Re: [asa] Does ASA believe in Adam and Eve?

From: David Campbell <>
Date: Fri Mar 30 2007 - 10:52:07 EDT

> George Murphy wrote:
> "I think it very unlikely that the present human race descended from a
> single couple."
> I'm curious then if this means, 1. you believe 'the present human race'
> descended from multiple couples, and if so, 2. then does this count as a
> view against the 'common descent' of human beings (i.e. is descended from a
> single couple considered 'common descent' while descended from multiple
> couples is not so)?

No; the multiple couples would ultimately have a single common
ancestral pair at some point in the evolutionary past, though this
ancestral pair might not credibly qualify as human. The origins of
creatures that are fully human (at whatever point that occurred), from
a biological perspective, could have involved a small population
rather than a single pair. Common descent refers to sharing ancestry
with other species, which holds whether or not the descent came
through a single individual or more. Such a view would help deal with
the "Where did Cain's wife come from" type of quandry.

> ASA's statement of faith may be welcoming to people who do not believe Adam
> and Eve were historical persons. What other options do those persons have
> though? Please excuse if I'd rather not get caught on the literal/figurative
> dilemma (especially while reading Tom Wright's comments on it recently). But
> to those persons were 'Adam' and 'Eve' just symbols, names that were
> conjured by 'later' human beings to suit their ideas of how 'mankind' might
> have originated and become (emergently) conscious of its physical and
> religious self?

My earlier post gave a couple of options (though I favor the view that
they were historical persons). A) Although they were historical
persons, so were many more couples/groups, all of whom chose the same
way as humanity reached a point of religous awareness. Inheritance of
sinfulness then proceeds more or less similar to traditional views;
the difference is in envisioning multiple origins . B) They are
viewed as symbolic of the condition of humanity, reflecting the choice
each one of us makes to sin. An historic event of falling at the
beginning of spiritual humanity might be postulated, or it might be
asserted that every individual goes through his own Adam and Eve
moment. The latter requires some work to reconcile with the tenets of
original sin, but I think it could be done.

> Those who dismiss the question as irrelevant seem to be rather missing
> something significant: to some religious persons, especially those who
> reflect upon their existence as being created/designed in the image of God
> (imago Dei), the 'reality' of their ancestral roots is an important topic.
> For all the social scientists and social theorists in the world, historical
> origins and processes of humankind underpin their individual and collective
> assumptions. Whether or not they choose to include Adamic history in their
> tool kit, it would seem unfortunate for social thinkers to package the
> discussion off merely to theology.
> If a person says that 'Adam had animal ancestors,' this is likely to get
> them into trouble with their local clergy. An observer can request tolerance
> and say that beliefs about Adam and Eve should be non-dogmatic and not
> pressed upon others. But this does not solve the dilemma of coming to a
> personal answer or at least to a measure of suspended belief about it.

Well, the biological evidence shows clearly that we have extensive
physical, genetic, and biochemical similarities to chimps, with
decreasing degrees of similarity to other organisms in just the
pattern expected from evolution. Likewise, the fossil record has a
good series of transitions from more upright-walking things with
ape-size brains to better walkers and runners with bigger brains to
modern-looking humans. However, it's the spiritual issues that are
what's really important, and those are largely outside the grasp of
Thus, it largely needs to be sent off to theology, though social (or
other) sciences can be helpful within a theological framework.

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama
"I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Fri Mar 30 10:52:45 2007

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