Re: Death before the Fall
Mon, 2 Aug 1999 12:43:15 EDT

In a message dated 8/1/99 11:44:23 PM Mountain Daylight Time, writes:

> You will notice that I deliberately put objections such as population
> growth asside. Population growth is a good argument against believing
> that God intended Eden to be a world without death for perpetuity.
> But that is not your argument. Your argument is that cellular death
> is real death and as such, existed before the fall.

I agree with Glenn here. From a biochemical point of view, there is no
difference between the death of a cell and the death of a whole organism. In
fact, technically speaking, organism death is non-existent. Organisms die
because their cells die, not because they possess some force of life separate
from that of their cells. In fact, "old age" is simply that condition when
more cells die (usually by apoptosis) than can be replaced.

One thing that Glenn did not mention, which applies to your idea that cells
could live and die in balance so that the organism could live forever, is
that the tissues that produce cells also have a pre-programmed lifespan. The
tissue that produce them can replace dead cells only so many times before it
stops replacing them. This program is separate from that which causes
apoptosis, but it is also tied to development, in that at certain
developmental stages certain tissues turn on while others turn off. This
process does not cease with maturity, but simply enters an extended phase in
which the tissues that keep us alive are the only ones left functional, and
when they start to shut down, the organism dies.

So in addition to Glenn's question, I would ask, why did God program tissues
with limited lifespans if there was to be no death before the Fall?


> What I was really referring to is say our bowel system. I have not
> studied biology, but it is my understanding that we have lots of
> bacteria in our bowels who play an integral part in the processing of
> our food.

Gastrointestinal flora (which can include fungi and protozoa as well as
bacteria) are restricted to the mouth and the large intestine. Stomach acids
and small intestinal digestive enzymes tend to keep those areas relatively
free, and peristalsis tends to flush out whatever bacteria manage to get into
the esophagus and the small intestine. Mouth flora contribute very little to
human digestion and large intestinal flora mainly ferment out certain
vitamins and essetial acids, though occasionally they will also produce
monosaccharides and promote steroid metabolism. Beyond that, however, they
are more of a nuissance, or even a threat, in omnivores and carniovores than
a benefit.

In herbivores, however, certain flora are critically necessary to digest
cellulose and break it down into its individual glucose units. In
cud-chewing species, these flora are restricted to the rumen; in
non-cud-chewing species that don't have a rumen, they are found either in the
stomach (in which case the species tend to grow large so as to produce
stomachs large enough to ferment enough cellulose to acquire the glucose they
need) or in the large intestine (in which case the species reingest their own
feces after it has been exposed to the flora). Small animals often thought
of as herbivores such as rodents actually are omnivores and eat seeds and
fruits high in sugars and fats, plus insects, and little actual true
vegetable matter (though there are exceptions).

> Without bacteria death, we couldn't process our food.

This is not true, not even for herbivores. The bacteria release the
essential products while they are alive; they do not hold them until they
burst in death. However, intestinal flora reproduce much faster than they
are excreted, so if they did not die before the Fall, their numbers would
have grown so large that Adam and Eve would have exploded within a day or so
after their creation.

> And
> surely there are lots of examples of symbiotic relationships where the
> death of one type of animal is crucial for the life of the other type?
> Well, there are carnivors for a start!

The classical YEC response to this is that before the Fall carnivores were
herbivores. That then raises the question of how did they digest cellulose
without the proper gut flora, or how did they eliminate that gut flora after
they became carnivores? (Herbivorous gut flora can cause trouble in a
carnivorous gut.) Plus there are animals -- like anteaters -- that would not
have been able to eat enough plant matter to stay alive, or animals like
insectivores (shrews, moles) whose metabolism is so high that plant matter
could never have supplied their energy needs. Not to mention that the
equipment used by carnivores to catch, kill and butcher prey are no good for
eating plant matter.

Kevin L. O'Brien