Re: [asa] Dawkins on the fossil record

From: Terry M. Gray <>
Date: Wed Dec 09 2009 - 12:50:58 EST


I think that Dennis's claim is correct:

> You write: "There is no evidence to support the hypothesis that the entire human race is derived genetically from two individuals."

However, this says nothing about the "unity" of the human race. The genetic evidence continues to support that all modern humans are the result of single speciation event, an evolving small population, that came out of Africa 100-200,000 years ago. There are not multiple origins of homo sapiens (even in Dennis's view). [As an aside, the Neanderthal sequencing data suggests that there was no successful interbreeding--I don't think the jury is still out on that one.]

Even with this approach, it is still possible to posit a special intervention by God (a creation of the soul, if you're open to body/soul dualism) in an original pair who stood at the head of the human race and sustained the probation described in Genesis 2 & 3. Whereas this special intervention may have started with an original pair, God would have extended it to others (Cain's wife, anyone living outside the Middle East or where ever the Garden of Eden was, who shared Adam's Homo sapiens genetic makeup and whose lineage continues today). Whether this happened at the same moment as God's dealing with Adam and Eve or subsequent to it (even subsequent to the Fall), it doesn't really matter. (An important theoretical consequence of this that I think Gregory is always trying to get us to appreciate is that human being are not merely complicated animals. There is something about us--a soul (if you're open to body/soul dualism)--that is not "natural" (or at least not merely biolo!

Keep in mind that this is an unashamed concordist speculation. Ultimately, I don't regard concordism as a bad word--it just means that we expect a unity of truth. However, the Bible gives us none of the speculation I have described, other than the existence of an Adam and Eve who underwent a probation and failed, that functions in scripture to explain the transition from good Creation to fallen Creation. The hesitation to buy traditional monogenism comes from outside the Bible.

My modus operandi is to let the Bible speak--thus keeping the event character of Adam and Eve and the Fall--and to let Creation speak (i.e. what we learn through a scientific study of Creation)--thus recognizing that all modern human beings have not descended from a single pair. We may end up with a "docta ignorantia" on the issue, a well-informed ignorance of how to put the pieces together, but in the process we respect scriptural revelation and creational revelation.

Also, I do recognize the theological character of much of the history in the Bible. In the Christian Reformed Church it has become custom to say that we recognize the event character of something in scripture (to preserve it's fundamental historical character) but to recognize that its theological and stylistic representation in the Biblical account may prevent us from clearly tying that event to something in "normal history". Thus, while it is clear that the Genesis account is told in an ancient Near Eastern, neolithic setting, it's conceivable that this is part of the theological and stylistic representation, i.e. connecting to the culture of the Abraham. Thus, the "event" itself could have occurred even further back in antiquity. I fully understand that this sort of position formally disconnects the science and the history so that historical confirmation of this part of scripture is difficult or impossible, but what it does give us is the ability to continue to advocate t!
 he fundamental event character of the Biblical narrative and to take seriously the timeline that modern science is suggesting.


On Dec 9, 2009, at 3:46 AM, Gregory Arago wrote:

> Hi Dennis,
> Yes, now I have listened to the end of the talk and to the questions. (And I even checked out your other new presentation on YouTube.) Glad to hear your voice! : - )
> Now I understand your position more clearly, but would like clarification still on especially one issue.
> You write: "There is no evidence to support the hypothesis that the entire human race is derived genetically from two individuals."
> What I wish to know is this: are you neverthess still *open* to the possibly 'real' existence of two individuals, who are commonly (i.e. in more than a few world religions) called 'Adam' and 'Eve'? Or are you suggesting that 'genetic evidence' contradicts this possibility?
> There are many implications from what you say in the above statement that perhaps you have not yet thought through. The same is true for me because the implications of the view 'no first two humans' is anything but insignificant! For example, if there were 'multiple origins' of human beings (homo sapiens) in various parts of the world, then the 'unity of humanity' is challenged. There would be many 'races' of humans and not a'single human race.' And as a sociologist I surely wouldn't take such a view lightly. It is serious (is it serious?)!
> But first, are you saying (instead of the negative of 'there is no evidence') that there indeed *is* evidence that "the human race" (placed in scare quotes because it seems this *singularity* issue is being called into question) actually *does* 'derive genetically' from *more* than two individuals, possibly in different physical locations? If so, who has published this evidence and where can it be found? Genetics is a relatively young field, as you admit - so how far should it (and its advocates, though not its 'alarmists') be trusted?
> Further, to the contention that I am misreprsenting you, surely with integrity I don't wish to do this. I commented that Terry had said (my paraphrase) that he “believe(s) in a special creative act. Period." And then I wrote, "Dennis Venema does not accept this." So that I won't misrepresent you, are you saying that I am wrong to suggest that you do not believe in "a special creative act"? If you'll speak to this and the above clearly, then I'll drop the accusation of 'scientism' (which I still think for more than one reason that you cannot avoid, cf. your YouTube singular definiton of 'Science' and language choice as "this is what Science does/is," etc.). Let me remind you that still NO ONE on this list has answered in probably two years to my occaisionally repeated question of how a natural scientist could possibly be 'non-naturalistic'.
> You do consider yourself as a 'naturalist' do you not, Dennis?
> Finally, Dennis, there is no rule against posting under a pseudonym that I am aware of on the ASA list. Otherwise, Mike Gene and Schwarzwald (who have both publically admitted their pseudonyms) would both be banned. If you have a problem with this, raise it with the management. Otherwise, please have the courtesy to engage with the words, positions and arguments that I and others are expressing and refrain from personal attacks. I do believe that we can work together here, and that ASA is such an organisation that promotes cooperation among the sciences. Hopefully you appreciate this too.
> Gregory
> Terry Gray wrote:
> "For example, my own view of human origins allows for common descent of our biological form, but I believe a special creative act is required for our full humanity in the image of God (say, in the creation of the human soul)."
> G.A. It is a brave thing for you as a scientist to say this Terry!
> Be smarter than spam. See how smart SpamGuard is at giving junk email the boot with the All-new Yahoo! Mail

Terry M. Gray, Ph.D.
Computer Support Scientist
Chemistry Department
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523
(o) 970-491-7003 (f) 970-491-1801

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Received on Wed Dec 9 12:51:30 2009

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