Re: [asa] Re: Reading Genesis theologically NOT historically

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Date: Mon Oct 05 2009 - 20:56:19 EDT

Re: [asa] Re: Reading Genesis theologically NOT historicallyDennis:

Your remark below needs to be explained, because as it stands it obscures what you are saying, both in reference to biology and in reference to the notion of Adam and Eve.

Obviously there must be a "first" in every biological line. If we take the classic neo-Darwinian example of the hypothetical okapi-like animal which became the giraffe, presumably all modern giraffes can in theory be traced back to a *first* okapi-like animal which grew a neck significantly longer than the other members of its population, and survived food shortages (because it could reach higher leaves), thus leaving more offspring, etc. Neither biologically nor logically could there have been a "first population" of long-necked okapi-like animals until there was a "first individual" of this type. Supposing that the evolution of the giraffe began when an animal five feet tall produced a longer-necked offspring that was five foot six, the five-foot-six offspring is what is normally meant by the phrase "ancestor of the giraffe". The term "ancestor" is perfectly justified by common sense: if that five-foot-six animal had been eaten by a predator before reproducing, there would have been no giraffes -- or at the very least their evolution would have been delayed by however long it took to come up with another five-foot-six offspring, which would be by no means a certain thing. And the five-foot-six ancestor was an individual, not a "population" -- though of course he or she eventually produced a population (of longer-necked okapi-like animals). So your objection to a first ancestor does not make sense. You need to flesh out, in layman's language, what you mean by a "population" in this context. Why does a "first population" exclude a "first individual"?

Consider these two possibilities, which as far as I can tell exhaust the logical alternatives:

1. All human beings are genetically descended from a single pair of ultimate parents (6,000 years ago, 30,000 years ago, 100,000 years ago, a million years ago, whenever).
2. The current crop of human beings on this planet is genetically descended from more than one pair of ultimate parents, parents who were themselves unrelated.

Then there is a further distinction to be made between human and non-human, which when applied to the first distinction yields four possibilities:

1. a. The single pair of ultimate parents was fully human.
1. b. The single pair of ultimate parents were highly sophisticated primates, but not yet human.

2. a. The different pairs of unrelated ultimate parents were fully human.
2. b. The different pairs of unrelated ultimate parents were highly sophisticated primates, but not yet human.


If 1a is the case, there is no reason why you should object to the notion of a first human pair. I therefore presume that you reject 1a.

If 2a is the case, then the human species emerged *more than once* from the evolutionary process. This is most unlikely on neo-Darwinian premises. Therefore, I presume that you (whom I take to be a neo-Darwinian) reject 2a.

If 2b is the case, then either the descendants of the two (or more) unrelated primate lines mixed, or they did not. If they did not mix over thousands of generations, it was because they could not mix, and then the different types of modern human beings (e.g., Australian aborigine, Caucasian, Mongoloid, etc.) would not be able to mix, either. But all modern human beings can interbreed. Also, after thousands of generations, more like tens of thousands, of separation from two originally distinct primate species, we would expect at least species-level differences among human beings, not mere differences in pigment or hair curliness and so on. But no one thinks that different types of human beings today are of different species. So clearly the (hypothetical) distinct primate lines must have mixed to produce a common human race. But would the lines have been able to mix? That depends on how different the two unrelated primates were in the first place. If they were as different as, say, a baboon and a spider monkey, or a gorilla and an orangutan, or a human being and a gorilla, they would not be interbreedable, and then scenario 2b is impossible. On the other hand, if the two distinctive primate lines were close enough to be interbreedable, then they undoubtedly themselves sprang from a common ancestor, in which case 2b is just a slight variation on 1b.

Thus, by elimination, it looks as if you are plumping for 1b.

So, is your notion that the "first pair" from which all human beings have descended was *not yet human*, so that human beings did not come onto the scene until hundreds or thousands of generations later than the "first pair", by which time there would have been a population of them?

Or, to put it another way, are you granting that all human beings did indeed come genetically from a first pair, but not from a first *human* pair? Just as the present-day population of giraffes came genetically from a "first pair" (an okapi-like animal with a long neck crossed with an okapi-like animal with a normal neck), though that "first pair" was not itself a pair of giraffes? So that the Biblical story is inaccurate, not in postulating a first pair of genetic ancestors for all human beings, but in postulating that the first pair was *human*?

Cameron W.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Dennis Venema
  To: Gregory Arago ; George Murphy ; Dick Fischer
  Cc: ;
  Sent: Monday, October 05, 2009 5:52 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Re: Reading Genesis theologically NOT historically


  The point (biologically) is that there is a first population, not a first individual. Your logic, if I understand it correctly, doesn’t hold. Speciation for humans was a population event, not via a single individual or pair, as far as we can tell.


  On 05/10/09 2:26 PM, "Gregory Arago" <> wrote:

    George Murphy wrote: "Adam IS mankind."

    If that is the case, George, and if you accept the logic *there must have been a first,* then do you accept that the 'first human' was ADAM, i.e. the first of 'mankind' or 'humanity'? If not, then why not? Are you a *degree, not kind* guy?

    From: George Murphy <>
    To: Dick Fischer <>
    Sent: Tuesday, October 6, 2009 12:47:31 AM
    Subject: Re: [asa] Re: Reading Genesis theologically NOT historically

    When humankind (not just a single individual) is said to be created in the image & likeness of God in Gen.1:2, it's quite legitimate (IMO) to interpret the following words, "and let them [N.B.] have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thin that creeps upon the earth" (NRSV). I.e., humans are to be God's representatives in ruling the other creatures of the world. The word "emissary" is really too weak for this. But more importantly, there is no suggestion that oen human being is commissioned to be an emissary to other human beings. So the point remains, there is no canonical texts that says - ot implies - "that Adam was God’s emissary to mankind." Adam IS mankind.



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Received on Mon Oct 5 20:59:50 2009

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