Longevity of Age

Posted: December 14, 2011 in Bible Related, Biology Related
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

What do most of the characters in the book of Genesis all have in common. They’re old. Really old. In fact, at times it seems that they’re unrealistically old. Adam lived till he was 930 years old![1] Noah lived even longer, to 950 years old![2] How can that be? Other biblical characters not only lived a long time but achieved amazing feats at very old ages, like Abraham who was 100 years old when his son Isaac was born.[3] Even better, Methuselah had a child at 187 years and lived to be 969 years old.[4] But surely this can’t be. This has to be an exaggeration, just another legend in a long line of Bible legends that aren’t based in fact… right?

 

The long ages of people has been the center of much skepticism. Simply because we never see people live that long anymore. The world record for age belongs to Jeanne Clament, who lived from 1875 to 1997, that is 122 years![5] She also smoked until she was 117 years old![6] But most people on average make it only to 76 to 77 years old, an average that increases little by little every year.[7] So if people could live almost a thousand years in ancient times, how come we can barely scratch 100 in modern times with improved health care and technology?

 

According to research from Robert Mitchell, professor of biology at PennState, the longevity of human life is 30% genetic and 70% environmental influences.[8] Other studies put genetic influence at 20-30%.[9] But some studies reveal that genes play more of a factor in our longevity. Studies of adopted children show that the children are 2 to 5 times more likely to live a lifespan similar to their biological parents than their adopted ones despite only living n the environment of their adopted parents.[10] This suggests longevity greatly influenced by genetic factors. In fact, once someone reaches the age of anywhere from 60 to 85, environmental factors drop off and gene factors dominate the outcome of longevity.[11] Jeanne Clament was smoking until she was 117 years old after all…

 

When studying other centenarians (people who have lived past 100) like Jeanne Clament, there are some shocking traits they have in common. 20% never get diseases that kill most people, 40% do get the diseases, but at a much older age than average people, and the other 40% live with and survive other common disorders related to aging.[12] Brothers of centenarians are 17 times more likely to live past 100 than the average man, sisters 8.5 times more likely than the average woman.[13] Centenarians typically have the gene for apolipoprotein E (APOE) which regulates cholesterol, the IGF1 gene which is important for cell proliferation and cell death, as well as the superoxide dismutases gene (SOD) which breaks down agents that destroy DNA.[14] All of which definitely leads to longer life spans. So if genetics play an important role in longevity than it is possible for people in the bible to have lived long life spans as well despite the lack of nutrition, health care, technology, etc., that is predominant in our modern age.

 

Interestingly enough, when one looks at the lineage of Biblical characters named in Genesis 5 and Genesis 11 we see inherited longevity of age. Genesis 5 says Adam lived to 930, Seth to 912, Enosh to 905, Cainan to 910, and so on and so forth. Genesis 11 shows Shem lived to 600, Arphaxad to 438, Shelah to 433, Eber to 464, and so on and so forth. Just as we see with centenarians who have inherited longevity, we see that these Biblical patriarchs have also inherited longevity, and more so, that longevity began to decrease.

 

A line graph of biblical ages shows this plunge in ages:

 

 

 

Now if the longevity genes were being inherited, than why the sudden drop off after Noah? Well, from a genetic standpoint it could have been related to a bottleneck of mutations in Noah’s genes. Genetic bottlenecks occur when a significant portion of a population dies off, or a smaller portion of the population becomes isolated. The result is a smaller population with less genetic information to pass on to offspring, and therefore a genetic bottleneck. Something that would definitely occur in Noah’s case as the whole earth was destroyed leaving only Noah and his family to procreate earth.

 

Then take into consideration genetic mutation, which results in a loss of genetic information. Genetic mutation is believed to occur more than 1,000 times in one generation alone.[15] Many of these mutations are inherited from our parents. So it is very possible that mutation passed on through the bottleneck was inherited to all subsequent offspring after the Flood, altering their longevity. As cell biologist and professor of Anatomy Dr. David Menton writes, “Considering that the longest recorded lifespan of someone born after the Flood was Eber at 464 years, it would appear that both mutations and genetic bottlenecks had severe effects on aging and lifespan.”[16]

 

However, we cannot ignore the environmental factor. As said before, many studies show that anywhere from 70% to 80% of longevity is influenced by environment. The basis for these findings is a historical analysis of life spans around the world. Unfortunately the data only goes back so far, but what we have compiled is a steady increase in life expectancy in the last few centuries. 250 years ago, the life expectancy in Francewas a little over 25 years old.  200 years ago, it was 40 years old in England.[17] In 1900 the average lifespan in America was 49 years old, 1950; 68 years old, and in 2002; 77 years old.[18] Records indicate that the rise in longevity really didn’t begin to rise until the 1700’s, and when it did it occurred to all classes in Europe, whether poor or rich. This has lead many to conclude that longevity is related to an overall improvement in health factors that were introduced in the 18th century.[19] By contrast, a look at many countries in Africa to this day show low life expectancies like Swaziland which has a 38 year average, or Botswana which has a 42 year average.[20]

 

So it is very clear that environmental factors are at play. Famine, plagues, war, etc can always limit how long one lives. The low life expectancy in Africafor example is directly related to the incredibly high AIDs rate in the population.[21] But by the looks of these historical statistics it appears that the same trend in reverse involves humans living a very short time in the ancient world. It is believed in ancient Rome the average lifespan was 25 years old.[22] We read in Psalm 90:10 that 3,400 years ago people were living to 70 and even 80 years of age, but we don’t know the average age of the population in general. The Psalmist suggests living to 70 years of age as if it was common. Maybe life expectancies weren’t as low everywhere, but lack of historical information on this subject leaves too many gaps to conclude anything concrete about the average life expectancies in the ancient world.

 

It seems though that people have always been able to live somewhat long lives, even secular literature from the Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Indians and Chinese tell of particular people living incredibly long times coinciding with the Bible’s claims.[23] The question is, how much of the population itself can live to these long ages. Surely things were not too much better environmentally for the patriarchs of the Old Testament than anywhere else up to 300 years ago. So though, environment does play an important role in longevity today for the overall population, the patriarchs must have had a genetic advantage which allowed them to live much longer. Surely as one considers genetic entropy over the years, if Adam and Eve were the first humans to ever live and all subsequent humans were their offspring, then Adam and Eve must have had superior genetics. Genetics which over centuries of mutation and entropy degraded into what they are today. But for those first generations after Adam and Eve, the inherited superior genetics surely influenced their longevity. Longevity that on average is increasing only more recently because of improvements in health practices and technologies in our modern societies.

 

What is even more interesting is many future forecasts of longevity averages suggesting that there is no conclusive cap to how long a human can live.[24] After all, in 1920 it was believed that the average lifespan would never surpass 65 years. In 1990, it was believed the average could never surpass 85 years.[25] But history has shown these caps have been and will continue to be broken. Who knows, maybe in 100 years the average life expectancy will be so high that the very old ages of the Old Testament patriarchs won’t seem so far-fetched after all.


[1] Genesis 5:5

[2] Genesis 9:29

[3] Genesis 21:5

[4] Genesis 5:27

[5] Whitney, C., (Aug 1997) “Jeanne Clament, World’s Elder, Dies at 122,” NYtimes.com

[6] Mitchell, R., (2004) “Time, longevity, and human aging,” Penn State Research, http://www.rps.psu.edu

[7] Mitchell, R., (2004) “Time, longevity, and human aging,” Penn State Research, http://www.rps.psu.edu

[8] Mitchell, R., (2004) “Time, longevity, and human aging,” Penn State Research, http://www.rps.psu.edu

[9] Perls, T. & Terry, D., (2003) “Genetics of Exceptional Longevity,” Experimental Gerontology 38, pp. 725-730.

[10] Lewis, R., (2008) Human Genetics: Concepts and Applications, 8th ed.,McGraw-Hill,New York; NY, pp. 64.

[11] Lewis, R., (2008) Human Genetics: Concepts and Applications, 8th ed.,McGraw-Hill,New York; NY, pp. 63.

[12] Lewis, R., (2008) Human Genetics: Concepts and Applications, 8th ed.,McGraw-Hill,New York; NY, pp. 63.

[13] Lewis, R., (2008) Human Genetics: Concepts and Applications, 8th ed.,McGraw-Hill,New York; NY, pp. 63.

[14] Christensen, K., (2007) “The Quest for Genetic Determinants of Human Longevity: Challenges and Insights,” Nature Reviews Genetics 7, pp. 436-448.

[15] Sanford, J. (2005) Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome, Ivan Press,New York; NY, pp. 37.

[16] Menton, D. & Purdom, G., (2008) “Did People Like Adam and Noah Really Live Over 900 Years of Age?” as written in Ken Ham’s The New Answers Book 2, Master Books, Green Forest: AR, pp. 164.

[17] Smith, R. (September 2007) “A Brief History of Ageing,” Research Horizons University of Cambridge Issue 4, www.research-horizons.cam.ac.uk

[18] From 2003 United States Life Tables compiled by the national Center for Health Statistics as reported in National Vital Statistics Report, vol. 54, no. 13. April 19, 2006, aging.senate.gov.

[19] Smith, R. (September 2007) “A Brief History of Ageing,” Research Horizons University of Cambridge Issue 4, www.research-horizons.cam.ac.uk

[20] World Health Organization statistical information (www.who.int/whosis/en)

[21]Rosenberg, M. (June 2010) “Life Expectancy: Overview of Life Expectancy,” About.com

[22]Rosenberg, M. (June 2010) “Life Expectancy: Overview of Life Expectancy,” About.com

[23] Menton, D. & Purdom, G., (2008) “Did People Like Adam and Noah Really Live Over 900 Years of Age?” as written in Ken Ham’s The New Answers Book 2, Master Books, Green Forest: AR, pp. 159.

[24] Smith, R. (September 2007) “A Brief History of Ageing,” Research Horizons University of Cambridge Issue 4, www.research-horizons.cam.ac.uk

[25] Smith, R. (September 2007) “A Brief History of Ageing,” Research Horizons University of Cambridge Issue 4, www.research-horizons.cam.ac.uk

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Comments
  1. matthew2262 says:

    “How we age as individuals is a complex interaction of genetics and enviromental factors. There have been many studies that try to assess how much of our longevity is determined by our genes. Scientists have known for several years that people who live the longest often have children who also have long life spans. The life spans of adoptees seem to be more closely correlated to those of their birth parents than those of their adoptive parents. One study of twins reared apart suggests about a 30 percent role for heredity in life span, but others say the influence is even smaller. Recent research seems to indicate that the process of aging and life span may be determined by your other’s X chromosome.”

    Leyner, M., & Goldberg, B., (2005) “Why Do Men Have Nipples,” Three Rivers Press, New York: NY, pp.207.

  2. Jack Cuozzo says:

    I have found the effects of longevity by studying the heads of ancient people, the Neanderthals. The head never stops growing and statistical studies show that we would look like a Neanderthal if we lived 200 years or more. See my book “Buried Alive ” for more details.

    Jack Cuozzo DDS, MS

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