Re: [asa] promise trumps biology (accepting biological evolution for Adam)

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Fri Dec 12 2008 - 06:59:12 EST

Bernie -

It's kind of amusing that you want to portray me as a crypto-YEC since I'm seen by a lot of ASA folks as being too far in the other direction. If you'll read what I've written you'll see that I think it's highly unlikely that all present-day humans are descended from a single couple. E.g., in my "Roads" article I said:

The theological proposal to be made here does not depend on the number of hominids to be considered the first humans or on when they came into being. But it does seem unlikely that the present human race can be traced to a single male-female pair. As one example of the difficulty this idea faces, development of the present diversity of alleles of human histocompatibility genes from such a pair would require between five and ten million years. Unless we want to consider "Adam and Eve" the biological ancestors of all hominids, and perhaps even pongids, we must rule this out.

In my more recent PSCF article on atonement I said:

We should note to begin with that the model of original sin developed in an earlier article and summarized here does not require that there was no historical Adam. Genetic data makes it hard to see how all present humans could have descended from a single couple living at any time that might fit an historical Adam and Eve but the proposed model would not have to be changed if that turned out to be possible. The arguments presented here do not depend on the size of the original human population.

First of all this is simply true - the theological model I presented doesn't depend on the size of the first group we consider human. But the reason I made a point of this at that juncture in the paper, when I was discussing Paul's use of the Christ-Adam motif, is that I knew a lot of my readers would be concerned about the historicity of Adam and I saw no reason to turn them off right away by insisting on a point that isn't essential to my argument. But observe that I still made this concession in a very qualified way. & I was making a concession to others, not trying to leave a loophole for myself.

Of course evolution is a phenomenon of populations, not individuals, but mutations that spread through populations can begin with an individual. You hear geneticists talk about when the gene for red hair, e.g., arose. We don't know when the first group of hominids that should be considered human in a theological sense arose. (& in saying "when" I don't insist that it be at a single instant of time.) The fact that they are pictured in Genesis in ways that are compatible with their having lived a few thousand years B.C., as Dick points out, has more to do with the culture of the biblical writers than with that of the first humans. If you want to push the origin of humanity as a single couple back a few million years you can accomodate the genetic data, as I noted in the 1st quote above. That's what Glenn Morton, e.g., does. I don't buy his model but there are ways of finagling things, & maybe there are more plausible ones than what Glenn presents.

More generally, it's a mistake to tie theology to any particular scientific theory - the mistake many scholastics made with Aristotle. I've made the same point previously about big bang cosmology. Scientifically I'm 99.999% sure that there was a big bang (though whether or not there was anything "before" it is less certain) & a good deal that I've said about creation would have to be rewritten if it turned out that this was wrong but our fundamental understanding of what it means for the triune God to be the creator of the universe doesn't depend on a particular cosmological model. The same is true for our understanding of genetics.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Dehler, Bernie
  Sent: Thursday, December 11, 2008 1:25 PM
  Subject: RE: [asa] promise trumps biology (accepting biological evolution for Adam)

  George said:
  "What I've said that I don't know - for certain - is whether or not those first humans, those all humans today are descended from, were a single couple or a larger group. "


  Why don't you know that they came from a group? It is standard scientific evolutionary understanding. All evolution works in populations over vast amounts of time. What is stopping you from accepting the scientific consensus that humans evolved as a group (besides, the Bible, that is). It seems to me like you are having a hard time shedding that last layer of young earth creationist thinking. ;-)



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Received on Fri Dec 12 07:00:18 2008

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