Ancient Biology in Genesis (or Goats Begat Goats): Slideshow 6 from Denis Lamoureux

Today we continue Denis Lamoureux’s series of brief slideshows on his popular book I Love Jesus & I Accept EvolutionIn the previous four slideshows, Lamoureux covered chapters 1 and 2, chapter 3, a supplement to chapter 4 (the sources of Genesis) and chapter 4 (“Biblical Accounts of Origins”).

Today’s post summarizes chapter 6 of his book: Genesis contains not only an “ancient cosmology” (which he covers in chapters 3 and 4) but an “ancient biology.”  The takeaway line: “Adam is the retrojective conclusion of ancient taxonomy.” If you want that translated into English you’ll need to watch the slideshow.

Lamoureux is associate professor of science and religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta. He holds three earned doctoral degrees—dentistry, theology, and biology–which uniquely qualifies him to speak to the issue of human origins and Christian faith. He gets the science, he gets the hermeneutics, and he articulates both clearly for non-specialists (full bio here).

I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution is a great introduction to his view of origins called “evolutionary creation.” For those of you who are beyond the beginner’s stage, you can read his much thicker book Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution.

  • Nancy Rosenzweig

    It’s interesting that young earth creationists accept basic concepts of modern astronomy (spherical planets revolving around a sun which is located in a galaxy), but hold on to an ancient biology not much different from the one described in this slideshow. Because the fact of evolution cannot be completely denied, they’ve invented a taxonomic system – baraminology – that accepts some limited evolution (within kinds, or baramins, but never outside of them), while still holding that there was an original goat from which all goats are descended.

    Denis, you’ve made mention elsewhere of the “one seed” theory of reproduction – all future descendants of a male are contained, in miniature, in his seed or sperm – and I wonder if young earth creationists believe in some form of this theory as well. While looking up baraminology on the Answers in Genesis site, I found this tidbit: “Since Adam was the head of the human race, when he fell we who were in the loins of Adam fell also.”
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/who-was-cains-wife

    Although it may appear that the author was writing figuratively, I suspect not – young earth creationists are literalists, after all. And a belief in the one-seed theory might explain why they believe that while microevolution occurs, macroevolution is impossible – all the future descendants already exist in the loins of the male, just as we all existed in Adam’s loins.

  • David Pitchford

    It hadn’t occurred to me that the Israelites wouldn’t have needed Genesis to believe that there was a first man created by God/the gods–it was the obvious result of the ancient taxonomy based on what they observed about human descent. That makes it more obvious that the basic creation of Adam is part of the “incident” in Lemoreux’s parlance and helps focus on the “message” that would have been unique to this story (how Adam is created, what God says to Adam and has him do).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=531608532 Chuck Sigler

    I’ve very much appreciated these posts by Denis Lamoureux and the spirit in which he has presented his material; encouraging personal decisions from the evidence he presents. I’ve also been to his web site and began viewing his longer web lectures there. While the conclusions seem to follow from Lamoureux’s discussion, I am also aware of individuals like Vern Poythress (“Adam Versus Claims From Genetics”, available on frame-poythress.org) and C. John Collins who continue to affirm a historical Adam despite the persuasiveness of the position argued by Denis Lamoureux and Peter Enns. I haven’t read Collins yet (I did read his review of Peter’s “The Evolution of Adam”), but have his previously published work (Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?) and the soon-to-be published “Reading Genesis 1 and 2: An Evangelical
    Conversation” to which he contributed on my “want to read” list.

    What I haven’t decided yet is whether or not a denial of a historical Adam, in some sense does or does not undermine the authority or inspiration of Scripture. In Peter Enns’s “Inspiration and Incarnation” his incarnational analogy of Scripture proposed that “as Christ is both God and human, so is the Bible;” meaning that “Christ’s incarnation is analogous to Scripture’s ‘incarnation.’” Orthodox Christology holds that while Christ was 100% human, he was also without sin in his human nature. To what extent does this aspect of the incarnation of Christ influence an incarnational understanding of the Bible? If the human aspect of Scripture also means it does not “miss the mark,” that it is without error, then how far can we go in rejecting or reimagining the historicity of Genesis 2 and 3 without missing the mark ourselves?

    • http://www.facebook.com/peter.enns.3 Peter Enns

      Chuck, for what it’s worth—-I read and reviewed Collins’s book (there is a link somewhere on this blog), and I think it has crippling intellectual problems. Poythress is not a scientist and I am not sure how he feels he can weigh in on a technical matter like genetics. I know one geneticist who is quite astounded an article like that was published, but he plans to set the record straight in a response. I also read Reading Gen 1-2, and in my opinion, the essays and exchanges with Longman and Walton are helpful, but the others are aimed at defending some form of literalism. I plan on writing a brief review of the book fairly soon.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=531608532 Chuck Sigler

        Thanks Peter. I found your review of Collins: http://www.rca.org/Page.aspx?pid=7796. Vern Poythress is not a geneticist, but he does have a Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard. Just a thought when mentioning Poythress; does his application of multiperspectivalism have anything to add to this debate on the historicity of Adam?

        • http://www.facebook.com/peter.enns.3 Peter Enns

          No, I think it’s Van Tliian presuppositionalism: Transcend data and move quickly to metaphysics. I understand that VP has a PhD in mathematics, but that does not qualify him to engage genetics any more than my PhD does.

          • Denis O. Lamoureux

            And I have a PhD in biology and I would be very careful to comment on genetics because that’s not my biological specialty. It’s amazing how people with no training in a discipline feel entitled to comment on topics outside their knowledge base. Evangelicals are particularly bad regarding this behavior.

          • Stephen

            Taking up Denis Lamoureux’s comment here, one reason that “Evangelicals are particularly bad regarding this behavior” in these discussions is that their apologetics fields of discourse are predominantly in-house affairs. People like Poythress produce their work not for those who are competent to assess the issues and who may also disagree with him, but for people who already agree and/or who are largely incompetent to assess the issues.

            What matters in this discourse is the (notional) prestige and legitimacy of demonstrating academic mastery, regardless of the fact that critically evaluated expert academic substance is lacking. The goal of products in this discourse is assure its consumers that really smart, (supposedly) qualified, and educated people hold the “right” positions, not to make arguments that could persuade (or at least be recognized by) potentially dissenting experts.

            As Peter Enns knows, here I am basically outlining some of the points I try to establish in my religious studies and sociological analyses of evangelical scholarship.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Godawa/1339968868 Brian Godawa

    Peter, I’m a fan of Denis, and in fact his writing on the Mesopotamian worldview in Genesis convinced me and the dam broke in terms of understanding ANE science in the Bible and facing that reality. So I am very open to the argument of a non-historical Adam and in fact suspect you are right about it. That said, this current argument is not convincing, and I need a better one for a couple reasons. First, the ancients DID in fact know and understand artificial selection (remember Jacob and the spotted lambs?) so they did not have an “unchanging” immutable view of genetics as Denis claims. Secondly, there is extensive evidence in the Bible of the sexual commingling of human and angelic Sons of God that is ALSO an ANE concept that proves that they DID have a strong notion of interspecies (so to speak) mixings. Michael S. Heiser’s scholarly work on that is extensive. So my point is that Denis has failed to prove that the ancient taxonomy was immutable and retrojective.

    Respectfully,
    Brian

    • Denis O. Lamoureux

      Brian,
      You have an incorrect definition of immutability. Cows do not change into goats. Cows remain cows; and goats remain goats.
      Second, you are also incorrect about “extensive evidence in the Bible of sexual commingling of humans and angelical Sons of God.” It only occurs in Gen 6:1-4. I know because that passage was my masters thesis. And it’s not commingling. Celestial being were thought to have seed, and women were understood to be like incubators.
      Denis

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Godawa/1339968868 Brian Godawa

        Oh, Hi Denis! First of all, thank you for your work. It has been very helpful to me in my own study.

        On the goats remain goats. That’s a good point. But since they developed artificial selection in ancient times, doesn’t that count for the point that they understood there was change within the kinds? Your language was so absolute about “no change” that’s what made me skeptical.

        Regarding the Genesis 6 passage, that is also a good point about the agricultural seed notion, which I accept. However, the offspring of Genesis 6 as Nephilim were understood as giants and the mixed progeny of that union. It is not only in Genesis 6 where this comes up. It is also referenced in Jude 6-7, Numbers 13:32-33, 1 Pet 3:18-21 and 2Pet 2:4-17, and of course, in Joshua, the whole text is loaded with references to the Anakim giants all over Canaan who came from the Nephilim (Rephaim and others in Numbers). So it seems to me that constitutes a pretty strong argument for the extensive evidence of heavenly and humanly kinds being mixed and creating mutable “monsters.”

        I’ve read alot of dissertations and scholarly work on Gen 6 and the Nephilim, but would still be interested in reading your thesis if it is available. Brian Doak’s dissertation, Last of the Rephaim was one of the best.

  • James

    Ancient biology/taxonomy should go together with ancient geneology. If the former takes us back to a non-historical Adam, where does the latter take us? I suspect one must pass from literal bodies to mythological ones with no clear ‘missing link’ in between. From the descendants of Terah (Abraham’s father) forward one must be on fairly firm historical ground, I would think. Funny how distinctions between myth and history are so important to us scientific moderns. And, pre-moderns seem to use different criteria for determining ‘truth’ than we do. Happily the “inerrant” and “spiritual” message remains (for us and them) untainted by changing times. Lesson: Applying ‘enlightenment logic’ to ancient narrative text is like fitting a square peg into a round hole–use a little imagination. Nothing against the slideshow per se.

    • Nancy Rosenzweig

      James, one reason that people get stuck on a literal reading of Genesis 1-3 is because Adam is included in some genealogical lists. They have the exact problem you describe – the assumption that ancient peoples had the same understanding of genealogies as we do. Lamoureux goes into the ancient uses of genealogies in some depth – these audio slides are from his website, used in his Science and Religion course, and as you’ll see this was nothing like our modern concern of having a complete and accurate historical record of one’s ancestry: http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/as55/index.html

  • DMH

    Peter, thanks for posting all these, and Denis, thanks for putting all this together. I find these so clear and simple that I am using these in our families Scripture discussion times. My kids are 17 and 14, and with some discussion afterwards they seem to really be getting it. We used to home school (no longer) our kids and I was always on the lookout for good Bible/Science curriculum… but could rarely find anything. Denis have you ever thought of putting this in a middle and high school (or even earlier) curriculum format? I really don’t think the evangelical world will change regarding these ideas until we reach the children.

    • Denis O. Lamoureux

      Dear DMH,
      I have a high school science-religion book in the works, and I am currently making a series of high school lectures available online.
      Here’s an older version of one of them on different views of origins:
      http://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/wl_2_beyond_high_school.htm

      One of the problems is that evangelical schools, colleges, churches, and publishers block out guys like me. But they can’t block the internet.
      Best,
      Denis

  • r.v.s

    Thanks for this series. Highly interesting and helpful.

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