Scientists admit limit to human life span

Science | New research shows truth of what God told us in Genesis
by Julie Borg
Posted 10/20/16, 08:55 am

Scientists are just beginning to believe what the Bible tells us in Genesis 6:3. “Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.’” With that, God declared there would be no more Methuselahs, and new research published in the journal Nature is bearing that out.

Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have concluded the maximum human life span has a ceiling of about 115 years—and we’ve already reached it.

The researchers analyzed data from the International Database on Longevity and the Human Mortality Database, which compiles mortality and population statistics from more than 40 countries. Since the 19th century, average life expectancy has continued to rise. Those born in America in 1900 could only expect to live a short 47 years. Today that figure has risen to nearly 79 years. Since the 1970s, the age to which the oldest people live also has risen.

Demographers and biologists traditionally believed the increase in maximum life span would not end soon.

“But our data strongly suggest that it has already been attained and that this happened in the 1990s,” Jan Vijg, senior author of the new research, said in a statement.

According to the study, the percentage of people who survive to old age, defined as 70 and older, increases with their calendar year of birth, suggesting a continuing increase in average life expectancy. But when the researchers analyzed data from 1900 on, they found the life span of people who live beyond one century peaks at about 100 and then declines rapidly no matter the year of birth. In other words, for people who managed to collect 100 candles on their birthday cakes, the average life expectancy peaked right around that birthday, whether they were born in 1800 or 1900. 

This finding indicates diminishing gains in reducing late-life mortality, and a possible limit to human lifespan,” Vijg said.

Next the researchers analyzed data for people who have lived to be 110 or older in the four countries with the largest number of people who have attained that age—the United States, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Between 1968 and 2006, the average age at death for these people increased rapidly between the 1970s and early 1990s but plateaued around 1995, further evidence of a lifespan limit. The researchers also calculated the chance of any one person anywhere in the world living to age 125 is less than 1 in 10,000.

To date, the oldest living person in modern recorded history, other than in early Biblical accounts, was Jeanne Calment, a 122-year-old French woman who died in 1997. The oldest man was Jiroemon Kimura of Japan, who died in 2013 at the age of 116.

Although medical advances against infectious and chronic diseases may continue to boost average life expectancy, the researchers do not believe the maximum life span will increase. 

“Such advances would need to overwhelm the many genetic variants that appear to collectively determine the human life span,” Vijg said.

Julie Borg

Julie is a clinical psychologist and writer who lives in Dayton, Ohio. She reports on science and intelligent design for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital.

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  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Thu, 10/20/2016 01:02 pm

    If you graph the lifespans of each generation from Adam to Jacob, you will notice something curious.  The average age of the patriarchs is around 900 until Noah, when the ages drop off along a smooth curve down to Jacob at 147 years old.  By the time of David in Psalm 90:10, lifespans had decreased to about 80 years.  That is about where we are today.  Why did the flood have such an impact on human age?

  • GTPman
    Posted: Thu, 10/20/2016 03:06 pm

    You might try looking at articles from AIG, ICR, or others concerning proposals to explain this phenomenon.  To me the answer likely is related to genetics, specifically, genetic entropy, that is, a tendency for life limiting errors to appear and then be passed on to following generations.  In a real sense all living things we now see exhibit not a positive evolutionary trajectory, but a devolution of characteristics in spite of medical advances.  What we seem to be seeing now are not only a greater incidence of "the failure of design intent", but the ability to ameliorate the effects of such failures sufficiently to ensure that they will be reproduced.  To say that God imposed death upon Adam and his descendents at least meant that the intimate joining of spirit to flesh would no more be supported and that the vessel of life would suffer deterioration and eventual dissolution.  The introduction of genetic anomalies over time is simply an aspect of that deterioration so that the claim of death is not just for the individual, but for humanity itself.  But, as an aside, I see no biblical support for the position of "soul extinction", the implication being that offending the Infinite through mistrust, though He shows Himself to be patient to contemptuous humanity, may quite well expect an infinity of regret.

  • Minivan Man's picture
    Minivan Man
    Posted: Thu, 10/20/2016 04:52 pm

    Xion raises a good question.  The issue of the worldwide flood of Noah was a complete game changer.  It changed everything related to the geological record.  If there truly was a global flood like the bible describes, it is hard to overstate its importance.  A young earth becomes much more feasible if the global flood occurred.  

    I heard a theory about the water vapor prior to the flood providing protection from the sun's rays.  Once "all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened", the aging effects of the sun started taking effect.  You have a gradual reduction in longevity.

  • Laura W
    Posted: Thu, 10/20/2016 06:29 pm

    Probably not quite so simple. If it was just the sun exposure that brought down the lifespans, then we could bring them back up again just by avoiding its direct rays--not too hard to engineer. I think most mutations from sunlight are in the skin, so they wouldn't normally be inherited by the next generation, right?

  • PaulC
    Posted: Fri, 10/21/2016 05:17 am

    It is fairly easy to make a chart from Genesis 5 (which has the ages of the patriarachs down to Noah) and then add the Genesis  chapter 11 genealogy to the time of Abram.  Note the age of the patriarch when the birth of the oldest son is born, and the total length of life, and the cumulative age of the earth.  We do not need to think that the first born was always a son--only that the age of the father at the birth of the oldest son is recorded.  That does not affect the accuracy of the record.  Yes there is about a 200 year drop in the age of people's lives after the flood compared to before.  Seven individuals in the record lived longer than 900 years. Noah is the only one to do so that lived beyond the flood.  Of course there are many other people living in the pre flood  age not recorded in the Bible record, but what is recorded gives us an example of how long people were living then.  The next event that significantly shortened the life span after the flood was the change from one language to many--at the tower of Babel. That probably occurred during the lifetime of Peleg whose name means "division", Gen. 10:25. That also dropped the ages of those living about 200 years.  After the flood  3 generations are listed that lived past 400 years.  Then after the Tower of Babel four generations are listed that lived beyond 200.  Terah was 130 when Abram was born (Terah dies at 205 when Abram is 75.  205 - 75 = 130, Gen. 11:32, 12:4)  Terah was 70 years old when he became a father, Gen. 11:26, but Abram was not the eldest.  Those scientists who begin with believing God's word are far ahead of those who deny it or ignore it.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning  knowledge, Proverbs 1:7 and wisdom, Proverbs 9:10.  By the time of Moses he wrote that man's life was 70 year or if due to strength, 80 years, Psalm 90:10.   .   So Xion, it does not seem to me so smooth after the split into many languages after the tower of Babel, but then it does gradually decrease.  Exodus 6 records more lengths of lives from Levi to Moses family.   Perhaps some medically trained people would like to contribute to this discussion.

  • BS
    Posted: Fri, 10/21/2016 12:26 pm

    Good story, but there's another (I think better) interpretation of the 120 years mentioned in Genesis 6:3. That is that the 120 years refers not an upper limit to the age of people (otherwise, how do we account for Abraham living to 175, Isaac to 180, and Jacob to 147?), but rather to the amount of time before the flood. In other words, 120 years to judgment by the flood (Warning! It's time to repent!!).

    Noah is introduced as the last in the line of long lived pre-flood patriarchs -- given in a stylized genealogy: #1, Adam, to #10, Noah, who has 3 sons. The account of Shem, the son of Noah, mirrors this in Genesis 11, also a stylized genealogy: #1, Shem, to #10, Terah, who has 3 sons. [the Hebrew text omits Cainan, but the Septuagint does not -- cf. also, Luke 3:36]. My point is that Noah is introduced to us as part of a genealogy, and we only know that he was 500 years old when he became father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

    We also know that Noah was 600 years old at the time of the flood. There's nothing in the text that demands that the prophetic word of Genesis 6:3 did not come when Noah was 480 years old, or 120 years before the flood.

    I think those who lived long in Genesis were meant to be pointers -- they lived long because they called on the name of the LORD and walked with God. Walking visual aids for their time. Nevertheless, without access to the tree of life, all eventually perish (whether 70 or 80 or 122 or 900), but redeemed humanity will live forever in the new heavens and new earth!

  • BS
    Posted: Fri, 10/21/2016 12:27 pm

    Not sure why this posted as "Anonymous". My apologies -- I am Tim Sargent in VT.

  • JD
    Posted: Fri, 10/21/2016 07:43 pm

    God is in control.  I think we have left God out of the equation here. Psalm 139:16 "Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to pass". He is in control, and nothing we can do will ever make us the one in control. Col. 1:16b-17 "All things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together. He is the Alpha and Omega, we no longer need to fear death. 

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    Posted: Sat, 10/22/2016 07:06 am

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  • Daniel A Breithaupt
    Posted: Fri, 12/09/2016 03:26 pm

    Time Life Publications produced an audio publication in the1990's stating that we should be living for a thousand years.  

    I think the article was titled "Can We Live Forever?  they stated that something triggered the loss of the thousand year life-span and they were trying to 'mutate' something to allow for the thousnd year lifespan to regenerate but all it did was generate cancer cells.

    I thought it was interesting that they refuse to allow the first chapters of Genesis into the discussion but have the evidence before them that thousand year lifespans are possible and have happened in the past.

    Isaiah tells us that a time is coming where a youth will die at one hundred.  This sound to me like the thousand year lifespans have been reconstructed for this period of time that Isaiah refers to.

    I think so concretly that I could be accused of having rocks in my head but if the thousand years that Christ rules is to be interpreted litterally rather than figurativly then the scientific advances of the Millenium, under the control of a perfect benevolent Dictator, Jesus Christ, then the opportunities for the prophecy of isaiah could be litterally observed.

    Thank you for your interesting article,


    Daniel Breithaupt

    St. Clair MO

  • VT
    Posted: Mon, 01/23/2017 03:42 pm

    Wow, can you imagine being 122 years old? That's amazing. I'm glad Jeanne had people to help her.