Religion Prof: The Blog of James F. McGrath
The Blog of Dr. James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, Indianapolis
This The Dispersal of Darwin
So funny. If evolution were true then there is no God and you cannot call yourself a Christian as there is no Christ either.
But I am a Christian, and hence you must be wrong about evolution.
Unorthodox Christian, but alas, the religious studies field established by liberal Protestants would disagree.
As an atheist, I’d love if you explain the logic that demonstrates that evolution being true proves there is no God, because that would be*really* useful to me. I can’t quite work it out for myself unfortunately: I can easily come up with far too many ways there could be a God and a Christ and yet we could have evolved, but if there’s a refutation I’d love to hear it!
Explain what you mean by that. St. Augustine argues we should consider multiple possible interpretations of Genesis. St. Justin Martyr and St. Irenaeus take the days as 1,000 year periods, Origen, quoted frequently in the Catechism of the Catholic Church holds that Genesis is allegorical, St. Basil takes Genesis literally. All are valid but the science points to evolution it seems. Then again, you never know, evolution could end up in the same trash can as spontaneous generation.
If you mean no literal Adam and Eve if evolution is true, you are quite wrong because you are forgetting theologians define the human as an enfleshed soul. Which means there might be human-type creatures that went extinct after a while but no real reason to reject monogenesis unless you are dogmatically trying to entertain scientific materialism.
I’d recommend, much to the dismay of spinkham, Alister McGrath. An atheist convert to a very traditional based Anglican faith and an evolutionist who is an expert on historical theology. He has a book called Dawkins’s God which you might find interesting.
I don’t begrudge you your choice of heros, but Gordon Glover’s Beyond the Firmament, Waltons’ The Lost World of Genesis One, or Peter Enns’ The Evolution of Adam might be more instructive in this particular case.
I will take issue with one of your claims: There is clear and compelling evidence against monogenesis (of which this is just the tip of the iceberg) which has led to lots of post hoc rationalizing lately(of which this is one tiny example).
Evolution certainly does problematize certain things that were previously considered to be theological certainties as well as greatly expand the scope of challenges like the problem of evil while limiting certain traditional answers(the fall from grace can be thought of as one of the earliest theodicies), but nonetheless it certainly does not disprove theism or Christianity in the broad.
“clear and compelling evidence against monogenesis”
I wasn’t referring to biological monogenesis
“post hoc rationalizing lately”
That’s actually a good article arguing in favor of theological monogenesis and biological polygenesis. You should read it. I wouldn’t say its post hoc rationalizing. I’d say that it’s just plain rationalizing. Post hoc means “after this” or “because of this”. Meaning that Peter Enns and James McGrath are arguing post hoc. Adherents of monogenesis are simply dethroning materialism by contending for the traditional truth of Christian anthropology (linked toward the bottom).
The notion of monogenesis is actually quite a bit more complicated then saying “Look! We found these things that look like humans so therefore, polygenesis is true!” One has to define what makes a human a human in the first place and in a state where gradual occurrences occur, even the slightest variation can make a human. Next, you need speciation for there to be a new species in the first place. Hence, there is no solidified argument against monogenesis.
The problem with a lot of those guys you point out is when they look at the text, they’re not reading it from a theological point of view but more of how they can believe in a scientific claim without throwing their God out the window. Which is no problem. But as my older sister points out, these guys have a tendency to rely not on theology but on scientific analysis.
I think what cripples the scientific minded person when it comes to the topic of monogenesis vs. polygenesis is that monogenesis isn’t fundamentally opposed to polygenesis if you define a human theologically. Following this, I have actually chosen to maintain that the first two humans were Australopithecenes. Not Homo Erectus.
I’ve been looking at some of the BioLogos articles on Adam and Eve right now and it is interesting to see how they interpret Adam and Eve not off of a theological background but off of a scientific background. It’s almost as if they don’t want Christianity to reconcile with science but rather they want Christianity to become entirely scientific in its claims. This is my only minor issue with a lot of the Protestant theistic evolutionists specifically.
The difference though between the way that scientists approach polygenesis and adherents of the traditional view of monogenesis approach polygenesis is from the angle of the anthropology that they are using. The scientists is using a naturalistic variation of anthropology while the adherent of monogenesis is using a theological variation of anthropology. The two are quite different.
In addition, I do not believe that the first two humans could not have gone off and committed the sin of bestiality. That’s actually quite possible that it did occur.
Science unfortunately has nothing to contribute in the area of a monogenesis vs. polygenesis debate.
Here’s the problem with that article: It desperately wants the respectability of comporting with science, but because the author knows genetics doesn’t allow it, they don’t actually end up with it.
One of the main issues is that he doesn’t end up arguing for monogenesis: He ends up redefining monogenesis as polygenesis to save his account:
“Throughout this process, all theologically human beings would be descended from a single original human couple (in the sense of having that human couple among their ancestors) without there ever having been a population bottleneck in the human species.” … “This theory is monogenetic with respect to theologically human beings but polygenetic with respect to the biological species. Thus, the distinction resolves the contradiction.”
(Sidenote: the contradiction they are dealing with comes from trying to comport with science after it is discovered, which is the definition of a post hoc hypothesis.)
There is in no sense any inheritance of humanity in this account, instead God has to intervene and “place a soul” in each “true human” in order to maintain his theological and scientific split. Why God would have cause to do this to maintain an arbitrary split in this way over thousands of years is never addressed(nor more practical matters such as why smart humans would choose to mate with dumb proto-humans over each other): It’s seen as a theological necessity, therefore the vague possibility became plausibility and perhaps even certainty. In any other realm of discourse those sorts of leaps get you riotously laughed at.
If your only interested, as the author seems to be, if there are “no insuperable problems” for your theory, you’re making the “invisible dragon in my garage” argument which can defend just about any hypothesis, and therefore can’t *really* defend any of them.
“If your only interested, as the author seems to be, if there are “no insuperable problems” for your theory, you’re making the “invisible dragon in my garage” argument”
Not really, Plato put together a detailed defense of the existence of the soul. Not that I support Platonic anthropology but rather that I do believe that there is sufficient reason for believing that this life is not the only one we get. That’s a lot more complicated though. I agree that the author is problematic. He focuses too much on the notion of resolving his beliefs with science.
Again though, I think this argument of yours here, “One of the main issues is that he doesn’t end up arguing for monogenesis” is wanting. It confuses and confounds *scientific anthropology* with *Christian anthropology*. Again, don’t confound these definitions.
According to Christian anthropology a human being is ensouled flesh created in the image of God. So what then constitutes human monogenesis? All humans emerging from a single-pair of enfleshed souls created in the image of God that led to the production of the rest of the ensouled flesh image-bearing creatures.
You might think his argument post hoc because he doesn’t bring Christian anthropology up enough (or are dismissing numerous Church father’s readings that I’ve already mentioned in this discussion), but I see nothing at all post hoc about my argument. We’ll talk about the invisible dragon some other time (when a farmer feeds the horse, you don’t give him the entire haystack at once) but our discussion for now is whether monogenesis in light of *Christian anthropology* is tenable. I think we both agree, yes, right?
You might also try viewing Fr. Longenecker’s definition or my own argument as well.
“All humans emerging from a single-pair of enfleshed souls created in the image of God that led to the production of the rest of the ensouled flesh image-bearing creatures.”
Here’s what you’re missing: Under this account, nothing “led to” anything else. The claim is God decided to put a soul in one pair of humans and decided that he would put souls in anyone who was a descendent of theirs in any fashion whatsoever.
So God’s sitting around thousands of years later going “oh, you’re 99.99% other genetic code, but a random, nonspecific 0.01% of Adam’s genetic code, so you get a soul.” What reason could God possibly have had for creating in this way out of all the infinite options available? Is this really the best plan the almighty could come up with?
As to your blog post, you’ve minimized some things perhaps without knowing it. For the account to make sense and fit the genetic evidence, it’s not that there was “bestiality” (as you’ve defined it) a few times like you seem to suggest, it would have had to be the major form of reproduction for thousands of years. Why would we expect this to be the case outside of your theological necessity?
I don’t claim to know how long that reproduction process lasted.
“The claim is God decided to put a soul in one pair of humans and decided that he would put souls in anyone who was a descendent of theirs in any fashion whatsoever. … So God’s sitting around thousands of years later going “oh, you’re 99.99% other genetic code, but a random, nonspecific 0.01% of Adam’s genetic code, so you get a soul.””
A) That’s not exactly the claim. The claim is that God willed humans to exist in the first place. Did he foreknow that there would be two humans to progenitate the human race? Yes. Did he decide this to be the outcome? Depends what you mean by decide. He definitely allowed it to occur that way. B) I don’t think the argument has a lot to do with genetics other than that the first two progenitors were both theologically defined as humans. For all I know, Adam could have been a twin (an exact genetic duplicate). C) God could have also decided on “No humans in the first place.”
Your objections are in fact worthy to take note of and they belong in a category of “too complex for a single comment”. I suppose agnosticism is always a good position to take even if it is an agnostic theistic position.
My personal argument on the problem of evil is basically just that. We don’t know and it’s not like evils go away if God does. Someone has to stop pointing fingers eventually. But alas, it is something I criticize my father for, that is, thinking that he’s solved the problem. I would suggest Peter Berger’s “The Sacred Canopy” where he devotes a chapter addressing how theodicy is a crack-pot set of theological defenses.
Darwin, and his connection to Genesis 2. He is a believer! Darwin’s notes on marriage (toward the end). Brilliant! Advantages of marriage = “wife makes a good playmate. Better than a dog.” God discovered the same fact in Gen 2:18 plus Gen 2:20.
“Advantages of marriage = “wife makes a good playmate. Better than a dog.”” That is not what marriage is.
Maybe you didn’t watch the video all the way to the end? If you did, I thought Darwin showed a good sense of humor. Of course, maybe his wife-to-be didn’t appreciate it as much as I did.
BTW, I’ve been married for 38 years. I know exactly what marriage is. If you don’t have a good sense of humor, you probably won’t have a marriage that lasts.
The idea of god discovering something is interesting, even though I suspect we probably don’t agree about evolution
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