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Wayne Rossiter on Venema and McKnight’s Adam and the Genome: One jacket, two books, both wrong

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Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science Waynesburg biologist Wayne Rossiter, reviews Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight’s Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science, at his blog:

Part I:

Venema really only has two things he wants to accomplish in his portion of the book: 1) to demonstrate that there could never have been two original progenitors of humanity and 2) that ID is wrong.

I think, biologically speaking, Venema is decidedly wrong on the first point. The second point, as I’ve mentioned, is really rather irrelevant to the discussion. At no point does Venema actually engage any ID arguments for the literal Adam and Eve (if any exist). His attacks on ID have essentially nothing to do with the question of whether or not Adam and Eve were real people.

So, how is Venema wrong in the most important thesis in the book? It takes some explaining. He’s not just arguing that there was no first pair of humans created by God some 6-12K years ago. He’s arguing that, biologically speaking, there could never be a single pair that served as progenitors for any species. More.

Some of us are looking forward to the day that there is a single, unified definition of what a species even is.

Part II:

Okay, so that’s the Adam and Eve portion. I will spend a lot less time discussing Venema’s attack on ID.

In general, it looked to me like Venema misrepresented the heart of Behe’s argument. Namely, he attempts to show how a duplication event to a gene found in fruit flies was then followed by an adaptive evolutionary step that required five new mutations (Behe had essentially said that it’s prohibitively improbable to secure more than two mutations in any adaptive step). I’m unfamiliar with the system, but it would only begin to refute Behe if one or more of those mutations is deleterious (I suppose even if they were neutral, Behe’s argument for the “edge of evolution” would still apply). That is, Behe’s argument isn’t that mutations don’t happen, nor that they can’t be cobbled together over time. His argument is that the likelihood of getting an adaptive (functional) system by chance in a single step that requires more than two mutations is enormously improbable. Venema isn’t clear on whether or not each of those five mutations is adaptive (in the absence of the others). If they are, this isn’t a defeater of Behe’s argument.

All of the discussion on gene duplication really powers a larger target in the ID camp: where does the information come from?

As I close this portion of my review, I’ll just say that I also think Venema is also doing his readers a huge disservice when he acts as if Darwin’s theory has survived 150 years relatively unscathed. Today, more than ever before, it is being seriously debated by scientists, and a good many (with absolutely no religious affiliations) are calling for its demise. More.

Indeed. It’s  reaching the point where such ignorance is no longer a cachet, no longer a proof of social superiority.

Part III (McKnight’s portion):

As I wrote in part 1 of my review, the book is really two separate pieces, both in content and in writing style. Scot McKnight deals only with the theological considerations (whereas Venema was responsible for the biology). It really feels like the two didn’t talk things over much in producing their respective chapters.

“The history of the evolutionary theory, from the angle of creative evolution (a God-planned process, whether as a result of intrusion or, more likely, by the way God constructed the DNA of the smallest organic matter to unfold in our direction), is a history that shows humans at the ‘end’ of a spectrum or a process.”

Where to begin on this one. First, the idea that God engineered the genome of first life is an ID argument, and it runs precisely counter to the argument Venema has just made. Venema spends the better part of two chapters explaining how information evolves by chance, and even that the gene-protein relationships that made first life possible arise by blind chance, with no infusion of intelligence (pg 89). More.

They’d better keep that kitchen sink. They might need it.

Rossiter is the author of Shadow of Oz: Theistic Evolution and the Absent God.

See also: Theologian Hans Madueme on BioLogos’s Adam: Stumbling block to faith? One wonders whether, these days, Adam and Eve are as hot a topic in faith struggles as they were decades ago. Science’s reputation has taken a beating (often for good reasons). So, for many people, “scientists now think” is right up there with “The New York Times’ editorial board now thinks,” in terms of how it should influence their own view. Readers?

Nothing says “Darwin snob” like indifference to the mess that the entire concept of speciation is in

Perceptronium man thinks information is a substance of some kind, and the other explanations on offer are better only by virtue of being less obviously ridiculous.

Denis Noble’s new book calls for a “fundamental revision” of neo-Darwinian theory

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2 Replies to “Wayne Rossiter on Venema and McKnight’s Adam and the Genome: One jacket, two books, both wrong

  1. 1
    mahuna says:

    Um, every species has to START with 2 individuals (1 of each sex for species with sexes) who successfully mate and produce the 1st offspring of the new species.

    The idea that a male (or female) Human could mate with a chimp and produce a sorta kinda almost Human child is nonsense. The Ruskis tried that back in the 1920s, and humans and chimps simply don’t produce viable young.

    So, the Designer could of course have generated a dozen brand new Humans in the lab, raised them from infancy, and then carefully guided their first steps on the road to producing the first ManPack and the language and culture that goes with it.

    Or the Designer could have brewed up 1 male and 1 female, raised THEM from infancy to adolescence, and then wished them the best of luck as the “go forth and multiply”. The line in Genesis about Adam and Eve (Soil and Life) SUDDENLY realizing they were NAKED of course means that at some point in their paradisaical youth our fore-bearers found each other’s nakedness INTERESTING. While they were still infants (being cared for by Whom?), the differences in anatomy have no significance to other babies.

    But there MUST be an initial Pair, 1 male & 1 female, who are the ancestors of ALL of the rest of Humanity. There is of course the chance that the very first couple ran into problems and produced no surviving young to get the herd going. But in that case, the Designer simply has to start again with Adam 2 and Eve 2.

    What’s the logical alternative? Adam 1 and Eves 1 through 5? Having only 1 Eve and 16 Adams don’t get you much, populating the entire Earth-wise.

    The fantasy that by odd chance Adam 1 is born to a chimp mother and then manages to produce Eve 1 as one of his daughters from another chimp (Eve 1 then successfully mating with Adam 1, Jr., her half-brother from another mother?) is a ridiculous theory.

    There are no INTERMEDIATE species. There are things that were some flavor of monkeys, and then there are fossils of what are clearly humans. The humans appeared POOF!, without ancestors.

  2. 2
    johnnyb says:

    Dean_from_Ohio –

    McKnight has always been a puzzle to me. I used to post on his JesusCreed blog back in the day.

    The general problem as I see it is that everyone is stuck because of their reliance on methodological naturalism. They cannot by fiat believe in any cause that is not purely physical, and therefore they literally cannot see the possibility of design. However, for Scot McKnight, he has vigorously defended the resurrection against the secularists in his own field – biblical history. He has been the subject of ridicule from many for holding to the possibility of non-natural causation in the case of the resurrection.

    However, when it comes to evolution, he takes the exact opposite approach. I am entirely unclear why this is so. It is one thing for this to be his personal belief, or have a blog post about it, but to write a book on it, it seems that he is wanting you to hold to non-naturalism on the things that he finds important, and explicitly is asking you to tow the line on naturalism on things that he thinks is not important.

    That seems strange. Does he think that holding on to the resurrection is too tiring, and so every other area should be capitulated to secularists? It seems to me that if you hold to a worldview which allows for causation outside of naturalism, then, whether or not you actually find such causes, you would be interested in and open to such causes, right? So why does someone hold tightly to non-naturalism in one area, and then completely go the opposite direction in the other?

    I’m kind of interested in reading the book because I’m curious what specific tack he takes with this, but, all in all, I’ve always been baffled by his approach to this subject. He’s also not alone, either. I know many who are like this. Most of them readily admit that they don’t know the science, which seems doubly weird. It’s one thing to know the science and think it points in a particular direction. It’s another thing to not know the science, and voluntarily take the opinion of secularists as (almost literally) gospel truth. I don’t know why people do this, but it happens quite a bit.

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