Genomic science indicates that humans descend not from an individual pair but from a large population. What does this mean for the basic claim of many Christians: that humans descend from Adam and Eve?
Leading evangelical geneticist Dennis Venema and popular New Testament scholar Scot McKnight combine their expertise to offer informed guidance and answers to questions pertaining to evolution, genomic science, and the historical Adam. (jacket copy)
Much of Dennis Venema’s Adam and the Genome Isn’t About Adam and the Genome:
While Discovery Institute takes no view on Adam and Eve, the book does offer an opportunity to weigh a variety of arguments made by theistic evolutionists, of whom Dr. Venema is a leading representative. In fact, despite its title, one of the first things that jumps out at you about this slim volume is that much of it has little to do with the first couple in the Bible.
True, some of the issues Venema raises bear on whether humanity shares a common ancestry with apes, and yes, one or two scientific arguments he makes are relevant to whether humans arose from an initial couple. However, Venema seems much more interested in pursuing longstanding debates with intelligent design and with certain ID proponents.
So, essentially, Adam and Eve are still just barely visible behind that bush, like always.
Adam and the Genome and Whale Fossils:
Trinity Western University biologist and BioLogos author Dennis Venema could have selected a more accurately descriptive title for his recent book, Adam and the Genome. Much of the book is not about Adam and Eve. For example, whale evolution would not seem to bear very directly on questions of human origins. Venema cites various fossils that he thinks indicate that whales (cetaceans) evolved from land-mammals. Specifically, Venema endorses “the hypothesis that modern cetacean lineage passes through something Indohyus-like, to something Pakicetid-like, and so on through Ambulocetid- and Basilosaurid-like forms.” (p. 17) Venema even states, “Cetaceans are now something of a poster child for evolution, and for good reason.” (p. 15) Let’s consider the claim.
So even advocates of the whale-evolution sequence admit that it occurred “rapidly” and “abruptly.” In Zombie Science, Wells reviews many complex adaptations that would need to arise to convert a land mammal to a fully aquatic whale.
Wait a minute. Wasn’t there a whale in the Bible? The one that swallowed Jonah, who was trying to escape his mission to Nineveh, to warn the people of impending judgment on their violent wickedness? The way they told it in Sunday school, the whale/great fish coughs up Jonah on the shore and he delivers the message. And, guess what, the evil Ninevites repent.
Jonah is as mad as stink that all those people are not getting the punishment they richly deserve, in his view. His own life is so rotten that even his shade tree dies. Then we read,
“And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”
But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” More.
Okay, but this is Sunday, so a little religion news is okay.
Adam and the Genome and Human-Ape Genetic Similarity:
But what if Venema is putting thoughts into God’s head that aren’t there? What if God could have entirely different purposes for designing two species as similar — purposes that have nothing to do with trying to communicate some message to humans about relatedness or unrelatedness?
The reality is that this is not a theological question. There are good logical reasons why different species may have similar genetic sequences: namely, functional requirements. Those requirements have nothing to do with common ancestry. Engineers know from much experience that there are good ways to design things and bad ways. If you want your design to work a certain way, and you find a good blueprint that accomplishes what you seek, then it’s a good design principle to use that blueprint over and over again. That could easily explain why we see similarities in different species — common design to meet functional requirements.
Even Francis Collins acknowledges the merits of this argument, …
Here’s the series, to date.
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See also: Are Adam and Eve genetically possible? The latest: Richard Buggs (yes) replies to Dennis Venema (no)