A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

Large terrestrial mammals bring delight to everyone. Such pleasure explains why zoos, wild animal parks, and safaris are so popular. It also explains why so many of us enjoy the close encounters we experience with wild terrestrial mammals when we visit national parks and wilderness areas. To add to our enjoyment, a paper1 published in a little-known science journal, Acta Oecologica, provides research showing that we humans are living at an especially optimal time to experience and benefit from large terrestrial mammals.

Genesis 1:24–27 declares that God created large terrestrial mammals before he created human beings. Job 38:39–39:25 selects six different kinds of terrestrial mammals for special mention: the lion, the goat, the deer, the donkey, the ox, and the horse. As I explain in Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job, God created and designed the different species of modern large-bodied terrestrial mammals to serve and please humans beings and to play a critical role in launching and sustaining our civilization.2

Advanced global technology would not have been possible without the terrestrial mammals described in the book of Job. Evidence for this conclusion is not just biblical but also scientific. On those continents (Australia, North America, and South America) where colonizing humans quickly wiped out the resident donkeys, oxen, horses, and other large-bodied terrestrial mammals, the descendants of those humans found themselves unable to advance beyond stone-age technology and unable to develop a large population. To overcome these obstacles it required Europeans importing the missing species of mammals.

Climate Stability and Mammal Density
Even on those continents where humans hadn’t wiped out the terrestrial mammals critical for launching civilization, large-scale organized civilization did not begin right away. There was a time lag of several tens of thousands of years caused, in large part, by Earth’s being in the grip of an ice age. The four scientists who wrote the paper in Acta Oecologica offered additional reasons why.

The team of four first cite and describe several research studies that demonstrate how “climate has played a key role in shaping the geographic patterns of biodiversity.”3 Then they used a macroecological approach to assess—for terrestrial mammals living in mid- and high-latitude northern hemisphere regions—species richness, range sizes, adult body sizes, average lifespans, and average litter sizes from the end of the last glacial maximum 19,000 years ago to the present.

The researchers found that for subregions in both Eurasia and North America there was a strong correlation between the number density of terrestrial mammals and the degree of climate stability in the subregion. They also noted that the greater the climate instability of a subregion, the smaller the average body size of the terrestrial mammals dwelling there and the greater the geographic range size for each mammal species.

These three correlations demonstrate that food availability for terrestrial mammals must be tightly linked to climate stability. Indeed, the correlations were most strongly manifested for North American mammals. Since North America experienced much greater climate instability since the last glacial maximum than did Eurasia, these stronger correlations affirm that increased climate stability yields greater food supplies for terrestrial mammals, which in turn yields a greater density and diversity of mammals.

Earth’s Improbable Extreme Climate Stability
The last 2.6 million years has been marked by the most extreme long-term climate instability in the entire 3.8-billion-year history of life on Earth. The only exception has been the last 9,500 years—a period marked by extreme climate stability. The figure below shows the difference between the mean temperature variations (taken from Greenland’s ice sheet) of the past 9,500 years compared to the previous 8,000 years.


Figure 1: Temperature Variations for Mid-Greenland throughout the Past 17,000 Years. The temperature figures represent the surface air temperature in the central region of Greenland’s ice sheet. The blue curve shows the newly determined temperature record of the past 9,500 years. The purple curve shows the temperature record from 17,000–9,500 years ago derived from oxygen-18 isotope measures in ice cores drilled in the central region of Greenland’s ice sheet. The top arrow and the two dotted lines delineate the start and end times of the Younger Dryas cooling event. Data credit for blue curve: Shaun A. Marcott et al. and Andy May; Data credit for purple curve: United States Geological Survey; Diagram credit: Hugh Ross

In a previous series of blogs here,4 here,5 here,6 and here,7 I explained how a sequence of exquisitely fine-tuned circumstances and events—one would be justified in calling them miraculous—led to the past 9,500 years of extreme climate stability. Amazingly, the global mean temperature over the past 9,500 years has not varied by more than ±0.65°C.

Our period of extreme climate stability (less than four-thousandths of one percent of the duration of the climate instability period) has made possible large-scale specialized agriculture. Thanks to that food-production capacity, humans have established global high-technology civilization and a population of 7.5 billion. I describe ten more benefits we have accrued from the past 9,500 years of extreme climate stability in my book, Improbable Planet.8 Thanks to the four scientists’ research study, we can add one more to the list. Humans get to enjoy and benefit from terrestrial mammals, both domesticated and wild, at the greatest possible abundance and diversity. Next time you consume meat, milk, or cheese or wear a wool sweater or see a cute mammal on a wilderness trek, you now have scientific insight to motivate you to be grateful for this gift of extreme climate stability.

Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org

  1. Erik Joaquin Torres-Romero et al., “The Relationship between Mammal Faunas and Climatic Instability since the Last Glacial Maximum: A Nearctic vs. Western Palearctic Comparison,” Acta Oecologica 82 (July 2017): 10–15, doi:10.1016/j.actao.2017.05.004.
  2. Hugh Ross, Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011), 119–73.
  3. Torres-Romero et al., “The Relationship between Mammal Faunas and Climatic Instability,” 10.
  4. Hugh Ross, “Present Climate Epoch Has Been Extremely Stable,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, December 3, 2018, https://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2018/12/03/present-climate-epoch-has-been-extremely-stable.
  5. Hugh Ross, “How Did Earth Get Its Long-Standing Stable Climate?” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, December 10, 2018, https://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2018/12/10/how-did-earth-get-its-long-standing-stable-climate.
  6. Hugh Ross, “Did a Giant Collider Help Give Us Extreme Climate Stability?” Today’s New Reason to Believe(blog), Reasons to Believe, December 17, 2018, https://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2018/12/17/did-a-giant-collider-help-give-us-extreme-climate-stability.
  7. Hugh Ross, “Blessings of the Hiawatha Impactor and the Younger Dryas,” Today’s New Reason to Believe(blog), Reasons to Believe, December 24, 2018, https://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2018/12/24/blessings-of-the-hiawatha-impactor-and-the-younger-dryas.
  8. Hugh Ross, Improbable Planet: How Earth Became Humanity’s Home (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2016), 209–12.


About The Author

Dr. Hugh Ross

Reasons to Believe emerged from my passion to research, develop, and proclaim the most powerful new reasons to believe in Christ as Creator, Lord, and Savior and to use those new reasons to reach people for Christ. I also am eager to equip Christians to engage, rather than withdraw from or attack, educated non-Christians. One of the approaches I’ve developed, with the help of my RTB colleagues, is a biblical creation model that is testable, falsifiable, and predictive. I enjoy constructively integrating all 66 books of the Bible with all the science disciplines as a way to discover and apply deeper truths. 1 Peter 3:15–16 sets my ministry goal, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience." Hugh Ross launched his career at age seven when he went to the library to find out why stars are hot. Physics and astronomy captured his curiosity and never let go. At age seventeen he became the youngest person ever to serve as director of observations for Vancouver's Royal Astronomical Society. With the help of a provincial scholarship and a National Research Council (NRC) of Canada fellowship, he completed his undergraduate degree in physics (University of British Columbia) and graduate degrees in astronomy (University of Toronto). The NRC also sent him to the United States for postdoctoral studies. At Caltech he researched quasi-stellar objects, or "quasars," some of the most distant and ancient objects in the universe. Not all of Hugh's discoveries involved astrophysics. Prompted by curiosity, he studied the world’s religions and "holy books" and found only one book that proved scientifically and historically accurate: the Bible. Hugh started at religious "ground zero" and through scientific and historical reality-testing became convinced that the Bible is truly the Word of God! When he went on to describe for others his journey to faith in Jesus Christ, he was surprised to discover how many people believed or disbelieved without checking the evidence. Hugh's unshakable confidence that God's revelations in Scripture and nature do not, will not, and cannot contradict became his unique message. Wholeheartedly encouraged by family and friends, communicating that message as broadly and clearly as possible became his mission. Thus, in 1986, he founded science-faith think tank Reasons to Believe (RTB). He and his colleagues at RTB keep tabs on the frontiers of research to share with scientists and nonscientists alike the thrilling news of what's being discovered and how it connects with biblical theology. In this realm, he has written many books, including: The Fingerprint of God, The Creator and the Cosmos, Beyond the Cosmos, A Matter of Days, Creation as Science, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, and More Than a Theory. Between writing books and articles, recording podcasts, and taking interviews, Hugh travels the world challenging students and faculty, churches and professional groups, to consider what they believe and why. He presents a persuasive case for Christianity without applying pressure. Because he treats people's questions and comments with respect, he is in great demand as a speaker and as a talk-radio and television guest. Having grown up amid the splendor of Canada's mountains, wildlife, and waterways, Hugh loves the outdoors. Hiking, trail running, and photography are among his favorite recreational pursuits - in addition to stargazing. Hugh lives in Southern California with his wife, Kathy, and two sons.

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