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Why did the evangelical Christian world go nuts for Christian Darwinism a decade ago?


Casey Luskin, in a longish and informative article on William Lane Craig’s recent book In Quest of the Historical Adam reminds some of us of a vintage moment in the long sellout:

William Lane Craig is to be commended for trying to see if a historical Adam and Eve existed, even as he tries to fit them within an evolutionary model. Perhaps Dr. Craig personally harbors doubts about evolution (I don’t really know), but if so, his book takes a rhetorical posture of silencing those doubts. His aim instead is to see if Adam and Eve can fit within an evolutionary view. This strategy has value in certain regards, but is it really required by the best science available? What if cautionary tales can be told of a different nature, leading to the opposite conclusion — that sometimes evangelicals prematurely latch on to what they think is “settled” evolutionary science, only to later find out that it was flawed? What if evangelicals are trying to conform to mainstream evolutionary ideas that are simply wrong? What if abandoning 2,000 years of orthodox beliefs, and capitulating to the evolutionary “consensus,” actually makes us look foolish because we’re letting go of important beliefs without having confirmed that science requires it?

Casey Luskin, “Lessons from the Evangelical Debate About Adam and Eve” at Evolution News and Science Today (November 15, 2021)

And now, the vintage moment:

In June 2011, Christianity Today (CT) published a cover story on “The Search for the Historical Adam.” However inadvertently, the article’s title (which sounds conspicuously similar to the title of Craig’s new book!) was misleading. The real purpose of the CT article was not to search for a historical Adam and Eve, but to highlight evangelical thinkers who fully accept modern evolutionary biology and reject traditional doctrines about a historical Adam and Eve. Filled with praise for Francis Collins — an evangelical celebrity scientist who made it big in the secular world — the article states:

Collins’s 2006 bestseller, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief — which so vexed those secularist critics — reported scientific indications that anatomically modern humans … originated with a population that numbered something like 10,000, not two individuals. 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.1

The basic argument is that modern day human genetic diversity is so great that it could not be explained by humans descending from a mere initial pair of two individuals. Many humans — thousands — would be necessary to generate a population with the genetic diversity that humans possess today.

Casey Luskin, “Lessons from the Evangelical Debate About Adam and Eve” at Evolution News and Science Today (November 15, 2021)

Adam and Eve, as portrayed in that seminal article, looked, um, well suited to survival in a Darwinian wilderness, like they had never been anywhere else. Not at all the kind of work you expect from God.

At the time, yer news hack lived north of New York State and was headed south into the States for a conference. And, wow … Christianity Today had just joined the Darwin cult! Does anyone know if they ever got their heads clear? Kinda lost touch with them after that.

But, as Luskin explains, as things stand now, there is no particular reason to assume that all humans are not descended from a single couple:

First, there was biologist Ann Gauger, a senior fellow and senior research scientist with Discovery Institute. In the 2012 book Science and Human Origins, she looked at human genetic diversity in HLA genes, some of the most diverse genes in the human genome. According to Gauger, the great diversity of these genes “seemed to provide the strongest case from population genetics against two first parents.” Yet she found that this diversity could still be explained if we originated from an initial couple: “if it were true that we share thirty-two separate lineages of HLA-DRB1 with chimps, it would indeed cause difficulties for an original couple. But as we have seen, the data indicate that it is possible for us to have come from just two first parents.”6

Another voice that joined the conversation was that of Richard Buggs, an evolutionary geneticist at Queen Mary University London…

Casey Luskin, “Lessons from the Evangelical Debate About Adam and Eve” at Evolution News and Science Today (November 15, 2021)

You’ll want to read the whole thing.

Meanwhile, contra Trendy Christians: It makes sense that all humans would descend from a single couple. If you had to account for something like, say, human consciousness, isn’t it easier to address that if we all belong to the same family of origin? Would you prefer to explain the development of human consciousness assuming that we come from multiple different ones?

Darn good thing if someone can prove its true genetically.

You may also wish to read: William Lane Craig on Adam and Eve as less intelligent than us Whatever else Craig’s view is, as Luskin notes, it is a far cry from the Scriptural traditional assumption that the unfallen Adam and Eve were our betters and that we have all deteriorated as a result of sin. Adopting Craig’s view is bound to have worldview consequences.


Casey Luskin: The mytho-history of Adam, Eve, and William Lane Craig. Long a defender of orthodoxy, Craig seems to want to prune the orthodoxies he is expected to defend. But the pruning process in which he is engaged can never really stop. The “sensible God” is most likely the one looking back at us from our medicine cabinet mirrors.

I actually think the turning point was a little bit before that. 2011 marked the public "coming out", but it had been fomenting for years behind the scenes. There was a huge online discussion at many evangelical sites such as Jesus Creed in the preceding decade. This occurred in many places, such as the now-defunct ChristDot and InternetMonk. Additionally, you had the halls of academia where people tried to garner academic credibility by being pro-evolution. Mark Noll and Nancey Murphy come to mind. Essentially, from my own experience with this, it seemed to me that evangelicals didn't want to become biologists, and for that reason they felt they had to cede the biological conversation to the biologists. I found this horrendously problematic at the time, and still do now. Biology holds the key for showing that evangelicals need not be Darwinian. There is so many amazing things happening in biology, that to leave it to "random mutation and natural selection" is simply sad. It's made me question why we bother having evangelical theologians at all in the first place. johnnyb
Humans aren't nearly as diverse as many other familiar species. Despite thousands of years of intentional selective breeding, we don't have as much variety as dogs or roses. polistra

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