On a men’s retreat some time ago, a few of us men were visiting after a lunch break. In the course of the conversation, one of the guys mentioned how our human growth rate is not steady. He said something like, “If we continued to grow at the rate we do in our first two years, we would be big as a barn.” That transaction sowed a seed of thought that germinated and grew. You are now reading the fruit of that seed.
I don’t remember the context of that retreat lunchtime discussion. Neither do I remember the point of my friend’s comment in that context. It did generate a line of thought, however, which I chose to follow in the days and weeks following the retreat. Though I knew that our growth rate was not steady throughout our lifespan, I had never contemplated how different it is in our first two years compared to the years that follow. So I did some research. What I found is rather fascinating.
Consider with me some human development statistics, both within the womb and following birth. When we are conceived a one-cell person is created; that single-cell person is called a zygote. The zygote is the cell that is formed when a sperm cell from the father joins an egg cell from the mother. That new cell formation is nothing short of amazing. In that cell is the unique DNA of a unique person. From that point on all that is needed for the growth of this unique being is nutrition and safety. The mother’s womb is designed to provide both.
The zygote – microscopic in size – begins to multiply rapidly. At three weeks of development you have grown to about the size of a grain of salt. By week seven you are about the size of a blueberry. At 12 weeks you are about the size of a plum and weigh about half an ounce.
At 20 weeks, half-way through a normal pregnancy, you have grown to about 10 inches in length and weigh about 10 ounces. At birth the average child is 20 inches long and weighs about 7.25 pounds.
Notice the difference in growth rates between length and weight in the first half of pregnancy compared to the second half. You grow to 10 inches in length in the first half and double that to 20 inches in the second half. Weight change, however, is quite different. In that same growth period, your weight moves from a bit over a half pound to a little over seven pounds. This growth rate is approximately 11 times that of the first half of the pregnancy.
Again, at birth the average baby is 7.25 pounds and 20 inches long. That is the average growth over nine months of pregnancy, from a microscopic single-celled being to a newborn baby. Now, look what typically happens in the first two years of life after we are born. By 24 months of age the average child has grown to 34.5 inches and weighs 27 pounds.
Suppose we project this growth rate (the first 24 months) out over the next 20 years. Here is what we would look like:
AGE – Height; Weight
Birth – 20″; 7.25#
2 – 34.5″; 27#
4 – A little under 5 ft; 100#
6 – A little over 8.5 ft; 374#
8 – A little under 15 ft; 1,394#
10 – A little over 25 ft; 5,190#
12 – A little under 44 ft; 19,328#
14 – A little under 76 ft; 71,980#
16 – A little over 130 ft; 268,053#
18 – A little over 225 ft; 998,229#
20 – A little over 388 ft; 3,717,405#
What this chart shows is that we grow quite rapidly from conception through age two. Our growth rate after two slows considerably. Thankfully so. If not, by age six we would not be able to stand erect in our homes with their eight foot ceilings. And by age 16, at 130 feet tall and weighing more than eight unloaded semi tractor-trailers, we certainly could not drive.
What is my point? Glad you asked.
Suppose the Maker of the Universe caused it to develop very rapidly at first, then settle down to adult stage for a very long time. Maybe the universe is not nearly as old as scientists have proposed.
Let me illustrate this point. Suppose you were a scientist visiting earth from another planet. You have found one male human and you are trying to determine his age. You measured him two years ago when you arrived; he was 71½ inches tall. Today he is 72 inches tall. You correctly conclude that he grew ¼ inch per year. How old is he? Your calculations could lead you to conclude that he is 288 years old. You would be wrong, of course. Way wrong. The typical male reaches that height somewhere between 15-20 years of age.
Your reasoning error is based in your faulty assumptions. You assume that the growth rate of the past two years, which you know, has been relatively constant in the past. This is a profoundly significant flaw in evolutionary thought.
The name for the questionable concept is uniformitarianism. The uniformitarian belief assumes that whatever known, measurable, processes that we discover today have happened consistently throughout the past. This philosophy, birthed in the 18th Century, intentionally challenged the prevailing philosophy of catastrophism.
The philosophy of catastrophism which originally dominated scientific inquiry supposed that nature could best be explained by the impact of unusual catastrophic events in biblical history such as God cursing the creation after the fall of Adam and Eve and the Great Flood of Noah’s day.
The more scientists amass real knowledge, however, the less the uniformitarian belief is capable of explaining the world we know. Scientists know that uniformitarian and catastrophist views must be combined to understand and explain reality. Current processes that happen with reasonable regularity over 1000’s of years can explain much of what we see. For instance, water accumulates in the winter time at the high levels of mountains. Then in the spring, the snow and ice thaw and gravity causes the water to flow down with great erosive power.
Other powerful transformative forces happen, however, in a much less predictable manner. Scientists must take into account these unusual (catastrophic) events to explain other realities, ie. sub-surface plates of the earth’s crust crashing together and pushing up mountains, meteor strikes, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, fires, droughts and floods. Indeed, the explanation of reality as we know it requires an understanding of typical natural processes and unusual ones. Scientists are, therefore, accepting of catastrophic events, just not accepting of super-natural catastrophic events.
The Bible tells us that there is a God who made nature. It assures us that He is greater than nature. It tells us He existed before nature and will exist after it is gone, if it ever is. Christians who believe the Bible, as I do, are not at war with science. We are not afraid of scientific discoveries. What we object to are assumptions that contradict or lead to contradiction of biblical revelation.
Perhaps God gave us an example in human development to provide a key to resolving the tension between facts of science and revelation of Scripture. It is consistent with the Genesis creation account. It speaks of God creating everything in six days. That is a very short time and an incredibly rapid development in it – like from conception to birth for a human. Whether we consider those “six days” as literal or figurative, the point would be that “in the beginning” things did not develop at the pace of things since that original creative work.
Even over the course of our human development, growth is not consistently steady. We all know this; probably many of us have documented this fact. On a door in the utility room of our home, one could find a bunch of pencil marks with dates and names of our children. The marks indicated the heights of our children over several years. Those marks document varied degrees of growth from year to year. And they well demonstrate that there were some “growth spurts” along the way for each of them.
In a similar manner, we could be certain that various forces of nature over millennia have not acted uniformly over time. Winds (including cyclones, hurricanes and tornadoes), rain and snow and ice (including floods and avalanches), earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions – to name the major players – are neither standardized in their occurrences nor their might. For instance, both hurricanes and tornadoes are placed in five categories, depending upon their destructive power. Our government maps out areas identified as 10 year, 50 year, 100 year and even 500 year flood zones. Thus, an area in a 10 year zone would – on average – expect to flood 10 times in a century, as opposed to an area in a 100 year zone that would only expect to flood once per century. All of these zones are subject to change should a major earthquake or a volcano cause a rivers course to change. Though scientists know a lot of really cool stuff, I am unconvinced that they have adequate information to accurately place date stamps on nature.
It is my belief that God has built into nature some hints that call into question many of the assumptions under which mankind operates and has operated for a few hundred years. In this piece I have brought to your attention what I believe to be one very powerful such hint – our human development. My prayer is that it has caused you to think. Maybe the Bible is not as whacked out as most people have been led to believe in our day.