The Jewish Journalism of Joel Shurkin

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The things that you're liable to read in the Bible, Methuselah lived 900 years.Oy, was he tired.

[And now for some of the stuff I didn’t get around to doing while I was earning a living]

Methuselah lived 900 years and posed a serious threat to the Social Security program. Okay, serious question: If Noah could live 950 years, Adam 930 and Methuselah almost 1,000, how come we can get to maybe 80 and croak? What did they know we don’t, or, more important, what was different then? Yes, I know, I’m taking those numbers literally and I don’t believe them any more than you do but, if you take the Bible literally, you do have a problem. They lived a lot longer than we do. And I won’t even mention Sarah having a baby (Isaac) when she was in her 90s. Even she laughed at that. A mathematician--and True Believer--has actually come up with a statistical explanation that to him, at least, makes sense. He is Arnold C. Mendez Jr, on Biblestudy.org, and I’m assuming he is a mathematician because he understands what a coefficient of determination is and I don’t. He is intrigued by the fact the great flood was something of a turning point and longevity was at its longest just before and after.
After the flood the earth was completely different than the earth before. There were widespread global differences. These would include changes in the climate, composition of the atmosphere, hydrologic cycle, geologic features, cosmic radiation reaching the earth, ozone concentration, ultra violet light, background radiation, genetics, diet, and a host of other subtle and/or profound chemical and physiological changes. These changes caused a rapid decline of the longevity of post flood humanity.

He came up with the formula: y=487.78exp(-0.0907x) where x represents the generation number. [I have absolutely what I have just pasted here and if it turns out to be obscene, forgive me]. After 20 generations, longevity matched reality and the decline perfectly--more or less--matched an exponential curve. He submits that’s a lot more mathematics than the alleged authors of the Bible could have known. Of course he also admits an 11% margin of error, but we’re talking metaphysics and statistics here. [And thanks to Laurie Snell and the good folks at Chance News at Dartmouth. May you live 546 years.]


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