There Was No Historical Adam June 6, 2011

There Was No Historical Adam

Just when I got over the fact that Christians were seriously debating the nature of Hell — a debate that doesn’t even need to take place because there’s no evidence hell exists in the first place — we learn of a new Christian controversy: Did Adam and Eve really exist?

The misleading subtitle at the Christianity Today website puts it this way:

The center of the evolution debate has shifted from asking whether we came from earlier animals to whether we could have come from one man and one woman.

Umm… no. Not true. At all.

No credible scientists are debating whether one man and one woman began all of human life. They already know the answer is “No.”

But Christians wouldn’t buy that issue of the magazine, so Richard N. Ostling wrote up a nearly 4,000 word article on the false controversy for this cover story:

They could’ve at least had the decency to point out this is only a controversy in the world of Christianity, not in the world of reality.

The article is laughable as it highlights everything that’s wrong with mixing faith and science.

For example, as Ostling notes, Bible scholar Dan Harlow wrote an article (PDF) for a Christian journal in which he said Adam and Eve were only literary characters, not actual people. So did theologian John Schneider.

What happened because of that?

As a result of their writings, a personnel panel has been investigating whether they violated the doctrinal standards that [Calvin College’s] sponsoring Christian Reformed Church requires of faculty… Harlow and Schneider could face discipline from the board of trustees, and revived denominational debate about evolution seems inevitable.

Yeah, how dare they try to make sense?! That goes against everything the Bible teaches!

These Christian journals are hilarious, by the way. Even when they say something sensible, they find a way to sound idiotic:

Had humanity begun with only two individuals, without millions of years for development, says an [American Scientific Affiliation] paper, it would have required God’s miraculous intervention to increase the genetic diversity to what is observable today.

You don’t need God in that sentence. As written, that phrase “God’s miraculous intervention” sounds like an explanation that might have some weight to it. It’s not. That’s not even an option. It’s misleading.

Here’s a simpler, more honest rephrasing of that same passage:

Had humanity begun with only two individuals, without millions of years for development, we would not see the amount of genetic diversity that is observable today.

There’s more from the journals…

An ASA paper likewise observes that some Christians who understand Adam and Eve as symbols or allegories suppose that Genesis describes what happened to a particular grouping of humans during the “bottleneck” period, so that “maybe God transformed everyone in this group into the first biblical humans.” The ASA notes another variant in which humanity’s creation and fall happened within different groups over time, as God added moral responsibilities and spiritual revelations.

Worst. Peer-review process. Ever.

At least Ostling admits that none of this is a problem for real scientists:

The rethinking on Adam is an outgrowth of mainstream evolutionary thought that has long been the object of evangelical hostility (though the hostility has always been hotter at the grassroots than among professional scientists).

In other words, the only people who think this is a “controversy” are the people who know next to nothing about the subject. The experts already know the answer and it goes against what Evangelical Christian churches teach.

Ostling also mentions the various explanations of how our species came to be. Like the one you’ll see in the Creation Museum: Young Earth Creationism featuring a 6,000-year-old world.

A second competitor, the “old earth” version of creationism, is far more prevalent among evangelical intellectuals. It basically rejects evolution but affirms science’s longstanding and lopsided support for the planet’s vastly ancient age.

Got that? The intellectual evangelicals believe we were created by God but that our Earth is pretty old.

That’s the best scientific thinking Evangelical Christianity has to offer.

Well, when you’re surrounded by complete failures, I guess getting an F+ gives you bragging rights…

By the way, if you needed more reason to dislike the way Francis Collins tries to mix science with his faith, here you go:

(***Edit***: I removed one of the quotations below, which I wrongly attributed to Francis Collins. Thanks to Rachel for pointing that out!)

Instead of the traditional belief in the specially created man and woman of Eden who were biologically different from all other creatures, Collins mused, might Genesis be presenting “a poetic and powerful allegory” about God endowing humanity with a spiritual and moral nature? “Both options are intellectually tenable,” he concluded.

No. No, they’re not. Seeing Genesis as an allegory is at least plausible. Seeing Genesis as literally true is a view held only by gullible Christians, intellectual liars, and Ken Ham.

It’s incredible that this would be a controversy at all until you realize it’s only a problem in the Evangelical Christian world. And it’s only a problem there because reality is overlapping with their theology. They’re going to lose this battle eventually. It’s hard to keep the truth covered up and it gets more embarrassing the longer they do it (especially when everyone knows it).

I love how some Christians are debating things that secular science figured out a long fucking time ago. Maybe in the next issue, CT will cover the scientific debate over “Intelligent Falling.”

"" because all it would take to drag them down/have them give up state/company secrets ..."

The Lack of Opposite-Gender Friendships Among ..."
"In all fairness it should be pointed out that Altier also believes crackers turn into ..."

MN Priest Who Said COVID Death ..."
"If for some reason you do lose your faith it will be a totally involuntary ..."

Democrats Do Not Have “Anti-Catholic” Bias, ..."
"masturbation is ok - it sesm even for our miserablte nannybot."

Podcast Ep. 341: The Supreme Court’s ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Marguerite

    Reading all this makes my eyes roll so much I think I may have sustained an injury. I honestly can’t imagine ANYONE believing Adam and Eve were historical people (I didn’t believe it when I was a Lutheran, either). It often seems like evangelicals have a real disconnect from reality to me.

  • Weren’t mitochondrial Adam and mitochondrial Eve separated by thousands of years?

  • Man. With this, and Newt Gingrich, the Man with the Unshuffled Faith, running for President? I’m thinking of auditioning for Star Trek in 2013. I may as well get some use out of the giant Klingon-like callous my forehead will have from all the facepalming.

  • TychaBrahe

    OK, hang on. Doesn’t evolution actually mean that we did all have a single common ancestor? Or rather two, one male and one female?

    I mean, people always talk about species evolving over time, but truly, they don’t. Individuals don’t even evolve. One animal gives birth to one offspring that has a mutation that is more successful (or more lucky) than others, and that one’s descendants survive to reproduce better than other members of the previous species until the descendants of those without the mutation are left behind. Or both survive separately, a la chimpanzees and bonobos.

    The chances that two H. heidelbergensis were born with the exact same mutation that was part of the transition from that species to H. sapiens (unless they were homozygotic twins) is statistically so incredibly rare as to be nearly impossible.

    I’m not suggesting that there is a historical Adam. For one thing, the transition from previous forms to current forms took thousands of generations. I’m saying that just because it didn’t happen “by the grace of God” doesn’t mean we didn’t descend from a single ancestor.

  • @TychaBrahe:

    That’s who Mitochondrial Adam and Eve are. We do have what are called Most Common Recent Ancestors (MCRA) but our MCRA were separated by many thousands of years. The woman to whom we all share a common ancestry was from a different era than the man to whom we all share common ancestry.

    They wouldn’t have been a couple, and their offspring would have mated with other Hominids, but they eventually would have spread enough to become all of us.

  • i was just a kid in elementary school and unconvinced of religious myths, but this was, way back then, the super-duper-dealbreaker for me — there was no adam and eve, no original sin, no need for anyone to sacrifice for anyone else.

    no amount of mental contortions can get past this. i’m repeatedly astounded that they try.

  • Kari

    Forgive me because I’ve spent the past couple of years studying the history of Eastern religion, so my Bible knowledge is a little rusty. Was the Garden of Eden on Earth? Wouldn’t we be able to do an archeological search to find it?
    I was raised in an evangelical Pentecostal household. I was 8 when I was first told about Adam and Eve. Then I said “Does God like it when when brothers and sisters have babies?” My mother looked horrified and asked why I would ask that. I pointed out that that was the only way that we would have come from Adam and Eve. I take pride in knowing that at 8 I was questioning things that didn’t make sense.

    Bible = pretty good literature. Not so much on the intellectual or moral compass.

  • dauntless

    @Kev Quondam

    That’s who Mitochondrial Adam and Eve are.

    The term “Mitochondrial Adam” is meaningless since mitochondria are only passed from mother to child. Perhaps there could be a term like “SRY Adam” or “Y Adam”, since the Y chromosome is passed clonally from father to son.

  • bob42

    Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?

  • @Kari:

    Most Biblical literalists say the Garden of Eden was taken away. (I believe there’s a passage somewhere with some sort of reference to something that could be taken as such.)

    @Dauntless:

    Ah, yes. Y-Chromosomal Adam would be more precise (and seems what they’re talking about.)

    I’m no scientist so I only know what I read and must have misinterpreted a bit of the science there.

  • TychaBrahe

    @bob42 – People often say that Adam and Eve would not have had belly buttons since they were formed as opposed to conceived. But we are also told that we are made in God’s image. So therefore, shouldn’t God have a belly button?

    Now if God has a belly button, is it ornamental or functional? Would a perfect God have a non-functional attribute? Who existed to admire God prior to creation? And if God’s belly button is functional, it implies that God had a physical mother.

    @Kev – I agree that SRY Adam did not have to live at the same time as mitochondrial Eve(s), but there had to be one or more females who mated with SRY Adam so that we could receive his genetic gift.

    BTW, has anyone ever done a study of how much pure chance has to do with evolution? I understand that a lot of times evolution produces a species better adapted to its environment. I’m thinking here of Darwin’s birds. But how much of it is just chance? Are chimps or bonobos better adapted to their environment, or are they both equally valid species and their evolution is just what happens to a single population separated by a river that becomes too wide for them to cross and continue interbreeding.

    For example, two H. heidelbergensis brothers, Tim and Steve, are born to a single mother. They have genetic differences, but neither one is better adapted to the environment than the other, so there’s no real advantage to being either one. Tim and Steve both leave their birth group and take up with new groups. They both mate and have offspring. And one day, in a particularly nasty flood, all of Tim’s group and his descendants are drowned.

    Regardless of the evolutionary fitness of Steve’s group vis a vis Tim’s group, all of Steve’s progeny just got a much better shot at survival, especially if, once the flood waters recede, the grounds formerly hunted and gathered by Tim’s tribe are now up for grabs.

  • Hypatia’s Daughter

    Some scholars believe genome science casts doubt on the existence of the first man and woman.

    Note how easy it is for the uninformed to conflate scholars with scientists. The scholars study the bible for their answers; the scientists study everything else (like genomics, archeology, geology & paleontology).
    And pity the poor scholars, like Harlow and Schneider, who try to accommodate science. Off to the Inquisition for them. (Sans the rack & Iron Maiden because we live in post-enlightenment societies where secular authorities don’t permit churches to use such things.)

  • @TychaBrahe:

    Yea, now you’ve gone over my head XD I know very little about evolution.

  • jose

    It’s cute how they pretend like there is something to talk about, and how they try to sound serious about it. Like six year olds playing house.

    @TychaBrahe, the single common ancestor is the ancestor of all life, not just humans. You need to think in terms of populations to see evolution at work. You are mixing up individuals and populations right now. All you have to do for a population to start splitting into two subpopulations (which, given time, could lead to two different species) is to make mating more difficult. It could be a river dividing the population, or it could be due to migration to a nearby island, or maybe because of change in the behavior of one part of the population… there are hundreds of these “barriers” that reduce gene flow and thus represent a potential split. Biologists used to refer to regional variations of one species as “subspecies”.

    If those subspecies favor mating among themselves and avoid the other subpopulation, their genomes will start to look more and more different. If the frequency of successful mating gets to a point when reproduction can’t be achieved or it’s merely anecdotal (think donkeys and horses), that’s it, you got two different species.

    I don’t think two individuals, particularly animals, could start a new species. There wouldn’t be enough genetic diversity. Inbreeding is a bad thing.

  • ACN

    Mutations are purely random.

    The primary mechanism of speciation is natural selection, which isn’t random at all. It acts as a brake on the total mutation rate. There are other potential mechanisms for speciation that are also important(genetic drift, for example).

  • Steve

    @TychaBrahe
    Look up neutral mutation theory:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutral_mutation_theory

    Natural selection is one mechanism for evolution. The other is random genetic drift.

  • I’m fascinated by “the integrity of the faith requires” there to have been one Adam and one Eve from which we are all descended. Do they perhaps mean “our reason for obsessing over ‘sin'” or “our reason for telling women to sit down and shut up”?

  • Siamang

    As a result of their writings, a personnel panel has been investigating whether they violated the doctrinal standards that [Calvin College’s] sponsoring Christian Reformed Church requires of faculty… Harlow and Schneider could face discipline from the board of trustees,

    THIS should be the cover of the magazine. The fact that this BS is merely tut-tutted in the article, instead of the cause for a great soul-searching, is all too telling.

    The headline for this article should be “What Have We Become?” And it should be about the church’s valuing of doctrinal purity above fact, above new ideas and above freedom of intellectual conscience.

    They have *some* temerity to call themselves a College. This is no institution of higher learning. It’s nothing but a time machine to the 1300’s.

  • I’m in the Canadian Christian context which is very very different in a lot of ways, including generally having no problem with evolutionary creationism. So I always find some of these stories from the US fascinating. I have had the discussion of whether there was a historical Adam and Eve once and it went in typical Canadian Christian fashion. I suggested they were poetic figures, she said she hadn’t thought of it that way before but didn’t really care one way or another because the point is the same, and that was the extent of the conversation. I have also heard sermons and podcasts discussing the various viewpoints, so I would defend CT in saying that it is a conversation going on – maybe not “debate” at least in Canada because neither side really cares in terms of any implications, but conversation yes.

    I have trouble within my own understanding of Christianity (and I’m a Master of Divinity student so I’d like to think I’ve picked up a few things) with why the historicity of Adam and Eve matter. Even Biblical Inerrantists don’t think everything in the Bible is literal – they acknowledge some things as poetic – so it shouldn’t be that challenging to say that Adam and Eve were poetic and it doesn’t change anything. Some say that they think everything is literal but if you start pushing them for interpretations you’ll quickly realize they don’t (granted, maybe more than the average Christian). So historicity of Adam and Eve fall into that category of just not understanding why some American Christians – the ones who make the news of course, not the average – care so much.

  • @TychaBrahe

    Most evolution occurs in populations. Consider that humans and chimps are descended from a common species. If humans must have descended from a single pair, must chimps also have descended from a single pair?

    The existence of Mitochondrial Eve is consistent with this idea. Eve may have been a common ancestor, but that does not mean that there were no contemporary humans, just that those other humans did not produce descendants that are still alive today. In fact, it doesn’t even mean that. For instance, perhaps Eve had a sister who only had sons; her sister produced descendants, but her mitochondria were not passed on.

  • TheBlackCat

    @ Ryan: The problem is the concept of original sin. Basically, all humans have an inherent sin on their record (no matter how pure they act) simply because they are descended from Adam and Eve. The only way to avoid going to Hell because of this sin is to believe in Jesus. If there was no Adam and Eve, there could not be any original sin, and thus there is no need for Jesus. Without a need for Jesus, there is no need to be a Christian. So for many Christians a belief in a historical Adam and Eve of some sort is absolutely essential or their entire belief system collapses.

  • The church I used to go to kind-of skirted around the whole Adam and Eve thing by pretty much saying that the bible really starts with Exodus and Genesis is largely metaphorical. They de-emphasized original sin but played up the idea that NO-ONE is free from sin within their own life and EVERYBODY needs to be saved…

    That is probably fairly typical with a lot of churches. In my opinion, modern Christians are kind-of making up their own slant on theology as they go.

  • Curt Cameron

    miller wrote:
    “The existence of Mitochondrial Eve is consistent with this idea. Eve may have been a common ancestor, but that does not mean that there were no contemporary humans, just that those other humans did not produce descendants that are still alive today.”

    miller, that’s not quite right. Mitochondrial Eve would have had many contemporaries who have current descendants, even many female contemporaries who have current descendants. It’s just that her female contemporaries would not have had daughters, or their daughters would not have had daughters, etc., so that if you look at just the female family tree for humanity, ME will be at the top. If you add in the males, we would trace our lineage to most of the people alive at the time of ME, even other women, through their sons.

    I hope that makes sense, it’s confusing until you really think it through.

  • The CT article discusses two people named Collins, and your last block quote conflates the two:

    If genetics eventually forces reconsideration, Collins remarks, he could perhaps reconceive of Adam and Eve as “the king and queen of a larger population” and thereby preserve Genesis’ historicity.

    This is from a paragraph about a book by John Collins, who defends the notion of Adam and Eve as historical figures.

    (Hemant says: Thanks! You’re right. I’ve fixed the posting so it’s accurate.)

  • Stephen P

    To clarify one point: every genetic component we have has a separate most recent common ancestor*. “Mitochondrial Eve” and “Y-chromosome Adam” are just two that happen to be particularly easy to visualise. But we have thousands of MRCAs, ranging from about 70,000 years ago to millions of years. Indeed for a few genes** you are more closely related to some chimpanzees than you are to some humans.

    * was it unfair of me to chuckle at “most common recent ancestor”? I guess mine would be a great-great-grandfather who spent much of his time drunk.
    ** according to “The Ancestor’s Tale”

  • PhiloKGB

    In addition to TheBlackCat’s analysis, further importance of a literal A & E is in blame-placing. Two humans who sin is their own fault — they might not have chosen to disobey given another opportunity, but we’ll never know because small sample size and all. Fifty billion (or however many humans have ever lived) is God’s fault.

  • i always have to remind folks that “adam and eve” aren’t a purely nor originally a monotheistic concept. and that the monotheists, basically, stole the narrative from pagan traditions that predated them. in the West Semitic example from pre-monotheistic times, their version of A&E was a bit conflated with “The Flood” and some other narratives about “divine” brother/sister couples who established dynasties, kingdoms, whatever, after “the end” of some mythical period in which only two humans were left alive. i like the Sumerian couple better than A&E; they became immortal and totally Wise, after their experience with vengeful and angry gods who punish and/or destroy most of their creations after some ‘unholy’ moment. the Elamite and Sumerian versions of A&E were left to suffer and be pitiful; the Sumerian gods who kicked them out of paradise were at least afforded some reason for doing that, yo. which is to say, “humans make too much noise and you’re annoying us. so we’re going to destroy you.” makes sense to me! not.

    giant snakes. dead, galactic sized bodies of gods. songs that become flesh. rain from the stars mixing with the breast milk of the earth’s rivers. the burning corpse of the god who lost a battle. all these are mythological reasons why ‘modern humans exist.’ it’s really kind of sad and pathetic that modern people, who know science and technology and history, still argue “which one of these is true?”

    is anybody else as tired as i am, of these ‘debates’ about the ‘right’ way to interpret mythology about how the world was formed? how about the truly jewish narrative, which is *very* different, in interpretation, from the xtian one, even though they share a lot of focal points? ask a rabbi and a fundie xtian about A&E, and i promise you, you’ll get different answers. i guess that doesn’t matter so much to believers. which is why i think they are stupid. don’t get me started on the re-write that Islam inserted into this mix; i’ve read the Koran. talk about ‘confused.’

  • oh, and as a media critic? it fascinates me that modern amurkin xtians are willing to display “adam’ as a brown skinned (if still light eyed) guy who looks like he could live in Gaza. that’s… um, “progress” or something. once upon a time they would’ve made that cover with a pale skinned, blonde, blue eyed nordic type, and called him “Adam.” because, you know, everyone “knows” that “gawd is white.” /quotes Malcolm X/

    sorry, religion people: most of your leaders and authors? pretty fucking brown, nappy haired, and from the areas that you’re so interested in bombing just now. get over it. no major religion from scandinavia has taken hold like the ‘dark people’s’ religions’ have. get over it. pale people’s religions don’t take. deal. and ask yourself why that is. hint: the fastest growing religion among “mixed race” americans of various traditional backgrounds? pagan. inclusive. while xtian belief ages and fades. think about it.

  • CatBallou

    Hemant, sometimes I worry that you’re not as “friendly” as you used to be!

  • @Curt Cameron
    You should have quoted my next sentence, which pointed out the same gross simplification. But thanks for the elaboration.

  • PCE

    @Hemant Mehta

    “Well, when you’re surrounded by complete failures, I guess getting an F+ gives you bragging rights…”

    Is this calm, level-headed argument? I would like to see more intellectually stimulating conversation, not angry ranting. If there is an argument to be had, have it. You simply try to ridicule the other side which only alludes to your own weakness. I know you must be a smart guy, let’s see the good stuff here.

    Also, shouldn’t you be happy that the Christian community is at least making efforts to recognize the scientific community as valid?

  • Stephen P

    @Chicago Dyke: excellent points.

    And yes, I got a book from the fundies no more than about 15 years ago, which has Adam and Eve as pale-skinned northern European types, who moreover look like they’ve just visited an upmarket hairdresser.

  • dauntless

    Kev Quondam

    I know very little about evolution.

    Neither do the fundies quoted in the article. Here’s a novel concept: if you don’t know much about something, don’t talk about it.

  • PCE

    @chicago dyke

    “pale people’s religions don’t take. deal. and ask yourself why that is. hint: the fastest growing religion among “mixed race” americans of various traditional backgrounds? pagan. inclusive. while xtian belief ages and fades. think about it.”

    This is really interesting! I would like to see this study on mixed race americans.

    However, I think you are quite misinformed on the state of the Christian religion. It is only growing, and especially in non-Western, non-white countries. It may be fading somewhat in the Western world, but the fact is Christianity is the largest religion in Subsaharan Africa, and Brazil (known for a large variety of racial mixes and having a complex nomenclature to describe these) has the second largest Christian population in the world. Christianty is only becoming more and more non-white.

  • @TychaBrahe (and others): I am not a biologist; I am just now in the middle of reading “The Selfish Gene”. Something that has been made pretty clearly by it early on is that evolution occurs at the gene level, not at the level of the individual or populations. This evolution is expressed as changes in species, to better suit the “survival machines” (Dawkin’s term) so that the genes within have a chance to be passed on to the next generation. Thus, while an individual species (or more) may die out, the genes of which that species was made up have a much longer history, and are present across species. At least, that is how I am understanding it so far. As far as I am aware, this is still the current understanding of biologists, is it not (that is, the premises of “The Selfish Gene” – not my understanding)? If not, please correct me!

  • TheBlackCat

    @ chicago dyke: You apparently haven’t seen the pictures from the Creation Museum, where Adam and Eve are as white as can be. But then again in the museum they also promote the Hamite doctrine, so in their eyes there couldn’t be an black people prior to the flood anyway.

  • jose

    cr0sh, Dawkins argues in that book that natural selection acts upon genes.

    Evolution and natural selection are different things. Natural selection is what creates adaptations, what Dawkins calls “the illusion of design”. Evolution on the other hand is change in the gene pool frequencies of a population over time. A species can evolve through selection, but it can evolve through other ways, too.

    I wouldn’t say the view he presented in that book has replaced Darwin’s idea of the individual -instead of the gene- as the subject of selection.

    By the way, he says in that book: “The gene is defined as a piece of chromosome which is sufficiently short for it to last, potentially, for long enough for it to function as a significant unit of natural selection.”

    The problem is that’s not how a gene “is defined”; it’s how Dawkins chose to re-define it so he could say natural selection acts upon genes. It’s not an usual definition used in genetics and other branches of biology. If you include “it must function as a unit of natural selection” in the definition of gene, then obviously natural selection must act upon genes. DUH.

    To be honest, if someone asked me about evolution, I would recommend this post rather than the selfish gene.

  • @jose: Thank you for that interesting article; it will definitely give me something to think about as I continue reading Dawkins’ work…

  • Lion IRC

    Adam and Eve – The Male and Female parents of every subsequent “human” by whatever definition of human you use. Only two individual humans – not a collective group of Adams and Eves consisting of “never fewer than 2,000”

    Logically, there has to be only two humans prior to which time there were none.

    If you dont believe me just keep going back in time asking two questions.

    1. Who were your (sexually reproductive) parents?
    2. Were they human?

    Keep going and you will find that cousins gradually get more and more closely related as you get closer to the top of the genealogy pyramid. If you wish to argue that there are two or more genetically unrelated pyramids you are making the fine tuning argument even FINER than it already is.

    At some point, someone close to the very top of the pyramid is going to have to say mum and dad were THE proto-humans named Adam and Eve…

    – or non-human “primates” named Adam and Eve
    – or non-primate “creatures” named Adam and Eve

    A “symbolic” Adam and Eve means a “symbolic” Cain and Abel.

    And a “symbolic” Noah.
    And a “symbolic” Abraham
    And a “symbolic” Moses
    And a “symbolic” Jesus of Nazareth.

  • Dan

    I’m not a biologist. I am a mathematician (former math teacher, in fact), an actuary and a Christian.

    You said that: “The intellectual evangelicals believe we were created by God but that our Earth is pretty old. That’s the best scientific thinking Evangelical Christianity has to offer. Well, when you’re surrounded by complete failures, I guess getting an F+ gives you bragging rights…”

    Well, I hope you don’t insult students that think differently than you as much as you insult other adults that think differently.

    You believe in evolution and ridicule Christians that believe in an “old creation”? Ok, fine. Let’s talk math and science and look at both “old creation” and evolution and see whose model is more likely to work.

    Adam and Eve? Laughable? If we’re going to compare “old creation” to evolution, we can’t stop with Adam & Eve, we have to go backwards to the origin of life: people, monkeys, lemurs, frogs, whatever… single cell protozoans… DNA. If evolution is how we got here, then we have to logically go back not to Adam and Eve, but all the way to those first single cells that were alive and to the DNA that coded their existence.

    I’m not a biologist, as I noted, but if I remember correctly, there’s roughly 256 proteins that must be combined and sequenced to form DNA. What are the odds of having proteins randomly attach themselves in a proper sequence and form DNA?

    Mathematically speaking, you have better odds of winning the lottery. Multiple times. UNLESS, there was a force of some type guiding that formation of DNA. But you don’t believe in God, or the Force, or anything silly like that. We’ll stick with winning the lottery. I don’t trust it, but hey, I’m a Christian, so that’s to be expected.

    So, ignoring the mathematic improbability of life forming randomly, let’s look at the scientific method to see which is more plausible: was DNA first formed randomly or was it created? What has science shown us so far?

    Well, back in the ’50s there was a scientist (Miller?) who experimented with “primordial ooze” and tried to recreate the atmospheric conditions where life would have formed. He succeeded in small manner — amino acids did combine to make some proteins, but the proteins never came close to combining to form DNA. Miller (?) considered the experiment a failure.

    More recently, scientists have done amazing things with DNA. Cloning sheep, isolating genes, etc., tons of great stuff. Intelligent scientists have worked at and now have the ability to clone, to mimic, to re-create DNA strands. Good stuff.

    But what does this tell us about the likely origin of life when we consider the scientific method of developing a hypothesis, experimenting, checking results, tweaking the hypothesis, etc?

    Form DNA at random by duplicating the environment conditions that would have been present when life first formed on Earth. Experiment FAILS.

    Intelligent scientists replicate DNA by following the structure and design already present in DNA. Experiment succeeds.

    You want to mock “Adam and Eve”? Fine. But if you want to prove to me and other “old creationists” that “intelligent design” is the myth and that DNA forming in primordial ooze is the reality, you need to find some scientists that can prove it by creating DNA in primordial ooze. All science has proven so far is that intelligent people can imitate what already exists.

    Hemant: I am sure you’re an intelligent guy, and that you’re well intentioned. In fact, given that we’re both mathematicians, I’d guess that we’d probably get along if we were to hang out, chat about life, sudoku and baseball (even though we might root for different teams.)

    Given that, yes, we do have some things in common, I would offer one bit of friendly advice, and I do mean this sincerely. If you want to have a serious dialogue with people, and you hope to convince them of your logic and the validity of your argument, you might want to avoid condescension and ridicule. The only thing that condescension will prove to someone is that you’re a jerk, and I’m guessing that’s not true to the Friendly Atheist image you try to represent.

    Besides, don’t you get embarassed when you argue with someone and find out later you were wrong? For instance, if you argue with someone and insist that 42 does not equal 9×6, only to find out later that you were using base 10 and they were using base 13. Not good.

  • jose

    Shorter Dan:

    I don’t know how DNA came to be. Therefore, God did it.

  • ACN

    Logically, there has to be only two humans prior to which time there were none.

    If you dont believe me just keep going back in time asking two questions.

    1. Who were your (sexually reproductive) parents?
    2. Were they human?

    False.

    Your question makes a number of assumptions about species that you are not addressing. Namely, that the almost continuous genetic differences between organisms are somehow discretizeable into categories like “human”. Nature is unencumbered by your difficulties of taxonomy.

    A “symbolic” Adam and Eve means a “symbolic” Cain and Abel.

    And a “symbolic” Noah.
    And a “symbolic” Abraham
    And a “symbolic” Moses
    And a “symbolic” Jesus of Nazareth.

    Yes. Exactly.

    Dan,

    You’re confusing two ideas
    1) Evolution by natural selection
    2) Abiogenesis
    Although no one has a complete theory of abiogenesis, this is not a problem for evolution.The theory of evolution applies as long as life exists and how that life came to exist is simply not a relevant question to evolution.

    jose answered your claim nicely, but here is another reference in case you’re interested. This isn’t a “let’s have the debate issue”. The debate has been had for over a hundred years. The biologists have evidence to support their view. The christians do not. They have a book of mythology written by some jews in iron/bronze age palestine. The idea that there is a thoughtful debate to be had between these views is insulting.

  • Steve

    Actually, it’s “not exactly”

    You’re forgetting that there are thousand of years between the Genesis myth and the Jesus story. The Genesis myth is based old Mesopotamian legends, written long before in a different culture. They have absolutely no connection to the later books of the Bible. That whole “original sin” BS was concocted a lot later

  • ACN

    I was trying to indicate that they were all symbolic.

  • Someone obviously forgot to point out that the Genesis stories that feature Adam, Eve, Serpent and God are myths. Myths are not the same as history or science. Obviously we know this and if someone could let Christianity Today know then they won’t make such fools of themselves in the future.

  • ACN

    *raises hand* oh oh oh I did hoverfrog!

    The christians do not. They have a book of mythology…

  • Stephen P

    Dan:

    I’m not a biologist, as I noted, but if I remember correctly, there’s roughly 256 proteins that must be combined and sequenced to form DNA. What are the odds of having proteins randomly attach themselves in a proper sequence and form DNA?

    Well, your figure of 256 is a bit off. The actual number of proteins in DNA is zero. As you could have found out if you had made any effort.

    All your rant tells us is that you know absolutely nothing about biology and have no interest in educating yourself. You’re at the level of someone who doesn’t know a prime from a polygon. Take Wittgenstein’s advice: “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen”.

  • Steve

    Oh boy. If you think DNA is made of proteins, you don’t even know what DNA is or what purpose it has. Namely: it encodes proteins. Proteins are synthesized based on the pattern the DNA contains

    The DNA molecule is actually pretty simple and very elegant from a chemical POV. And some primitive organisms like certain kinds bacteria don’t contain a lot of it

  • Lion IRC

    @ACN

    Dont just put your hand up and say “FALSE”

    Dont just sit there making pronouncements that there are an unspecified “number of assumptions”

    What assumptions are “hidden” in these two simple questions regressing back in time until you get to Adam and Eve?

    1. Who were your (sexually reproductive) parents?

    2. Were they human?

    If you have a problem with the term “human” take it up with biologists. If you lack sufficient info to differentiate between species thats YOUR problem.

    I would have a lot of respect for the evolutionary biologist who is willing to admit their own ignorance about when and why “humans” actually appeared.

    Most importantly, if you cant pin down the criteria for a transition point between human and an earlier non-human primate then your “continuous genetic change” renders the word species meaningless and subjective.

    You may as well erect an artificial “species” dividing line to separate before and after the advent of the internet. Homo-Interneticus

    “discretizeable” LOL

  • ACN

    Let’s go over this again carefully. You are taking a biological term, abusing it, and then gleefully expounding upon your own cleverness.

    The transition line between humans, and various other hominid species is very fine. It is gradual enough that it isn’t always obvious where to draw a line between “human” and “non-human”. It is nearly continuous. You think you’ve figured out something really clever with your questions, but all you’re doing is imposing an artificial discretization on a nearly continuous process.

    The word “species” is itself part of the issue. You can read a farily good discussion of the here.

    To add some more light to the issue, you can find a discussion of the various hominid species with a timeline to show how and when they overlapped here.

    There is no such thing as a “first two humans”. There is no Adam. There is no Eve. There is no evidence of any sort of supernatural creation. You are taking a book of tribal myths, and claiming it contains information superior to that which we have gleaned from our modern understanding of evolutionary biology. It does not. It reflects the understanding of the tribal people who wrote it, namely, that they understood virtually nothing about human origins.

  • Pete

    As an evangelical of some 28+ years who struggled with all of these facts that threatened my perceived reality I am . . only so glad I completely escaped. Living in reality . . . so much easier on the mind!

  • Kased

    This article… EPIC FAIL.

  • I love science.. but it deals in facts not truth.  Facts are always changing which changes science hypothesis.  Fact is.. today it is sunny, science says there is a 0% chance of rain but yet it’s raining.  One scientist can do a carbon dating on a bone and claim the bone is 1 million  years old.. another scientist can take the same bone and get an entirely different answer.   Science is not a stable area to take a stand against christianity on when all it’s men cannot even come to the same conclusion.  And you might want to look at all the studies by athiest scientists who have accidentally proven the bible to be truth.     Don’t assume that every person that claims they are christian really is… or every mag is legit.   Just because I sit in a garage and make varoom varoom noises doesn’t make me a car.  Reading the bible doesn’t mean a person has a grasp on it… that’s why it is called the great mystery and it’s said to confound the wise, the proud of heart.   If you feel this arrogant need to bash all things christian why don’t you do it right and find truth first.. really do your own research… know your stuff.. and than present the truth.. not facts that will change with the next scientific study.

  • Wow.. basing believes on a t.v. program.. and we all know that t.v. never lies.  Nimrod is the Father of Polytheism.   His wife and himself were behind the building of the tower of babel… which science has proven was a triangular structure like our egyptian pyramids and aztec ones.  They set themselves up as Gods.. and from them we got our first names such as Astarte… and as people spread out these names changed to names such as Diana, Athena.. Apollo.  They took the sun and the moon as their symbol… and further down the family tree … came Abram.   Father of two great nations.      I think you might want to not take A&e’s word.   Do some real research on nimrod.. father of paganism… and than look up whose great great so on.. grandson he is..

  • Found this…
      I am an atheist. I want you to prove to me that there
    is a god in the world. I believe that science is god. So do not prove
    that God exists from the Bible, because I know that Jesus said He
    was god. Can you prove that for me?

    Bible Answer: This week I read a surprising
    article in Forbes ASAP. I would like to quote it at length for you and
    then answer your question. Forbes Magazine is a non-Christian publication.

    It’s too easy, with the benefit of modernity, hindsight,
    and all that, to regard science as the most fearless, objective, apolitical,
    democratic, and open-minded of human endeavors – the seeker of truth.
    Never mind anything by divine right . . .

    Throughout the 16th century, as it gradually dawned on
    everybody that Columbus hadn’t, after all, hit some island off Japan
    or India (where he was headed at the time) but that he had in fact come
    across an entirely new continent, everything epistemological hit the
    fan. For a comfortable 2,000 years, life, the universe, and everything
    had been what Aristotle . . . said it would be . . So what was [America]
    doing there?

    Things got rapidly worse in the first decades of the 17th
    century, as people like Galileo started seeing other centers of attraction,
    such as Jupiter circled by its moons. To compound the felony, sailors
    started coming back across the Atlantic to Europe with hundreds of new
    American animal and plant species that were not described in Aristotle’s
    list . . .

    In the desperate search for some way to bail out the sinking
    ship or shut the stable door, a couple of quick thinkers came up with
    some solutions. One was a French engineer named Rene Descartes who .
    . . suggested that the only way to find truth was to go on doubting until
    you stripped away all dubious elements so as to arrive at a point where
    what remained was so self-evident that it was beyond doubt. That would
    be truth.

    The other guy, an English legal eagle by the name of Francis
    Bacon, opted for correlation and analysis as a means of certainty. Amass
    enough evidence and you were halfway there. His admirers then came up
    with a Royal Society for doing this stuff, with correspondents all over
    the place sending in cards and letters filled with their observations.
    The Royal Society motto, “Take Nobody’s Word for It,” generated
    a procedure for making sure other people were seeing what you were seeing,
    known as “witnessing.” If enough people agreed they were all
    witnessing the same thing, then it was a “matter of fact.”

    In the late 19th century, at the University of Nancy,
    France, the recent discovery of X-rays convinced people that other rays
    should be there too. Sure enough, once some guy demonstrated N rays (named
    after the town), they became a hot ticket to a Ph.D. And, no doubt, somebody
    got a degree, in N-ray studies. Then one day some American, who hadn’t
    heard about these rays, said the truth was he couldn’t see them. Sure
    enough, when everybody looked closer, nor could they. Collapse of theory.

    This kind of collapse riddles the history of the so-called
    truth finding sciences. Here’s a list of the greatest hits of scientific
    theory collapse. For centuries it was known that disease came from miasma,
    a foul air emanating from marshes and putrescent materials and such creepy
    stuff . . . Until 1884, when Louis Pasteur discovered germs. For centuries
    electricity was a fluid . . . until 1820. It was a well-known fact rotten
    apples spontaneously generated little worms and grubs found inside them
    . . . until 1767. The atom was indivisible . . . until 1877 . . . Light
    was particles until 1801, when it became waves; until 1905, when it became
    particles again; until 1924, when it became both. And my all time favorite,
    the one that really makes my point: Space and time were absolutes until
    1886, when Ersnt Mach introduced the insidious concept of relativity
    and set the stage for Einstein.

    In the end, the can of worms Columbus opened with his
    trip to India is this: There is no truth to find. Truth is what you want
    it to be . . . (James Burke, Forbes ASAP, October 2, 2000).

    While I disagree with the author’s summary it is clear that he made
    is point. The theories of science are constantly changing because science
    is a constant search for truth. Science is an art form that seeks truth.
    It is art form because scientists create hypothesizes, test those hypothesizes,
    change the tests when the tests when prove to be inadequate and discard
    the theories if they are wrong. Science is not truth. It is only man’s
    guess at the truth until something proves it to be wrong.

    We Would Need To Be God! Neither science
    nor I can prove that God exists. You cannot prove He does not exist.
    Neither of us can prove He does or does not exist because we do not see
    Him. In order to prove that, you or I would need to know every part of
    the universe and everything about the universe because God could be anywhere.
    We would also have to know everything about the other dimensions of time
    and existence. In short, we would need to be god to know everything and
    be everywhere at the same time because God might move. Then we would
    be god if we could know everything and be everywhere at the same time.
    Science is inadequate for the task.

    It cannot tell us how the stuff that caused the “big-bang” came
    into existence or where it came from – how anything got started. That
    is a problem for science if it really is the god of truth. Science cannot
    tell me why 4,000 or 2,000 year old prophecies in the Bible came true.
    It cannot tell me how 700 – 500 year old prophecies came true predicting
    the exact week in which Jesus would die. Or, why 1,000
    year old prophecies were accurate about Jesus’ birth, life and His
    death.

    What Is Truth? Our experience is not a measure
    of truth. Atheism says there is no god. Did science prove that? If so,
    what is the name of the test for determining that god does not exist?
    Our experience does not prove or disprove god. I have heard men and women
    claim their god has done something wonderful for them in their life.
    People are always using experience as proof that god is real or their
    religion is correct. How do they know? How can they be sure it was their
    god and not mine? My God may have lovingly done them a favor! How do
    we determine truth? I started my quest for truth by determining which
    sacred book could be validated as truth. The Christian Bible passed the test
    of fulfilled prophecy. Its has hundreds of prophecies – they came
    true! This is the test of truth no other sacred book can match. When
    it speaks, it speaks truth! It states that God is Jesus Christ.

    Conclusion:Science is not fool proof! It is constantly
    changing as one theory after another is being revised and updated because
    we do not really know – we are learning. Evolution is no exception. Science
    is only as good as the human mind and that is faulty, biased and guilty
    of serious errors. May I suggest truth can be found in a supernatural
    book – a sacred book – the Bible. It has been proven to be accurate when
    it speaks to history and prophecy. It predicted Jesus’ birth and death,
    including the week in which He would die. It predicted
    His return to life, and historical
    records witness to the life, death and miracles of Jesus. Jesus is
    God! God only asks us to believe
    in Jesus!