Re: [asa] First human/Adam, Contra D. Lamoureux's ideology

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Mon Oct 12 2009 - 15:11:28 EDT

Hi Greg,

Thanks for this - but it leaves me none the wiser! The issue isn't that I don't understand the social-humanitarian perspective, but precisely that I do - and I think that on this particular point it raises more questions than it answers. In particular, I simply can't see how, on social-cultural criteria, one can draw a line between "human" and "non-human" - *even in principle*.

It's trivially easy to do no biological grounds - one simply has to declare, albeit quite arbitrary, that homo sapiens is that species which has DNA markers X1, X2, X3....Xn. Probably not how a geneticist would phrase it, but I think we all get the point that genetic markers provide a criteria by which it is possible to absolutely delineate species, if only in principle.

But I simply don't see how this can occur on social-cultural criteria. I won't argue your claim that thinkers in the humanities *in general* think there was a first human - I only make the observation that I know something of how such thinkers define "human" and (1) there is precious little consensus; and (2) such criteria as are advanced are not given to creation of absolute distinctions between "human" and "non-human". Consequently, thinkers in the humanities are, in fact, the least justified in stating that there are absolute distinctions to be made between "human" and "non-human". If they are, as you say, claiming that there was a "first human" then they aren't providing, as far as I know, any criteria by which one can make even an in principle distinction.

I don't doubt that to identify him/her would be impossible *in practice* - but that's quite beside the point. Absent some sort of particularly theological definition of "human", and absent an appeal to divine action to bring the first of that kind into existence, and I don't see how one can (even *in principle*) argue for a "first human" on socio-cultural grounds.

To express my perplexity more concisely: I would have thought that a socio-cultural perspective would have argued that to be truly human means to be truly human *in community* - and yet you are assuring me that socio-cultural thinkers consider it possible to speak of a "first human" *as individual* who stands without society, without culture, without humanity.

All this would be, frankly, moot if not for the fact that you choose to argue that the human/non-human distinction must be *logically necessary* - ironically, that this is true for biologists (who can appeal to DNA as objective but arbitrary measure) but false for social-humanitarian thinkers (who can not - even *in principle* - offer an instance of any criterion by which a human/non-human distinction might be made).

In all of this, I'm not claiming social-humanitarian thinkers are wrong - I'm simply asking on what criterion/criteria they base their claim that the human is to be delineated from the non-human. Where do "they" - even in principle - draw that line, the existence of which they are apparently so assured?


Gregory Arago wrote:
> Hi Folks,
> A few days delayed, but wanted to address the interesting posts by
> Murray and Jon, and then to follow it up with a challenge to Dennis
> Lamoureux, who indirectly started this conversation on ‘first human’
> through his published views of ‘Adam,’ which a particular ‘doubter’ on
> this list used as a 'tool/weapon' against Christianity. There is no
> point denying, when this exact example shows otherwise, that Lamoureux's
> position and ideas were (and still can be) used against Christianity,
> whether to his approval or not.
> Murray writes:
> “I wonder why one who takes sociology (and therefore culture?) seriously
> would argue there MUST be an original human pair when such a claim seems
> to dismiss the importance of the social/cultural by definition.”
> It doesn’t “dismiss the importance of the social/cultural by
> definition,” not in the least! Rather, it instead is meant to highlight
> the importance of the social/cultural sciences, which are faced with the
> reality of an ideology called ‘biological reductionism.’ Does anyone
> deny the 'reality' of the ideology of biological reductionism? Now is
> your opportunity to speak up!
> Biologists, of course, do not usually like to admit that any such a
> thing as 'biological reductionism' really exists; and this is their
> fantasy! Speak with a biologist or with another natural-physical
> scientist (which neither Murray, nor I, nor Jon is) about ‘first human’
> and you will get a partial answer. This partial answer can be
> supplemented by seeking further knowledge at ‘higher’ levels (see 'map
> of knowledge' by A. Peacocke attached to this message).
> The key issue for me on this topic is whether or not one should trust a
> biologist about ‘Adam’; i.e. isn’t it virtually impossible for a
> biologist to believe in a ‘real Adam’ according to biology's limited
> domain? They are obviously biased by insularity, and not only by the
> supposed ‘evidence’ that they claim to offer. *Just because a biologist
> says “no first human” or "no real Adam" doesn’t mean that this is
> ‘true,’ especially if other scientists or scholars affirm that “there
> *was* a first human.”* This is a *BIG,* no *GIGANTIC* problem; many
> people don’t think they are allowed to contradict ‘biological knowledge’
> with other legitimate kinds of knowledge. Of course, people *are* free
> to reject biological reductionism on topics that are higher than
> biology-alone, which is what I am promoting.
> This is also demonstrated by what Jon writes in this thread: “I believe
> if one tries to analyze a human from the level of physics and chemistry,
> they will find no distinction between non-human (or even non-living)
> chemistry.”
> Yes, indeed, thanks to distinguishing the 'scientific' realms. On the
> other hand, culturologists, sociologists, anthropologists, philosophers
> and theologians *in the majority* (by this I mean the Jewish, Christian
> and Muslim ones) accept the idea that there was (read: *must have been*)
> a ‘first human.’ Why is there anything wrong with trusting their
> perspective and discounting the views of (even the few religious)
> biologists? Would you have a problem with this, Murray? It seems simple
> and agreeable and easy to accept.
> It is high time for biology to be ‘put in its place’ (e.g. which
> means for us as non-biologists to resist the triumphalism of the likes
> of Dawkins and his cronies who are almost all commited to ideological
> ‘biologism’) while at the same time accepting, with all due thanks and
> respect (though without reverence), the important and significant
> contributions of biologists and the field of biology to our collective
> human knowledge. Surely, all non-biologists on this list hold the field
> of biology in great respect, but also that this respect is and should be
> tempered by remembering the ‘map of knowledge’ (see above) that offers
> due respect to *all* fields of the Academy. Is this controversial?
> Jon is one among many who supports what I am suggesting, i.e. in saying
> that there is “a difference in the viewpoint between
> anthropology/sociology/psychology, etc., and evolutionary biology – in
> particular.” Yes, this is the point that needs to be made. That
> biologists are rarely conversant in those other fields (other than the
> socio-biologists or evolutionary psychologists) does nothing to negate
> *the power of views that supersede biology*. Biology is a ‘lower’ scale
> of explanation; this is not distasteful to admit even for a
> natural-physical scientist/TE like Arthur Peacocke and it should not be
> difficult for someone like D. Venema to admit either.
> “the claim that there must logically be a "first human" is to assume
> that a particular concept of "human" is had in mind and this just
> rearranges the deck chairs.” – Murray
> A particular ‘concept’ of ‘human’ is not necessary, especially not in
> common parlance. Rarely used scientific jargon does not concern me here,
> especially on a list with such welcome diversity as ASA! Reductionistic
> definitions made at 'lower' scales of complexity by those who deal
> *only* with the physical world and with simple living organisms don’t do
> justice to the meaning of ‘human being’ that (almost)everyone here means
> when they speak of people as being (really) made in God’s image. There
> is no justification for promoting the authority of "biology says
> otherwise" on such a difficult and challenging topic. Rather,
> definitions of ‘human’ that come from human-social sciences are superior
> and should be preferred, even by biologists or chemists themselves (this
> is an academic-pride issue, folks)!
> Note please that I didn’t say we can ‘positively prove’ there was a
> ‘first human.’ Rather, I simply indicated that it is 'logical' to posit
> a ‘first human.’ And you agree with this in the end as you said, Murray,
> but that you want to leave the door open for polygenetic views. To do
> this is, of course, acceptable and I agree that such a position is fine
> (especially in the light of multiple 'origins' stories, for example, by
> Canadian or Australian ‘aboriginals’ or ‘First Nations’), though it does
> appear to go against the ‘logic’ of the ‘western’ philosophical and
> theological tradition. People like D. Lamoureux promote such
> a ‘departure’ from the tradition, however, on the basis of
> ‘speaking-upwards’ and not of seeking a holistic perspective, that it is
> hard to take them seriously, even if they think they are on the
> 'cutting-edge' of 'science-religion' dialogue.
> Thus, to posit the ‘reality’ of a ‘first human’ and/or ‘first human
> couple’ as a logical claim – it is not a claim that requires any ‘help’
> from biology – is one which has held up the test of time. The posturing
> rhetoric that takes the form of “There *was* no Adam” is painfully
> naïve, on the one hand, and it is also heterodox on the other,
> Lamoureux’s hyper-anti-YEC views aside.
> Jon Tandy said the following:
> *“if there *are humans now* and there *weren't humans before*, that
> means that at some point there must have been a first human.”*
> Yes, and this is precisely what I’ve been suggesting as well. The only
> one who’s spoken directly against it is the ‘doubter,’ using Lamoureux’s
> anti-Adam view to support an anti-Christian agenda (no wonder that
> Dennis, indeed a faithful theologian, in addition to being a dentist and
> a biologist, was appalled with how his good intentions were
> mis-understood and used *against* the greater Christian tradition that
> he [wishes to] represent[s]! It is also, however, not surprising that
> Dennis couldn’t find a publisher for his book for many months, due
> likely to his needlessly taking such a firm ‘There *was* no Adam"
> tact.). Regardless of the pretensions otherwise, there nevetheless still
> appears to be *a consensus on this list that “there must have been a
> first human”* and that it makes sense to call this *“real first human”
> by the name of ‘Adam,’* and that we are therefore agreeing, Murray, much
> more than we are disagreeing.
> “you do seem to me to be taking the curious position that human
> social/cultural achievements are an irrelevance, and that only
> biological measures are relevant to the question of what constitutes the
> human.” – Murray
> No, this is precisely *not* the position that I’m taking, but rather the
> opposite; that human-social/cultural phenomena *are* (extremely)
> relevant and crucial for understanding who we are as persons and what it
> means to be 'human' today. Indeed, social/cultural phenomena are
> oftentimes (if not almost always) *more important* than biological
> descriptions or ‘explanations’ about the meaning of 'human'. Biologists
> can choose to ‘speak-upwards’ to scholars of human culture (though they
> usually choose to speak condescendingly 'downwards') , otherwise they
> need not be appreciated in their reductionistic views of humankind.
> That’s just the way it is, according to most peoples’ ‘map of knowledge’
> and an appeal to 'consensus' (which Randy Isaac acknowledged) favors HSS.
> Jon asks: “Is there a relatively widespread view in the social sciences
> that there is a fundamental problem with blurring the definition of what
> is human, or is that a particular viewpoint that you hold more strongly
> that most because of theological commitments?”
> It’s hard to gauge how ‘widespread’ a view it is, however, there is
> certainly recognition of this ‘blurring’ when it comes to such topics as
> ‘animal rights’ (i.e. compared with ‘human rights’), with things like
> ‘right to die’ (euthanasia) or same-sex unions or more generally, wrt
> ‘continuity with nature’ and 'degree, not kind' ideology. When people
> argue something like “people do things (or display behaviors or traits)
> *because* we evolved from simpler animals, which also do it (or display
> it),” they are stepping outside of the ‘human-social sciences’ proper by
> applying a ‘positive method’ to a ‘reflexive field.’ They are outsiders,
> who do not possess 'insider' knowledge.
> Such thinking is fine, of course, for a field like ‘ethology.’ But
> *nobody should *pretend* that ‘ethologists’ are human-social thinkers* –
> they are not! (A big question is *why don't TEs often refect on this?)*
> We can of course observe actions and behaviours in animals, but at the
> same time we still cannot tell what animals are actualy ‘thinking.’ In
> other words, we cannot speak the ‘language of animals’ or presume to
> apply that to the human-social/cultural realm. Yet, it is done, folks,
> and often, yes it is! Ethologists commit this ‘gap’ logic frequently and
> abuse the distinction between natural-physical science and human-social
> science like it doesn’t matter at all or rather as if it simply confirms
> their usage of natural-physical concepts to disprove or marginalise
> social-cultural-spiritual realities.
> Indeed, there are many people, who do confuse ‘continuity’ with
> ‘natural,’ who don’t allow for 'discontinuity' (which Mike Gene
> highlights) or ‘design,’ and who have no problem with (one of the most
> ridiculous concepts of the 20th century) ‘social-cultural evolution.’ It
> is not difficult to recognize, however, that similar to evolutionary
> biologists, these thinkers are amongst the least religious in the
> Academy. I'm sure TEs will follow the evidence to draw their own
> conclusions about this reality.
> “All men [sic] suppose what is called Wisdom to deal with the first
> causes and the principles of things.” - Aristotle (Metaphysics, Book I,
> 981b 28)
> Let us be clear in acknowledging openly and honestly that biologists are
> *not* concerned professionally with ‘the first causes and the principles
> of things.’ Does anyone disagree? Biology *is* a particular type of
> knowledge about natural-physical things that is oriented towards
> ‘processes’ and not ‘origins.’ There are relatively few 'origin(s) of
> life' researchers. Likewise, biology *as a science* is ‘less complex’
> than many other fields and topics such as ‘first human,’ which involves
> higher types of knowledge as well.
> Jon writes: “if we take it up to a higher level, in areas where social
> sciences have something to say, the distinction between human and
> non-human is extremely distinguishable.”
> Yes, this is both fair and strong to say. Knowledge that deals with
> human culture is ‘reflexive,’ rather than ‘positive.’ This is what
> constitutes a stronger defense of a “real Adam” than anything biology
> has to offer. *We* have a stronger voice about 'real Adam' than biology
> does.
> “[O]nce we think of human beings as social creatures it makes it very
> difficult to draw a human/sub-human distinction.” - Murray
> On the contrary, as a human-social thinker I don’t find it difficult at
> all to draw a human/non-human distinction! But of course, this suggests
> that one’s presuppositions to consider oneself (him or her) as an
> ‘Adamic sociologist’ or an ‘Adamic anthropologist’ are fair ones to
> make, even while others would resist such a self-categorisation. But
> most people on this ASA list are indeed ‘Adamic’ in orientation,
> steering a clearly Christian position from the Gospels to today. I am
> suggesting that ‘Adamic’ and ‘real Adam’ are synonymous in the way they
> are understood by most people. Are any 'natural-physical scientists' at
> ASA brave enough to take such a principled stand?
> The popular expression “Didn’t know him from Adam” translated into
> Lamoureux’s language: “Didn’t know him from a fictional or non-literal
> or non-real character.” This is a poor translation of logic and Dennis
> should know it!
> “Either one restricts evolutionary theory to the purely biological OR
> one extends it to the cultural. And both have consequences for the
> question I think you are asking re a "first" human couple.” – Murray
> Yes, evolutionary theory would best be restricted to ‘biological
> sciences’ as representatives of a certain ‘level’ of knowledge. Higher
> levels of knowledge are, as has been said, ‘superior’ to lower levels of
> knowledge on topics such as ‘first human.’ The duo ‘cultural evolution’
> is a misnomer, pure and simple. If there are any human-social scientists
> out there who would contest this, I would be glad to hear from them and
> to correct their out-dated (19^th and early 20^th century) views.
> *Lamoureux uses theology plus biology to make 'Adam' into a fantasy,
> into the supposedly 'unreal'.* I believe he is wrong to do this (and he
> is, of course, not alone). He is now witnessing (in recent ASA threads)
> in ‘real time’ how his ideas about ‘Adam’ can be used to fuel
> anti-theism, and also how insistence on ‘anti-real-Adam’ misses out on
> important perspectives which would allow him to believe in the ‘reality’
> of a ‘first human’ suitably called ‘Adam.’ I wonder if he in any way
> regrets his position. Indeed, it would not be the first time (this is
> documented) that Lamoureux has changed his views (and probably he
> thinks, just like Dawkins does, that his ideas have ‘evolved’ for the
> better) to embrace the newest trend!
> “[Y]ou (and Cameron) ARE making a Darwinist assumption in your questions
> of a first human…a dated, 150-year-old assumption that populations MUST
> be descended from an single, point mutation.” – Murray
> No, I am not making this assumption at all. I am saying that there ‘must
> have been a first human’ (as Jon said above) and that we seek to unify
> the voices that really do exist (in the masses!) simply by saying that
> ‘first human’ is/was ‘Adam.’ The power of the word ‘real’ is under
> consideration in this discussion and I don’t see why we need to ‘reduce’
> ourselves, as Lamoureux does, to a biological explanation of ‘real’.
> There are better, more holistic approaches to what ‘real’ means than
> what Lamoureux currently offers (though he 'seems' to represent the
> North American 'science and religion' duality quite satisfactorily), but
> which he cannot defend.
> *It doesn’t seem controversial or difficult to say ‘real Adam’ (flesh
> and blood!) as a Christian.* All that it requires is for a person to
> ‘situate’ the ‘biologically speaking’ participants in this discussion
> who propose that a ‘first human’ is *impossible.* We can do this
> because such a view is made *only* according to their specialist views
> of 'modern science' and logic and is clearly (see statistics of the
> American public about 'evolution') *not* representative of most people.
> *The biologists and natural-physical scientists are being illogical and
> scientistic in thinking that others should accept their position of
> 'evolutionism' universally across the board.* We (i.e. the vast majority
> of us who are non-biologists) shouldn’t! And Jews, Christians and
> Muslims in the majority worldwide will thankfully protect their/our
> COMMON VIEW of the ‘REALITY OF ADAM’. It is only a vast minority few who
> would elevate biological thought way out of proportion that will
> disagree. Too bad for them!
> “[T]heologically speaking, there is precious little difference between
> "God breathed his spirit into THE man and he became a living being" or
> "God breathed his Spirit into MANY and THEY became living spirits." A
> multiple origins scenario, in other words, doesn't seem to me logically
> incompatible with the idea of human uniqueness as a consequence of a
> direct divine act” – Murray Hogg (Aus)
> This provides food for thought! Have you taken it to your local Church
> authorities on the matter to consult them, Murray?
> When you say, “if you take Genesis 1:27 seriously, then what Genesis
> posits actually IS a multiple origins scenario,” I disagree and think
> you are now playing with words rather than expounding ‘truth of
> scripture’. The term ‘them’ wrt ‘man and women’ makes sense (e.g.
> non-English languages that speak of ‘you’ as ‘more than one’), but it
> doesn’t mean that human beings originated in different places and/or at
> different times (i.e. in a 'degree, not kind' situation). Instead, in
> all people (about which we say 'who' rather than ‘which’ because once we
> start talking about persons we are talking about ‘personalities’ and
> ‘character’ in addition to ‘just nature’) there is something ‘higher’
> that enables a ‘personal’ relationship with their Creator. There is, of
> course, a historical reality involved here, which I admit no monopoly to
> interpret or discover. Thanks again Murray, for your insights and open,
> non-party-line questions!!!
> Now it is you, however, Murray, who appears to be ‘bowing to biology’
> (e.g. to neo-neo-Darwinian ‘biologism’) rather than to allow the
> ‘higher’ knowledges to present their respective views. The vast majority
> of Australians (and I say this, familiar with the growing numbers of
> non-European, Asian immigrants in that country) have roots in a
> tradition that acknowledges a ‘real Adam,’ despite how much biologists
> and anti-theists would argue against it. Australian Aboriginal
> Christians also mediate a view that acknowledges ‘Adam’ coherently
> within their local traditional origin stories, even when given the power
> of ‘dreaming’ to maintain the mystery (which you and I and even Dennis,
> have already highlighted). *We can’t ‘prove’ Adam scientifically; but
> this doesn’t make ‘Adam’ unreal! *This is to the heterodox shame of
> Dennis' presumptive position.
> Actually, what you said, Murray, made me think of Matthew 27: 24, 25,
> especially the phrase “Let his blood be on us and on our children.” Can
> a ‘crowd’ really have a unified, singular voice in such a situation? Did
> one person say such a thing first, and then others repeated it, etc.?
> Does it make a difference to sociology or anthropology or psychology or
> political ‘science’ to posit not a ‘first individual’ but instead a
> ‘first group,’ emergent, *not* created? To the latter question,
> the answer is: *yes, of course it does!!*
> Jon asks: “how do they [i.e. human-social scientists/scholars] make a
> clear distinction with what is *human* in social sciences versus studies
> of other animals? I agree that this distinction, if it can be clearly
> made, should help support the theological assertion of human
> uniqueness. It might also be helpful in dealing with anti-scientific
> rhetoric on one hand, and philosophical evolutionism on the other.”
> To make a ‘clear distinction’ is not necessary; everyone reading this is
> a human person – this is taken for granted and not challenged. Does
> anyone wish to challenge it? No, of course not. The audience of
> ‘reflexive,’ thinking beings that is identified are human beings, not
> something else. You may call this tautological (meant pejoratively),
> Jon, but it displays what human-social theories *inevitably* involve;
> the person who theorizes makes a double hermeneutic approach from a
> distance (teoria), which requires them to 'reflexively' position
> themselves in relation to any topic under consideration. There is
> nothing whatsoever wrong with asking a sociologist who accepts Adam or
> who rejects Adam to explain how his or her worldview is involved in
> their conclusion, for to do so is to introduce a topic that allows
> ‘observers’ (i.e. you and me) to see the inclinations or presuppositions
> of the particular theorist. This is frankly why many, many, many people
> are turned off by Dawkins, Harris and Pinker, exactly because of this.
> And it is also why others are attracted to them (i.e. the growing number
> of anti-religious Americans), due to the presuppositions, *not* their
> (oftentimes weak) 'science.'
> In the language of ‘physics’ or ‘biology,’ what I’ve just said doesn’t
> apply and of course makes little sense. But so what - berate me?! Once
> one gets outside of the domain of ‘positive science’ (i.e. read: the
> natural-physical sciences) to enter the realm of ‘reflexive science’
> (i.e. read: the human-social sciences) they discover another type of
> knowledge that is obscured and even sometimes deemed ‘invalid’ when
> thinking that ‘only natural-physical science’ is ‘pure science’ and that
> when we are speaking about ‘science and religion’ we are actually
> speaking (non-ideologically) about ‘only natural-physical science and
> religion.’ This is why someone like George Murphy (theoretical
> physicist-Lutheran theologican) can say to me (after paying mere lip
> service to the validity of human-social sciences, and to the Spirit of
> humankind, made in the image of God) that my understanding of ‘human
> evolution’ is flawed, seen in the light of a purely ‘positive method.’
> How wrong he is, based on his positivist bias, tempered as it is (quite
> beautifully, imo) with a mystic lens! On the other hand, from my equally
> legitimate (which is of course debatable on qualitative grounds)
> ‘reflexive method,’ the importance of sending cautions to the mainly
> natural-physical scientists in the ASA about accepting ‘human evolution’
> as an absolute and universal truth is responsible and simply ‘makes
> sense.’ They don't seem to see or comprehend the power of (and need for)
> defending Adam in HSS!
> The biggest problem here, as anyone who has heard my position can know,
> is those who speak 'against Adam’ by actively ‘denying Adam’s reality.’
> If Rev. Dr. Dennis Lamoureux is not guilty on this charge, i.e. of
> demonstrating a reductionistic-biologistic position, I would be glad for
> him to clarify himself and to prove me wrong. At the least, he should
> not say “There was no Adam” but rather “In my opinion, there was no
> Adam, but really there could have been a 'first human' called
> 'Adam'.” Maybe he has said something like this already?
> But does he really think he can ‘make a difference’ with his
> biologo-theology, by saying ‘No-fairytale’ to Adam!? It seems
> unfathomable that he could propose this. And it is unacceptable to the
> majority at ASA who believe otherwise.
> Gregory
> p.s. will be attending a giant lecture tomorrow on "Why Adam was
> expelled from the Garden" by a decorated Russian-American theoretical
> physicist tomorrow. The poster for his lecture was torn from the wall of
> a scientific Institute in my presence by one who didn't want 'to give
> their atheist director a heart attack.' TEs and ECs who claim to be
> anti-Adam support this controversial position. Yes, you do! Thankfully
> most at ASA do not accept it, but rather take the responsible position
> of accepting a 'real first human/Adam'.
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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Received on Mon Oct 12 15:12:25 2009

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