[This post will remain at the top of the page until 8:00 am EST tomorrow, June 5. For reader convenience, other coverage continues below. – UD News]
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Tyro, Drew, Ray Moscow, Andrei, Dr. I. Needtob Athe, Anatman, Chris McNeely, Marcello, John Salerno, Miles, Mark, TheShortEaredOwl, Solomon Wagstaff, Evan Guiney, KP, Sven DiMilo, Patrick, Kevin Anthoney, Ftfkdad, Happy Cat, Prof. Pedant, Ben Goren, Qbsmd and Tim Byron. Most of these guys are card-carrying atheists, but by the time you’ve finished reading this post, you’ll absolutely love them.
I have argued before (see here) that the best refutations of arguments for atheism are often those written by atheists themselves. But wait, there’s more! Funnily enough, it turns out that atheists can do a better job of defending key religious doctrines than religious believers themselves.
As readers are well aware, Intelligent Design Theory is not about defending any religious doctrine: its methods are scientific, and its concern is with patterns in Nature that are best explained as the product of intelligent agency. Nevertheless, many Intelligent Design proponents are religious believers, and this post is on a topic that will interest those who are. One key religious doctrine that has been getting a lot of attention lately (see this article by Darrel Falk at Biologos and this recent article by Richard Ostling in Christianity Today) is the doctrine that all human beings are descended from a single pair: Adam and Eve. Jews, Christians and Muslims alike have traditionally affirmed this doctrine, which is still accepted by most Orthodox Jews and by all Muslims, and has been constantly affirmed by the Christian Church from the very beginning, and is still considered binding by Eastern Orthodox Christians, Catholics and many Evangelical Christians.
The problem is that science seems to conclusively demonstrate that this doctrine is simply wrong. Genetic data indicate that there are simply too many different kinds of genes around for all human beings to have descended from two people. There have been genetic bottlenecks in the past, but the smallest bottleneck was one of 10,000-15,000 individuals that occurred between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago. Incidentally, the size of this bottleneck (at least 10,000 people) also rules out any “accommodationist” suggestion that Adam was simply the leader of his tribe, and hence the acknowledged leader of the human race. Tribes never get that big, and there’s no way all of them could have known Adam anyway, so they couldn’t be held accountable for any decision he made.
It gets worse. Even if we define Adam and Eve broadly as a male and a female who were the ancestors of every living human being, it looks like they never met. Mitochondrial DNA takes us back to a single female ancestor who lived about 140,000 years ago, but the genes on the Y chromosome go back to a male who lived about 60,000 to 90,000 years ago.
To cap it all, the genes in the nucleus trace back to different ancestors living at times, some as far back as two million years, so our genetic legacy comes from many different individuals. It doesn’t go back to just two individuals, regardless of when they may have lived.
Professor Jerry Coyne has thrown down the gauntlet to religious believers, in a post entitled, Adam and Eve: the ultimate standoff between faith and science (and a contest). After arguing that science rules out the existence of Adam and Eve, and scolding Biologos founder Dr. Francis Collins for failing to come out and say so, Coyne decided to take pity on the poor evangelical Christians who cannot give up their belief in Adam and Eve, as it would destroy their faith. Tongue-in-cheek, he writes:
BUT. . . we can help them! Like Michael Ruse, let’s lend our brains—and our considerable expertise in theology—to this enterprise, so we can relieve these poor Christians of their burden. For an autographed paperback edition of WEIT [Why Evolution is True – VJT], in one short paragraph propose your own theological solution:
What is the best way to reconcile the Biblical story of Adam and Eve with the genetic facts?
When I read that, a big smile crept over my face. I knew from past experience that some atheists are very smart cookies, and I also knew that when a lot of people work on a problem together, they’ll come up with a solution sooner or later. Two heads are better than one.
Sure enough, I found some answers that far surpassed in ingenuity anything I’d seen on the Christian side. And I have to say, some of the answers are quite good.
After looking through the 300-or-so comments that have rolled in to date, and weeding out the silliest ones (time travel; God got Alzheimer’s; Adam is the Ground of Being; Adam and Eve were aliens; Adam coalesced at some point, like Schrodinger’s cat; Adam and Eve were the result of a quantum entanglement; God made Adam simply because He got bored looking at Eve; most people living aren’t real people anyway, and hence are not descended from Adam and Eve), I decided to present the “best of the rest” to readers at Uncommon Descent. The proposals are of varying degrees of religious orthodoxy. I have listed them here because they contain a number of genuinely interesting ideas. I don’t care where I get my ideas from – and I am not ashamed to borrow from atheists, even ones writing stuff they totally disbelieve, if I think that their ideas nevertheless have some merit.
I’ve attempted to sort the attempted solutions into general categories. Leaving aside the totally crazy proposals listed above, I’ve identified no less than fourteen different solutions to the problem of Adam and Eve! Which ones do you like the best?
And now, my readers, over to you.
PROPOSALS FOR RECONCILING THE BIBLICAL STORY OF ADAM AND EVE WITH THE GENETIC FACTS
1. Divine Genetic Engineering Before the Fall
Drew (first model)
…how about “The Multi-germic Theory”
God created Adam and Eve roughly 140,000 years ago but imparted them both with many germ line cells each carrying a different genome, this allowed that each of Adam and Eve’s children would not be genetic siblings so that there would be no loss of fitness due to sibling interbreeding. Each distinct gene set was based roughly on the genomes of various human-like beings that had evolved through natural processes but was distinct enough that it allowed for the brain to interact with a soul.
… you see everything else evolved but man did not, and god made it look as though man had evolved by having the F1 generation be genetically diverse enough that you can’t scientifically tell that there were only two human people that started the whole thing off, and yet similar enough to existing hominins that the evolutionary line appears unbroken.
It may also have been necessary that for a few generations following F1 the individuals continued to have the variable germ cells to further protect the offspring from inbreeding defects.
Drew (second model)
Or we could also try this.
Roughly 140,000 years ago God slightly tinkered with the genes of two existing hominin pairs to ensure that the next baby they each had would have brains which were capable of interacting with a soul. These two individuals, one male and one female were Adam and Eve. God then imparted them both with many germ line cells each carrying a different genome, this allowed that each of Adam and Eve’s children would not be genetic siblings so that there would be no loss of fitness due to sibling interbreeding. Each distinct gene set was based roughly on the genomes of various human-like beings that had preceded Adam and Eve, which had evolved through natural processes, but was distinct enough that it allowed for the brains of the offspring also to interact with a soul. One consequence of this modification was that it gave the F1 generation enough genetic diversity to appear as though they sprang up from a large pool of existing ancestors. It may also have been necessary that for a few generations following F1 that the individuals continued to have the variable germ cells to further protect the offspring from inbreeding defects.
It’s pretty simple: Adam and Eve were real people, but they were loaded up with lots of extra genetic diversity so that their offspring would only seem to have derived from a breeding population of many thousands instead of the biblical two individuals.
How this seeming genetic diversity happened involved some subtly divine genetic manipulation that mere man is frankly not ready to understand but which arrogant, atheist scientists will exploit to further their godless agenda.
(Comment by a reader: Adam and Eve were polyploid.)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, then He commanded the water and the earth to bring forth the vegetation and all kinds of living creatures, this way starting the evolution. After a while the early hominids evolved, including the proto-humans. Then God created a garden in the land of Eden, and a man in his image. He made man out of clay or dirt, which means He took all the best genes from the population of proto-humans, and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. He also created a female human out of the same genetic material, and so the first pair of true humans were made, Adam and Eve. Their genetic make-up was perfectly compatible with the one of proto-humans, but the selection of the best genes determined their extended longevity and fertility. They also received immortal soul, which made them the first earthly creatures capable of direct communication with God. The Tree of Knowledge was intended to provide them with the knowledge of right and wrong and make them God-like creatures. Its fruits were intended to be consumed after the humans multiply enough, but Adam and Eve were too hasty, and after they ate the fruits, the only choice was to let them and their descendants to breed with the proto-humans. It was relatively easy since their lifespan was very long and they were fertile all the time due to the perfect choice of genes. However the genetics of proto-humans was not so perfect, and eventually their descendants lost the ability to communicate with God. Besides, they started to interbreed with other hominid species such as Neanderthals. At this time God decided to make the Great Flood to get rid of the unwanted genetic pollution. The survivors all had immortal souls but only few of them were capable of communicating with God directly. The Resurrection of Jesus finally opened a way for the spiritual rebirth and restoration of the direct link between God and humans.
Clearly, modern genetic analyses have failed to account for the extreme difference in the ages to which the earliest men lived; the Bible describes Adam as having lived for 930 years; similarly many of his male descendants – Noah and Methuselah lived for lengthy periods of time. However, the Bible does not record the length of the lives of Biblical women; Eve may have only lived a tenth of the life of Adam. It is likely that the different lifespans of men and women accounts for the variation between the ages of Mitochondrial Eve and Y Chromosome Adam. As to the genetic diversity present in humanity, while it is left unmentioned in the Bible, God had designed Adam so that his sperm, instead of containing simply two sets of chromosomes, as in modern humans, actually carried at least 15 different chromosomal variations. Thus, Cain and Abel effectively had different chromosomes except for the Y, which God left the same so that future Christian scientists would be able to see the glory of his work. Of course the point of this was to avoid the effects of inbreeding that can occur in limited genetic pools. So, as you can see, a closer reading of the Bible easily accounts for the genetic data.
2. Divine genetic engineering after the Fall, to assist the human race
Dr. I. Needtob Athe
An undocumented miracle took place as the human race grew from Adam and Eve. Genetic information was deliberately altered by God over the course of many generations to provide diversity in the human race, until the population reached a size where divine intervention was no longer needed. God finally completed this project with the miracle of the virgin birth of Jesus, after which he allowed the natural laws of heredity to take over while he tended to other matters. Of course this intervention is not documented in the Bible because, at the time the Bible was written, mankind lacked the knowledge to comprehend it.
3. Divine Genetic Engineering after the Fall, as a punishment for sin
Simple enough. Adam and Eve were of course real and they were the ancestors of all humanity. Their genes, with a few mutations (and the genetic load of original sin) were in all early humans. As a result, the Noah bottleneck made little difference. When the tower of Babel was built, while he was confusing the languages of the people of the world, God also confused the gene pool, creating the genetic diversity we see today. As this was basically a punishment for hubris, he also made the genes appear to have wildly different ages and to seem to date back to a fictional time before the creation…
4. Satan created human lookalikes before the Fall
It would seem that the best way to reconcile the Biblical story of Adam and Eve with the genetic facts would consist in affirming a dualistic creation. In this dualistic creation theory, God does indeed create, ex nihilo, as pure gift, a universe, which is by definition a good creation. In this theory, the Angels, as created beings whose teleological goal is to carry out God’s creative plan for this universe, actively help with the manifestation of God’s plan, as a contractor and construction workers carry out the design of an architect. However, one Angel, Lucifer, rebels against his appointed telos and attempts to usurp God’s aseity; that is, he forgets his created nature and decides to, if you will, out-create the Creator. Lucifer leads a war against God, with the assistance of other rebellious Angels, during the course of which the universe is damaged in some permanent manner; in this way planets once inhabitable became barren wastes. The outcome of this heavenly rebellion follows the familiar Miltonic narrative, and is consistent with traditional Christian glosses upon certain scriptures, such as Isaiah 14:12, but with this difference: the pre-Adamic life we now know existed, based upon the best science of the past 150 years or so, was created by Lucifer and not God. But, being a created being, rather than the Creator Himself, Lucifer’s creations could only be terrible simulacrums of God’s creative plan, parasitic imposters: dinosaurs, australopithecines, or apelike ancestors, rather than the rational man and woman, Adam and Eve, capable of free choice and bearing the imago Dei. God’s free decision to create Adam and Eve stands in contradistinction to the miserable failure of a creation wrought by Lucifer and his demons. In this way special creation, as testified in Genesis, can remain an inviolable standard of Christian faith, and need fear no further assaults from naturalistic assumptions or materialist ontologies.
5. Satan created human lookalikes after the Fall and used them to tempt Adam and Eve
God created Adam and Eve, pure and in his own image. They dwelt in safety and tranquility in the Garden of Eden until they succumbed to temptation by the snake, Satan. When they were cast out, they left the good graces of God and sank into the clutches of the devil.
In this Fallen world, the devil created many creatures to further tempt Adam and Eve, to draw them apart and to poison the pure genetic gift God blessed them with. As a cruel joke, the devil didn’t base these bodies on the pure form of Adam, but used apes, stretching and folding them till they stood and resembled True Man, like a misshapen mutt might resemble a wolf. Yet the devil is strong and these creatures could breed with God’s creation, yea though their genes were corrupt and they were broken from brain to body.
Atheistic scientists today see this as a “breeding population” of “early humans” but we know the Truth, brothers and sisters….
Do not be confused. Adam and Eve were real, live people. The first with souls, the first humans to walk this earth. Their traces are lost to science, drowned out by Satan’s creations but we know, sisters and brothers, we know the truth! …
6. Satan tampered with human genes after the Fall
Coalescent theory relies on neutral mutations and drift, i.e. randomness, which is obviously a manifestation of Satan’s power of corruption and deception. Before the fall Adam and Eve were free of corruption, the product of perfect design (what scientists call ‘adaptations’). There is no doubt that, if one had looked into their genes, the signs of adaptations would have been manifest. After the fall Satan disrupted the work of God introducing randomness; genetic drift ensued. Thus, not only did Satan threaten to destroy the plan of Creation; he still aims at perverting Man’s power of inquiry through deceptive evidence. And unless scientists are prepared to recognize this fact they will think that their population genetics models reflect a reality that was not affected by the fall, thus falling prey of Satan’s powers of deception.
7. Adam’s sin gave rise to mutations which scrambled the human genome
As St. Paul explains, “through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned – for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law” (Rom. 5:12). Though man was created in the perfect image of God, Adam’s transgression removed humanity from the eminence of God’s grace and introduced sickness, disease, and death into the genetic material, causing a rapid decline in genetic quality. And as “the Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20), God introduced Mosaic Law for the express purpose of increasing human transgression so that humanity’s chance to receive His grace would increase. But this increase in transgression further contributed to the decline of human genetic material. It is because of the genetic degradation experienced by humans since original sin until the present day that our modern genome appears inconsistent with the history of our ancient ancestors. God’s gift of expedited justification necessarily entailed the transgressional declination.
P.S. The scary thing is that whichever entry wins might actually be used by some fundies to make a case for Adam and Eve! Of course, what a great thing it would be to point out that they had to resort to getting it from atheists who were *forcing* a solution out of thin air!
[Hey, John. I’ve got no shame, and I’ll cheerfully borrow ideas from anyone. But I also believe in giving credit where credit’s due. – VJT.]
8. Mutations were much more common in the past
The rate of mutation was higher in the past. This explains both how there is too much mutation to have happened in the given time frame by current rates, and it explains how Adam and Noah and Methuselah et al lived so long, but then expected lifespan plummeted when nasty deleterious mutations peaked and lifespan stabilized when mutations decreased. Cause everybody knows mutations are bad.
Or the devil did it.
9. Adam and Eve weren’t the first Homo sapiens; they were just the first ones God infused with a soul, and/or the first ones to whom God spoke
Adam and Eve literally existed – they were the first pair of Homo sapiens to whom God made himself known.
They literally sinned against him by eating the fruit from a tree he told them not to, and were cast out of fellowship with him.
When their son Cain whines that “people” will kill him, he is referring to other Homo sapiens.
Adam and Eve are the “parents” of all humanity in a spiritual sense. Their relationship with God (both the positive aspect and the consequences of their sin) was eventually spread to all Homo sapiens (a relatively small population at the time) through proselytization, marriage, and birth. Because of this, Paul can say that sin spread to all through Adam.
Is this paragraph short enough? If I were an evangelical Christian who also believed in evolution, I think this is how I would reconcile it in my mind.
Adam and Eve were the first *real* humans – i.e. they had souls. The rest of the Homo sapiens population were just smart apes at that point; but all of Adam and Eve’s descendents also had souls, and so were also *real* humans (the one drop rule?).
Thus some of their genetic material was inherited from other lineages; thus the absence of a severe bottleneck is solved; thus the inbreeding problem is solved; thus the question of where Abel’s and Cain’s wives came from is solved. Bingo.
As others have said, the ‘original sin’ part & the ‘genetic bottleneck’ part can be distinct. There’s some indication in Genesis that the garden of Eden did not contain the whole of mankind (IIRC, Seth got his wives from ‘East of Eden’)but it did contain the only humans who walked with YHWH–he was evidently trying to upgrade to a strain of primates with whom he could converse, & the experiment went horribly wrong.
… Suppose, my kind theologian, that one of these ancestral pairs were Adam and Eve. God, of course, simply looked down at where the evolution of Homo sapiens had proceeded at that point, and said “yes, they look about ready”. He, in his White Bearded Greatness then exactly duplicated two humans, but by transmogrifying mud and a rib, respectively (He can do that, He’s God). Of course, he also added a new, “dominant” soul, which also carried sin (A soul is sort of like a gene, but made out of soul-ish stuff, and invisible. This theory requires souls to be like *dominant* genes). As Adam and Eve interbred with the rest of the existing Homo sapiens, everything proceeded normally, except that any offspring who could trace their ancestry back to Adam and Eve had an added bonus: soul and sin! Finally, by today, everyone alive can trace ancestry back to Adam and Eve (and to a whole bunch of other early humans). Thus, Adam and Eve were created *exactly* as the bible says, by God, but in perfect harmony with some genes having coalescence times *far earlier* than that creation.
Um, y’all are forgetting the additional bottleneck after the great Flood. Remember, all of humanity was reduced to 8 people (but N(e) = 6 because Noah and his wife did not have any more offspring after the Flood).
All of their genes might still have ancestors in Adam and Eve, but theoretically they would have acquired some novel mutations that resemble much older genes or genes acquired from mating “outside” the direct “lineage” of A&E with some of those other Homo sapiens that were “around” prior to A&E and during the building of their “lineage” from Seth to Noah.
Plus one could imagine that a few of A&E’s original genes would have been lost in people that didn’t survive the Flood. Thus, making all of Noah’s descendents carriers of genes acquired through 1) non-assortative mating with other H. sapiens from earlier human evolution, 2) novel mutations that “resemble” the older genes, and 3) loss of genes more representative of A&E’s genome due to the 2nd bottleneck after the Flood.
10. Adam and Eve were very ancient and lived millions of years ago
Surely if we push far enough into the past and approach our Speciation/Ensoulment Event we get much smaller populations.
Right? Either Homo sapiens is unique among known animals for evolving via gradual anagenesis in a relatively large admixed metapopulation, or there was an allopatric cladogenetic split. If the latter, the original founding population of Modern Humans could/would have been small, possibly on the order of a few Original Women and one or a few Original Men.
Adam and Eve are thus revealed as only quasimetaphoriocal, standing in for the small group of our Founding Breeders.
Later bottlenecks and mitochondrial/Y coalescence are therefore red herrings in the search for Adam(s) and Eve(s).
There is a basic problem with the argument against the existence of Adam & Eve based on coalescence. I don’t think there’s anything in the bible to indicate that the most recent common ancestor for any given locus would be Adam or Eve, or that all loci share the same most recent common ancestor.
For instance, we’ve got “mitochondrial Eve” and “Y-chromosome Adam”. Those people are obviously not the beginning of human mitochondrial and Y-chromosome lineages, but merely the most recent common ancestors of extant genetic diversity in human mitochondria & Y-chromosomes, respectively. So, do “mitochondrial Eve” and “Y-chromosome Adam” both have ancestries tracing back to an earlier pair of individuals? Yes; barring multiple origins of life, -any- pair of living things will share a pair of ancestors (or a single ancestor, in the case of asexuality in the ancestral lineage involved). Well, there you go: -that- pair of individuals is Adam & Eve. Now we just need to expand that reasoning out to the rest of the genome…
The problem anyone trying to seriously pursue the idea that this pair of individuals is actually Adam and Eve would encounter is whether this pair of individuals was, in fact, human (they almost certainly weren’t)…
11. Original Sin is inherited through Eve instead of Adam
140,000 years ago, there was a man called Adam and a woman called Eve, who God decided to make his chosen couple and gave them souls. To make sure their children also had souls, he made sure they were passed on via Eve’s mitochondria, and pledged to arrange that Eve’s mitochondria were the ones that became fixed in the human population. Then came the Fall, and Eve’s soul became tainted with Original Sin, which was passed on to all her descendents – i.e. everybody – via her mitochondria. Then about 60,000 years ago, the world was very corrupt, what with the Fall and everything, so God hit upon a Plan. He found a good man (Noah) and attempted to “flood” the human race with Noah’s goodness by fixing his Y chromosome in the same way he’d fixed Eve’s mitochondria earlier.
12. Adam was a tribe
Adam in fact is not a single person but the name of a tribe (not a single person – a thousand persons). God recognized that a single tribe alone would not have the necessary genetic diversity so created a second tribe (the “Eve” tribe – another thousand people). This theory provides answers such as:
a) Adam and Eve mating to create fertile offspring with the necessary genetic diversity
b) No need for incest within the early Adam and Eve family – since God created tribes, not individual people
c) The “bottleneck problem” (which Franck realized early on) simply does not exist
d) There was enough genetic diversity to create a viable, ongoing population
e) The “tree of knowledge” of which the bible speaks is actually the ‘family tree’ of the two tribes, it in fact explains that the sin that befell Adam and Eve was due to the knowledge that each other existed. As is true through all human history, two tribes, with different lineages, will fight each other – this is where our misery has come from.
13. Adam, Eve and their descendants inter-bred with a race of non-human giants
CS aka “Happy Cat”
The answer is simple. Adam & Eve did exist, although not in YEC terms. They were early ancestors whose descendants mated many, many, many times over the course of eons with the Nephilim in Genesis (Legendary Biblical heroes, later called giants; also identified with the sons of Elohim [lit. “the gods”]. Xtians later equated them with the fallen angels. Not sure why.) Anyway…
The Nephilim “species” contributed all the masses of genetic material that our sinful Original Couple did not possess.
As for the last bottleneck, that was just “Teh Flud”. And it was eight people, not 10,000 – 15,000. It just looks that way because with so few people, those pesky, horny Nephilim doubled down on some human “interaction”.
14. Adam and Eve were spirit beings before they fell to Earth
Adam and Eve were living in the Garden of Eden (a spiritual place, sort of like a suburb of Heaven, or a really really nice Purgatory). They sinned and were consequently kicked out of the Garden of Eden and into the physical world. Spiritually we are all descended from Adam and Eve, genetics only tests the relationships between the physical bodies that God – A Being Beyond Time – prepared for us. Genetics, being a mundane physical science, does not look at how our souls are related and therefore is unable to ascertain that we are all indeed descended from Adam and Eve as we are told in the Holy Bible.
…And, so, we come to our answer: just as Heaven and Hell are not to be found within range of a NASA probe, neither is Eden somewhere accessible by plane, train, or automobile (or boat or submersible or rocketship or mine-borer). Eden, instead, existed alongside Heaven and Hell outside of time and space in what might colloquially be referred to as the “spirit realm.”
And if Eden was not on and of this Earth, so too it becomes apparent that neither were Adam nor Eve. They were very real — as real as the Angels of Heaven and the Demons of Hell; but they were not primitive primates grubbing around in the dirt. And they were our ancestors, yes, but our spiritual ancestors. We trace our souls back to them, but not our genes….
Eden is described as a perfect paradise; obviously, due to the geological and biological processes we know, earth never contained such a place. Therefore the garden story occurred in heaven and Adam and Even were some kind of proto-souls, “thetans” if you will. The “fall” was a literal fall to the plane of existence were earth is, and suffering was always common. After this, these thetans imprinted onto an unspecified number of hominids at an unspecified time. After this time, these hominids and their children had “souls”…