FW: (post?) [asa] promise trumps biology (accepting biological evolution for Adam)

From: Dehler, Bernie <bernie.dehler@intel.com>
Date: Tue Dec 16 2008 - 11:22:23 EST

George 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. "

I understand completely, and that is not the question.

George said:
"But it does seem unlikely that the present human race can be traced to a single male-female pair. "

"Unlikely" ... or is it really "impossible" according to modern evolutionary science?

George said:
"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 "

If this is your theory for Adam, that a mutation could start with him, then what kind of gene do you think he originated? If there is nothing you can identify- then why even hold it out as a concession? Are you afraid of persecution for saying what you really believe... that modern science says biological evolution happens only in groups over vast amounts of time ruling out a special biological creation for Adam? As for red hair, does one person suddenly get it, and then all others- or does it take many generations to even get to red- going thru other shades first? Then there's the definition of 'red.' Is 'dark red' red? How about 'light red?' How about 'orangeish red'?

George said:
"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"

I don't understand why you are compelled to give a concession... please explain that. Maybe this point is essential (overall, maybe not to the specific point you are trying to make), because what one believes on this point will affect hermeneutics in general biblical interpretation. You make it sound like it is a reasonable scientific hypothesis that Adam was a unique biological creation... but then also indicate that you don't believe that personally.

George said:
"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. "

Seems foolish to me, because the reason to do that is to make the Bible text true- that God created humans unique... but now another hole in the dam opens up- the geneologies are then out-of-whack. You can get it scientifically true- but then it fails historically. You can't get it both historically and scientifically accurate, because both are wrong (God didn't make man unique biologically, as we know from evolution; for history, human history does go back more than 6 or 10 thousand years).

George said:
"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."

I think it depends on science. Yes, the big-bang could be subject to change- or what lies beyond the big-bang.. But some things won't, such as the idea that our solar system is heliocentric rather than geocentric- that won't change and you can bank on it. Similarly- isn't it obvious to you that DNA has given overwhelming evidence that humans evolved biologically? There's no way that can be re-interpreted scientifically... thinking of pseudogene arguments and fused human chromosome #2. How can that scientific evidence be over-turned or somehow explained with a hypothesis of special biological creation for Adam? If it can't be reversed, then why not teach this evolutionary science boldly to the faithful?

I appreciate your insight- I just like to push against every major thought to see how squishy or solid it is ;-)

...Bernie
________________________________
From: George Murphy [mailto:GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com]
Sent: Thursday, December 11, 2008 12:28 PM
To: Dehler, Bernie; asa@calvin.edu
Subject: Re: [asa] promise trumps biology (accepting biological evolution for Adam)

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.

Shalom
George
http://home.neo.rr.com/scitheologyglm

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Received on Tue Dec 16 11:22:57 2008

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