British Radio Interview on Evolution and Adam

British Radio Interview on Evolution and Adam May 20, 2013

Last month I was a guest on Unbelievable?, a British radio show hosted by Justin Brierly, to discuss evolution and Christianity, specifically the historicity of Adam. The show just aired and you can listen to the show here.

On the show, too, were Denis Alexander and Fuz Rana. Denis, a molecular biologist, is the former director of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion and the author of Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? Fuz (Fazale), a PhD in chemistry with an emphasis in biochemistry, is Executive Vice Present of Research and Apologetics at Reasons to Believe  and author of The Cell’s Design: How Chemistry Reveals the Creator’s Artistry.

Both Denis and Fuz are wonderful people who present their views without rancor or defensiveness. I think some of the best exchanges were between Denis and Fuz on the degree to which we can be certain about evolution in view of the genomic evidence, and Denis pulled no punches. To summarize the gist of the 82 minute show.

1.Fuz: “Genetic studies don’t support evolution.”

2.Denis: “Sure they do.”

3. Pete: “I’m with Denis. I’m also not sure why we are still talking about this.”




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  • Brian P.

    Pete, there’s almost nothing about genetics in your book.

    • Paul Bruggink

      @ Brian P.: The scientific case has already been made. Now it is up to the theologians like Peter Enns, Daniel C. Harlow, Denis Lamoureux and others to sort out the implications of the scientific case on Christianity.

      • Brian P.

        From what I understand, genetic studies do support evolution and even support behavioral phenotypes. I’m curious how you think behavior as a phenotype relates to concepts of sin and various conceptions of Original Sin.

        • Paul Bruggink

          I’m still struggling with that one. I think that Daryl P. Domning, though not a theologian, makes an interesting case for “original sin” being original selfishness in his book “Original Selfishness: Original Sin and Evil in the Light of Evolution” (Ashgate, 2006). I suspect that us western Christians may have to rethink original sin, perhaps by replacing our Augustinian Adam with an Irenaean Adam, who did not fall from a perfect world.

          • Brian P.

            Yes, there is a significance difference between East and West here. Yet, AFAIK, Eastern Original Sin is also the means by which [physical?] death came into the world. In contemporary evolutionary theory, behavior relates to phenotype and behaviors are adaptive, at least at the gene’s eye view. Behaviors seem to be significantly under selective pressure. As I anthropologically understand, behaviors have changed much and done so incrementally over the course of human evolution as well as among our ancestors. Sure, I can understand Original Sin through Paul’s theology and worldview. And also, I can understand various steps of Eastern and especially Western conceptions of Original Sin through their theologies and worldviews. I’m curious about Original Sin and even Hamartiology in general as it relates to an acceptance of evolution which seems–at least to me–to include some sort of acceptance of behavior have some sort of relation as a phenotype and genes’ expression. To me, it’s unclear what Christ has ontologically? atoned for among Christians who accept evolutionary biology. I’ve yet to “get” doctrines of sin and atonement among Christians who accept evolutionary theory. (And there’s more too I don’t get…)

          • Andrew Dowling

            I don’t really see how the various conceptions of Christus Victor atonement theory depend on any first human/Adam. Really, pre-Augustine you don’t have many mentions of Genesis in all of Christian literature..

          • Brian P.

            The Domning book looks fascinating. Does he take on atonement theories too? As well as the epistemic?

          • Paul Bruggink

            Daryl Domning mentions atonement briefly on p. 152-153. In addition to quoting from Patricia Williams’s book “Doing without Adam and Eve: sociobiology and original sin,” pp. 192-197, Domning writes that our need for salvation by Christ “lies in a natural, necessary evolutionary process, not in any single Adam’s ‘active original sin,’ which is only a fiction. . . . For this reason, the proper focus of the Christian doctrine of original ‘sin’ is on Christ, the historically real ‘Second Adam,’ and not on his allegorical counterpart the ‘First Adam.’ ”

            To the best of my knowledge, Domning does not discuss epistemology, which is above my pay grade anyway.

          • Brian P.

            Very interesting. I searched for a couple dozen words and phrases in the Domning book and he seems to cover intersection between contemporary evolutionary theory implications and an array of Christian doctrines. There seem to be multiple interesting points of intersections. I’d be curious to know what Domning does with the miraculous vs. even methodological naturalism. Different things I’ve read on this tend to be very cursory on two out of three among 1) the biological, 2) the theological/textual, and 3) the philosophical. Would be interested in finding all three pretty well covered in address and from an Evangelical or Protestant perspective if possible.

          • Paul Bruggink

            Keeping in mind that Daryl Domning is a paleontologist, anatomist & evolutionary biologist and not a theologian, he states the following on p. 64: “It is true that evolutionary biology, like all other natural sciences, seeks to explain the workings of nature without invoking supernatural causes; but this is emphatically not a denial that the supernatural exists. In technical terms, the naturalism of science is merely methodological and not metaphysical.”

            For an Evangelical or Protestant perspective, you might need to look elsewhere, since to the best of my knowledge, Daryl Domning is of the Roman Catholic persuasion.

            I’m reasonably certain that your question has been covered somewhere, perhaps in Alvin Plantinga’s “Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, & Naturalism.” Maybe someone else can help.

          • Brian P.

            Thanks. I’ve read Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief and found its content sufficient mechanism to believe about anything under the sun. And in searching online through the Domning text, “naturalism” was one of the keywords of interest I searched for this morning and incidentally came across that passage. By similar methodological naturalism, I can include biological evolution, exclude biological virgin birth, exclude biological resurrection, exclude physical ascension, etc. To me, it seems the epistemological tenets by which I’d accept evolutionary theory are the ones indeed by which I’d rule out some other things consistent with the “that’s the way ancients wrote stories” principle that Enns seems to leverage. There are a lot of things I’m interested hearing. Sure, Platinga eventually gets to the impenetrability of the “inner witness of the Holy Spirit” but that fence gate can be put up about anywhere, easily on both sides of evolutionary theory. Genuinely, why accept methodological naturalism for evolutionary biology but not virgin birth. Means of sexual reproduction seems to well fit under the banner of evolutionary theory and very well attested. And if one is to proclaim “insert miracle here” why not put it randomly anywhere. I’m not seeking to argue in any way; it’s that I genuinely don’t understand/see a methodological or hermeneutic consistency. Kindly help.

          • Paul Bruggink

            I may not be much help here, because I am firmly in the “insert miracle here” camp when it comes to the biological virgin birth and bodily resurrection of Christ. There are some things that I accept on faith and believe to be true, and I don’t have a problem with that. I believe that God is capable of intervening in nature from time to time in ways that will probably never be detected by science.

          • Brian P.

            How does one determine when/where to insert?

          • Paul Bruggink

            Re “How does one determine when/where to insert?”

            We recognize miracles because they stand out against the known regularities of the universe and are reasonably well documented. John C. Lennox has a nice discussion of miracles in Chapter 12 of “God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?” (Lion, 2009 Updated Edition), pp. 193-206.

            I’m sure that there are numerous other discussions of miracles also, e.g., C.S. Lewis’s “Miracles.”

        • Aceofspades25

          God created us in a state of spiritual immaturity and asks us to proceed to maturity by throwing off our inherited animalistic instinct to put our own needs first.

          Sin is something that God intends us to struggle with and overcome whether you believe in a literal Eden story or not. I suggest looking at how the Irenaean theodicy is understood by John Hick:

          • Brian P.


    • peteenns

      Correct, Brian, but I start out saying “I accept evolution and I don’t think trying to disprove it is the way forward.”

      • Brian P.

        I accept evolution too. I haven’t read your book yet but I’ve searched it for what it says on many topics ranging from aspects of evolutionary theory and human origins (out of Africa theory, behavior as phenotype, gene’s eye view, altruism, maybe a bit of evolutionary psychology speculations, …); things theological (doctrine of Original Sin, atonement` theories, …); and a bit of the philosophical (epistemology, naturalism, miracles, …).

    • There shouldn’t be much on genetics in his book if Peter is attempting to discuss the question of whether there was a historical Adam from his area of expertise in biblical studies. I suppose there is a more detailed discussion of genetics in Denis Alexander’s book.

  • Ben Trigg

    Haha, great summary. Really enjoyed your contributions, thanks

  • Just finished listening to the pod cast noted above and I did like the tone of the discussion in addition to the questions raised. I also thought it interesting that the two scientists were leaving the question of an historical Adam open, perhaps reflecting the differences between their expertise in scientific fields and yours in biblical studies.

  • Patrick Lafferty

    there would seem to be a sequence error in your spelling of “genetic”. Could be a mutation.

    • Brian P.

      Either that or a textual variant.

      • peteenns

        haha to both of you. genetic error is now corrected.

        • Brian P.

          Oh great. Now either “corrections” to the text or genetic modification.

  • Craig Wright

    I thought Justin Brierly got the right mix on the discussion. I had talked briefly with Fuz Rana a couple of years ago at a Reasons to Believe seminar, and asked him if he ever had dialogue with Francis Collins, and others who accepted evolution. He was evasive and didn’t want to talk about it. Here, he had to, and he was cordial. Rana and RTB represent the concordist view. Hugh Ross, the founder of RTB, was important in the evolution of the church’s acceptance of science, advocating for an old age of the earth (in light of the evidence), back in the 80’s. I lost my confidence in them when Ross began using OT scriptures, especially from poetic and prophetic passages to say that the Bible supports the expanding universe. I agree that that is correct scientifically, but using Is. 40: 22 “Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain” is not a scientific statement.
    Denis Alexander is a creditable scientist, and thank you very much for introducing us to Denis Lamoureux.

    • Jakeithus

      Personally, I very much enjoy RTB’s work, and have found them the most helpful in reconciling my theological and scientific beliefs.

      I suppose I just don’t see the same issue that you do in the use of prophetic and poetic passages.The fact that a passage is poetic in nature does not necessarily preclude it from containing truth on multiple levels.

      Although I am firmly in the concordist camp, I too have appreciated being exposed to differing viewpoints such as Prof. Lamoureux’s.