Saturday, 3 August 2019

When YECs share Israel-related archaeology news without recognising how it undermines their worldview

A few weeks ago, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced [1] the discovery of the largest neolithic settlement yet found in Israel. Located near the town of Motza just west of Jerusalem, the 9000 year old settlement would have numbered around 3000, making it the Neolithic equivalent of a city. Given that anthropologists believed that at this time the area west of Jordan was largely empty, with large settlements on the eastern side of Jordan, this discovery is understandably being hailed as momentous.

I've noticed over the years that fundamentalist Protestant Christians, particularly those with an obsessive interest in eschatology who see every geopolitical or sociocultural event that even tangentially affects Israel as an alleged fulfillment of Biblical prophecy will reflexively share Israel-related news. Recently, I noticed that one obscure website had shared a Times of Israel article commenting on this discovery. Browsing the website quickly made apparent to me its evolution denialism, which immediately raised the question of why a website maintained by people who appear to believe the entire universe is 6000 years old bothered to report the discovery of a Neolithic settlement that is three thousand years older than the age of the universe according to their view of reality.

For the moment, lets leave alone the curious case of the fundamentalists who failed to grasp that they had just posted an article that contained hard evidence completely overturning their YEC worldview, and look at this fascinating discovery. As I noted earlier, archaeologists are hailing this discovery:
According to Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily and Dr. Jacob Vardi, excavation directors at Motza on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, "this is the first time that such a large-scale settlement from the Neolithic Period – 9,000 years ago – is discovered in Israel. At least 2,000 – 3,000 residents lived here – an order of magnitude that parallels a present-day city!"  The excavations exposed large buildings, including rooms that were used for living, as well as public facilities and places of ritual. Between the buildings, alleys were exposed, bearing evidence of the settlement's advanced level of planning. In the buildings, plaster was sometimes used for creating floors  and for sealing various facilities. [2]
You can get a feel for the size of the settlement in the photograph below:

Copyright: Eyal Marco, Israel Antiquities Authority

The archaeologists have also found evidence of tombs with burial offerings attesting to a belief in the afterlife among the inhabitants, along with tools and artifacts attesting to trade from distant places. There was also evidence for intensive agriculture:
In all excavation areas, many flint tools manufactured on the site were unearthed, including thousands of arrowheads that were used for hunting, and possibly for fighting as well, axes used for tree-felling, and sickle blades and knives. In the settlement, built storage sheds were exposed, which contained a huge quantity of legumes, especially lentils. The fact that the seeds were preserved is astonishing in the light of the site's age. This finding is evidence of an intensive practice of agriculture. Moreover, one can conclude form it that the Neolithic Revolution reached its summit at that point: animal bones found on the site show that the settlement's residents became increasingly specialized in sheep-keeping, while the use of hunting for survival gradually decreased. [3]
The reference to agriculture will of course not go unnoticed to those aware of the problems inherent in trying to reconcile a historical reading of the first chapters of Genesis with the evidence. According to Genesis 4, Cain and Abel were farmers, but as we know, the domestication of animals and plants took place well over six thousand years ago. The Tel Motza settlement clearly post-dates the domestication of animals and plants as agriculture as practiced there appears to have been fairly sophisticated. However, as the Tel Motza excavators inform us, this settlement is nine thousand years old. We have hard evidence of sophisticated agriculture that can't be explained away which is three thousand years older than when Cain and Abel existed according to fundamentalist readings of the chronology of Genesis. The problem vanishes if one recognises that monogenism, the belief that the entire human race descended from two people is untenable, and sets out to read Genesis in the light of science rather than through the prism of dogma. Whether the fundamentalists who share such information without thinking through the implications of that information is of course another thing.


Yesterday, I had commented on the post on the Facebook page of the obscure Christian group that had shared the Times of Israel Tel Motza article, and having noticed in my Facebook alerts a comment asking me to expand on a point I'd made made a mental note to write up a brief (for me!) response. Alas, when I went back to the Facebook page, I noted that all comments had been deleted. While it is hardly likely that a YEC group would have a road to Damascus conversion to a reality-based view of the world after a few comments on one of its Facebook posts, such censorship it merely reinforces the stereotype of fundamentalists being mortally afraid of the truth, and willing to shut down debate when they lose the argument.


1. "Huge prehistoric settlement exposed near Jerusalem" Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 16 Jul 2019
2. ibid