Re: [asa] First human

From: dfsiemensjr <>
Date: Mon Oct 05 2009 - 14:02:45 EDT

You note the problem, which springs from the normal assumptions of formal
logic. Everything is divided into A and non-A. It works with some things,
but not generally. To take the common example, there are clearly some men
who are bald and some who are not bald, but there is no way to draw a
precise line bet\ween the two classes because of the fuzzy middle.
Similarly, t\here are individuals who are clearly members of /Homo
sapiens sapiens/, and in the past there were members labeled /Homo/ that
were not, let alone the other genera leading up to /Homo/. But to draw a
line on what is essentially a continuum is a futile demand.
Dave (ASA)

On Mon, 5 Oct 2009 10:50:42 -0500 "Jon Tandy" <>
Let me rephrase Gregory's challenge more explicitly, as a statement. If
there were no point at which there were "humans" as opposed to
"non-humans", then we are not humans and thus we are *just* animals. The
acknowledgement that there *are* humans, when prior to some point there
*were not* humans, seems to be a reasonable and necessary assertion that
we could all agree on.
The problem for this question in practical terms is defining what is
human, what *was* human as differentiated from what was previously not
human, and when did that change occur. Gregory has stated that he is not
so concerned about *when* or *how* (or probably even *what*), but rather
simply *that*. I think *that* is the easy question, based on the
presumption that we are human, and that we somehow know how to define
what human is. (But is that a reasonable presumption? What is "human"
Gregory, in sociological terms, since that is what you are more
interested in than biological terms?)
The problem of differentiating one species from another at one "point" in
time is probably unresolvable. If organisms gradually change over time,
at what point can you say that it's now a new organism? It seems a
matter of almost arbitrary definition, and one that can only be done in
retrospect and with broad categorization, not identifying one specific
mutant. One classification that is used is the ability to interbreed,
but I'm not sure that is still a valid (or the only valid) distinguishing
factor that biologists use to distinguish one species from another.
Now, I can see it theoretically possible that a "mutant" could arise that
would be distinguishable from its parent, viable in terms of survival,
and thus constitute a distinct moment in time for a branching lineage.
Whether this can be identified for non-human to human, in a purely
biological sense, I don't know. I don't believe that what makes us human
or image-of-God is purely biological, but must also constitute
non-temporal things (mind, spirit, agency, law, accountability, etc.).
What I see happen in both evolution deniers and evolution supporters
(among Christians) is an absolutist position on what *must be* or *what
must have been* biologically. Biologists like Ken Miller defend the
gapless progression of species (including humankind) with just as much
evangelical fervor as evolution deniers, in so strongly opposing the "God
of the gaps" fallacy as if a biological gap would somehow invalidate
basic philosophical truth. Yet they can never prove that this was the
case. My position is that there could have been a "gap" or gaps (origin
of first life included), but I am just hesitant to base my faith or lack
of faith on the existence of biological gaps, knowing how many details
that science has so far been able to fill in.
Jon Tandy
From: [] On
Behalf Of Gregory Arago
Sent: Monday, October 05, 2009 3:53 AM
To: Schwarzwald;
Subject: Re: [asa] Re: Reading Genesis theologically NOT historically
Hiya Schwarzwald,
Yes, you are indeed correct in saying (other than it seems you mixed the
"I don't think Murray [i.e. Gregory] was asking for a specific *when* A
and B are distinguished, or even necessarily a *how* A and B are
distinguished, but simply *that* A and B are, in fact, distinguished.
That there was, somehow and someway, a 'first man' - and that man is
distinct from non-man."
Yes, I was asking, not for a specific *when* or *how*, but rather for a
*that*. This is precisely an issue of great significance, imho. It would
surprise me if it was *not* an issue of importance for others too. In
other words, it is the 'degree or kind' question of old.
It seems that Murray has agreed with this, i.e. that *there was [*must
have been*] a 'first man',* which is "distinct from non-man," however,
with certain (imo reasonable) qualifications.
- G.

From: Schwarzwald <>
Sent: Sunday, October 4, 2009 1:50:48 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] Re: Reading Genesis theologically NOT historically

Heya Murray,

Just a short comment here. I'm in agreement with quite a lot of your
perspective (sounds like you've taken in quite some interesting
observations from aboriginal beliefs/practices!), but I don't think
Murray was asking for a specific *when* A and B are distinguished, or
even necessarily a *how* A and B are distinguished, but simply *that* A
and B are, in fact, distinguished. That there was, somehow and someway, a
'first man' - and that man is distinct from non-man. Pretty simple, and I
agree with Gregory about such a man existing, though I agree with you in
turn about what the real importance of those passages were. So I guess
I'm somewhere in the middle (though your take on Paul is also
fascinating. You should be writing articles, Murray.)
On Sat, Oct 3, 2009 at 5:35 PM, Murray Hogg <>
Hi Greg,
p.p.s. you wrote: "sin isn't primarily an issue of disobedience but of
relationship" - this is agreeable. Once you say 'degree' to a
human-social scientist, however, there is a problem (though admittedly
not to all of them/us) - it *is* a full-frontal attack on HSS sovereignty
(even if you didn't know this when you spoke it).
This is a really curious remark - but I suspect my perplexity is due to
the brevity of your comment.

There are some things which - without any protestation - are a matter of
degree - colours on a spectrum, volume of noise, distance from a fixed
point. And I can't imagine that such facts constitute a "full-frontal
attack on HSS".

So I can only guess that the issue is that if we can't precisely
delineate the "human" then all that is generally regarded as "human"
collapses into the merely "natural" leaving no place for a HSS
perspective. Is that about it?


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Received on Mon Oct 5 14:15:14 2009

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