American Scientific Affiliation

ASA members tackle Adam and Eve

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One interesting result of the ASA survey noted below was the great division of the membership on Adam and Eve. There are small minorities offering every view from “Adam and Eve had no contemporaries, and were the biological ancestors of all humans, living in Mesopotamia around 10,000 years ago.” (5.8%)

through to

“There were no historical individuals corresponding to Adam and Eve.” (11%)

The really interesting thing is that 31.9% of respondents (the only large minority) said, “The Bible is consistent with several of the above options and the issue is not of great importance.”

Actually, the issue is of great importance, even though it may never be settled or settlable as a matter of factual certainty. For one thing, Adam and Eve underwrite the unity of the human race, if they are the ancestors of all humans. So far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the alternative, polygeny, cannot be held in good faith. Also, if Adam and Eve can be considered non-historical, many questions, including that one, become cloudy — for example, the question of how and why other humans should be implicated in their sin or benefit from their salvation. So it was disturbing to see that nearly a third of the membership responding felt the question was “not of great importance.”

No doubt, some people think I have been rather hard on ASA over the years, and I don’t deny it. The trouble is that a Christian organization can easily be co-opted by fashionable atheism at the precise points where intellectual capital matters. Then it may take refuge in asserting that “We are all Christians here because we pray together.” This survey seems to suggest a trend in that direction.

As to the greying membership, I suggest that the real action now is with groups like Biologos, aimed explicitly at persuading Christians that they can maintain an intellectually respectable faith without believing that the universe (?) or life forms show evidence of design. This could be due to the growing size and strength of the design community. If more people know what is at issue, many old arguments aimed at confusing or shutting down discussion just will not wash any more..

(The comments to the survey are also worth reading. See also “The American Scientific Affiliation: Whatever happened to its mission?)

But look on the bright side: It’s Adam and Eve they are thinking about, not “Adam and Steve” or, in the words of the old children’s joke, “Adam and Eve and Pinch Me …”

6 Replies to “ASA members tackle Adam and Eve

  1. 1
    Lenoxus says:

    I’d like to clarify a genealogical point that is very easily missed, by pointing out this Wikipedia article: Identical ancestors point.

    For two people to be the ancestors of all modern humans in no way means that they were the only humans alive in their time, or the only ones with living descendants.

    While it’s possible that the human species started from a bottleneck of two, it’s extremely unlikely, and it is unnecessary for that to be the case in order for the following statement to be correct: “Ancient humans C and D were common ancestors to all humans today.”

    That’s because ancestry is never exclusive; both Mary, Queen of Scots and Chinese Emporer Wanli could be my ancestors without either of them having met. And it (obviously) wouldn’t be correct to say “X isn’t my great-great-times-ten-grandmother, because Y is!”

    BTW, I’m not saying the OP is making any such errors. I mostly felt like showing off 😉

  2. 2
    tjguy says:

    I’m glad someone here on this site realizes that a literal Adam and Eve is very important! The folks at Biologos don’t even believe in the words of the real Logos.

    Jesus, the real Logos, is said to be the second Adam, but if there is no first Adam, what meaning is there in that term?

    Jesus, the real Logos, said that God created humans male and female at the beginning of creation. Obviously He believed in a literal Adam and Eve.

    If there was no Adam and Eve, there was no original sin and there was then no sin nature passed on to mankind. The whole purpose of the real Logos, Jesus’ life and death is based on a real Garden and a real Adam and Eve who disobeyed God and reaped a judgment of pain, sorrow, and death. Without that original sin, the main purpose for the Real Logos to become man and come to this earth is lost. This would be a devastating blow to Christianity.

    Although all humans originally descended from Adam and Eve, there would have been another bottleneck after the flood. It could be said that Noah and his wife are also the ancestors of all humans who ever lived since that time.

  3. 3
    vjtorley says:


    Thank you for your post. I have some questions of my own regarding Adam and Eve, and they’re for biologists. As I think most readers now know, Francisco Ayala et al. are supposed to have decisively refuted monogenism (the belief that (i) at one time, the human race consisted of only two people, Adam and Eve; (ii) that all human beings are descended from this original couple; and (iii) that human beings are not descended from any non-human hominids living at the time of Adam and Eve) in their 1994 paper, Molecular genetics of speciation and human origins by F. J. Ayala, A. Escalante, C. O’Huigin, and J. Klein. In Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 91: 6787–6794. I’ll quote a brief excerpt:

    The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) plays a cardinal role in the defense of vertebrates against parasites and other pathogens. In some genes there are extensive and ancient polymorphisms that have passed from ancestral to descendant species and are shared among contemporary species. The polymorphism at the DRB1 locus, represented by 58 known alleles in humans, has existed for at least 30 million years and is shared by humans, apes, and other primates. The coalescence theory of populations genetics leads to the conclusion that the DRB1 polymorphism requires that the population ancestral to modern humans has maintained a mean effective size of 100,000 individuals over the 30-million-year persistence of this polymorphism. We explore the possibility of occasional population bottlenecks and conclude that the ancestral population could not have at any time consisted of fewer than several thousand individuals.

    As far as I am aware, all scientists who accept evolution believe that the conclusions of this paper by Ayala et al. still stand. So here are some questions I have for the biologists.

    (1) Can anyone give me a complete list of the scientific assumptions underlying the analysis contained in this paper?

    (2) From an evolutionary standpoint, how much of a “miracle” would it take for human beings to have descended from a bottleneck of two individuals, say, one or two million years ago? Would any laws of nature have to be broken, or are we just talking about some extremely improbable events – and if so, how improbable?

    (3) Does the argument in Ayala’s paper presuppose common descent? Would an old-earth creationist be unfazed by it?

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    vjtorley, I don’t know about Ayala’s assumptions but this following video gave me severe pause as to regarding the claims of evolutionists about human origins to be on the up and up,

    Human Evolution? – The Compelling Genetic & Fossil Evidence For Adam and Eve – Dr. Fazale Rana

  5. 5
    Robert Byers says:

    Right on.
    Denyce O’Leary is right that Adam/Eve are essential to Christian doctrine. There were no other people beside them or before until they bred.
    It follows that going backward all men end up too a single pair.
    Its reasonable. Its true.
    By the way all these genetics fail for many reasons from a biblical creationist view.
    First Adam/Eve before the fall had DNA that didn’t allow death/sickness/injury.
    One can not go back to such wonders by some trail today.
    Second people before and a while after the flood had genetics that allowed them to live hundreds of years.
    So the genetics then are not related easily to the genetics today.
    Genetics as a trail presumes no interference in the beginning and along the way.
    Nothing in nature has been static as a fact or a option. Its presumptions here about genetic continuity .

  6. 6

    I agree with you, Denyse, that “the issue is of great importance, even though it may never be settled or settlable as a matter of factual certainty.”

    And I agree when you say “it was disturbing to see that nearly a third of the membership responding felt the question was ‘not of great importance’.”

    But probably this data is distorted by the dual nature of the response-option because, unfortunately, this multiple-choice option was written in a way that combined two very different ideas: “The Bible is consistent with several of the above options” and “the issue is not of great importance”.

    Maybe, as in most multiple-choice situations, this 32% chose the best available option (in this case it was choice #7, which was the main “none of the above” option, if they didn’t agree with any of specific views described in choices 1-6) even though #7 did not precisely match their own view. I think – and hope – that most of this 32% would have chosen #7 below, not #8, if #7 had been offered as a choice.

    7. The Bible is consistent with several of the above options.

    8. The Bible is consistent with several of the above options, and the issue is not of great importance.

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