RE: [asa] Was Adam a real person?

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Sat Apr 12 2008 - 06:05:01 EDT

"Obviously, they wouldn't have used this term [cosmogenic myths], so yeah, that's a little anachronistic too. But I don't think its anachronistic as a category in the way "science of the day" is anachronistic as a category. "Science" by definition means natural explanations for natural phenomena, doesn't it? If one thing is certain, it's that "methodological naturalism" would have been utterly, incomprehensibly foreign to the ANE peoples." - David O.

  This is why David repeated the question to Denis about whether or not in his view, 'science' today consists of 'natural explanations for natural phenomena.' Later he clarified: "I am using a term they would not have used to describe what they were doing. You are using a category of activity in which they were simply not engaged." In terms of speaking in the realm of PoS, David's question is justified, though it might not show up on the radar of a biologist himself or herself. Bethany may not see the point, and is quick to side with Denis, perhaps at least because she is from Edmonton and knows Denis personally, but from a PoS perspective it is quite relevant. Bethany even admits it was not 'naturalistic' and therefore, by inference, does not count as 'science,' i.e. what Denis is arguing with 'ancient science.'
  Tell me please, who can better say what 'science' is and/or is not: those who are doing it or those who are studying those who are doing it and how it is being done? This is an inside/outside question.
  Denis uses Walton to (kindof) answer David's questions: "Mythology in the ancient world was like science in our modern world..."
  This gives the nod to David's use of 'cosmogenic myths', if Denis admits that the 'science' of today was the 'myth' (and not the 'science') of ancient time. I see no conclusion 'ergo ancient science' that Denis later posits. He seems to be contradicting himself with a weak PoS.
  Further, Denis, speaking through Walton: "our modern scientific approach attempts to understand cause and effect based on natural laws.

  This answers David's question that yes, Denis believes that 'science' today is 'natural explanations of natural phenomena.' Of course, I have many times challenged this definition of 'science' today by pointing out there are other categories than simply 'natural' upon which one can apply their 'scientific methods.' Some scholars, who are more aware of culture, language, society and other respective 'categories' are able to agree that one should speak about 'natural science' in regard to 'only natural things' and about other categories or types of science when dealing with other categories. This is far away from the thread topic now, but let me bring it back by saying that anthropology, sociology and psychology also qualify to contribute on the question of 'Was Adam a real person?,' disciplines in which neither Denis nor David is schooled in.
  To the question, please gentlemen, correct me if I'm wrong, Denis' answer is "No - Adam was not a 'real' person," while David's answer is "Yes, Adam probably was a 'real' person." But David, like myself, is not exactly sure. Denis seems to be very sure that 'Adam was not real' after going back and forth between various YEC and OEC positions and other things in the past. Perhaps Bethany has taken this position also as a result of Denis' influence?
  As for me, I take a middle ground position. I'm not sure, since I wasn't there and the 'evidence' (that which I know about) is mysterious. Here I rather think that those who believe in a 'not real Adam and Eve' should better jump to George's thread and speak about 'representation' or related things. That is, rather than trying to convince those who do believe in 'real Adam and Eve' to change their minds. In my view, one doesn't need to commit to one view or the other to qualify as being a scientifically-minded Christian. Perhaps greater unity could be found by admitting that both perspectives are incomplete and at best imperfect. There is a historical 'reality' to what happened; one day we shall see more clearly than we do now. In any case, our current knowledge is not worth boasting about.
  Bernie writes: I believe that God-directed evolution. Is that “scientific?”
  No, the 'belief' is not scientific.
  Bernie also writes: We’ve always had science, but the methods have changed.
  No, this is not accurate. It has been pointed out to him already. Who is the 'we' and what is the 'science' - there was no word that corresponds to the meaning we use now. It is like saying there was lots of 'information' in the European Enlightenment when the word 'information' was rarely used and not current language to the philosophes. To argue using the term 'information' before it was ever used is the (a) meaning of 'anachronism' (M-W "a person or a thing that is chronologically out of place").
  It seems that Denis and David agree on this - 'science' as it is understood today did not exist in the ancient middle east. The problem is over whether to call it 'Old World Science' or 'Ancient Science' or something else. The main point remains, regarding the OP, that Adam and Eve are not explainable nor explainable away by either contemporary or past 'sciences.' One needs other areas of knowledge to supplement the discourse. The millions of years vs. thousands (Dick Fischer represents Adam and Eve in the thousands - a target for Denis' respectful mockery) question is one, ensoulment another, consciousness questions linger, polygenism vs. monogenism another, etc. Denis seems to take a strong-TE/EC position, which is one that both David and I and others at ASA disagree with.
  Bernie's persistent use of the unscientific word 'memes' is a case in point. How about we balance the absurdity by saying that the phrase 'science evolves' is just a cosmogenic myth?!
  As it is, speaking now in a domain I am currently working in, the 'when did science begin' question is primarily an origins question, not a process question. This is something that TE/ECs, just as evolutionary philosophers, process philosophers and process theologians, are constrained to properly address due to their dependence upon 'evolutionary processes' in their descriptions and explanations. Evolutionary theory has indeed contributed to 'ousting Adam and Eve' more than just about any theory in modern science!
"Dehler, Bernie" <> wrote:
        v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);} .shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);} st1\:*{behavior:url(#default#ieooui) } Good questions.
  My take (and I think I think like Denis on this):
  There has always been science. Science today is largely based on “the scientific method” (hypothesis, experiment, hypothesis modification as necessary). Now it is naturalistic, in ANE it wasn’t It wasn’t all naturalistic for Paley either, when Darwin was starting out (per Paley’s famous watch-maker illustration).
  What is science? It is the art of explaining how things work and came to be. We’ve always had science, but the methods have changed. “How was the world made?” That is a scientific question. The scientific method started about (maybe about 1,000 AD; source:, but that doesn’t mean science started then.
  Yes, there was “old world science” and there is different ways of doing science now, but they were all “modern science” for those living in the present moment. Modern science constantly advances (though memes), including the scientific method (introducing double-blind tests, placebo’s, etc.).
  Today, nothing supernatural is allowed in science, for the very reason that it can’t be tested. You can’t say things work by miracles, then setup a test to prove it—since miracles by definition only happen at God’s will and command. If a miracle did happen naturally, it would be called natural, such as in the natural miracle of birth (and many other parts of life). In that way someone could say that evolution is a natural miracle… front-loaded design which unfolds (too deistic for me, but I think it is a possibility).
  I believe that God-directed evolution. Is that “scientific?” My understanding is that it fits. Some may argue that evolution must be ‘undirected’ in order to be pure science, and they might have a point, but there may also be a point in God directing it. As science progresses, we may be better able to confirm or deny God-directed evolution, likely based on statistics… which will be more accurate as the genome is better studied and analyzed across life-forms.
  It doesn’t bother me if someone claims to believe in supernatural things in science, unless it contradicts the evidence—such as believing in a global flood when the evidence for it doesn’t appear likely… or believing that God made man unique out of dirt when there are so many links and artifacts in the human genome, or believing the earth is 6,000 years old when we can observe activities in space that happened millions of years ago.
  From: David Opderbeck []
Sent: Friday, April 11, 2008 6:24 PM
To: Denis O. Lamoureux
Cc: Jack; Dehler, Bernie;
Subject: Re: [asa] Was Adam a real person?

  So, if Walton is using the shorthand "Old World Science," fine -- but I think he'd also agree that this does NOT imply "science" in the sense we use that term today, meaning explanations of natural causes.

Anyway, let me ask you this:

-- do you agree that "science" as we define it today is limited to natural explanations? Or do you contend that "science" as we define it today can admit the immediate presence and activity of gods?

-- do you agree that ANE cosmology is contingent on the immediate presence and activity of gods? Or do you contend that the Enuma Elish is a purely naturalistic explanation of how the universe came to be?

    On Fri, Apr 11, 2008 at 8:55 PM, Denis O. Lamoureux <> wrote:
      Hello David,

    I'm the "Someone said" individual. Two points:


    (1) So you admit your anachronism, but then argue

    that my anachronism is worst than yours.


    Goodness gracious! I suppose I should walk over

    to the law school to learn about this special way

    of arguing.


    (2) Just contacted my colleague John Walton whose

    book you've appealed to in your posts. Regarding

    the notion of ancient science or science of the day,

    he writes:

         I often use "Old World Science" as a way

        of categorizing Israel's cosmic geography if

        that clarifies anything.

    You have misread and misrepresented Walton's book.

    But I guess misspeaking is standard and perfectly

    acceptable for lawyers . . .





    Denis O. Lamoureux DDS PhD PhD
Assistant Professor of Science & Religion
St. Joseph's College, University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta Canada T6G 2J5
Tel: 780 492 7681 ext.246
Fax: 780 492 8145


      ----- Original Message -----

    From: David Opderbeck

    To: Denis O. Lamoureux

    Cc: Jack ; Dehler, Bernie ;

    Sent: Friday, April 11, 2008 7:36 AM

    Subject: Re: [asa] Was Adam a real person?


    Someone said: Now this is delicious. I'm accused of being "anachronistic," and two sentences later David refers to "cosmogenic myths." Does anyone think that J, P or R were constructing "cosmogenic myths"? [I'm saying "someone said" b/c the string got long and I can't figure out who's saying what!]

I respond: Yes, I do think the author[s] of Gen. 1-4 was[were] constructing / assembling / editing / redacting cosmogenic myths, just like I think the authors and editors of the Enuma Elish were constructing / assembling / editing / redacting cosmogenic myths. Obviously, they wouldn't have used this term, so yeah, that's a little anachronistic too. But I don't think its anachronistic as a category in the way "science of the day" is anachronistic as a category. "Science" by definition means natural explanations for natural phenomena, doesn't it? If one thing is certain, it's that "methodological naturalism" would have been utterly, incomprehensibly foreign to the ANE peoples.


    An acquaintance of mine who is an ANE scholar recommended to me Thorkild Jacobsen's "The Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion." A really captivating book. Reading the actual texts and poems of the culture, and understanding the rituals associated with those texts, its clear that they had no notion of transcendence of the gods. The numinous was ever present for them. The earth and sky really were, in some sense, Tiamat's body, the gods were really present in the people enacting their parts in fertility rituals -- it reminds me a bit of the Roman notion of the real presence of Christ in the host. Their marriage and love poems are poignant too.


    If you want to call the numinous presence of Tiamat in the earth and firmament "the science of the day," it seems to me you have to qualify the word "science" so much that what it really means is "cosmogenic myths."





David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology 
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Received on Sat Apr 12 06:07:28 2008

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