The Search for the Historical Adam (RJS)

The June 2011 cover story in Christianity Today is a summary of the state of the discussion about the understanding of Adam and Eve in our church. The subtitle lays it out – “Some scholars believe genome science casts doubt on the existence of the first man and woman. Others say the integrity of the faith requires it.”  This is a topic we’ve discussed a great deal on this blog, and a topic that will continue to come up for the foreseeable future. It will not be resolved in short order. In fact, the significance of the question requires that we revisit it from a number of angles, posing questions and considering the ramifications of the answers. Darrel Falk has posted some comments on this issue of Christianity Today and the question of Adam and Eve on the BioLogos blog -  BioLogos and the June 2011 “Christianity Today” Cover Story. I don’t have this issue in hand, and the cover article is not yet available on line. When it is available I will comment on it directly and pose some questions.

In a timely fashion, though, I received from the publisher (through Scot) a book by C. John Collins, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care. This book expands on the discussion in his article in the ASA Journal Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (v. 62 no. 3 2010) (I posted on it here). Dr. Collins’s goal in writing his book is stated in the introduction (p. 13)

My goal in this study is to show why I believe we should retain a version of the traditional view, in spite of any pressures to abandon it. I intend to argue that the traditional position on Adam and Eve, or some variation of it, does the best job of accounting not only for the Biblical materials but also for our everyday experience as human beings – an experience that includes sin as something that must be forgiven (by God and our fellow human beings) and that must be struggled against as defiling and disrupting a good human life.

He is not, he notes a little later, trying to provide the right answers. Rather his goal is to help Christians think through the issues critically and carefully. While he is critical of some positions held by Francis Collins as described in his book The Language of God and by many of those who are affiliated with BioLogos (and no doubt would be critical of some of my positions) he is not criticizing the BioLogos perspective or evolutionary creation in itself. It will be interesting to engage with Dr. C. John (Jack) Collins, working through his book and considering the arguments and reasons. His approach provides a useful entry into some of the key issues and ideas.

One of the first questions Dr. Collins raises in the introduction to his book is that of authorial intent in scripture and most importantly in Genesis 1-3. In the rest of this post I would like to explore this topic a bit.

Does authorial intent determine how we should read the accounts of Gen 1-3?

Does it matter if the author thought these accounts were historically true? If so why?

For some people establishing that the inspired Biblical authors thought that an idea was true, a historical statement was true is enough to establish its veracity. If the author of Genesis 2-3 thought that Adam and Eve were created exactly as described this is enough to establish it as a fact essential for the Christian faith. Dr. Collins places a high value on both authorial intent and the nature of Biblical authority, but finds the situation a bit more complicated than often thought and does not structure his argument on this approach to the text.

Dr. Collins suggests that there are at least four possible ways to look at authorial intent in Genesis 2-3 (p. 16).

  1. The author intended to relay straight history, with a minimum of figurative language.
  2. The author was talking about what he thought were actual events, using rhetorical and literary techniques to shape the reader’s attitudes toward those events.
  3. The author intended to recount an imaginary history, using recognizable literary conventions to convey “timeless truths” about God and man.
  4. The author told a story without even caring whether the events were real or imagined; his main goal was to convey various theological and moral truths.

The view argued by Dr. Collins is option 2. There is figurative language in the telling of the story of Adam and Eve, the story uses devices and techniques common to the literature of the day. But the authorial intent was to describe historical events. The use of rhetorical and literary technique is as appropriate to the inspired biblical text as it is to any kind literature. There is no need for wooden literalism. Here he quotes CS Lewis (Mere Christianity, Book 3, CH. 10): “People who take the symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant we were to lay eggs.

It is not true though that if the text uses symbolic language it is merely symbolic. Symbolic language can be used to convey historical reality. Now we have to have a method for making a judgment about the nature of the elements of the story. Dr. Collins uses the following three criteria for this study (p. 19):

  1. How does the person or event impact the basic story line? My study of the Bible has convinced me that the authors were self-consciously interpreting their world in terms of an overarching worldview story. Does making the persons or events “merely symbolic” distort the shape of the story?
  2. How have other writers, especially Biblical ones, taken this person or event? Any notion of Biblical authority requires me to respect what Biblical writers see; common sense requires me to check what I see against what others see, especially those who are closer to the original time and culture than I am. This is one reason I will not confine my conversation partners to people who already agree with me.
  3. How does this person or event relate to ordinary human experience?

This is an intriguing set of criteria. As we consider the arguments in Dr. Collins book it will be interesting to apply them and to explore where they may help to determine the truth and where they may lead us astray. One place where I think that Dr. Collins and I may disagree is in the significance of authorial intent in the context of an overarching ancient near east worldview. The author intended to convey an ancient near east cosmology, with a world on pillars, the vault of the sky holding back the waters. This was an integral part of the worldview or author and original audience. There is no reason for us to assume that this cosmology was inspired by God and therefore correct. Perhaps Adam and Eve are not “merely symbolic” but part of an assumed worldview, not corrected by God, and used to convey his theological message in the same way that ancient cosmology is used rather than corrected. I am not giving this as the answer, but putting the idea up for consideration.

What do you think?

Is authorial intent significant? If so how and when?

What criteria would you use to evaluate the text?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net

You can subscribe to a full text feed of my posts at Musings on Science and Theology.

  • Joe Canner

    5. None of the Above: The author was transcribing an oral history that he thought was an accurate representation of prior events. The language used primarily reflects the nature of oral tradition but is not purposely symbolic. In the case of Adam and Eve, it is an attempt to explain the origin of sin and other phenomena. We can verify the existence of these phenomena without validating the explanations or trying to find correlations between symbols and reality.

  • http://whatyouthinkmatters.org/blog Andrew Wilson

    RJS, thanks for this, very stimulating (as ever). Just one question: which text are you referring to when you say the author of Genesis intended to convey a world on pillars?

  • Rick

    The Biologos post now is providing a link to that Christianity Today article.

  • Dans

    A very compelling perspective on this issue is offered by Michael Reeves at http://www.reformation21.org/articles/adam-and-eve.php

    He specifically is responding to Dennis Alexander, but the viewpoint is worth noting and is relevant to this discussion. I find his connection of Adam to Original Sin, the unity of humanity and the necessity of the incarnation to be compelling.

    He concludes:

    “When theological doctrines are detached from historical moorings, they are always easier to harmonize with other data and ideologies. And, of course, there are a good many doctrines that are not directly historical by nature. However, it has been my contention that the identity of Adam and his role as the physical progenitor of the human race are not such free or detachable doctrines. The historical reality of Adam is an essential means of preserving a Christian account of sin and evil, a Christian under-standing of God, and the rationale for the incarnation, cross and resurrection. His physical fatherhood of all humankind preserves God’s justice in condemning us in Adam (and, by inference, God’s justice in redeeming us in Christ) as well as safeguarding the logic of the incarnation. Neither belief can be reinterpreted without the most severe consequences.”

  • Susan N.

    “His physical fatherhood of all humankind preserves God’s justice in condemning us in Adam”

    I think this is what trips me up the most. I question how to synthesize theistic evolution and the Fall. The creation story makes it all sound so cut-and-dried. Adam and Eve had it all. One rule that God explicitly commanded them not to break, or there would be dire consequences. They fully understood and consciously disobeyed, and invoked the curse of sin on all humankind. I question, if God wasn’t literally walking and talking with Adam and Eve, how were they to discern the exact sin that would cause them to fall from grace? Forgive me if I sound like a simpleton here. I’m not a scientist or a theological scholar by trade. I think about my own quest to know God and make the right choices which will honor Him, and it’s not so easy as hearing Him speak directly to me. I wonder about the first evolved humans. Was there a point in time when they *knew* God and what God expected of them? If that is the case, then I wonder whether from that time to the present humankind has further “devolved”. Is that a valid point? I will refrain from rambling any further and purpose to listen and learn from others.

    Thanks, rjs, for this series. Timely, relevant, and much appreciated!

  • Joe Canner

    @Dans #4: Reeves’ article says more about the difficulties with trying to draw direct symbolic connections between Adam and Eve and real humans (as Alexander was trying to do) than anything else. The story of Adam and Eve (and the associated passages in Romans) illustrate that man is sinful. This is patently obvious to anybody with any observational skills and evolutionary biology tells us why this is the case.

    Maybe I’m missing something, but the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus do not depend on there being a single Adam. Paul is making a rhetorical point about how one man can atone for all sins, but I don’t think that point stands or falls on whether there was actually a single Adam or not. As the writer of Hebrews points out, Jesus was the only man who didn’t have to sacrifice for his own sin; this alone is enough reason to believe that one man’s death can atone for all sin.

  • http://jewalters.wordpress.com James

    Can we discuss “authorial intent” without even mentioning the possibility that there are multiple authors and redactors who have shaped this text?

    And even if we can, authorial intent doesn’t really help the discussion that much. Intent does not signify accuracy.

  • http://pubtheologian.wordpress.com Bryan Berghoef

    Agree with Joe Canner’s first comment – “The author was transcribing an oral history that he thought was an accurate representation of prior events.” Authorial intent is not everything. He could have had intention X, but that does not automatically correlate to X being the case. It could well be Y or Z or Q.

    There’s a reason it’s called ‘primeval history.’

  • rjs

    Rick (#3),

    Thanks – I took a look at the article and will post on it next week. I had known it was coming, but didn’t know exactly what was in the published version so I didn’t want to comment at all.

    I would like to be able to read the CT editorial, but that isn’t available in the preview.

  • http://evolutionarycreation.wordpress.com EC

    RJS, you raise an interesting suggestion about the role of Adam and Eve in the mind of the author of Genesis. The author, from an ANE perspective, believed that ancient cosmology was literally true (as far as I can tell). That is, the author assumed that the world was as the ancient cosmology suggested it was. The author also seems to assume that Adam and Eve are real people (at least one could make that assumption). This, on face value, seems to suggest that what the author felt was “real” is not as important as what the story is trying to convey. I think this was what you are suggesting.

    I think the idea has merit, it is at least plausible. I think, when it comes to the role of authorial intent, that this shows what is really important is the point of the story, rather than the incidentals of the story. (Now I realize you can’t understand the point without the incidentals, but the “realness” of one is not dependent on the “realness” of the other – as parables demonstrates).

    On a different, but semi-related note, doesn’t anyone wonder why there is a talking snake in the story (rhetorical question, i’m sure there are others who wonder about that)? Did the author believe that snakes actually talk, or at least actually talked? Does this clue us in on anything?

  • http://defideorthodoxa-informadordeopiniao.blogspot.com Rodrigo

    The key question is to what extent and how, intellectual integrity matter? We should strive to prove that four fingers are five, due to some prior constraint?

  • scotmcknight

    “EC,”

    I’m with you. Snakes don’t talk, and it shifts focus for me because they don’t. And a story in which a snake talking performs a central antagonistic role pushes the whole story into the mytho-poetic, even if it has — as I believe — an ineradicable core of historical truth.

  • http://defideorthodoxa-informadordeopiniao.blogspot.com Rodrigo

    Paleontology, anthropology, archeology and human geography are entitled to be heard? We should also care about them or pretend not to exist according to our wish?

  • http://www.TilledSoil.org Steve Wilkinson

    1b The author intended to relay actual history, with the use of a certain amount of figurative language.

    Also, one doesn’t have to only consider Genesis 1-3 in their analysis.

  • Adam

    A book that I read that gave a different perspective on the early Genesis story was The Gifts of the Jews by Thomas Cahill. It’s been years since I’ve read it so I don’t remember it that well, but the part of the book spends a lot of time comparing the Genesis account of creation (ergo the Jewish account of creation) with all the other accounts of creation at that time.

    Cahill then pushed the idea that the significance was the differences themselves. Instead of the world being created through violence, as in the death of other gods (which is a prevalent theme for the time) the Jewish God created a peaceful world. And instead of humans being unimportant playthings to the gods, Adam and Eve were created specifically for relationship with God.

    The importance being how the Jewish God is DIFFERENT from the other gods, not necessarily that his means were exact.

  • http://defideorthodoxa-informadordeopiniao.blogspot.com Rodrigo

    Highly recommended too and extremely helpful and inspiring, is “The Eden Narrative: A Literary and Religio-historical Study of Genesis 2–3″ by Tryggve N. D. Mettinger.

  • http://evolutionarycreation.wordpress.com/ EC

    Scot,

    I’ve been leaning that direction (mytho-poetic) myself ever since examining C.S. Lewis’s take on myth. That term, myth, is a “four-letter” word to some within Christianity, mostly because it is easily misunderstood. I think recovering a healthy understanding of what a myth is and how it functions (especially for the ancients) might do some good in these discussions.

  • Jay

    Thanks for raising this issue and the discussion. Related to “authorial intent” is the “original intent” of the text. I wonder if those two things can project slightly different meanings.

    With authorial intent we might consider the historical context of the writing and the cosmological views of the culture in which the Biblical text was written. We want to know how the first audience would have read it and understood it.

    For me what’s most important is the intent at the heart of the Biblical text. Perhaps the creation accounts were more literally understood by their early audiences because they had a different view of the world than we do today, but I don’t feel like they need to be read in that way across cultures. Why? Because I don’t find them seeking to defend a scientific position or argument. I think they have a different purpose behind them and a different “original intent.” (I do, however, find Scripture defending the literal resurrection of Christ and the future bodily resurrection of those in Christ.)

    In recent years I’ve drifted more toward an open view that Adam and Eve might be figurative characters, but I also don’t feel a need to reject the possibility of a literal Adam and Eve. With that said, original intent of Scripture is still very important to me.

  • http://joeyspiegel.wordpress.com JoeyS

    I also find it curious that we don’t have record of early Christians (Paul, etc.) debating or challenging pagan/greek creation stories. If the historicity of Adam and Eve are so core to the Christian faith and understanding of sin why didn’t Paul specifically engage other creation myths?

    I guess I’m not convinced by the line of reasoning that says Adam had to be real in order to preserve Christian notions about sin. I can believe in sin without believing in an historical Adam. Is there some logical inconsistency here that I don’t see?

  • BradK

    Dans #4,

    “[Adam's] physical fatherhood of all humankind preserves God’s justice in condemning us in Adam (and, by inference, God’s justice in redeeming us in Christ) as well as safeguarding the logic of the incarnation. Neither belief can be reinterpreted without the most severe consequences.”

    It could be argued that God condemning all humankind for something one person did is not just. How is it just to condemn one person for the crime of another?

    Susan #5,

    “I question, if God wasn’t literally walking and talking with Adam and Eve, how were they to discern the exact sin that would cause them to fall from grace?”

    But doesn’t this raise the question of how God deals with the rest of us? If God has not literally walked and talked with each of us, how are we to discern the exact sin that causes each of us to fall from grace?

    I can’t help but see Adam in myself and in all of humanity today. For me the mytho-poetic view is most likely. Although the author almost certainly believed that he was recounting something that was somewhat historical.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    A slight tangent.

    My high school age daughter walked in after school yesterday and said “Dad, how many ribs do you have?” I told her, “23! Because god took one from men to make Eve”.

    Daughter “You don’t actually believe that, do you?”
    Dad “Why, yes I do!”
    Daughter “Seriously?”
    Dad “Well, I believe men have one less than women…”

    After some Wikipedia searches we confirmed that men and women both have 24, as a rule. I realized that I was told that story as a child and assumed that the whole rib story was invented by the bible writers to explain why men have one less rib than women, never thinking to question that. As it turns out, men and women have the same number of ribs, so now I am left wondering why Genesis has the rib story….

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    ….btw, the genesis of her question was because she was dissecting a pig in school.

  • Theophile

    Moses penned Genesis, Moses talked face to face with God, according to the text, everything that is described happening in Genesis, was hundreds of years in the past at Moses’s time. Moses was a secretary taking dictation. God was the Author of Genesis, and the Genesis story, and so the story comes from heavens viewpoint, using “heavens” symbolism much like Revelation, which also confuses people.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Authorial intent – at the time of the writing of Genesis, and I mean the actual writing of it down on material, I think that the authorial intent was to lock in the story that they had at that time because they recognized that the verbal propagation of the story leads to differences in the telling. Therefore, one would have to assume that they would have believed their story to have elaboration and other digressions in it since before that time it was only verbal.

  • Susan N.

    BradK – #20 — yes, that’s what I’m getting at. Seems a harsh consequence for a single act of disobedience that maybe wasn’t as clear-cut as the Genesis story of the Fall would imply. So, God wasn’t literally walking and talking in a garden with a man and woman, and a talking snake didn’t make them do the bad deed, then how is this different from our experience of relationship with God, and of *knowing* His will? We have Christ. We have the Bible. We have the Holy Spirit. We have the church. But we see through a glass darkly, in spite of all that. Somewhere in the process of evolution, humankind went haywire and broke the originally perfect creation? My head is starting to hurt…feel like Sponge Bob’s friend Patrick!

  • http://www.twocities.org Dave Moore

    Scot, You said, “Snakes don’t talk, and it shifts focus for me because they don’t.”

    I am fine with either “The snake talked” or “It is a poetic device,” but you are not opposed to the possibility of talking snakes, are you?

    Best,
    Dave

  • http://www.TilledSoil.org Steve Wilkinson

    @ Dave #26,

    That is a good point… it would seem to me there is kind of a fine line between not being able to believe a snake could talk… and that a donkey could talk or that a resurrection is possible. Hopefully Scot isn’t headed down that path.

    Though, I’m not sure we have to stick to that kind of wooden literalism either. ‘Talk’ could certainly be actual verbal speech, as well as some kind of non-verbal-communication, as well as Satan somehow communicating through a snake to Eve…. and all would still be 100% historical and 100% true to the text. We don’t have to fear Bill Maher jokes (and it is sort of sad that some seem to feel the need to).

  • http://www.walkingbarefoot.com Jeff Doles

    JoeyS #19,

    If Paul did not debate the creation myths of his time, it does not follow that he therefore did not take Adam to be a historical figure.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    Option #6: The author was right, there was a literal Adam and Eve, and we have no way of proving or disproving that.

  • http://joeyspiegel.wordpress.com JoeyS

    Jeff Doles, it doesn’t “necessarily” follow but it is at least worth considering. If the creation story in Genesis is so critical in our understanding of sin it would be of the utmost importance for Paul to engage and dismantle other creation myths, especially the ones that were most widely accepted. He had no problem engaging other parts of mythology (Acts 17). I agree that it is not a necessity and it is an error to make an exhaustive argument from silence. I just find it curious.

  • http://www.walkingbarefoot.com Jeff Doles

    JoeyS, #30

    Whether Paul ever debated creation myths of his day is irrelevant to whether he considered Adam to be a historical figure. One would have to be desperate for any kind of straw to grab onto to try and make any kind of argumment out of this.

  • http://joeyspiegel.wordpress.com JoeyS

    @ ChrisB #29 – The problem with that line of thought is that if the majority of evidence suggests an earth that is older than the Genesis story it is difficult to remain agnostic on the subject. Case in point, Ben Witherington recently had a post about an archeological site (http://www.patheos.com/community/bibleandculture/2011/05/31/gobecklitepe-temple-the-history-channel/) that is thought to be 12,000-14,000 years old.

    When evidence leans towards one understanding of history the onus is on the other side to present strong reasoning and evidence to support their alternative theory.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Dave and Steve, like Scot said, don’t you think it is most likely that the inclusion of a talking snake is there to point out the nature of the story? When I include the fact that my walk to school was uphill both ways I am doing that for a reason.

  • http://joeyspiegel.wordpress.com JoeyS

    Jeff Doles, I must be speaking past you. It is not irrelevant to whether or not Paul considered Adam to be an historical figure. If the majority of culture understood creation, and therefore the nature of humanity one way, it would seem reasonable to expect Paul to present an alternative telling of human history. To use a metaphor that I don’t particularly like, it would be like trying to tell a cancer patient about all of their symptoms without addressing the actual cancer.

    Today, much evangelism is based upon the premise that sin entered the world through Adam. If those to whom we are communicating this do not believe in an historical Adam then our evangelism efforts are met with an uphill journey. For Paul, this conversation would have been similar but the characters would have been different. The secular atheists of our day were the pagan polytheists of his. To have any conversation about sin, both parties must start on a similar understanding of human nature or one party must convince the other party of their position before the conversation can progress. Ask any missionary who has ever tried to explain the gospel to a Theravada Buddhist and you’ll find yourself in a long conversation about how to communicate “sin” in a culture where that is an altogether foreign concept.

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    And to add to the specifc issue of historical Adam and Eve, genetic evidence is conclusive that there was never a time when there were only two humans on earth and there was never a single human couple who are the ancestors of all humans alive today.

    Not only was the snake talking but it apparently had legs, too. (Yes, I treat the snake as allegory for Satan–that’s one point of the story).

  • http://www.twocities.org Dave Moore

    DRT #33

    Sure, but Scot’s language sounds more definitive in one direction (=no possibility of talking snakes) than perhaps he meant it to be…

    It seems we should be open to either possibility.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    JoeyS#34, Really? I have often wondered when reading posts here why people get so hung up on the whole sin thing. I mean, isn’t it obvious that people do bad things or do not do the things they should? Are you saying that people do not understand that they do not always do the right thing?

  • http://www.TilledSoil.org Steve Wilkinson

    @ JoeyS #32

    What does the ‘age of the earth’ have any bearing on the historicity of Adam and Eve?

    @ DRT #33

    No, I don’t think that is obvious at all. Who knows? Neither of us do. My question would be why you feel the need to consider it non-historical. Me thinks there is something else going on here. So, should we, then, think the Apostle’s announcement of a risen dead Jewish guy should tell us something of the nature of that story too? My point being, you’re bringing some pretty big assumptions to the table, and then basing your view of the type of literature we’re dealing with on it.

    @ Unapologetic Catholic #35

    No, the genetic evidence IS NOT conclusive.

    Also, folks might want to check out RTB & Fuz Rana’s response:
    “The Search For The Historical Adam”
    http://www.reasons.org/resources/radio-broadcasts-and-podcasts/snf#2011-05-31

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    Who’s the guy/animal on the cover? Human? Ape? Little bit of both? Did he enjoy human rights? Would it be ok to abort him, or use him for scientific testing?

    Scot, you are right. Snakes don’t talk. And people don’t walk on water.

  • rjs

    Steve Wilkinson,

    The argument connecting the form of Gen 1-3 to the veracity of the gospels is a very weak one. There is story in the OT – and history, and theology, and poetry, and proverbs, and apocalyptic prophecy. In the NT we have biography (of a sort) and letters and history and apocalypse. When we consider how truth is conveyed we have to consider form.

  • scotmcknight

    PDS,

    Are you saying God gave the serpent the miraculous power to speak in order to deceive?

  • rjs

    pds,

    Well CT probably couldn’t use the more usual image of a naked or nearly naked couple…

    With respect to the second point – walking on water is a demonstration of Jesus’s mastery over nature and the elements wasn’t it? If we believe that Jesus was (is) God incarnate behaving in a prophetic manner, well then walking on water is believable. It isn’t a trick it is part of the message enacted.

    The snake is part of the story, but if we consider this “literal historical” it is either one of God’s animals succumbing to evil before Adam and Eve or a form taken by Satan rather than a real snake (which is where Revelation goes, but Gen 3 doesn’t seem to support). Of course the snake could be neither of these … I think OT scholars would connect it to a commonly used image in ANE culture, but I am not sure.

  • rjs

    Ah, I hadn’t considered that possibility Scot – it is another possible reading.

  • http://joeyspiegel.wordpress.com JoeyS

    DRT, when I worked on my undergrad in missions I was exposed to many examples of cultures that did not have any real concept of sin, at least not in the way that we in the west do. Read up on Theravada Buddhism (some good articles in EMQ), or any other traditional rendering of eastern religions and you’ll see what I’m talking about. But even in our own culture a lot of people don’t connect things that are wrong in the world with a primitive couple from Iraq. If things are wrong in the world, the reasoning goes, then it is for some other reason (religion, resource distribution, etc.). You might not see it, and I don’t have time to point you to the vast amount of resources speaking on this subject but I encourage you to do so.

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    Scot and RJS,

    Could be talking supernaturally, either from Satan or something else, could be it was natural in a pre-fall world. My main point was that mytho-poetic is not the only possibility.

    RJS,

    As to the image on the cover, does it match any actual fossils we have? It does not seem to be Australopithicus, and Cro Magnon was modern man. Is CT promoting a mythical creature on its cover?

  • John W Frye

    Noting the comments here I can’t help but think that we either put our confidence in the authority of the living, present God or in an ANE genre of the Bible (in view of NT Wright’s suggestions on authority). God uses a variety of genres to communicate truth. The traditionalist evangelicals have used the slippery slope tactic (regarding the historicity of Genesis 1-3) to the point that it’s getting ridiculous. I can’t believe that some here are equating the genre of Genesis 1-3 with the New Testament accounts of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If one is not history, then, alas, the other might not be either. This is not faith driven, but fear driven. And it’s getting to be boring.

  • rjs

    Andrew Wilson (#2),

    There are a number of places in scripture, in Genesis 1, in Job, in the Psalms as examples, where the ANE cosmology is clearly in the text “if we have eyes to see.” I discussed this a bit in posts on Denis Lamoureux’s book for example:
    here and here

    (I know you asked specifically about Genesis – but this isn’t the only place it is found.)

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    JoeyS#44, I am a bit familiar with Buddhism, so I recognize that their worldview is much more effect oriented rather than internal corruption oriented. But I admit, I am closer to their worldview that any other.

    Sin is based on the effect, and not really on the action itself. I can see the hair standing on end for many who read this, so let me explain. I believe the reason that many view sin as intrinsic instead of effect oriented is simply because those who feel it is intrinsic have not thought deeply enough about the effects. Bad actions have bad consequences and the western world has short cut the thought process by declaring actions bad in and of themselves rather than based on the effect.

    So eastern folks certainly are acutely aware of deleterious effects on others, sin.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    John W Frye#46,

    The traditionalist evangelicals have used the slippery slope tactic (regarding the historicity of Genesis 1-3) to the point that it’s getting ridiculous. I can’t believe that some here are equating the genre of Genesis 1-3 with the New Testament accounts of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If one is not history, then, alas, the other might not be either. This is not faith driven, but fear driven.

    Sorry for cutting the boring part, but yes, fear is no reason to avoid truth.

    Genesis is not even close to the intent of the NT, that should be obvious by any standard.

  • Brian Considine

    I’ll go with ChrisB – Option 6 @ #29 – we can’t know so why bother guessing. Whether the story is factual or fictional it teaches us some important truth, not the least of which is that we think we know better than God what is good for us. The story is a picture of idolatry, choosing something other than God. When we do that we lose everytime. When our first couple did that they lose the abiding presence of God, the abundant provision of God, and the great potential that was theirs with God. They also lose the simplicity of life that was theirs in the Garden, which is why we keep batting these unknowable questions around, even today. The question the “bright” asks (the better translation of the Hebrew “nachash” commonly translated serpent), is “did God really say?” But I’m trying to figure out where God said anything about trying to figure out this story, besides it being a learning lesson of our nature and why that matters for us today.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    JoeyS said: “The problem with that line of thought is that if the majority of evidence suggests an earth that is older than the Genesis story it is difficult to remain agnostic on the subject.”

    Don’t confuse YE interpretations of Genesis with the text itself. Just because Adam and Eve didn’t live 6000 years ago, that doesn’t mean they didn’t live.

    Unless a bunch of humans sprang from the ground simultaneously, there had to be a first human. I don’t see why it couldn’t have been Adam.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    ChrisB#53, “Unless a bunch of humans sprang from the ground simultaneously, there had to be a first human. I don’t see why it couldn’t have been Adam.”

    It was Harold, sorry Chris.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Sorry, the Monkey got away from me.

    The evidence is that there never was just 2, Chris. There will be others here can articulate sources better than me, but I have seen enough to believe that your accusation indicates that you have not really attempted to objectively research this topic.

  • rjs

    DRT,

    The monkey did get away from you. ChrisB has been a reasonable commenter here for a long time. I’m sure he has considered the issues. A short comment doesn’t do justice to everything.

  • Brian Considine

    “The evidence is that there never was just 2″

    DRT, what evidence would that be exactly? Where can I see it for myself?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    rjs, agreed. Chris, my apologies.

    Brian Considine#55, I hope others can provide sources, but there are some pretty well documented sources here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_evolutionary_genetics

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    ..and perhaps more directly addressing this issue is this link
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_Eve

    with this quote:

    Not the only woman

    One of the misconceptions of mitochondrial Eve is that since all women alive today descended in a direct unbroken female line from her that she was the only woman alive at the time.[10][11] However nuclear DNA studies indicate that the size of the ancient human population never dropped below some tens of thousands;[10] there were many other women around at Eve’s time with descendants alive today, but somewhere in all their lines of descent to present day people there is at least one male (and men do not pass on their mothers’ mitochondrial DNA to their children, so the mitochondrial inheritance chain is broken). By contrast, Eve’s lines of descent to each person alive today includes at least one line of descent to each person which is purely matrilineal.
    [edit] Not a contemporary of “Adam”

    Sometimes mitochondrial Eve is assumed to have lived at the same time as Y-chromosomal Adam, perhaps even meeting and mating with him. Like mitochondrial “Eve”, Y-chromosomal “Adam” probably lived in Africa; however, this “Eve” lived much earlier than this “Adam” – perhaps some 50,000 to 80,000 years earlier.[12]

  • Brian Considine

    DRT – Wikipedia? That’s your source? LOL – Okay, but your sources says, “Assuming a rate of 2%-4% per million years, this implies (which is based on a presupposition which means they don’t know with certainty) that the common ancestor of all surviving mtDNA types existed 140,000-290,000 years ago.” “This observation is robust, and this common direct female line ancestor (or mitochondrial most recent common ancestor (mtMRCA)) of all extant humans has become known as Mitochondrial Eve.” Digging a little further we read about Mitochondrial Eve-”In other words, this was the woman from whom all living humans today descend, on their mother’s side, and through the mothers of those mothers and so on, back until all lines converge on one person.

    Kinda of agrees with ChrisB’s statement “there had to be a first human,” wouldn’t you agree?

  • Brian Considine

    DRT – you do know what the word “presupposition” means right? Based on your post, you might click on that [10] where you will read – “Any hypothesis that assumes a small number of founding individuals throughout the late Pleistocene can be rejected because otherwise the evolutionary theory would be wrong and that would be inconvenient to scientists and atheist.”

    All I will say on this point is that due to the nature of Wikipedia, it’s really not a very good source. Have a good evening.

  • Lyn
  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Brian,#58, the articles are not written with the intention that there will be people poking holes in particular words, rather they are written to convey the preponderance of the evidence and the conditions under which that is not true. We are not going to get something definitive, it will have to be up to the observer to look at all the evidence and weigh the conclusions.

    And I do want to defend Wikipedia. If you think the article is dubious in some way, simply see how long that section has been out there by viewing the changes page. Wikipedia is a representation of consensus and logic, if it has been out there awhile with no one disputing it, it lend tremendous credence to the assertion that the view portrayed is the consensus view.

    If you want to consider everything I wrote here fiction then that is an OK conclusion. I think that a careful weighing of the evidence submitted (instead of trying to find a one off quote to proof text your point) will be compelling.

    We are not talking about black and white issues, one must be strong enough to go out and say something makes sense even if it disagrees with the bible. That is when the conversation starts…

  • normbv

    Speaking of snakes: Jesus and John the Baptist both called the mean spirited Jewish leaders a brood of snakes just like their father the Devil. I guess Jesus read Genesis figuratively as well as it seems He assumes humans can epitomize the Devil incarnate. I think I’ll take Jesus lead and implicate the Devil as a living breathing human in Genesis 3 as one who deceived Adam away from following God just like his offspring tried to do to Christ the Last Adam.

    Mat 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “YOU BROOD OF VIPERS! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

    Mat 12:34 YOU BROOD OF VIPERS! How can you speak good, when you are evil?

    Jesus also considered Judas as a Devil who was instructed by the Devil [Jewish leaders].

    Joh 6:70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.”

    Joh 8:44 You are of YOUR FATHER THE DEVIL, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

    Joh 13:2 During supper, when THE DEVIL had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him,

    Mat 26:14-15 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And THEY PAID HIM thirty pieces of silver.

    There you have the classical picture of the Devil incarnate; it is the one who deceived God’s faithful servants. Judas and his fellow snakes were the epitome of the Genesis story yet they were about to get their head crushed as Gen 3:15 promises. The crushing of the head of the snake was the Judgment that Christ pronounced upon Old Israel which was about to pass away as far as Christ was concerned. It was effectively finished by 70AD with the desolation of their Temple and the killing of many of the priest and rulers of Israel as Christ predicted would occur.

    It also seems that if John Walton is correct that Genesis 1 is not a literal physical creation account necessarily and is an ANE Temple creation account in reality then doesn’t that throw a monkey wrench in the idea that we have rightly discerned the author’s authorial intent historically? Doesn’t this beg the question to be asked about where the literalist gets their inflexibility in holding up an extreme literal view when the author or authors very likely would not have begun to expect their literature to be interpreted so literally? Does it go hand in hand that Christ castigated those who could not grasp his parable language that He often spoke with? It seems they had difficulty with symbolical language and took things too literally.

  • Tim

    RJS,

    With respect to your response to DRT’s response to ChrisB (how’s that for an intro?),

    I understand, as I suspect you do as well, that there is strong genetic evidence that indicates that population of humans never bottle-necked below a few thousand (and certainly never below a few hundred). There never were two “first” humans. Again, I think you know this.

    I am sure ChrisB isn’t intending to dishonestly investigate this topic, but I would venture to say that anyone who has met even a minimal level of due diligence in researching human origins should have come across that fact. So I presume ChrisB has not yet done so, particularly given the way he phrased his response as a dichotomy of two primordial hominids vs. a whole population spontaneously erupting.

    Having said that, I’m sure ChrisB is a good and thoughtful guy, so no disrespect is intended in this comment.

  • Brian Considine

    “We are not talking about black and white issues”

    DRT – Glad we agree on something. ;-)

    By the way, I’m no traditionalist on this issue, if you read my post @50, you will see that. There is a way to make sense of this account without it being literal. My point to you was just the point I reference above, with respect to both the Biblical and Science.

  • Brian Considine

    Tim, you say: “there is strong genetic evidence that indicates that population of humans never bottle-necked below a few thousand.” The CT articles says basically the same thing. So a couple of questions:

    First question – could the genetic evidence be wrong or incomplete?

    Second question – how did 10,000 humans pop into existence at the same time? They all kinda of “evolved” together?

    I’d call that miraculous at best and mathematically improbable at least. But then with God all things are possible, right?

  • Mark Z.

    ChrisB #53: Unless a bunch of humans sprang from the ground simultaneously, there had to be a first human.

    For any given definition of “human” that classifies each individual primate as either “human” or “not human”, yes.
    This is trivially true. It’s a form of the Sorites paradox.

    It doesn’t follow that such an exact definition would have any scientific merit–it’s just an arbitrary line. In particular, for any given definition of human, it’s very unlikely that the first female human mated with the first male human. They’d be interfertile with all the other hominids in their tribe.

  • Kenny Johnson

    @Brian Considine #55

    Modern evolutionary thought says that speciation occurs in isolated populations. So essentially, humans became a new species within a large population, not with just 1 or 2 individuals.

  • Tim

    Brian@65,

    Could the genetic evidence be wrong? Sure, anything’s possible. In science, as contrasted with dogmatism, we understand truth propositions to fall along a spectrum of possibilities, ranging from a hair above 0% to a hair below 100%. This should be seen as a strength not a weakness. Now take dogmatism, this approach often takes truth claims and loads them onto a value of 100%, with incompatible claims being assigned a value of 0%. This should be taken as a weakness, not a strength.

    Why? Because the scientific approach is at least being honest about uncertainty. The dogmatic approach is not, and thus leads to narrow-mindedness as extricating oneself from a faulty conclusion becomes exceedingly difficult when one can’t admit to themselves that even hypothetically there is a chance they could be “wrong.”

    As far as how humans can evolve from non-humans, I’m tempted to ask you to stop pushing the leg work onto me that you should have done before you posted on this topic. But I’ve gone this far in responding so why not.

    The short answer is that there is no categorical line, ever, that separates a human from a non-human.

    If you want the long answer:

    The species we see today are branches on an evolutionary tree. Most of the intermediate branches have long since died of. When you trace the branches back, they slowly merge with many of those branches that are now extinct, along the lines of an ancestral “trunk” if you will. You trace the human lineage back, and the human starts to look more and more like a homo Heidelbergensis. At what point does a homo Sapien become a Heidelbergensis? There is no point, just a long gray interval. It’s like asking, at what point does your baby become a toddler, and that toddler become a child? When does that happen exactly? What is the day? There are no clear cut categories, just gradual changes, though they may come in spurts. Same thing with evolution.

    OK, this question is answered for you now Brian. Before I take the time to answer another, please educate yourself on the topic you are discussing so as to not push everything onto your conversational partner. Cheers.

  • http://www.TilledSoil.org Steve Wilkinson

    @ rjs #40
    The point being… that if you are going to allow a modern naturalistic worldview to limit which aspects of the Bible are ‘believable’ to you, you’ll have just as much of a problem with the Resurrection as you will with a talking snake or donkey or walking on water, etc. And, you’ll not get any more respect in your evangelism or apologetic effort because Bill Maher is going to laugh just as much at the idea of resurrection.

    If we’re are going to relegate Genesis 1-3 to the realm of non-historical, we’d better have more basis than the idea of a talking snake doesn’t seem realistic, and more importantly, have SERIOUSLY gone through the theological implications with a fine-tooth comb!

    Regarding genre, have you considered there might be more than one overlapping genre in play in Genesis 1-3? Certainly there is ANE imagery involved… what does that have to do with the historicity? (And, no, I don’t buy Lamoureux’s three-tier cosmology view.) Why is Adam listed in the genealogies elsewhere in the Bible? Why do the Apostles and Jesus refer to these mythical people as though historical figures? Were they not quite as bright as we are today? (Crud, I’m beginning to sound like Rob Bell with all these rhetorical questions… :) )

    @ Brian #65
    Take a listen to Fuz Rana in that link I provided above. He says that, in fact, the evidence doesn’t indicate 1000s, as the models implemented to get those numbers are likely flawed. He points to experimental evidence in animal studies which contradict these models. They also point out that the trend has been to keep narrowing the numbers down as we add more data and information to the models.

  • rjs

    Steve Wilkinson,

    If I was looking for respect or apologetic impact I’d stop writing and thinking about this. I am looking for a way forward to be able to be a witness on strength of conviction – rather than a closeted Christian bracketing away all questions and conundrums. Perhaps to help others in the journey as well.

    Oh if we only drop this silly belief the world will listen“… is not on the radar. More significantly this kind of statement (and I’ve heard it in many forms) with comment on the futility of the effort is often a tactic to belittle and dismiss Christians, especially Christians in the sciences, who are trying to find the way to stay faithful.

    The point of my posts is to work through all the theological implications. But it has to be done in light of an honest and careful consideration of our “science” as well. I don’t think that Fuz Rana or the Reasons to Believe organization does this effectively or accurately. Perhaps I should find a way to engage with some of the issues raised by RTB in future posts as well.

    The point isn’t to fight in-house battles and emerge victorious (and discussions with/about Discovery Institute and RTB are “in-house”) but to demand integrity in dealing with the scientific evidence when making arguments about creation and evolution. If we do not deal honestly with the data, we will lose many or most of the Christians who go on to study science as they learn for themselves.

  • Brian Considine

    @67 Kenny – I’m not really interested in what “Modern evolutionary thought says” since modern evolutiionary thought is meaningless in God’s grand scheme of things. And, it’s frequently wrong too.

    @69 Steve – Thanks. I like to play devil’s advocate with these science guys since they so strongly favor science, apparently thinking it is infalible (i.e “modern evolutionary thought says” “the evidence says”), and often forget the rigid integrity and intellectual honesty of true science must doubt itself.

    @ RJS – “but to demand integrity in dealing with the scientific evidence when making arguments about creation and evolution.” Well that would require that the “scienctific evidence” be dealt with honestly, pointing out that the mtDNA evidence is speculative and that the underlying premise of the molecular clock used to date the evidence is actually flawed, and that all of it is based on a presupposition of a naturalistic worldview.

    I am reminded of what Paul said to Timothy: “As I urged you…that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies (i.e.evolution). Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

  • Brian Considine

    RJS, “who are trying to find the way to stay faithful.”

    How about trusting in God and living with the certainty that He loves you. Isn’t that sufficient? How do you think science will take you there? You do trust God, don’t you?

  • rjs

    Brian,

    If I didn’t I wouldn’t be spending time thinking and writing about these issues.

    In fact my foundation is first and foremost in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    These conversations are unimportant for some people, which is fine. They are very important for others, and will become even more important in the future.

  • Brian Considine

    RJS, well, then my brother, maybe heed the advice of Paul when He says, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Christ’s sufficiency is suffucient.

    “will become even more important in the future.”

    That is either prophetic or speculative – time will tell.

    Have a blessed day in His grace.

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    I just read the CT article. It is very one sided. It functions as a promotional piece for Biologos. Too bad. We need an alternative to CT that actually helps Evangelicals to think and gives them the tools to do so.

    It largely uses the tired old method of pitting scientists against theologians. Unless it is scientist against scientist, it is a poor debate.

    Rana, who is quoted commented in the article:

    “Honesty, it poorly researched . . . They completely have ignored the fact that there is a strong scientific response … to the genomic evidence for evolution . . .”

    http://c450913.r13.cf2.rackcdn.com/snf20110531hrfr.mp3

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    My comment should read:

    “Rana, who is quoted in the article, commented on the article:”

  • Lyn

    I don’t usually engage other commenters (and am not saying this to be obnoxious, lol) but, Brian, I think RJS’s comment about Christian scientists wanting to find ways to stay faithful is an accurate depiction of many God-trusting, Christ-following scientists. They do live with the certainty that God loves them and that is sufficient unto salvation. But because God has wired them up differently than God wired you up (that is, they have a different personality, different interests, different perspective on things), they look at God’s creation and say, “hmm, I wonder why…or how…or what if…”

    So I guess my thought here is, let’s assume RJS’s sincerity – along with the vast majority of readers/posters here – in trying to “work through all the theological implications” (#70) and sharpen each other, and not bludgeon each other in order to emerge victorious in our comments while questioning the other’s ability to trust God for the answers.

  • Brian Considine

    “Before I take the time to answer another, please educate yourself on the topic you are discussing so as to not push everything onto your conversational partner. Cheers.”

    Wow – Tim feelin the love. :-) You decry dogmatism, which I’m not, but are blinded by your own scientism. Cheers.

  • Brian Considine

    Lyn – Thanks but who’s bludgeoning anyone. By the way, I don’t make any assumptions, I ask pointed questions. And, I am simply pointing out the insufficiencies of science and the overall sufficiency of Christ that is paramount. The protagonists of science should be able to put up with some antagonism, with respect to their beliefs. Goodness knows the opposite if more true today toward people of faith.

  • Richard

    @ 74

    Just a heads up, RJS is a sister in Christ. And an incredibly faithful, humble, and intelligent one at that.

    Christ gave us minds to pursue, study, and steward his creation as well. Using the intellect God has given us is in no way demonstrating that we don’t trust the sufficiency of Christ for godliness and salvation. That’s why RJS is even approaching scientific evidence through a theological lens and wrestling with the implications thereof.

    If you’re here to learn and contribute, that’s great and we’re glad to have your perspective. Not sure if you’re new to blogging or not but a word of advice: loving and Christlike tones are often lost when typing and posting on a blog. It requires us to be extra intentional in clarifying what we mean and careful in how we attempt to say things so we don’t come off condescending toward one another.

    Grace and peace.

  • Brian Considine

    Richard, thanks for the good advise. Yes, God gave us great minds to explore His creation with. The challenge we have is in maintaining an equilibrium for intellectual integrity toward what can be known about our world and what is speculation, and then lining that up with truth. To many today desire to weigh so heavily toward science that they forget that science must doubt itself to keep its integrity. These matters are far from settled, though frequently presented as such, and when we are “trying to find the way to stay faithful,” science won’t take us there, because we can’t know with certainty what the past is. But too many today think they can, which is simply pride. God gave us great minds to worship Him with, not to try to figure out whether Adam and Eve are literal or allegorical, we can’t known with certainty, but to learn the lesson they teach us and trust God. Shalom.

  • Kenny Johnson

    @pds,

    That article may have seemed one-sided to you, but later in the issue, in the “Where We Stand” section, which is subtitled, CT’s view on key issues, the article is entitled:
    “No Adam, No Eve, No Gospel.”

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Brian#81, said

    science won’t take us there, because we can’t know with certainty what the past is. But too many today think they can, which is simply pride. God gave us great minds to worship Him with, not to try to figure out whether Adam and Eve are literal or allegorical, we can’t known with certainty, but to learn the lesson they teach us and trust God.

    Brian, I ask that you try and put yourself in my shoes and in other’s shoes. Here is the idea, I believe that God is the creator of everything, and he has put us here to enjoy his creation. Enjoy is certainly something that is in the eye of the beholder, but I think you can even allow me to define how I enjoy and do justice to God’s creation, right? You do not have the right to dispute what I find to enjoy. I find it enjoyable to appreciate God’s creation and I feel that it praises and worships God when I do that. I am not trying to take God out of the creation, I am trying to find him in it. And appreciating it is enhanced greatly through understanding. As a manager I would tell my people that I want to appreciate what they are doing, and in order to do that I need to understand what they are doing.

    So the first two sentences in your comment are quite offensive to me because you are accusing me of pride when in fact I consider my pursuit of understanding to be the ultimate act of humility. I am constantly humbled by the creation that is made and feel that we honor and worship God by appreciating what he has given to us.

    Your last sentence in the quote above seems to me to be saying that you only find god in the bible. I experience God much more broadly than that. I find God in The Spirit, in the Creation and reflected (though cracked) in his other creatures.

    I ask that you try and put yourself in my shoes as I have presented them in this post and try and understand the perspective from which I engage in these conversations. It is not dishonest or against god in any way to try and figure out his creation. I do find it dishonest to relegate God to the words of the bible and eliminate other avenues.

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    Kenny #82,

    Thanks for the heads up on that. Do they discuss the scientific response to Biologos in that? One of my frustrations with Biologos is their failure to discuss how they engage with the proper methodology for the historical sciences. The CT article does not discuss this at all. My latest post on this is here, and I link to extended quotes by Stephen Jay Gould on this topic:

    http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/response-to-christianity-today-article-on-adam-and-eve/

  • Brian Considine

    DRT – My apologies, as I didn’t mean to cause you offense personally. I think you miss the point however of my statement you quote. Of course, we can find God in creation, I do all the time, it is His creation. The point is not that we can’t use science to tell us more about that creation, but rather we need to approach science with the intellectual honesty that there are many gray areas, but often today those gray area are not seen for what they are. So proper humilty calls for us to handle what ever evidence there is with the open hand of uncertainty. You speak of the preponderance of evidence in this case, and as I previously noted, it is based on speculation, a flawed system with respect to the underlying science and biased from a naturalistic worldview that is inconclusive at best. Therefore, any thinking in relation to the mtDNA chain needs to be viewed in that light.

  • Brian Considine

    “The firm requirement for all science–whether stereotypical or historical–lies in secure testability, not direct observation. We must be able to determine whether our hypotheses are definitely wrong or probably correct (we leave assertions of certainty to preachers and politicians).” Stephen Jay Gould

    PDS – love that!

  • rjs

    Kenny and pds,

    I am looking forward to reading the editorial, and plan to interact with that as well in the near future. I haven’t been able to get ahold of it yet though.

    Brian,

    None of the issues of timing etc. that you mention, or Steve brings up, or others have commented in in the past undermine evolution or send us back to a model consistent with a literal historical reading of Genesis with the special creation of kinds with a unique lone pair of humans who only produce a line of interbred offspring. At best the discrepancies provide data that refine and shape our understanding of the process of creation (evolutionary creation). At worst they represent egregious misrepresentations of the data. Most fall somewhere between these two extremes.

    I wish that scientists would be more cautious with sensational claims (they usually are in the technical literature), but the image of a theory in trouble just isn’t so.

  • Brian Considine

    “but the image of a theory in trouble just isn’t so.”

    RJS, you are welcome to that opinion, I have my doubts. But greater minds than mine, I would say ours too but I don’t know your mind that well :-), will debate this issue ad infinitum because we often don’t recognize what colors our own worldview and our pride doesn’t allow us to easily change our minds. What I am suggesting here is that simply the intellectual integrity to say honestly, “I don’t know” Or, even “I’m not certain.” And, I am willing to apply that both to the science and the biblical accounts of creation. Are you?

    Returning to the question you asked in the post:

    Does it matter if the author thought these accounts were historically true? If so why?

    In reading the CT article yesterday, what stuck me was the apparent crisis of faith that this issue is causing many today. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think the Tim Keller’s would say definitely “yes.” The “author” might indeed have thought these accounts historically true based on the oral tradition. The “author” would have no reason to believe otherwise. I believe, however, we can find a way forward, holding the story loosely as a vital lesson that speaks truth to our very nature, requiring reconciliation with God, when we focus on the metanarrative of scripture rather than the dogmatic adherance to a literal intepretation of this account, regardless of what science may or may not some day reveal.

    Grace and peace.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    OK Brian, lets try this from intellectual honesty. Let’s take the bible out of this as being the word of god and assume that it is simply an articulation of a theory. Do you believe that there is any evidence for that theory relative to other theories?

  • Brian Considine

    One last point.

    “reading of Genesis with the special creation of kinds with a unique lone pair of humans who only produce a line of interbred offspring.”

    Well, I have always wondered where Cain’s wife came from and who would be threatening him so as to need God’s protection. But what we can’t know with any assurance is that these people “evolved” without conflating the evidence available to us.

  • Brian Considine

    “Do you believe that there is any evidence for that theory relative to other theories?”

    DRT – if your asking about creation theory, my position is that its not vital for me to support the Biblical account as literal, as I have said. I am much more interested in the meta-narrative, the grand story told in the Bible, than in the Genesis being validated. We can’t know and there are much more important things to know – namely Christ.

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    DRT #89,

    What theory are you talking about? I think there is a lot of evidence that God was actively involved in creating the universe, the world and human beings. I think there is also a lot of evidence that supports the contention that evolution through gradual changes by random mutation and natural selection is not the best explanation for what we see around us.

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    To clarify:

    I think there is also a lot of evidence that supports the contention that evolution through gradual changes by random mutation and natural selection is not the best explanation for much of what we see around us.

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    “…to demand integrity in dealing with the scientific evidence when making arguments about creation and evolution. If we do not deal honestly with the data, we will lose many or most of the Christians who go on to study science as they learn for themselves.”

    Truer words were never spoken. This intergity to the science is essential. It actually is related to the post on whether there is a bias against evangelicals in academia. The bias is well deserved and will continue until Christians deal honestly with the data.

    This isssue is personally important to me. I have a son who is a Ph.D candidate in physics. Physics is his vocation–his calling–his gift from God.

    Widespread Christian dishonesty in dealing with the scietific data (I’m specifically call out professional Christian apologetics organizations such as the Discovery Institute and RTB) are harming Chritianity and the witness of those Chrstians, such as rjs, who are using their God-given talents in scientific endeavors.

    Here is the sciecne:

    1. Evolution is as well understood as almost any other branch of science.

    2. Common ancestry of all lliving forms of life on earth is as well-documented as you could reasonably expect. It is not disputed by any serious scientist.

    3. Common ancetrsy bewtten human and other primates is also as well-documented as you could reasonably expect. It is not disputed by any serious scientist.

    4. Studies of the human genome, DNA and genetics has established that there there was never a time when the human population was less than a thousand people. There was no couple that are the ancestors of every human on earth today. This science is so well developed tha twe unhestatingly send poeple tot he gas chanmber and will release convicted murderers based on the DNA results. Other life and death decisona re routinely amde base don this science. The acacuracy and precision of the science that leads to the above conclusions is widely accepted as “beyond a resonable doubt” in courts, in medicine and in a number of other fields.

    I don’t expect Paul or any other first century person to have goten the science right. Even if he thought Adam and Eve were real, it does not take away from his message.

    “What criteria would you use to evaluate the text/”

    God expects us to use our heads.

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    UC #94,

    Do you really equate the certainty we have in using DNA to

    1. identify criminals in legal proceedings by matching DNA

    and

    2. estimate ancient population sizes using population genetics models extrapolated back thousands of years?

    Remarkable. I think the failure of the Christian church (and many scientists) to understand the methodology of the historical sciences (see #84 above) is tragic. Thanks for this excellent example.

  • Brian Considine

    Unapologetic Catholic – perhaps Christians will be seen as viewing the sciences honestly when science dogmatists do, and not conflating the evidence to draw conclusions that are anything but conclusive or can be easily viewed different worldview lens. It’s not as simply black and white as you make it out to be.

  • Brian Considine

    should read – :easily viewed through a different worldview lens.”

  • Jeff L

    Unapologetic Catholic,
    thanks for stating far better than I could the position shared by myself and by many Christians with whom I interact.

    RJS,
    thank you (from a fellow academic) for continuing to push us hard to think about things of real import to Believers in the 21st century.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    BC#94

    Unapologetic Catholic – perhaps Christians will be seen as viewing the sciences honestly when science dogmatists do, and not conflating the evidence to draw conclusions that are anything but conclusive or can be easily viewed different worldview lens. It’s not as simply black and white as you make it out to be.

    Brian, it is simply an absurd idea that one should base the validity of a whole world of thought on the veracity of the people who dogmatically hold to the position. Based on your criterion Christians will never be seen as viewing the sciences honestly.

    Would you want all of science and the secular world to judge Christians based on those who hold the most dogmatic beliefs? I don’t think so.

    I believe you are setting up an impossible to win scenario here just to be argumentative and that is not helping this conversation.

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    DRT #99,

    UC (#94) calling other Christian scientists liars is really not “helping this conversation.”

    RJS, why do you always give his offensive insults a free pass?

    Scot?

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    PDS, Thank you for making my point:

    “Do you really equate the certainty we have in using DNA to

    1. identify criminals in legal proceedings by matching DNA

    and

    2. estimate ancient population sizes using population genetics models extrapolated back thousands of years.”

    Yes, I do. The science for both is identical–precisely identical. If #1 is valid, number #2 MUST ALSO be valid. If #2 is NOT valid, then #1 MUST ALSO be not valid.

    “the evidence to draw conclusions that are anything but conclusive”

    is too broad a brush as it relates to science. If you climb into an airplane and that airplane takes off and flies to its destination, it does so because science’s level of “conclusiveness” relating to physics, fluid flow, and Bernoulli’s equations is so high that we will risk millions of people’s lives on the “conclusiveness” of our understanding of the relevant science.

    DNA testing and genetics are nearly as conclusive. We rely on the accuracy of our understanding of genetics to make daily life or death decisions along with other very important decisions relating to paternity family relationships, treatment and prevention of genetic diseases, development of vaccines and in the entire field of medicine in countless ways, generally. The consistent repeatable results allow us to reach a very high level of conclusiveness with respect to the science of genetics.

    A side effect of that is that we can also say with a very high level of conclusivenes that–in the absence of a supernatural event–there was not a historical Adam and Eve.

    My experience is that those who accuse science of being dogmatic are not knowledgable as to the state of knowledge of the acual science that allows science to make some pretty positive assertions about the natural world. Some reflection on what we can say with near certainty about the natural world is in order. There are large areas of science that are very well understood. Obviously, on the otehr hand, there are uncertainties and ambiguities on the cutting edges of science that do reach to speculation in some cases.

    It does not help Christian credibilty at all to claim that the central core theories of science, far away from cutting edge ambiguities and uncertainties, that are in fact near certain, are somehow “speculative.” Biology, evolution and genetics have achieved a very high level of conclusiveness.

    That’s why rjs’s questions are so important. How does theology address our current state of science so as to give glory to God? Belittling the efforts of scientists, accusing them of dogmatism, challenging their integrity or claiming that both Christian and non-Christian scientists are engaged in a materialst conspiracy to deliver us all to atheism is probably not an effective method of theologically grappling with the issues.

  • Brian Considine

    “It does not help Christian credibilty at all to claim that the central core theories of science, far away from cutting edge ambiguities and uncertainties, that are in fact near certain, are somehow “speculative.” Biology, evolution and genetics have achieved a very high level of conclusiveness.”

    What doesn’t help is the logical fallacy of lumping all science together and despairing that when an argument is made in opposition to a position on evolution, it tarnishes all science.

    What doesn’t help is the fact that those who should seek the truth can’t see that such claims concerning “science” are far from resolved.

    For instance, this whole issue of mtDNA with respect to Eve is less than resolved. So if the science can be wrong on this issue, there is very possibility that it can be wrong on other issues as well. That after all is the history of the sciences, which aren’t meant to prescribe truth but try to figure out how something is, with “secure testability, not direct observation,” but never to be dogmatic about it.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    pds#100, OK, let me rephrase my last sentence.

    Brian, I believe you are setting up an impossible to win scenario here that seems to just be argumentative and that is not helping this conversation.

    I don’t anticipate that the revision helps your complaint, but would love to be said I am wrong.

  • Brian Considine

    @ 99 – DRT – you do understand what the word “hyperbole” means, yes?

  • Brian Considine

    “Brian, I believe you are setting up an impossible to win scenario here that seems to just be argumentative and that is not helping this conversation”

    DRT – let me see if I can simplify the hyperbole I used that seems to have you agitated. How about this –

    There is no need to accommodate science when that science can be wrong.

    How’s that work for ya? :-)

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Brian, all science can be wrong. I honestly don’t understand your point.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Brian, if I read you correctly you are saying that you overstated your position when you said “perhaps Christians will be seen as viewing the sciences honestly when science dogmatists do”, right?

    The problem I have with that is that I actually don’t see that position as being hyperbolic, it instead seems to be the MO of many who object to science having merit.

    Am I close?

  • Brian Considine

    Exactly, DRT, “all science can be wrong” Could not have said it better myself. But what’s not to understand? I have established my position as handling these issues loosely, for intellectual honesty, because we don’t know that it isn’t wrong, so why be dogmatic about it. UC claimed that Christians are dishonest when they approach science, my counter was that science dogmatists are just a guilty. Hope that clarifies it.

    It’s been fun, enjoy the rest of the weekend.

  • Brian Considine

    “many who object to science having merit.”

    Who objects to science having merit? The objection is to the truth claims some make with respect to science that we can’t validate with proper scientific method.

    I’m out.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Brian, you too have a good weekend.

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    UC #101,

    You said,

    “Yes, I do. The science for both is identical–precisely identical.”

    This is self-evidently false. Not much more to be said.

    “A side effect of that is that we can also say with a very high level of conclusivenes (sic) that–in the absence of a supernatural event–there was not a historical Adam and Eve.”

    Thanks, that gets at a key presupposition. I wonder if everyone on this blog agrees with you that we can be sure that God did nothing supernatural when Adam and Eve appeared on earth. That is a necessary presupposition of all the calculations by population genetics. Are we all comfortable with that? I am not.

    It begs the question we are all trying to figure out.

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    I think my point are misunderstood:

    “UC claimed that Christians are dishonest when they approach science, my counter was that science dogmatists are just a guilty”

    I don’t think Christians are dishonest. I think some Christian apologists are dishonest. In any event, I disagree with this false dichotomy. There’s a difference between “dishonesty” and dogmatism. There is no excuse, under any circumstances, for a CHristian to be dishonest. Certainly, the excuse that others are “dogmatic” is not remotely a good one.

    “I wonder if everyone on this blog agrees with you that we can be sure that God did nothing supernatural when Adam and Eve appeared on earth.”

    That’s not my position at all. In fact, it’s the opposite. Science is uncotroverted that there could not have been a historical Adam and Eve in the absense of a supernatural event.

    What I am saying is, “Let your Yea mean Yea and your Nay mean Nay.”
    It is deceptive to weasel around the science by simultaneously arguing that there’s some doubt as to the science while at the same time claiming that God could have worked miracles. If you contend there was a historical Adam and Eve then that could only have come about by a supernatural event.
    Own it–stand up for what you believe and claim the miracle. If you, instead attempt to quibble on the science so at to cloak your theology in the mantle of science while at the same time criticizing “mainstream” science, then your yea means nay.

    If you agree with me that Genesis has a very important message for us and that the story is allegorical in the form of a parable, then the question of a historical Adam and Eve does not raise any conflicts between science and religion.

  • http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/ pds

    “It is deceptive to weasel around the science by simultaneously arguing that there’s some doubt as to the science while at the same time claiming that God could have worked miracles.”

    False. They can both be true, and they are. Why not argue both?

    1. There is lots of doubt about the science.

    2. God could have worked miracles.

    You are simply using bad logic to conclude that other people are dishonest. What a shame.

  • http://www.TilledSoil.org Steve Wilkinson
  • http://www.TilledSoil.org Steve Wilkinson

    @ rjs #70

    If it were not to gain respect, why are those in the theistic evolution (TE) camp so often hostile towards the old-earth creation (OEC) position? There are obviously scientists in both camps who disagree on this issue, and there is considerable disagreement over theological implications within the church. It seems there should be room for the conversation, yet I find that not to be the case in many places. My alma mater, for example, pushes TE in most classes and discussions that touch the subject, yet refuses to entertain the discussion when it comes up, saying the matters of this debate aren’t the important point (a contradictory position, which I’ve complained about). But, that seems common in my experience. Maybe not you, as I don’t know you well enough, but this trend in general seems rather parallel to past attempts of an embarrassed church to gain the approval of academia. This doesn’t mean it is the wrong position, but a few caution flags should pop up.

    “Perhaps I should find a way to engage with some of the issues raised by RTB in future posts as well.”

    That wouldn’t be a bad idea. They generally don’t get engaged enough by folks having these discussions. When I see them mentioned by TE proponents or in TE books, it is often an inaccurate or simplistic view of their positions being straw-manned. And, their views and those like them aren’t often even invited to the discussion. It usually turns into TE discussing YEC and then declaring victory.

    “If we do not deal honestly with the data, we will lose many or most of the Christians who go on to study science as they learn for themselves.”

    Agreed, I just want to be sure that is what is really going on. In my experience, there is more to it. And, I’m not sure how this applies to entertaining the OEC view, as it is also certainly compatible enough with science so as not to pose any problem for these Christians headed into the field. (If you don’t agree here, I think I’d have to respectfully point back to my original point of fear of loss of respect.)

    Also, I’m not sure I agree that these are ultimately ‘in-house’ discussions. While the YEC, OEC, TE conversation in general might not be all that important, I’ve found it is one of the hottest apologetic issues there is (and, IMO, historical Adam or not is pretty important). We, on all sides of the debate, need to be sure we’re portraying the complexity of this in-house discussion out to the public at large. It isn’t as simple as hordes of ignorant Christians and a few enlightened ones. That seems to be the view in the general media, and unfortunately, what I’ve all too often seen TE folks attempting to work to their advantage.

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    “If it were not to gain respect, why are those in the theistic evolution (TE) camp so often hostile towards the old-earth creation (OEC) position?”

    I think rjs addresse that very well in comment 70. It appears you are approaching this problem through the lens of EC vs. OEC.

    rjs is approaching this problem from the view of science
    and religion. The deliverances of science come from God, and they are good. There are no “scientists in the OEC camp.” There is no OEC science. There are apologists in the OEC camp who have science degrees but that’s not the same thing at all.

    That’s why rjs observed, “But it has to be done in light of an honest and careful consideration of our “science” as well. I don’t think that Fuz Rana or the Reasons to Believe organization does this effectively or accurately.”

    Assuming for a moment the truth of that observation, you can see why there’s hostility to the OEC position. It’s not a matter of external “respect” but, instead a matter of internal “integrity” in dealing with the science. There are a large number of Christians who have been called by God to be scientists. It must be painful for those scientist to see co-religionists disparage the science in a misguided attempt to practice apologetics. I am certainly hostile to the efforts of such people.


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