Re: [asa] Question for all the theistic evolutionists

From: Michael Roberts <>
Date: Sat Mar 17 2007 - 09:49:30 EDT

I have been following this discussion with despair.

However we take Genesis there is simply not enough information there to draw parallels with palaeoanthropology or the date and location of the Flood. All attempts to do so have been found to be chasing after wind.

It is best to say "we don't know"


----- Original Message -----
  From: David Opderbeck
  To: Glenn Morton
  Sent: Friday, March 16, 2007 4:29 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Question for all the theistic evolutionists

  Glenn, you always do a wonderful job of demanding specifics -- you should have been a lawyer, you would've been a fantastic cross-examiner!

  But, I've yet to see you provide specifics to a set of questions various people have asked you: if we accept the evidence that some language, some culture, and even some religion and altruism, were present in various hominid lineages long before homo sapiens sapiens, why are those things necessarily evidence of the image of God? What empirical observation establishes these things as the image of God? What Biblical passage? Even if all these characteristics are aspects of the image of God, why are hints and precursors of those characteristics in earlier hominids -- or in contemporary primates, for that matter -- themselves the image of God? (I say "hints and precursors" because my understanding -- correct me if I'm wrong -- is that the scientific consensus remains that these characteristics that were present in earlier hominids were nowhere near as developed as they became, relatively recently, in homo sapiens sapiens). Isn't it just as reasonable to suggest that part of God's instilling of his image in Adam involved the "perfection" of these characteristics in such a way that human beings could exercise care and dominion over the rest of creation, develop sophisticated artistic, religious, business, and social culture, and relate intimately to the triune God, in a way that no other hominid could? Clearly, as an empirical matter, no earlier hominid succeeded in doing these things to even the minutest speck of a fraction of the achievements of modern humanity.

  And doesn't this at some level have to be a philosophical and theological presupposition rather than something that is fully empirically demonstrable in any event? What is the philosophical / theological foundation for a belief that the image of God is entirely an empirical matter?

  A last question: I haven't seen you address the MRCA studies based on geneology. I grant that they do not establish monogenism. However, the thought I'm trying to develop is that our notion of monogenism based on common genetic ancestry is misplaced as far as the Biblical narratives are concerned. The Biblical narratives relate to geneology, not genetics. Therefore, all that is necessary for a Biblical monogenism, perhaps, is that contemporary people could theoretically trace their geneological roots to Adam and Eve, even if Adam and Eve were not the only people / beings alive who contributed to the current human gene pool. It seems to me that the geneological assertion is very plausible under the geneological MRCA studies that have been published. And when the Bible presents geneologies, those have nothing to do with genes. I think the geneology of Jesus in Matthew 1, which traces Jesus' line through Joseph, establishes this conclusively. Obviously, if the virgin birth is true, Jesus probably (excepting a scenario where the Holy Spirit does a literal artificial insemination using Joseph's semen) didn't inherit any genes from Joseph.

  And a last thought on this question of geneological rather than genetic monogenism -- actually a question for anyone who might know about this as an historical matter. Obviously, a significant problem with my notion of geneological monogenism is that it would conflict with the historic teaching of the Church. However, my understanding of the Church's historic position is that it was heavily informed by the mistaken belief that conception involved the quickening of an "homunculus" -- a tiny person -- already formed in the woman's womb. If I understand this view correctly, every homunculus itself would contain humunculi. Thus, Eve, as the "mother of all the living," would have carried all the humunculi that ever became or will become quickened into living people.

  We obviously now know that notion is false, but we seem to want to replace it with genetics. So, instead of humunculi, we now tend to think we must be able to attribute all present human genetic variation to Adam & Eve in order to preserve monogenism. But obviously, even with this position, we've already come so far from the classical notion of monogenism that it is really something entirely different. While we all carry some genetic code that reflects common ancestry going back to the chimp-human split (and before), we obviosly don't all have identical sets of genes, with each other or with our immediate ancestors, much less with Adam, whenever he lived. It seems to me that any genetic perspective on monogenism is orders of magnitude away from the classical position. All of which, I think, can support the idea that Biblical monogenism is not a scientific concept about heredity, but rather is a geneological concept, by which everyone can find Adam & Eve in their geneological "family tree," even if Adam & Eve were not the only people / beings living at the time they were alive who contributed to the current human gene pool.

  Having said all that, let me say this: all of this is of course speculation. I don't claim this as a firm theory. At the end of the day, I don't think we know enough about the science or the texts to assert anything but tentative ideas on all of this.

  On 3/16/07, Glenn Morton < > wrote:
    Had a wonderful dinner with Dick Fischer last night. This is for Jack, Bill
    Hamilton, George Murphy

    Jack wrote:

> Quick response here.
> I used the term bicameral in reference to Burgy's post
> referencing the book
> with the name in the title.
    Julian Jaynes book was influentical, but highly flawed. No one pays much
    attention to it today in anthropological circles.

    How could anyone get by, in talking
    or thinking, if there was no distinctive label for the
    talker or thinker? Yet in a book still taken surprisingly
    seriously in many quarters, Jaynes claimed (mainly on the
    basis of an uneasy liaison between split-brain theories and
    conventions in classical literature) that human self-
    consciousness as we know it developed less than four
    thousand years ago. However, in several languages we
    actually know what the morphophonemic form for the first
    person singular was at that and still earlier peirods, while
    in many more languages, first-person-singular forms can be
    reliably reconstructed for periods earlier still. One can
    only wonder who or what Jaynes thinks our ancestors of five
    thousand years ago thought they were referring to when they
    used their equivalents of 'I'." Derek Bickerton, Language
    and Human Behavior, (Seattle: University of Washington
    Press, 1995), p. 136-137

    And it is obserationally falsifieed by Helen Keller's experience.

    "This sensory reductionism is unsatisfactory to another school of
    Hardliners, who hold to
    a representational approach that, in its own way, is just as uncompromising.
    This school
    believes that language is the sole legitimate basis of consciousness.
    Instead of Bishop
    Berkeley's esse est percipi (to be is to be perceived), they might
    substitute esse est loqui or
    perhaps esse est verbum feci (to be is to be spoken, or made a word).
    Consciousness is linked
    to symbolic thought, entirely dependent on language, and unique to humans.
    Adherents to this
    approach do not accept that simple sensory awareness is ever sufficient
    evidence for true
    consciousness. For them, language alone is the key to consciousness. Some
    have taken this
    idea to extremes. Julian Jaynes once proposed that consciousness, in the
    sense of self-
    consciousness, was strictly a cultural invention, and a very recent one at
    that. Thus he
    restricted consciousness not only to those with language but to those with
    certain ideas and
    thought habits that are to be found only at specific times and places in
    human history."
    "Jayne's position is often seen as idiosyncratic, indeed eccentric, and not
    representative, yet it is not that far from many mainstream theories, such
    as Dennett's.
    For most of those who adopt such a viewpoint, only people who can capture
    their mental
    contents in language could be described as truly conscious. Presumably
    children, or the
    nonsigning deaf, or a variety of other people with disabilities could not
    become fully conscious
    unless they acquired sufficient proficiency in language. Some people have
    actually claimed
    this in writing. This includes Richard Rorty, who wrote in his book
    Contingency, Irony, and
    Solidarity: "We have no prelinguistic consciousness to which language needs
    to be adequate."
    This confirms the experience of Helen Keller, who, in her autobiography,
    testified that before
    having language, she was not fully conscious. However, as we shall see, this
    was a naive
    claim on her part. When we look at her own testimony about her life before
    she had language,
    we are led to believe that she was also conscious at that time. More about
    this later. We are
    obviously introducing quite a different meaning of the term "consciousness"
    when we identify it
    with language and symbolic representation." Merlin Donald, A Mind So Rare:
    The Evolution of
    Human Consciousness, (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2001), p. 35

> As far as language, I am not committed to written language as
> the image of
> God, I chose that because it is certainly a late development.
> I would
> suspect however that most of this development ocurred during
> the neolithic
> even though there is not evidence for it until later.

    Language goes much much further back. Joanna Mountain and colleagues have
    studied the click languages. The click languages consist of clicks made by
    the tongue added to other vowels and consonental sounds to form the full
    word. Two peoples, the Hadzabe and Jul'hoansi both speak click languages,
    sharing the identical clicks, but radically different vowel/consonantal
    arrangements for their words. The odds of the same clicks arising
    independently are quite small. So, the researchers believe that the clicks
    are due to common descent. Today the two peoples are 1600 km apart so they
    can't have borrowed the clicks from each other and these two peoples are as
    genetically separated as any two peoples on the face of the earth--in
    otherwords, one must go back 100kyr before their genes would allow for a
    common ancestor. Therefore, if the genetics says they are two branches of
    an ancient lineage and part of their language is also via common descent,
    then the conclusion is that language existed 100 kyr ago, so any assertion
    that language arose in the neolithic is observationally false. See my paper
    in the PSCF

    The initial report is at Alec Knight et al, "African Y chromosome and mtDNA
    divergence provides insight into the
    history of click languages," Current Biology, 13(2003):6:pp. 464-473

> Nevertheless, it might be something more subtle, such as the
> ability to have
> an abstract language, with grammer, and figurative speech,
> that is what was
> unique to the Adamites, and it spread from there.

    See above. This criterion means that Adam lived before the common ancestor
    of the Hadzabe and Jul'hoansi 100 kyr ago. The problem I see in apologetics
    is that very few actually dig deeply enough to know what set of facts need
    to be accounted for.

    This says
> nothing about
> "illiterate" peoples because it is just having the ability that is
> important. And after I read your last sentence here, I know
> you know what I
> am getting at, even though I am not able to be more specific,
> I am talking
> about human language that is beyond what any animal can do.
> I wonder if it
> is also beyond what any homo sapiens prior to the neolithic could do.

    Fact is that not a single anthropologist believes that language arose in the
    Neolithic. The most conservative say 50 kyr ago and the vast majority say
    some sort of language existed back 2 million years ago and a few brave souls
    say that australopithecines had language.

    Dean Falk argues for at least 2 million years of language based upon the
    first occurrence of biological brain structures which today are used for the
    production of language.

    "The oldest evidence for Broca's area to date is from
    KNM-ER 1470, a H. habilis specimen from Kenya, dated at
    approximately two million years ago. From that date forward,
    brain size 'took off,' i.e., increased autocatalytically so that
    it nearly doubled in the genus Homo, reaching its maximum in
    Neanderthals. If hominids weren't using and refining language I
    would like to know what they were doing with their
    autocatalytically increasing brains (getting ready to draw
    pictures somehow doesn't seem like enough)." ~ Dean Falk,
    Comments, Current Anthropology, 30:2, April, 1989, p. 141-142.

    Terrence Deacon argues that language arose even earlier!

           "The remarkable expansion of the brain that took place in human
    evolution, and indirectly produced prefrontal expansion, was not the cause
    of symbolic language but a consequence of it. As experiments with
    chimpanzees demonstrate, under optimal training conditions they are capable
    of learning to use a simple symbol system. So, it is not inconceivable that
    the first step across the symbolic threshold was made by an
    australopithecine with roughly the cognitive capabilities of a modern
    chimpanzee, and that this initiated a complicated history of back-and-forth
    escalations in which symbol use selected for greater prefrontalization, more
    efficient articulatory and auditory capacities, and probably a suite of
    other ancillary capacities and predispositions which eased the acquisition
    and use of this new tool of communication and thought."Terrence W. Deacon,
    The Symbolic Species, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997), p. 340

> And this idea is related to history. Whatever the change was
> what allowed
> stories to be told, is the same ability that I think is
> unique to humans,
> and could be the image of God. Prior to this point there was
> no history,
> history started long before it was written down.

    Fine, if we accept your definition, Adam can't be more recently than 100 kyr
    ago, which moves him entirely out of the Neolithic. And if we accept that
    the existence of biological structures used for language are evidence that
    the skull's owner had language, then language existed for 2 million years AT

    One question, in general to all. If we don't believe that the Bible tells us
    anything scientific or historical, why do we believe we HAVE an image of
    God, which comes from that same ahistorical passage?

    Do we have the perverse methodology in which anything which can be verified
    is rejected and anything which can't be verified is ACCEPTED? That seems to
    be what I see.
    Bill Hamilton wrote:

>I agree that if God inserts something into humans that makes no difference
    in behavior, then what is the benefit?
>However, you are asking a different question: You are looking for
    differences in behavior that are detectable in the
>archaeological record. I grant that art and burial of the dead with
    ceremony are indications of a developing spirituality,
>but are they indicators that the image of God has been instilled? Or should
    we be looking for another, or possibly a
>combination of factors? Or perhaps what we're looking for is undetectable
    in the archaeological record. Fro example in
>Gen 4:26 it says "at that time men began to call on the name of God." If
    you were looking for that as an indication of the
>image of God, you wouldn't necessarily find it.

    Think of Indiana Jones, and some of the temples he ran into when you read
    about this 425,000 year old site in Germany. It is called Bilzingleben.

    "But Mania's most intriguing find lies under a protective
    shed. As he opens the door sunlight illuminates a cluster of
    smooth stones and pieces of bone that he believes were arranged
    by humans to pave a 27-foot-wide circle.
    "'They intentionally paved this area for cultural
    activities,' says Mania. 'We found here a large anvil of
    quartzite set between the horns of a huge bison, near it were
    fractured human skulls.'" ~ Rick Gore, "The First Europeans,"
    National Geographic, July, 1997, p. 110

    If you walked into a village and saw that, you would know that people are
    calling upon the name of SOME God. So, if calling upon god is the definition
    of the image of God, then Adam must be at least 425,000 years old. The
    alternative to this is to ignore the data. By the way, modern druids (well,
    modern by comparison) paved the Loanshead of Daviott (a druidic stone circle
    about 25 miles NW of Aberdeen Scotland, in precisely the same fashion. It
    looks like a rubble of rocks, but the rubble is in a circle and is about the
    same diameter. I have pictures if anyone is interested.


    George M wrote:

    [GLM No, I meant what I said. I introduced Wells as 1 example of a
    scientists whose claims for a recent origin of humanity doesn't appear to be

    motivated by religious concerns. The extent to which I'm qualified to
    debate the issue is irrelevant. Your license to practice distance
    psychoanalysis is suspended.]

    Aw shucks, shrinks make such good money. But, I can analyze your statement
    above. Wells DOESN'T claim a recent origin of humanity. You are doing what
    you said YECs do. You are making Christians look ill-informed by missing
    what Wells is saying. I tried to point out your error, but you are now
    persisting in saying what Wells isn't saying. The age of the Y chromosome
    is not the age of humanity, no matter how much you or I might wish it to be
    so. It just represents the age of the lucky guy whose chromosome was the
    most widespread. Go back 10,000 years and there would have been some humans
    who didn't have that guy's y-chromsome but there probably would have been
    some other guy dated 80 or 90,000 years ago, from whome all y chromosomes
    were descended at that time. The y-chromosome Adam is a moving target. 5000
    years hence, it will be a guy who lived 55,000 years ago or so.

    If you don't understand this, then you are out of your depth here.

    [GLM You make wild claims & then pass by in silence the demonstrations
    that they're false. What I refuted here was the claim that people are
    arguing that the creation accounts are poetic and therefore CANNOT (not do
    not or may not) convey truth about the natural world - i.e., that the very
    nature of poetry precludes the possibility of conveying such truth.]

    George, I want to laugh here. I cited Jan de Konig who argued that it was
    poetic, and you didn't respond to that, effectively ignoring it, and then
    charge me with ignoring facts that falsify your claims.

    If you believe that the Genesis accounts are telling us something true
    historically, then it should be easy for you to answer the question, what,
    exactly is it telling us about history. I asked that simple question but
    got the diversion above about me not answering your comments. If you
    believe it is historical, then what is historical. If you can't tell us
    that, then I doubt your assertion above is nothing but a red herring.

    When you wrote:
    [GLM Again you ignore the refutation of your 1st extravagant claim & go on
    to a 2d. Your claim was that theologians never want to think anything new &

    I pointed out that that's nonsense.]

    I went back and looked for some kind of refutation. I simply don't know what
    the heck you are referring to. What did you refute. What 1st extravagant
    claim are you referring to?

    As the the second, I see theologians only thinking along lines of, it tells
    us YEC history or it tells us nothing that we can claim to be
    observationally verifiable. If you can point me to theologians who believe
    that the Bible is telling us something observationally verifiable while at
    the same time accepting the facts of modern science, I would be interested.
    Even the framework theory in my opinion doesn't fall out side of the 'it
    ain't history' school of thought. But your claims that there are new ways
    of thinking are easy to make, but harder to document especially if you see
    the world with the division I do.

    [GLM I.e., if I don't believe your resurrected stillborn ape-like mutant
    story then I don't believe God had a miraculous hand in creating mankind!]

    Oh, George, have some nuanced thinking for a change. It isn't my theory to
    which I refer. It is to the Bible, which you seem incapable of believing
    If you don't' believe the Bible where it says :

    "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into
    his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

    I don't care if you reject my theory, but if you decide that God didn't
    actually perform the activities in the above statement, then you simply have
    to admit that you don't' beleve there is a single shred of historical
    reality contained in Genesis 2:7. And if God didn't do that, then what
    miracle DID God do when mankind was formed?

    See, this is the problem. I at least present something that is close to
    Genesis 2:7. You simply believe it didn't happen but then turn around and
    try to tell everyone what a wonderful book the Bible is and that it teaches
    true theology. How would we know it teaches true theology if everything it
    says is false? Do you believe Genesis 2:7?

    [GLM I judge your claims by the standards you want them to satisfy & find
    them wanting. OTOH I want my arguments to be judged by appropriate
    theological standards - which include agreement with well-confirmed science
    but are hardly limited to that.]

    George, you speak so abstractly that there is not much one can say to this.
    What standards? Who set up these theological standards? George Murphy? And
    if you want to be in agreement with well-confirmed science, then why do you
    ignore genetics which clearly says that there has been no common human
    ancestral pair for at least 5 million years? I can't change that. I wish it
    weren't true. I wish every genetic system and every gene showed the same 100
    kyr age because only in that manner can we have a REAL Adam and Eve who are
    parents of all humanity, but the fact is that they don't. We have two
    choices, George, ignore it, or incorporate it into our theology. You want to
    ignore it. I don't.

    Do you even understand why all genes should show the very same age if we are
    all descended from a recent pair of ur-parents?

    [GLM Of course I am not saying that the God who raised Jesus _couldn't_
    raise a dead ape. What I'm saying is that there's no evidence that he did
    raise a dead ape, no realistic possibility of getting such evidence even if
    it did happen, & no reason to read such an event into Genesis. OTOH the NT
    clearly does speak of the resurrection of Jesus & one can give good
    historical arguments (Pannenberg, O'Collins, Wright e.g .) to support the
    claim - though not conclusive proof.]

    Well, George, one can say that about the talking snake, the floating ax
    head, and indeed, the resurrection itself. What real evidence do we have
    today concerning the resurrection? We have some claims that people saw the
    risen Lord, but in fact, there is not one shred of physical evidence
    remaining. So, if physical evidence becomes your standard, then by
    definition, there can't be evidence for the resurrection--the body is gone!

    Is there any real evidence that David slew Goliath? Is there any real
    evidence that Samuel was consecrated by his parents? All we have is the
    word of the Bible, but we also have the word that "God formed man of the
    dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and
    man became a living soul." But, there is no real evidence for that either.
    By your standard, you reduce the Bible to an evidentiaryless set of

    When I demanded that our solutions fit the details of what it is we are
    studying George wrote:

    [GLM Not enough for you but that's your problem. & again, the claim that
    your ape scenario agrees with Gen.2 in "details" is a vast overstatement.]

    So, is this an argument for sloppy research and ignoring data we don't like?
    It seems that if one doesn't want to deal with the details of an area of
    science, then one is saying it is ok to be sloppy and haphazard. Yes, that
    is my problem, George, I won't settle for slop. I did that when I was a YEC
    and I won't accept it anymore because it is self-deception.

    [GLM Again I am not holding a "double standard of judgement." I am
    judging your cliams as you want them to be judging but I have not said that
    those criteria are the appropriate ones for theology. But OK, here's a
    prediction that comes naturally from my approach: If we encounter
    intelligent ETs we will find them to be sinful - or "fallen" if you will.
    (This is a slight adaptation of an argument of Bob Russell's.)]

    We probably have about as much chance at verifying this as we do at
    verifying my ape. Do you have one that is more likely to be verified? I
    would say that this illustrates that you don't apply the same standard to
    you as you do to me.

    [GLM You want not just "verification" - which I have - but theological
    prediction of novel scientific facts. I don't accept that as a criterion for

    theology but see my comment above.]

    You can claim verification but until you lay it out specifically in detail
    (which means dealing with the details sometheing you above eschewed), then I
    deny that you have verification.

    They're Here: The Pathway Papers
    Foundation, Fall, and Flood
    Adam, Apes and Anthropology

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