal life in the presence of God. Now, that I can just about imagine in terms of a new heavens and a new earth brought about through the redemption of mankind, but not in terms of the world before the pleistocene.

Incidentally, Josh, the common hermeneutic process fascinates me on this matter.

We start off from the position, “Well, everybody knows that nature fell with Adam.”

Then we read in Gen 3 that Adam would have thorns and thistles on his farmland, and say, “There you are! The whole of nature is cursed and ruined forever!”

Bolstered with that confirmation, we turn to the only other vaguely relevant text, Romans 8, find that the creation is in bondage to phthora = decay, or corruption, or “the flesh in contrast to the Spirit” (Vine, Expository Dictionary), arbitrarily pick the first meaning, and chortle, “See? The whole creation is shot because of Adam’s sin, just like Genesis says. The whole Bible teaches it!”

Only of course, the conclusion came from our initial assumption, and not from the two rather underdetermined, and short, texts at all.


@swamidass, I have to agree with @jongarvey’s approach here.

If you focus on the “bondage to decay”, you are implying that sometime before the Ice epochs, there was a “golden age” of Evolution. Otherwise, interpreting “bondage to decay” seems straightforward enough - - through the mild gnosticism that Paul embraces: mortal life is “bondage to decay” - - compared to the eternal life of salvation (as Jon Garvey has already discussed).

The whole point of the Peaceful Science scenarios is to provide the de novo Adam/Eve for New Testament flashbacks. But your desire to have them do double-duty - - by placing the de novo couple at the beginning of an Evolutionary dismal turning point, doesn’t seem worth the effort:

You either have to put them at the beginning of the Quarternary Period (2.5 million years ago)… or at the beginning of the 800,000 year Ice Period epochs (8 in 800,000 years). And neither one seems to be a great fit, nor produce much resolution.

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Ive been re-reading this thread… i dont think it is worth keeping open.

Close it if you can.