The Challenge of Adam 1 (RJS)

I am currently reading a book by David N. Livingstone, Adam’s Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins. David Livingstone is Professor of Geography and Intellectual History at Queen’s University, Belfast and this book reflects both of his interests. It is a readable, but thorough and academic, book looking at the history of the idea of pre-adamic or non-adamic humans in western Christian thinking from the early church (Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Augustine) through the middle ages, the explorations of the fifteenth and sixteenth century, the debates on racial supremacy, and on to the present day. The book presents an interesting survey and puts many factors into perspective – it is well worth a few posts.

As we open the series I would like to consider a simple question: Why is the story of Adam and Eve – or even the entire primeval history in Genesis 1-11 a problem? There are several candidate reasons to consider:

(1) The recognition of inconsistencies in the Genesis account.

(2) The presence of records indication the existence of civilizations predating Adam (Egyptian, Chaldean, Mesopotamian, etc.)

(3) The increased exploration of the world and the discovery of humans in
the new world.

(4) The consideration of human language in connection with the Genesis

(5) Darwin’s theory of evolution including common descent.

In your mind which factors  contributed most significantly to the Challenge of
Adam in Christian thought?

The challenge of Adam arises from all of these factors, but Livingstone’s book points out that the intellectual issues really came to the fore with the discovery of human civilizations  and evidence of ancient settlement spanning the globe. The accumulation of a variety of lines of evidence eventually led to crisis. Darwin was a late comer to the picture and evolution is a (relatively) minor contributor.

Inconsistencies in the Genesis record were recognized very early on – but pointed to an allegorical interpretation of the story while retaining Adam and Eve as unique persons.

Origen (ca.185-254) in On First Principles Book 4 as translated from the Greek.

For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? and that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? and again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally. (Anti-Nicene Fathers Vol. 4, p. 365)

Peter Bouteneff in his book Beginnings: Ancient Christian Readings of the Biblical Creation Narratives summarized Origen’s nuanced view as follows: “Yet the Holy Spirit dictated not history but stories that contained complexities and difficulties, with the intention of inviting readers into the deepest and most serious engagement.” (p.118)

Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 335-394+) is another early thinker who struggled with these ideas, according to Livingstone he appears “to have thought that Adam’s physical body was derived from animal forebears.” (p. 6-7). Bouteneff  considers Gregory’s view of humanity and of the nature of the “skin” of mortality – the animal body for humanity – and summarizes:

Gregory does not envision a historic pre-fallen immortal state, although he posits Adam as the beginning of human genealogy (as well as Christ’s),  he alludes twice in the Catechetical Oration to the fact that Moses is speaking through a story, or an allegory. The implication of this is that God’s addition of mortality is a part of his creation of humanity from the beginning, in foreknowledge of the ongoing fall. (p. 164).

The records of civilization predating Adam were also noted, but routinely dismissed as fabulous, by the early church fathers. The recorded Egyptian dynasties extend back some thousand years or more before Noah, the flood, or the Tower of Babel. Roughly speaking the great pyramid at Giza  was constructed ca. 2560 B.C.E. approximately the same time as the Genesis narrative places the flood, with continuous Egyptian civilization predating and postdating this time. Livingstone notes that Augustine (354-430) confronted these ideas:

Indeed, the continuing dispute over chronology was sufficiently strong that he devoted a whole chapter of The City of God to “the falseness of the history which allots many thousand years to the world’s past” and another chapter to the “mendacious vanity” and “empty presumption” of the Egyptians in claiming “an antiquity of a hundred thousand years ” for their accumulated wisdom. (p. 9)

While Augustine had no doubt that these reports were false, the seeds of inconsistency and discrepancy were present and were factors to be considered – if only to be refuted soundly.

The increased global exploration of the late fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – roughly Columbus onward – intensified the significance of the discrepancies in Genesis, the inconsistency of the world with the Genesis accounts of Adam, Noah, and Babel. Records from and encounters with the broad spread of humanity introduced a myriad of factors that could not easily be brushed away or ridiculed and decreed into submission. In this environment there was an explosion of thought centered on pre-adamic or non adamic men and a push toward a critical reading of the Biblical accounts.

This is enough for one post – what do you think? What factors contribute most significantly to the Challenge of Adam and the way we approach and read the primeval history of Genesis 1-11?

If you wish to contact me, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]

  • John W Frye

    This is an eye-opening discussion and I still think it comes down to how we (evangelicals) will view and use Genesis 1 – 11 in the attempts to correlate science and faith. The dating of civilizations (Egypt, Sumeria, etc.) seems to be a bit slippery because we do not know for a fact how those civilizations lobbied for their superiority (via dating).

  • Paul Pavao

    Fascinating discussion.
    I have friends committed to a literal Genesis–they absolutely cannot see that they reject a literal reading in several areas–and it’s hard to explain to them why the evidence of the history and science is so strongly against a 6,000-year-old earth. It’s always hard to concisely cover evidence that is widespread.
    You do it well here–very well. I have to assume you’re borrowing a lot from the book you’re reviewing, so I’ll go order it now, but I’ll also follow the rest of you posts on this subject.
    By the way, the fact that I can’t remember where I heard your name–despite reading your bio–is killing me. I must have read one of your books, but I didn’t recognize any of the titles.

  • RJS

    I doubt if this post will get much discussion – but I find the topic interesting. Certainly the dates were exaggerated – and Augustine protested loudly against the suggestion that civilizations were old. The real problems developed later – and extending to today – when it became apparent that, although the records are exaggerations, civilizations are quite old.
    The Great Pyramid at Giza and Noah’s flood date to the same time – Noah based on a literal reading of the genealogies etc. in scripture and the great pyramid based on archaeological findings. Complex civilization was flourishing in South America at this time as well (See here). The slow realization of this helps to demonstrate how limited the perspective of the 1st and even 4th century Christians was.

  • Brianmpei

    I was always amazed in Bible College when we would be told that Adam’s kids obviously married and had children with each other. The race was so new, it was suggested, that there weren’t any genetic problems to worry about. Older, conservative, normally prudish even, men didn’t even blink when they suggested the only issue with siblings having sex with each other was a genetic one. But then, I was in the Ozarks…

  • JHM

    This is a fascinating topic, IMO.
    I had always assumed, growing up in a conservative YEC culture, that points #1 and #5 were the “enemy” of a YEC perspective.
    I don’t understand what is meant by #3 and #4, could you give some examples?
    With respect to #2, many YECs have held the genealogies somewhat loosely. They aren’t all Bishop of Ussher-esque. That’s why you’ll commonly see “the earth is 6,000-10,000 years old.

  • BrianH

    RJS, does the book talk about how the theology of the fall is impacted by a non-literal Adam and Eve? I have no difficulties with the sense that the early parts of Genesis are teaching the why not the how of creation and our human condition, but there are other implications that are more problematic: if the creation/fall story reflects a truth about all of us without referring to a specific action in the past, how do we understand sin to be a common condition (wouldn’t that imply that we were all (and had always been) created separated from God, OR that each of us has a choice and the possibility of choosing right, at least until a point in human history where the dynamics of corporate and systemic sin took root?) As I understand it, scientific evidence points to entropy being part of creation from the beginning; how do we connect this to the part of the Genesis story that the fallenness of creation is a response to human sin (that even Paul takes up in Romans 8)?

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    I skimmed the topics on Amazon. I was rather surprised that he barely mentions eugenics, scientific racism and racial purity ideas that were so prevalent from 1910-1950 or so and sprung from Darwinian thinking. I understand that he is primarily talking about Adam and pre-adamism, but this seems to be a very strange omission. Much of the thinking of the early 20th century (including theological) is hard to understand without this context. I get the impression that a lot of people are very uncomfortable with this history and would rather ignore it or minimize its importance.
    Are you going to discuss how the ideas stemming from pre-adamism can undermine universal human rights?


    Very excited to be following along; you guys are doing a real number on my ability to stick to our 2010 budget, though.

  • pds

    By the way, I noted that you deem Gordon Glover’s intentional attempts to ridicule ID proponents as “satire” and “mostly entertaining conversation starters.” This after repeatedly accusing (falsely in my opinion) Stephen Meyer of using “ridicule” in his book, and strongly attacking him for it.
    Why the double standard?
    Why not post an extended quote from Meyer that you think shows his “ridicule,” and we can compare it to Glover’s South Park-level efforts.

  • dopderbeck

    The interesting thing about this book is that it shows the “Adam problem” isn’t entirely a modern one driven only by the theory of evolution. There were early inklings of the problem in the Biblical text itself (“where did Cain get his wife?”) and it the eventual encounter with “antipodean” people. In the modern era, the geological and archeological record presents major problems for a simple, literal “Adam” even apart from evolutionary biology. But evolutionary biology, particularly population genetics, really seems to seal the need for a broader notion of who “Adam” was and what he represents.
    pds — Livingstone has an entire chapter on how views about the “pre-Adamites” fed into racism and slavery. As a historian, Livingstone isn’t offering theological or ethical theories about how we ought to develop theological anthropology in today’s scientific age. His historical survey, however, seems to suggest at least two things: (1) this is not entirely a new area of tension caused only by evolutionary theory; and (2) it has to be addressed carefully because the idea of “pre-Adamites” has been used in the past to argue that some groups of people living today aren’t fully “human.”

  • dopderbeck

    BrianH (#6) — you identify the really difficult questions. Here’s a resource you might find helpful: RJ Berry, Darwin, Creation and the Fall. It’s only available from IVP in the UK, but worth acquiring if you’re trying to develop a perspective on these issues.

  • Richard

    Are you going to address how Christians have often undermined those same rights? Please don’t try laying all the evils of society at the feet of science the way many have tried to with religion. It’s a fallen humanity that’s the issue. Racism and war were around long before evolutionary theory.
    Also, if I were you and I hadn’t read the book (my assumption based on your comments), I would withhold the accusation that RJS is holding a double-standard since she has read both and is best equipped to discern which one was being overly satirical and which was jesting. Please show more respect for her work even if you disagree with her assessment of the issues. I value your contributions to this conversation and the pushback you give from a YEC perspective (or at least an ID perspective if I misclassified you) but help us have a conversation here.
    @ RJS
    Have you seen anything on Gobeckli Tepe in Turkey? Ben Witherington had a couple of helpful posts regarding this temple they’re dating around 10,000 BC:
    Wonder how that plays into the discussion of early civilizations being advanced? It’s dating would put it 4,000 years older than the pyramids at Gaza…

  • Your Name

    What about the concept that there was first a spiritual creation prior to a physical creation, or the concept that it was less of a creation and more of an organizing of matter or material.
    The concepts of there being humans in the Americas is not surprising if you look at the concepts that a group of people were led from the tower of Babel to the new world.
    Your concepts seem to be very short sighted in some areas. Why look at a day in Gensis as a day versus a period of time?

  • Mike Clawson

    Love the Origen quote! I can almost hear his sarcasm. His comment basically boils down to “Really? You think the Genesis stories are supposed to be literal history? C’mon, really?!” :)
    Nice to know that there is a long historical precedent for reading those stories with some nuance and a deeper understanding of genre and purpose than you typically find in contemporary YEC circles.

  • RJS

    I posted on Gobeckli Tepe about a year ago:
    It does play into this discussion – and is yet another important data point. I was actually planning to posting on Livingstone’s book at the time but it was AWOL from the library. It found its way back to the shelf sometime between my original search and a couple of weeks ago.

  • Josh M

    I’m greatful for the Biologos Foundation and for their efforts to take very seriously the full spectrum of scientific data available to us and then also consider how this may affect our interpretation of the biblical texts. Any theological dogmatism that is attempting to dictate what has happened or not, is only going to undermine the credibility of the church and will backfire eventually when people are coerced into thinking they have to choose either science OR faith.
    Peter Enns is currently doing a series on the same issues you raised. here is his latest post:

  • Rick

    RJS #3-
    “I doubt if this post will get much discussion”
    You are 0 for 2 in that prediction the past two days. Hope you are not filling out NCAA brackets :^).
    It is an interesting topic and discussion.

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    dopderbeck and richard,
    You are kind of proving my point about people being uncomfortable with this history. Livingstone seems to focus entirely on theological grounds for racism, and hardly any on scientific racism and scientific grounds for racism. I think we need to look at ALL causes, especially in light of the horrific results of scientific racism and eugenics in Nazi ideology. We can only understand the theological trends if we understand the broader intellectual, scientific and cultural trends.
    Darwinism only works because not all animals are created equal. It follows that humans emerged because they were in some sense superior to their ancestors. If humans emerged gradually from pre-adamic ancestors, did human rights emerge gradually too? Are human rights relative?
    Richard, please stop jumping to conclusions and attacking me. I am talking about Meyer’s book and Glover’s cartoons (not Livingstone’s book, which is clear in my comment), and I have read and seen both. RJS knows what I am talking about. Maybe you should ask next time before you attack.

  • BrianH

    dopderbeck (#11) — thank you for the book recommendation and link; I put in an order for it.
    In terms of the question posed, we’ve been historically limited to the information available and the tools we have on hand to evaluate it. Thus, the early Christian writers could note the troubling questions that the Genesis account created, and claims of antiquity that other cultures held, but not have all the tools to evaluate these challenges. (thus Augustine) When multiple streams of information start challenging our assumptions (astronomical, geological, biological), I think that creates a turning point not just among key theologians (i.e. Origen, Gregory…), but in a broader context that either our text or our hermeneutic is faulty.
    Ironically, (at least so it seems to me) — some would rather define the argument as being one where we have to defend an increasingly irrational position [adding epicycles to the cosmological model, if you will] in order to defend the text, rather than say maybe we’ve been reading it with the wrong lenses.
    I’d rather deal with the other questions from my earlier post than be saddled with the burden of trying to interpret information from astronomy, archaeology, biology, and geology through a predefined understanding of what has to be true according to my reading of the text. (with the dangers that #16 noted)

  • ChrisB

    “The records of civilization predating Adam …”
    Don’t we need a date for Adam before we can “predate” him? The author isn’t judging Genesis based on Ussher’s chronology is he?
    Why is the idea that there was a first human so controversial? Did the race spring fully grown from a Neanderthal’s skull?

  • comradespirit

    I see the Adam and Eve story as an allegory describing the soul’s descent from consciousness of eternal life to the illusory world of birth and death. Adam did partake of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (material duality) and on that day came to know death. Death in this sense means he lost his consciousness of eternal life.
    Just an idea some may want to consider and explore.
    May God bless us all.

  • Fisher

    I collect arrowheads here in Arkansas and it’s always striking when you run into someone who’s learned on one hand from archaeologists that (for example) a Dalton point is 10,000 years old, but on the other hand they’ve learned from their preacher that that’s the age of the earth. You see this conundrum in their face when you say, yeah, that’s 10,000 years old. It makes the science/Bible question suddenly very real.
    I also have some Acheulean handaxes (very common in the Sahara) that could be anywhere from 1.6 million to 100,000 years old, predating Homo sapiens and used by Homo erectus. It’s hard for people to get their minds around something that old.

  • Fisher

    I mean, I’m holding a rock in my hand that someone formed into a tool one million years ago. Hate to double-post, but it’s mind-blowing.

  • Ray Ingles

    PDS –

    Darwinism only works because not all animals are created equal. It follows that humans emerged because they were in some sense superior to their ancestors. If humans emerged gradually from pre-adamic ancestors, did human rights emerge gradually too?

    Evolution (c’mon, why do you have to call it “Darwinism”, anyway?) involves species surviving because they are in one and only one sense ‘superior’: at reproducing in the environment at that time. It could just as well be phrased “survival of the least inadequate under previous circumstances”.
    That being said, the fact that humans have deep continuities with the rest of the animal kingdom doesn’t preclude there being something special about humans, too. In physics, there’s the notion of a ‘phase change’. If you heat ice, eventually – quite suddenly – you’ve got water. Made of the same stuff, but behaves radically differently. Keep heating it further and all of a sudden you get steam. Still made of the same stuff, but behaves entirely differently from both water and ice.
    Other primates have various aspects of our intelligence to various degrees. Some have things like language, but not grammar. Some can do limited math, but not algebra. Some display an amount of self-awareness, but nothing like a human self-consciousness. Humans display something very like a ‘phase change’ in behavior compared to even their closest relatives. Humans can be special even in a purely evolutionary context.
    And they can be considered less than human even in a theological context. No discussion of Nazi atrocities is complete without acknowledging the widespread and virulent anti-Semitism present in Germany since before Martin Luther wrote “On The Jews And Their Lies”.

  • Richard

    @ PDS
    Thank you for your measured response clarifying where you’re coming from. I apologize if my comment was interpreted as attacking you. My perception was that you were accusing RJS of a double standard based off of something in this discussion and if you weren’t, then I apologize. If you were, I’m not sure cautioning you against doing so is really an attack. The reason I thought you hadn’t read Livingstone’s book was your comment that you had “skimmed the topics on Amazon,” not based on the detail of any of your comments.
    The reason I thought you were accusing RJS of a double standard was that I was confused by your statement from above in comment #9: “By the way, I noted that you deem Gordon Glover’s intentional attempts to ridicule ID proponents as “satire” and “mostly entertaining conversation starters.” It didn’t seem to me to pertain to the discussion on this thread regarding Livingstone’s work so I assumed I missed a comment from RJS that you must have been responding to since neither of those works were mentioned in this thread until you brought them in.
    I understand how you could interpret my repsonse reflecting an unwillingness to discuss eugenics and the other skeletons in “sciences'” closet. I’m very comfortable discussing eugenics and the abuses of science. I’m just not comfortable ignoring the racial purity stance of many Christians throughout history prior to evolutionary thought so I can make scientific theory the bogeyman that is responsible for all the ills of western society.
    In light of that, can you help me understand how Dopderbeck’s comment reinforces what you’re saying? I understood it to directly refute it and I’m trying to understand your perspective.

  • unapologetic catholic

    “Darwinism only works because not all animals are created equal. It follows that humans emerged because they were in some sense superior to their ancestors. If humans emerged gradually from pre-adamic ancestors, did human rights emerge gradually too? Are human rights relative?”
    Completely inaccurate.
    Remind me about the 19th century scriptural support for slavery and the sons of Ham.

  • Richard

    @ RJS 15
    Thanks for that link, it was a good post and for the most part a solid discussion. Thanks for your work.

  • RJS

    pds #9,
    I used the wording I did about Gordon’s cartoons because I think he stepped a bit over the line in some places. On the other hand he made points about the key issues in a way that may help a non-scientist understand. It actually became a very good conversation on that post.
    Finally, I also suggested that it would be useful to produce a cartoon from the ID point of view (as expressed in one of the comments) that helped put that point of view on the table.

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    Thanks for your measured response. RJS’s comments to which I was referring can be read here:
    To repeat, we should know about ALL the causes of racism throughout history. I am aware of the theological bases that have been put forth.
    But let’s keep in mind, Martin Luther never advocated killing retarded, disabled and Jewish women and children. What is remarkable and little known is how much support the Nazi leadership got from the scientific and medical communities. Many viewed the Nazi eugenics programs as scientifically progressive, and many in the US shared the same ideology. They really believed that they were doing a good thing for all humanity on the basis of current scientific knowledge. In the US, it never progressed beyond sterilization, but thousands were sterilized against their wills. Read about Aktion T4.

  • dopderbeck

    Fisher (#22) — I am green, green with envy at your hand axes. How incredibly cool is that! Where did you get them? Do you have any Clovis points?
    pds (#18) — I’ve never understood the objection to evolution based on the fact that some people have used the science for eugenics and other nefarious purposes. Modern evolutionary science agrees that the humanity is one species, so the science itself refutes any earlier “pre-Adamite” ideas that involve a line or race of people who aren’t full human.
    As to eugenics, the facts of genetic science are what they are — brute facts. The facts aren’t any less true just because they can be used for immoral purposes. Just because it “is” true that people can be selectively bred doesn’t necessarily mean governments “ought” to engage in that practice, but nor does it mean we should deny the truth of the underlying facts. This is an example of where “ethics” must derive from sources beyond just science.
    In any event, Nazi eugenics was based more on psuedoscientific / romanticists ideas about “race” than on sound genetic science.

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    RJS #28,
    Thanks for the explanation. I noted your concern about some elements.
    But I don’t see anything in Meyer’s book that comes anywhere close to the intentional ridicule of Glover’s cartoons. I don’t see any ridicule at all in Meyer’s book. So then to see your comments that ridicule serves a good purpose when it is in support of your position strikes me as quite a double standard.
    I don’t see Glover’s cartoons as a positive conversation starter. In fact, they are simply misleading. ID proponents do not say that the nature of the designer does not matter. In fact, they say the opposite. They say that science can detect design, but not identify the designer. You have use other means of knowing (philosophy, history, religion) to figure out who the designer is. The best Christian philosophers agree. That seems to be lost on Glover.
    It is a common unfair attack on ID, and Glover just piles on the ignorance.

  • dopderbeck

    pds (#29) said: Martin Luther never advocated killing retarded, disabled and Jewish women and children.
    I respond: Well. In On the Jews and their Lies, he did call them “miserable, blind, and senseless people” and he advised Christians to “set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom. . . .” and instructed “that their houses also be razed and destroyed”, and so on.
    I mean, you can’t really defend this, and there is no question that it was one of the many influences the Nazis seized upon.

  • pds

    dop #30,
    I don’t have time to run through all the history.
    We agree that evolutionary science does not refute the idea that all people are created in the image of God and are therefore not merely animals. (I don’t think evo science tells the whole story.) However, many, many scientists DO believe that evolutionary science DOES refute the idea. Hence, the problem.
    You call eugenics “pseudo-science.” Call it what you will. Mainstream scientists convinced enough legislators in California, Virginia, Indiana and other states to pass laws that required thousands of involuntary sterilizations. Oliver Wendell Holmes said it was not “pseudo-science” and upheld the laws.
    What do scientists believe today that people will think is pseudo-science 80 years from now?

  • Fisher

    Dopderdeck (#30). I bought them on ebay. If you watch occasionally you can pick up one for cheap. Just stay with reputable dealers, although they really wouldn’t be worth the effort to fake.
    Yeah, I have some Clovis points but nothing too nice. They are high-dollar points. I just bought a collection and the gem of the entire thing was a Folsom. They’re rarer than a Clovis, used to hunt mega-fauna and so usually found in the plains. There have been few found in Arkansas but this is the only one known to have come from a bluff shelter.
    Sorry for the tangent everyone! I do find that Biblical archaeology helps me with study of the Bible, helping me illuminate what was happening in the Holy Land and the context of the message.

  • Michael Spencer Harmon

    Man, I love them Orthodox peeps.
    I am not sure about others, but I can foresee a few issues with the account, if taken literally. It seems too easy of an explanation (anyone over 30 knows even mundane life can get complicated), and from a Christian point of view, God is incarnate here — whereas we make a big point of Jesus being God incarnate, first.
    But no matter what the obstacle, and I’m sorry if this offends some readers, what seems to be the root of all issues presented (modern or not) is the fact that people tend to first take this story literally. There’s no reason to, and yet we naturally want to. Perhaps that’s a good sign that God intends to reorient us to his view of life, creation, purpose and relationships. But one thing I know: those people who are especially averse to Christianity are as such because they seem to think that everything in the bible is supposed to happen literally, all the time. Consistent hermeneutics aside for just a moment, literalism has racked us. Otherwise, why would we still be discussing the creation account as full of issues? Time and time again, God says, “You cannot control me by your understanding.” Well, I think him for that! Haha.

  • Richard

    I love that this board can work through issues in disagreements.
    @ PDS 29
    While I think that the Nazis were very opportunistic in utilizing Luther’s writings against the Jews, let’s not kid ourselves that he wrote some documents that were very unchristian in their attitudes toward the Jewish people and easily lent themselves to discrimination and hurt against them as a people, if not openly advocating for such behavior. There is a reason that so many contemporary Lutheran organizations have renounced his writings regarding the Jewish people.

  • RJS

    JHM (#5)
    Points 3 and 4 are ones we will get to later in this series – probably starting in the post next Tuesday.
    Some of the issues with #2 can be removed or simplified by making the date closer to 10000 years than 6000 years. But as archaeology gathers more information even this won’t work without questioning a fair bit of rather secure science. See the posts linked in comments 12 and 15 for example.

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    dop #32,
    Luther wrote that horrible stuff long before Locke and our modern ideas of religious toleration. So why didn’t that rhetoric lead to a Holocaust?
    Why did the Holocaust happen after Locke, in one of the most scientifically advanced countries of the world?
    Read about the logic of Aktion T4. Hint: it was not based on Luther’s theology.
    BTW, the history of how Darwinism has been misused does not go to the truth of the theory. It goes to why we should not overstate our certainty, or ignore its many scientific problems. I have said that multiple times here.

  • Richard

    @ PDS 38
    Wouldn’t that suggest that Luther wrote those things completely uninfluenced by modern science, “darwinian theory,” or eugenics?
    The holocaust, and the Rwandan genocide for that matter, both took place in nations that were vocally Christian. I’m not sure that Darwin’s theory is as responsible for allowing this to take place as much as human nature is/was. To make evolution the compelling force behind the Nazi programs and all things evil in society (racism, moral relativism, etc) seems to be a leap. Wouldn’t the issue be the philosophy of naturalism behind some of these things?

  • pds

    “Wouldn’t that suggest that Luther wrote those things completely uninfluenced by modern science, “darwinian theory,” or eugenics?”
    Well, of course. But why did his words not lead to 6 million dead at the time he wrote them?
    I think the key idea in eugenics and Nazi ideology was idea that we need to help Natural Selection along by actively weeding out the unfit.
    Antipathy towards those different from ourselves is human nature and extends into every culture throughout history, not just Christian cultures. Actively killing people to further a higher moral duty to “racial hygiene” takes a different kind of ideology.
    But I will not convince you in a blog comment. One needs to dig into eugenics ideology and see how pervasive it was, even with respected intellectuals like David Starr Jordan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and many others. Read thoroughly and make your own decision. We ignore this history at our peril.

  • James

    ha ha…RJS, you thought no one would really comment on this post…wow. I think it is a fascinating topic and brings to light again the challenge of working through literalistic readings of the biblical text and modern science or in Livingstone’s case history. These are complex issues for sure.
    But i am glad to see that so many people instead of ditching their Christianity try and understand how it is the text functions despite the fact that it not a proof text for creation science. I say this with caution because the text itself IS a historical document.
    I am really looking forward to the next post!

  • R Hampton

    If humans emerged gradually from pre-adamic ancestors, did human rights emerge gradually too?
    Based on your interpretation of the Bible, were Neanderthals made in the image of God?
    This is not a problem for Catholic theology because the soul does not evolve nor does it have a biological origin. Thus only Adam and Eve were born of God even though they were born to parents of the same species.
    The distinction between a simple living being and a spiritual being that is capax Dei, points to the existence of the intellective soul of a free transcendent subject. Thus the Magisterium of the Church has constantly affirmed that “every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not ‘produced’ by the parents – and also that it is immortal” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 366). This points to the distinctiveness of anthropology, and invites exploration of it by modern thought.
    Distinguished Academicians, I wish to conclude by recalling the words addressed to you by my predecessor Pope John Paul II in November 2003: “scientific truth, which is itself a participation in divine Truth, can help philosophy and theology to understand ever more fully the human person and God’s Revelation about man, a Revelation that is completed and perfected in Jesus Christ. For this important mutual enrichment in the search for the truth and the benefit of mankind, I am, with the whole Church, profoundly grateful”.
    Pope Benedict XVI, October 31, 2008

  • R Hampton

    The connection between Eugenics/Social Darwin with actual the scientific Evolutionary theory is weaker then the connection between the Prosperity Gospel with actual Biblical theology.
    Now, should we non-theologians dismiss the Bible because some people have deliberately misused it for their own selfish ends? Of course not. But when it comes to Science you strongly suggest we dismiss Evolutionary theory on the grounds that Hitler claimed – with no scientific evidence – that non-Aryans were inferior.
    Furthermore, Michael Behe and Stephen Meyer both accept macro-evolution and common descent (with some exceptions – like Meyer’s “body plans”). Hence your contempt for Evolutionary theory undermines the very cause – Intelligent Design – you claim to champion. Do you realize that your ridiculous stance means that ID is equally tarnished?
    So, please, stop conflating Social Darwinism with Evolutionary theory – it’s disingenuous.

  • EBH

    So was Jesus being deceptive in his teaching by insinuating that the flood was a historical event in Matt. 24:37-39?

  • RJS

    Insinuating and deceptive are loaded words.
    No … he was using an example from common knowledge of his audience for the abrupt nature of unexpected change in an apocalyptic warning passage. He wasn’t teaching history he was giving a warning.
    If I used an allusion to George Washington and the cherry tree would it matter that the event was true or that everyone I was speaking with knew the story and the point of the story?

  • bck

    Enjoying the discussion.
    @Michael #35
    Man, I love them Orthodox peeps.
    It must be the time of year, I instantly pictured little marshmallow treats dressed in black, wearing hats and cross necklaces.

  • Richard

    @ RJS 45

  • pds

    R Hampton #43,
    Please stop distorting my position. My comment #38 is clear:
    “BTW, the history of how Darwinism has been misused does not go to the truth of the theory. It goes to why we should not overstate our certainty, or ignore its many scientific problems. I have said that multiple times here.”
    I have said that over and over here and yet people ignore that and choose to say that I am saying the opposite. Why is that?

  • dopderbeck

    pds (#33) said: However, many, many scientists DO believe that evolutionary science DOES refute the idea.
    I respond: I don’t think this is true. If anything, the consensus view of the natural sciences today is that “race” is an outdated and essentially meaningless category.
    pds (#38) said: Luther wrote that horrible stuff long before Locke and our modern ideas of religious toleration. So why didn’t that rhetoric lead to a Holocaust?
    I respond: Well, it did “lead to” a Holocaust, becuase Luther’s “Christian” anti-semitism was one of the streams that provided the intellectual seedbed for Naziism. Yes, you are right, the Nazis combined this with social Darwinism, pagan mysticism, and a bunch of other stuff. There’s lots of blood to go around here.
    We could also mention the various instances of anti-Jewish violence that happened throughout earlier Christian history as a result of the same kinds of ideas promoted by Luther, particularly during the Crusades. And if we want to follow the theme of the relation between ideas and violence all the way through, we can mention the religous wars that followed the Reformation, which soaked Europe in blood.
    Yes — there are complex causes for all of these events, and we can say with some justification that “true” Christianity was not the cause of the violence. But that’s the point. Any idea can be used by violent people to justify their actions.

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    I repeat these questions:
    “If humans emerged gradually from pre-adamic ancestors, did human rights emerge gradually too? Are human rights relative?”
    Is everyone here comfortable with Ray’s “phase change” theory (#24) as a good foundation for universal human rights? I am not, in part because there is no scientific basis for it.
    R. Hampton #42
    “Based on your interpretation of the Bible, were Neanderthals made in the image of God?”
    There is no reason not to conclude that Neanderthals were fully human.

  • R Hampton

    It goes to why we should not overstate our certainty, or ignore its many scientific problems.
    No, it doesn’t — not at all. That’s why you are being so damned disingenuous.
    Evolutionary theory is not responsible for the scientific problems of Social Darwinism. How could it be? Social Darwinism was not grounded in science by evolutionary theorists but in politics by laymen.
    Furthermore, actual “problems” with Natural Selection (a.k.a survival of the fittest) would be the discoveries of Sexual Selection, Lateral Gene Transfer, Epigenetics, et al. after On the Origin of Species was published. Yet none of these additional influences are a problem for Evolutionary theory but an expansion of it, nor did they have anything to do with Hitler or Eugenics.
    If we are to be consistent with your warped views, however, we should be very skeptical of the Laws of Thermodynamics because hucksters have promoted scams using Perpetual Motion machines, or because Entropy challenges the theological claims of an ordered universe. Perhaps the Discovery Institute should develop an Intelligent Thermodynamics theory (IT) so that our children are not tempted to become charlatans and atheists. Why not? It makes as much sense as your support of ID and mistrust of Evolutionary theory.

  • R Hampton

    At this point in time, there is no genetic evidence that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens mated with one another. So the only way this other species of Man could be considered (spiritually) Human is if Adam and Eve were the common ancestor of both (meaning the first couple were an even older species of Man, perhaps Homo erectus). Such a conclusion would confirm the truth of Evolutionary Theory and Common Descent.
    But if Adam and Eve were Homo sapiens, then they could not have given birth to the older Neanderthals species. Such a conclusion would deny human rights to Neanderthals – at least from a Biblical rationale – and could be used lend support to Intelligent Design at the expense of Evolutionary theory.
    So, what species do you believe Adam and Eve belonged to?

  • dopderbeck

    pds (#50) — ok, I’ll give it a shot.
    You asked: “If humans emerged gradually from pre-adamic ancestors, did human rights emerge gradually too?”
    I respond: Define “human rights.” I start with the presupposition that “human” relates in some way to the “image of God,” and that “rights” means a transcendent set of moral principles related to this characteristic of being “human.” Given those assumptions, I personally would say, no, “human rights” didn’t “emerge gradually,” regardless of the facts of human biological evolution. “Human rights” in this rubric are in a sense “eternal” because they ultimately derive from the life of the Triune God. I think the Genesis 1-4 stories point to some “historical” events in time in which evolving humanity became morally accountable for respecting “human rights.” We don’t know exactly when those events occurred or exactly what form they took — but we don’t need to know that.
    You also asked: “Are human rights relative?”
    I respond: Define “relative.” If you’re suggesting that the fact of human biological evolution precludes some idea of “fixed” “human rights,” it seems to me that doesn’t follow at all. If “human rights” are moral principles ultimately derived from the life of the Triune God, then those principles are not contingent on the historical circumstances of evolution.
    Of course, the historical circumstances of evolution could very well affect the applicability and/or manner of application of some moral principles, but there is nothing earth-shattering about morality being “relative” in this sense. After all, when a newborn infant demands attention in the middle of the night, we don’t hold the infant morally responsible for being “selfish” or “greedy.” Our standards against selfishness and greed will continue to vary as the child’s capacities grow — a two-year-old is not morally accountable as a fifteen-year-old is not morally accountable as a forty-year old.
    Finally — pds said: There is no reason not to conclude that Neanderthals were fully human.
    I respond: “Fully human” is a category mistake here, I think. Were Neanderthals “human?” Yes, by some anthropological definitions. Were they part of the adam of Gen. 1-4? We don’t know. Given that they apparently lacked the capacity for sophisticated symbolic language, one wonders whether they can be thought of as in the line of the Adamic covenant. If not, that seems to me not to be a significant problem. God presumably dealt with them according to their own capabilities.

  • Fisher

    “If humans emerged gradually from pre-adamic ancestors, did human rights emerge gradually too? Are human rights relative?”
    Human rights are of course relative. Health care is a human right in most of the world, but not here in the U.S. Black people didn’t have a right to be free or women to vote until relatively recently.
    In theory, some rights come from God, but in practice you get the rights that come with the morality of the culture you were born into. Which is all that matters.
    Corporations now have free speech rights, for example. I doubt that’s a God-given right, but it’s something our American culture sees as necessary to protect capitalism.
    Hopefully the trajectory of our society is such that we move toward a more perfect understanding and implementation of human rights, where they are not relative, but I’m not holding my breath.

  • STJ

    PDS wrote: “If humans emerged gradually from pre-adamic ancestors, did human rights emerge gradually too? Are human rights relative?”
    If human rights did emerge gradually, would that in any way justify the notion that all humans today are not in the image of God and deserving of love and justice? Whatever our origins, and whatever variation there is within our species, there is a vast chasm between the ours and all other species.
    I think some of the points I make in and may be food for thought in reckoning with our current duties before God and fellow humans and for understanding why a gradual emergence of humanity and our moral capacities and failings is no impediment to that.

  • pds

    The Design Spectrum
    dop #53,
    Thanks for giving it a shot. I don’t think you succeed.
    You seem to make a very obvious logical error. The moral responsibility of children changes as they grow older. But the moral protection of children never changes. You can’t murder a child or other human being of any age, and this does not change at all. The moral protection of children is not relative.
    Of course, our society is chipping away at that. Many advocate chipping away at that and use evolutionary reasoning to do so. Apes should get some human rights. Deformed babies should not get all human rights.

    [Peter] Singer’s response came to Dublin reader Karen Meade’s question: “Would you kill a disabled baby?”
    “Yes, if that was in the best interests of the baby and of the family as a whole. Many people find this shocking, yet they support a woman’s right to have an abortion,” he said.

  • Ray Ingles

    PDS – A couple points.

    BTW, the history of how Darwinism has been misused does not go to the truth of the theory. It goes to why we should not overstate our certainty, or ignore its many scientific problems. I have said that multiple times here.

    Go read some Deepak Chopra. Now, does “Heisenbergism” (as quantum mechanics should be called, if we were to follow your style of referring to evolution as “Darwinism”) bear any responsibility for what Chopra and legions of others misinterpret and misappropriate?

    Many advocate chipping away at that and use evolutionary reasoning to do so.

    If it’s “many”, how come I only ever see anyone quoting Singer?

  • Ray Ingles

    PDS –

    Is everyone here comfortable with Ray’s “phase change” theory (#24) as a good foundation for universal human rights? I am not, in part because there is no scientific basis for it.

    You’ve found a nonhuman species that displays grammar, or abstract mathematics?
    I referred to “phase changes” as an analogy, not a direct mapping. The idea is that humans are qualitatively different from animals, though still composed of the same fundamental materials.

  • R Hampton

    Many advocate chipping away at that and use evolutionary reasoning to do so.
    Again, so what? If laymen use evolutionary theory incorrectly, that is not the fault of Science.
    Evolutionary theory describes how life evolves through natural processes, it does not tell us anything about Christian morality. Strictly speaking, Evolutionary theory doesn’t even help us measure the genetic “worth” of a specific person or animal (that is its present and future worth) because we don’t know; 1, how the environment will change in the future, and 2, what genes will be beneficial (allow us to adapt) to the change. While Evolutionary theory, is helpful in measuring the past genetic “worth,” in no way does that inform us of future needs.
    For example, lactose tolerance has been described as “the single most advantageous gene trait in humans in the last 30,000 years.” Research indicates the mutation first appeared 6,000 years ago in Northern Europe. That particular individual may have had below average intelligence or may have been especially lazy or violent. But that one genetic mutation – whose implications could not have been foreseen – meant that particular individual had a value beyond measure.
    So, do those laymen who claim to understand Evolutionary theory have the ability to tell us which individuals possess genes that might be pivotal to the human species thousands of years hence? No. Not at all. That’s why Eugenics and Hitler and all that other crap is unscientific.