Creationism and Tim Chastain’s spiritual crisis

Tim Chastain is a great progressive Christian writer.

He told us his spiritual crisis which led him to reject fundamentalism and even losing his faith in God altogether before finding back his hope in Jesus.

His testimony is relatively long but it is truly worth being read.

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Sometimes a crisis moment occurs that changes something about us forever. Today, I will share such a moment from my life—how I experienced the loss of God.

I was a creationist. Growing up a fundamentalist, and later being an evangelical, I had no qualms about creationism and the global flood, and I accepted that the Bible taught both in Genesis. I also believed in ‘defending the faith’ and I was good at it. However, I did not like sloppy and inadequate materials that did not address the real issues of evolution, so when the creation-science movement came to prominence in the 1970s, I was ecstatic.

Creation-science teaches that God created separate species (kinds) that do not change except within their created limits; one species does not evolve into other species. All species were represented at the creation event. Therefore, man did not evolve from earlier species but was specially created by God, and man lived together with all species, including dinosaurs, in early earth.

The flood of Noah is understood to be a world-wide (global) flood in which all people and all non-aquatic animals were killed except for the representatives on the ark. This flood accounts for the geographical strata we find throughout the earth today.

I was excited by these new books, particularly The Genesis Flood by Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb, and they inspired me to develop a novel about the global flood; I still think my story was quite creative! One thing that bothered me, though, was the insistence of these authors on a young earth—an earth created no earlier than about 10,000 years ago; I thought insistence on literal 24-hour days of creation was unnecessary since a ‘day’ might have represented any length of time.

Over the next many years, I consumed these books but began to have doubts. My doubt resulted not from evolutionary proofs but from the creation-science books, themselves. As I continued to read, I began to ask, ‘Is this all we have? Are these our best arguments?’

I also wondered how the Genesis writer knew such detail about what happened at the beginning of time. Could the stories have been passed down from Adam generation-by-generation? I spent many sleepless nights with this problem until I concluded it was impossible for such stories to remain intact for the time required between Adam and Moses, and I thought it unlikely that God would dictate the stories directly to Moses so he could include them in Genesis.

I still had no inclination to accept evolution, though it was a reasonable and consistent system, because there were gaps in the theory. But I began to wonder what the Genesis creation and flood stories could mean if they were not what I had understood them to be.

Then in 1993, I read a commentary that demonstrated that the stories were written to counter similar Mesopotamian stories in which, for example, warfare among the gods resulted in the earth being created from the corpse of the vanquished. The Genesis stories, instead, depicted the creator as an orderly and thoughtful God rather than a chaotic group of super-beings.

This seemed very reasonable to me: the Genesis stories should not be read as history but as a different genre—a corrective tract against crude Mesopotamian mythology. This change in my perspective was not difficult. Though I accepted the authority of ‘scripture’, I already understood the importance of reading texts in their proper genre; I had previously abandoned dispensationalism in part due to my respect for apocalyptic genre.

However, I soon experienced the greatest crisis of my spiritual life. Leaving creationism led to an unexpected development in which I underwent more than a year of deep depression and agony as I grieved the loss of God. It was my darkest period.

Noah’s ark, pseudoscience, Genesis flood

Discarding my belief in creationism led to more than a year (1994) of deep grief over the loss of God.

Authority of Scripture, Chicago statement of inerrancy

As an evangelical, I believed in the inerrancy of the Bible. My understanding was not as extreme as those who believe every passage should be read literally and is inerrant to each word and detail. I understood that not all passages are literal or historical writings. Some are poetry and should be read as such. Others are stories or parables to make a point. Apocalyptic passages, such as Revelation, are written to comfort those in crisis and are not intended to be prophecies of the future.

Perhaps some would say I was more committed to the authority of the Bible than to what some evangelicals consider inerrancy.

In 1993, I accepted that the early chapters of Genesis were not meant to be read historically, but rather as a corrective tract against crude Mesopotamian mythology. This re-opened for me the entire question of creationism and evolution. It did not cause me stress but simply meant that I needed to completely re-evaluate the issue in light of my new discovery about Genesis.

However, in the process of assimilating the new understanding of Genesis, a related issue surfaced that almost destroyed my faith entirely. It concerned Paul and the fifth chapter of Romans. Within a lengthy argument about Jesus’ work of justification, Paul stated:

Just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.

As is clear from the preceding development of the argument, the trespass condemning all people was the trespass of Adam in the Garden of Eden. The problem to me was that Paul seems to understand Adam as an historical person and the Genesis story of the Garden of Eden as an historical description.

One might contend that Paul’s comment was simply referring to a familiar fictional story like ‘Just as Rip Van Winkle slept through the revolution, you are in danger of missing the significant event of our time!’ However, Paul seems to historicise Adam earlier in the chapter,

Death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam.

The fact seemed clear: Paul thought Adam and the Garden of Eden were historical. Paul was WRONG! He was NOT inerrant! And this did not concern a mere cultural opinion like long hair; this involved a major doctrinal issue.

Inerrancy, fundamentalism, Bible, Evangelical

While accepting that the Genesis creation and flood stories were not historical did not affect my faith at all, this revelation that Paul is not infallible and authoritative soon sent me into depths of despair. My faith in the authority of the Bible was shaken to its core. And if the Bible was not authoritative, then on what basis could I believe in God? How could I hold to any religious belief?

This spiritual crisis led to more than a year of despondency, depression, and a grieving over the loss of God. Toward the end, I read a book called God and the Philosophers that helped a little in accepting the possibility of God, but it did not really resolve anything. I had lost my confidence in the Bible and in the existence of God. My spiritual journey was over and my religious beliefs were in ashes.

And the ashes were cold.

Unexpectedly, I began to realize a different perspective. It restored my spiritual foundation in a way that inerrancy of the Bible never could. In fact, had my trust in inerrancy not collapsed into ashes, I probably would not have discovered this new perspective.

Against an increasingly solid scientific case for evolution, creationists defend an historical view of the story of Adam beyond all reasonability. This appears a bit odd since the Bible rarely refers to Adam after the first chapters of Genesis. He appears in a few genealogical lists, but the only other writer to mention Adam is Paul.

In 1 Timothy chapter two, Paul uses Adam and Eve as an argument against women having authority over men. Corinthians chapter 15 mentions the historical Adam in Paul’s argument for the resurrection of believers. The most crucial passage, though, is Romans chapter 5. Here Paul argues for faith in Jesus’ work of justification rather than trust in our own personal good works. Paul seems to consider Adam an historical figure.

While accepting that the Genesis stories are not meant as historical accounts is not necessarily a big issue, this conclusion leads directly to the inerrancy of Paul. Not only does Paul consider Adam as historical, but Adam figures significantly in Paul’s theology—especially in regard to his teaching of original sin in Romans chapter 5. The failure of this theological plank has a tremendous impact on the rest of evangelical theology. If Adam is not significant in himself, Paul makes him very significant. Paul’s fallibility on this important matter would lead many fundamentalists and evangelicals to the pit of confusion and despair.

It certainly had that effect on me, but out of the darkness of my despair came a glimmer of something new. As I read the stories of Jesus from the memories of his earliest followers, I found him to be compelling. I was drawn to him. Though I could no longer depend on the authority of an inerrant Bible to accept what his followers wrote to be true; yet I was drawn to him.

Now, I have been impressed by other people of whom I have read. Gandhi is an example. Others include Socrates, C. S. Lewis, and Gautama. But the Jesus I met in the writings of his followers was intensely compelling in a way different from the others. Here was a person I could trust. He is accepting, supportive, inviting. He is concerned with me and my welfare and he claims he can do something about it.

How people fare in their biographies has a lot to do with their biographers, but though I have only met Jesus through the memories of his earliest followers—I trust him. I trust him when he tells of the Father; I trust him when he offers peace, reconciliation, and rest; I trust him when he promises eternal life.

If I trust Jesus, the question arises, ‘On what basis do I trust him?’ Authority of the Bible is not the basis, because I have come to understand that this is an unrealistic approach to the Bible. The absolute reliability of his followers is an inadequate basis because they are human. Their memories could be faulty; they could have misinterpreted Jesus’ words and actions; and they certainly wrote in response to issues of their day, so their writings have a measure of agenda.

That being said, their writings do not seem to have the marks of invention, lies, or fraud. The person of Jesus stands out. The earliest followers were transformed by him and their reports about him transformed others. They transform me. But, in all of this, I know that they could be mistaken or that I am mistaken.

What other basis do I have to trust Jesus? The answer is—none. In the end, I accept the Jesus I find in the writings of his followers by faith. As it turns out, I trust Jesus by faith alone. This sounds very fundamentalist-evangelical, but it is not; often they do not really trust Jesus by faith alone—they trust the Bible by faith alone. I have no safety net, but, for me, trusting this Jesus without a safety net is more than satisfactory.

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He finally asked:

How does my journey compare to, or help with, your spiritual journey?

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

 

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68 thoughts on “Creationism and Tim Chastain’s spiritual crisis

  1. I don’t understand this either or mentality? Historic Adam vs Evolution?

    In the Song “American Pie” the figure referred too as “the Devil” was clearly McJagger & the figure called “The Jester” was Jerry Lee Lewis. The Song has
    a lot of literal and figurative imagery that tells the story of the History of Rock and Roll from the death of Buddy Holly till the present day. But Jerry Lee Lewis didn’t literally steal a literal crown from Elvis & there wasn’t a literal court in session to decide which of them was the true King of Rock & Roll.

    Adam the first man was a Historical figure. He may not have been a literal pile of dust turned into a man but he could have been a hominid animal that God uplifted by giving an immortal soul who rebelled in some way & fell. The Talmud has legends about souless humanoid creatures who where contemporaries of Adam. Which tells me Bible believing Orthodox Jews had no problem believing pseudo-humans existed alongside Adam.

    So the hyper-literal meaning vs the pure symbolic a-historical meaning is a false dichotomy if you ask me.

    • BenYachov, I agree that there must have been a ‘first’ human at some point (or a group of humans), but I don’t think it is helpful to associate that first human with the Adam in the Genesis story, which was written hundreds of thousands of years after that person would have lived.

      Who would have information on such a remote ancestor and whether there was some sort of rebellion? I think the Genesis story is about something else altogether.

      • BenYachov, I agree that there must have been a ‘first’ human at some point (or a group of humans), but I don’t think it is helpful to associate that first human with the Adam in the Genesis story, which was written hundreds of thousands of years after that person would have lived.

        But that undermines arguably the entire thrust of your post here. You just talked about the mountains of scientific evidence against an Adam and Eve, a first couple. Ben points out that science doesn’t run counter to this – and now you shift gears to ‘Well the story would have had to have been written long after their existence’.

        Indeed, it would have. What does this matter again? The belief doesn’t turn on whether Adam and Eve’s lives were recorded by direct human witnesses.

        Who would have information on such a remote ancestor and whether there was some sort of rebellion?

        I think the possible answers here are obvious, but more obvious is this: you’re apparently conceding that science isn’t in conflict with there having been a historical Adam an Eve, a historical first couple, and therefore a historical fall after all. It’s one (as Ben said) hyper-literalist version of that which may be in conflict with modern science – but that’s not the only version available.

        Now, that’s not to say this makes it true. Compatibility isn’t a demonstration of fact. But then again, when your main thrust here was incompatibility…

      • Hi Crude, I am sorry my comment was unclear. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

        I do not believe there was an historical Adam and Eve at all, and I do not believe there was a fall. I only intended to say that, whoever the first humans were, they had nothing to do with the story of Adam and Eve.

        You mention that the possible answers to my question as to who would have information about such a first human are obvious, but you did not state them. Perhaps the most common reason people would suggest is that God revealed it to the writer. I think this is an inadequate answer.

      • I had such a discussion with a fundamentalist on another forum. He believes God revealed all of this to Moses, who wrote it down. My two basic ideas which made me reject Adam and Eve as historical are that their children would have to engage in incest in order to perpetuate the race. Also, where did Cain find a wife? I was taught that in hermeneutics, if the first sense makes sense, seek no other sense. Well, the first sense doesn’t make sense to me. I know I pointed this out on JWB site, but there are other readers here.

      • I do not believe there was an historical Adam and Eve at all, and I do not believe there was a fall. I only intended to say that, whoever the first humans were, they had nothing to do with the story of Adam and Eve.

        Great. But that shoots down, immediately, the claims that a first couple (and therefore a first fall, etc) is ruled out by science. It turns out that science doesn’t rule it out at all.

        You mention that the possible answers to my question as to who would have information about such a first human are obvious, but you did not state them. Perhaps the most common reason people would suggest is that God revealed it to the writer. I think this is an inadequate answer.

        Feel free to explain why if you want. But again I note – that means that science doesn’t shoot down the fall or a first couple at all. Science is now irrelevant to the issue – as would be, it seems, Paul being wrong about this. It’s one thing to say that you think this explanation is incorrect – by all means, argue that. But my point was that science doesn’t eradicate it, and you don’t need to be a YEC to admit as much.

        • Ok. I’m not a scientist. But this is my understanding. There was a man from whom all modern humans descend. There was a woman from whom all modern humans descend. They lived around the same time. Nevertheless our genetic diversity (eg in eye colour) makes it impossible we all decend from one couple. Don’t quite remember the exact proofs offered for that claim but that’s the claim.

      • Crude, it is interesting that you say science does not rule out an original couple or a fall.

        It is interesting to me because I was once a fervent defender of creationism and the historicity of the Genesis creation accounts. However, I came to understand that the Genesis accounts were about something other than the history of the creation of the earth and mankind.

        This conclusion had nothing to do with evolution or science. In fact, after having changed my mind about Genesis reporting the creation of humanity, I had no theory as to the origins of mankind. It was not until sometime later that I saw that evolution was based on convincing evidence.

        So I agree with you that science does not rule out an original couple and a fall, I disagree that we have any evidence whatsoever that such a fall occurred, since the concept is based on the unhistorical reflection in Genesis.

        If there is no evidence for a fall, then why even consider it?

      • It is interesting to me because I was once a fervent defender of creationism and the historicity of the Genesis creation accounts. However, I came to understand that the Genesis accounts were about something other than the history of the creation of the earth and mankind.

        What’s your evidence for that claim? And why does your having been ‘a fervent defender of creationism and the historicity of Genesis’ mean anything here?

        I mean, if you were coming here telling me how a young earth was a non-negotiable part of Genesis I’d regard you as wrong too. So as near as I can tell you switched from one Totally Certain position that is wrong to another Totally Certain position that is wrong.

        Maybe the problem is your holding to Totally Certain beliefs, instead of allowing that a plurality are reasonable.

        This conclusion had nothing to do with evolution or science.

        You say: “Against an increasingly solid scientific case for evolution, creationists defend an historical view of the story of Adam beyond all reasonability.”

        I’m pointing out that the ‘solid scientific case’ is irrelevant, and you don’t need to oppose it in any reasonable sense of the word to defend a historical view of Adam – at least, historical in the broad sense that there was a first couple, there was a fall. Which is all Paul claims anyway.

        So I agree with you that science does not rule out an original couple and a fall, I disagree that we have any evidence whatsoever that such a fall occurred, since the concept is based on the unhistorical reflection in Genesis.

        If there is no evidence for a fall, then why even consider it?

        Sure, we have some evidence. We have sources that seem reliable (I know, atheists will dispute this – not my concern here) testifying to it. We have a generally compatible scientific and historical understanding (it could have, in principle, worked out in a very different way.) We have humanity in an obviously ‘fallen state’.

        And what’s your evidence that Genesis is ‘unhistorical reflection’ as opposed to divinely inspired/communicated words? Also, how is it you’re able to endorse accepting something wholly on faith – which, by the way, I think is a misrepresentation of the Christian and generally theistic position, because we do have evidence and arguments for our beliefs even if we fall short of certainty – but on this question you’re seemingly ruling that out?

      • Hi Crude, you ask, “what’s your evidence that Genesis is ‘unhistorical reflection’ as opposed to divinely inspired/communicated words? Also, how is it you’re able to endorse accepting something wholly on faith.”

        I think there are several approaches to what the Genesis creation accounts mean, and there are some who are committed to an historical understanding. I think the historical understanding is based primarily on the a priori assumption that Genesis is the authoritative word of God revealed to man.

        It seems to me that this is the position that needs defense and evidence.

        Regarding my endorsement of accepting something wholly on faith, I must say that accepting something by faith alone is foreign to my way of thinking. You must be remembering my comment:

        “In the end, I accept the Jesus I find in the writings of his followers by faith. As it turns out, I trust Jesus by faith alone. This sounds very fundamentalist-evangelical, but it is not; often they do not really trust Jesus by faith alone—they trust the Bible by faith alone.”

        However, the context of this statement is that I came to my belief about Jesus based on evidence of the stories written about him from the memories of his first followers, and furthermore I evaluated the likelihood of the stories being more or less accurate. I describe this further elsewhere on my blog.

        My primary audience are those familiar with fundamentalists and evangelicals, so I wrote this statement the way it is to contrast with those who claim to trust in Jesus by faith alone, when in fact they trust the Bible by faith alone, which is inadequate. Perhaps I need to re-write this portion to avoid misunderstanding.

    • I know very little about the Talmud. Is it based on the sacred OT texts used in Judaism? Just curious about the souless humanoids you mentioned. In Fundamentlism, they are seen as demons come to earth to try to with human women. It’s one of the most confusing passages in the Pentateuch I’ve ever read, and I have never been satisfied with answers I’ve been given. The passage is Genesis 6:1-5. I don’t know how Jews identify passages; that’s the Christian way of identifying passages. (In our NT, Jesus said angels are spirits who cannot marry.)

  2. “I trust Jesus by faith alone.”

    thanks for the honesty. yours is an enlightening story.

    “How does my journey compare to, or help with, your spiritual journey?”

    this is an interesting question. i believe it presupposes that all/some/most of us are on some sort of a spiritual–whatever this means–journey, right.

    i’m not sure what spiritual means, so i’d have to spend some time musing over this before i essay an answer.

    happy new year.

    • Yeah, I’ll second xon-xoff and wish you and yours a Happy New Year, JWB- and of course everyone else here as well.

      I won’t concede that Adam and Eve, in the sense of a couple who were the progenitors of the entire human race, doesn’t conflict with science. While there must have been a woman who was the mother of all humans currently alive (the so-called “mitochondrial Eve”, since we inherit our mitochondria from our mothers), and likewise a man who was the father of all humans currently alive (“Y-chromosome Adam”, the source of all our (men’s) manliness), it’s very unlikely they were a pair, since Mitochondrial Eve probably lived several hundreds of thousands of years before Y-Chromosome Adam. Another problem is that the coronations of these genetice luck-outs is posthumous and ongoing: the death of the last, say, Tasmanian native, can shift the titles forward.

      Doesn’t really fit the Bible. Google it for the details.

      • I watched a documentary on PBS called “The Story of India”. Apparently there is a group of people with DNA that suggests a mitochondrial “Eve”. By tracking the appearance of humanity across the continents, there was some sort of timeline discussed. It’s been a few years since I saw it, so the details are fuzzy. But I do remember that a mitochondrial woman was able to be determined to have existed. It’s all quite fascinating. I don’t think science conflicts with the Bible. I believe in a Creator: sentient humans evolved at some point, and I believe that evolution was guided by the Creator. There is a separate issue, and that is the question of evil. Why do some humans commit atrocities while others do not? That is why religious stories from varying cultures have fables which try to answer that question.

      • This is interesting.

        But someone absolutely wanting to believe in a first human couple could identify them with Homo Erectus.

        Actually many Muslims (and even some Christians) make that step.

        I find it rather hard to refute this idea, to my mind this clearly belong to the realm of the possible.

        Best wishes from Lorraine/Lothringen.

      • I won’t concede that Adam and Eve, in the sense of a couple who were the progenitors of the entire human race, doesn’t conflict with science.

        You’re going to have to, if you want to accurately represent science, because it’s the case.

        While there must have been a woman who was the mother of all humans currently alive (the so-called “mitochondrial Eve”, since we inherit our mitochondria from our mothers), and likewise a man who was the father of all humans currently alive (“Y-chromosome Adam”, the source of all our (men’s) manliness), it’s very unlikely they were a pair

        That’s not required for a first couple to have existed – mitochondrial Eve and Y-Chromosomal Adam are red herrings here, which is why I did not bring them up.

        Likewise, you’re mistaken if you believe that ‘progenitors of the entire human race’ requires, say… a bottleneck of two exact people, whose children interbred, and from whom the entire human race exclusively descends. Said two people could have been a particular part of an existing population, and to whom we are all related. Nor do we need ‘an unbroken matrilineal/patrilineal line of descent’ in that case.

        Now you can argue “But this would very likely mean Adam and Eve’s descendants interbred with unensouled humans!” Quite possible, but the alternative to that is incest. Not exactly a worrying situation either way.

        Regardless, this absolutely stunts ‘Science rules out a first couple and a fall’. Dead in the water, and it’s an abuse of science to state it without these qualifications.

      • guymax, you say:

        That’s not required for a first couple to have existed – mitochondrial Eve and Y-Chromosomal Adam are red herrings here, which is why I did not bring them up.

        They are not red herrings. Are you perhaps thinking of this quote from the recent Nature article?

        Yet Hammer sees the discrepancy between the age of the Y-Adam and that of the mitochondrial eve as a “red herring”, and he, as many other population geneticists, bristles at the use of biblical names. Because of the random nature of genealogy, he says, two different genetic lineages are unlikely to have common ancestors who lived in the same population at the same time.

        It’s not Mito Even and Y-Adam who are red herrings, it’s the issue of their exact timing. Recent datings have pushed them closer together in time, but there’s no biological reason to believe they were a couple, and the chances are astronomically against such an accident, even if they lived at the same time, which is also unlikely.

        The existence of the mother and of the father of every human now alive, although as I pointed out the titles change over time as distant branches die off, and their complete biological independence from one another, shows that it’s vanishingly unlikely that they were a couple. But of course with a small miracle….

        Likewise, you’re mistaken if you believe that ‘progenitors of the entire human race’ requires, say… a bottleneck of two exact people, whose children interbred, and from whom the entire human race exclusively descends. Said two people could have been a particular part of an existing population, and to whom we are all related. Nor do we need ‘an unbroken matrilineal/patrilineal line of descent’ in that case.

        But if we don’t require unbroken lines of decent, and if we allow the genes of others to add to these lines of descents (your “unsouled humans, whatever they are), then this couple cannot be distinguished from many other couples living at the same time, and thus there’s no meaning to “the mother of all” or “the father of all”: it’s more than one person in each case. Thus, any couple designated as “Adam and Eve” in your scenario is only special because they were appointed, not because of their heredity. Thus, it makes no sense to debate about the science, because science cannot detect chosenness.

        cheers from sunny Vienna, zilch

      • @ zilch

        “Oops, my bad. Sorry, Crude, my reply above addressed to “guymax” is of course intended for you.”

        ‘guymax’ on your mind, i see

      • Now you can argue “But this would very likely mean Adam and Eve’s descendants interbred with unensouled humans!”

        Well, “soul” is a notoriously ill-defined term – but if you speak about “unensouled humans”, I wonder where you would even begin to try coming up with a definition of “soul”. How would you define “soul” if you believe that humans could live a perfectly normal life and reproduce with both “ensouled” and “unensouled” (whatever that means) other human beings?

      • zilch,

        It’s not Mito Even and Y-Adam who are red herrings, it’s the issue of their exact timing. Recent datings have pushed them closer together in time, but there’s no biological reason to believe they were a couple, and the chances are astronomically against such an accident, even if they lived at the same time, which is also unlikely.

        I don’t think you understand the science you’re speaking of here, because you absolutely misunderstood what I mean about Mito Eve and Y-Adam being a red herring here.

        Let me put it to you this way: Let’s concede for the sake of argument that Y-Adam and Mito Eve were not a couple. Indeed, they were born and died thousands of years apart.

        That’s fine, because a first couple is still entirely compatible with the known science. Their having been a couple is not required for this. Do you even understand what Y-Adam and M-Eve are? It’s about unbroken matrilineal/patrilineal lines. But those are not required for an Adam and Eve and a real fall. Go ahead – interrupt the lines. You still have descendants.

        Now, I will say that the recent discoveries that Y-Adam and Mito-Eve is evidence against the old claim that they couldn’t have lived at the same time. Your talk of ‘astronomically unlikely’ odds are – let’s face it – pulled out of thin air, and are utterly irrelevant anyway. But more than that, the entire Y-Adam and Mito-Eve talk means nothing here. I hope you see that now.

        I know, I know – Jerry Coyne uses Y-Adam and Mito-Eve to argue against these things. He is misrepresenting, likely intentionally, what people like myself and others are saying on this matter. Because the alternative is to admit that science (as opposed to science infused with dogma) is entirely compatible with it.

        But if we don’t require unbroken lines of decent, and if we allow the genes of others to add to these lines of descents (your “unsouled humans, whatever they are), then this couple cannot be distinguished from many other couples living at the same time, and thus there’s no meaning to “the mother of all” or “the father of all”: it’s more than one person in each case. Thus, any couple designated as “Adam and Eve” in your scenario is only special because they were appointed, not because of their heredity.

        Who said they could be distinguished according to evolutionary science and evolutionary biology? That’s not a claim I’ve made, nor is it a claim essential to the Fall or the original first couple. There is, in fact, meaning to ‘mother of all’ and ‘father of all’ – it’s a line of descent, it’s about who we are as human beings. It’s just not Y-Chromosomal Adam or Mito-Eve. Who in the world cares about such things?

        Thus, it makes no sense to debate about the science, because science cannot detect chosenness.

        Congratulations: by saying this, you have conceded the case altogether. Which means that all the talk about science disproving the existence of Adam and Eve or a fall is nonsense. Please inform the many atheists who continue to say otherwise, some of them quite prominent. Watch carefully as they do not represent this appropriately, even with this information.

      • Who said they could be distinguished according to evolutionary science and evolutionary biology? That’s not a claim I’ve made, nor is it a claim essential to the Fall or the original first couple. There is, in fact, meaning to ‘mother of all’ and ‘father of all’ – it’s a line of descent, it’s about who we are as human beings. It’s just not Y-Chromosomal Adam or Mito-Eve.

        If I understood you correctly, you say that science is compatible with a historical Adam & Eve because one couple could have been selected out of a population of humans and been granted a “soul” (correct me if I got that wrong). If that is your view, then how does it make sense to refer to this couple as “mother/father of all (humans)” – given that they co-existed with plenty of other human beings which kept on reproducing? (the effective human population size was never smaller than ~1200 individuals (and the effective population size usually underestimates the census population size)). In what sense then, would this couple be the “mother / father of all”? They certainly would not be in the biological sense.

      • Andy,

        Well, “soul” is a notoriously ill-defined term

        Is it? That means I should ignore people who claim that science shows that there’s no need for such?

        – but if you speak about “unensouled humans”, I wonder where you would even begin to try coming up with a definition of “soul”.

        Rational soul. Say, the ability to grasp universals.

        How would you define “soul” if you believe that humans could live a perfectly normal life

        ‘Normal life’? Who said anything about that?

        and reproduce with both “ensouled” and “unensouled”

        Reproduction isn’t really the issue. It’s roughly similar to asking me how a person in a wheelchair could reproduce.

        If that is your view, then how does it make sense to refer to this couple as “mother/father of all (humans)” – given that they co-existed with plenty of other human beings which kept on reproducing?

        Because we’re all their descendants, they were the first ensouled humans. That we may be descendants of other biological ancestors isn’t really the issue.

        Think of it this way, even though the soul in question isn’t 1:1 in correspondence with this. Imagine there’s a particular mutation X that male and female specimens A and B had, and who interbred. 2000 years later, everyone has mutation X. A and B can be called the mother/father of all of that species in the sense that – again, even if the patrilineal/matrilineal lines were broken – all came to have X through descent. (Don’t get hung up on the specific of genetics here, like how such and such isn’t guaranteed to be passed on via reproduction. Not important.)

        Now you can object and offer up another definition. But who cares about the definition in this case? You know what I’m talking about when I talk about the mother and father of humanity. The Species Problem is real, but just irrelevant for my purposes – it’s not like I won’t concede that there were other members of the population, or that Adam and Eve had biological ancestors, etc.

      • Is it? That means I should ignore people who claim that science shows that there’s no need for such?

        “There is no need for x” is only a meaningful sentence if people have a common understanding of what x is actually supposed to mean, if they don´t have a common understanding, then they inevitably will talk past each other when they discuss whether there is a need for x or not.

        Rational soul. Say, the ability to grasp universals.

        What does “grasp universals” mean exactly? If it means the ability to follow a philosophical discussion about whether universals actually exist or whether classes actually are universals, then I´m not sure that I have a “rational soul”, if it merely means the ability of thinking in abstractions however, then a “rational soul” wouldn´t be limited to humans (you can teach non-human primates to understand the concept of numbers for example (and it has been tested whether they merely memorize symbols instead of having an actual, if rudimentary understanding of the abstract concept behind them)) – and if it means neither one of those then I´m completely clueless as to what “grasp universals” could possibly refer to.

        Because we’re all their descendants, they were the first ensouled humans. That we may be descendants of other biological ancestors isn’t really the issue.

        Think of it this way, even though the soul in question isn’t 1:1 in correspondence with this. Imagine there’s a particular mutation X that male and female specimens A and B had, and who interbred. 2000 years later, everyone has mutation X. A and B can be called the mother/father of all of that species in the sense that – again, even if the patrilineal/matrilineal lines were broken – all came to have X through descent. (Don’t get hung up on the specific of genetics here, like how such and such isn’t guaranteed to be passed on via reproduction. Not important.)

        Now you can object and offer up another definition. But who cares about the definition in this case? You know what I’m talking about when I talk about the mother and father of humanity.

        You say “don´t get hung up about the genetics” and that the genetics is “not important” here – I don´t think it is that unimportant however… The concept of “descent” here does only make sense if a “soul” is indeed a genetic trait, it being a genetic trait however would detach “ensoulment” from divine action for every human being that came after this alleged first couple of humans that were granted a soul, and, more importantly, would also turn “souls” into something that can be studied scientifically, at least in some aspects (the exact genetic basis of “souls” for example).
        This would mean for example that the genetic basis of “souls” has to be found somewhere in the set of genetic differences between humans and non-human primates – like the mutations in the famous FOXP2 gene (the gene that diverged most rapidly since the human lineage split from the lineage leading to chimpanzees). And then it gets really interesting because we already do know that there is no gene that is safe from mutation (FOXP2 can mutate for example which usually leads to severe language disorders), and would lead to the question as to why a God would leave something like ensoulment to error-prone biochemical processes instead of simply granting every human being a soul by divine action – as God allegedly did for the alleged original couple that had a “soul”.

      • Andy,

        if they don´t have a common understanding, then they inevitably will talk past each other when they discuss whether there is a need for x or not.

        I am more than happy to agree that very common claims about how science has demonstrated the non-existence or superfluousity of the soul is often done without a relevant common understanding.

        (and it has been tested whether they merely memorize symbols instead of having an actual, if rudimentary understanding of the abstract concept behind them)) – and if it means neither one of those then I´m completely clueless as to what “grasp universals” could possibly refer to.

        There is no test for ‘grasping abstract concepts’ in the relevant way, anymore than there is a ‘test for consciousness’, scientifically speaking. The most you can test for, scientifically, is behavior – and this isn’t a behavioral question, so it’s moot. You can certainly make guesses based on the behavior, which you’re welcome to, but let’s not obfuscate what ‘tests’ are – or what minds are.

        Grasping universals is having determinate thoughts about abstract concepts and universals. If that’s not clear to you, I can recommend some good starting points where you can read up on it – but really, it should be clear, regardless of whatever confusion you may have about experiments on this front.

        You say “don´t get hung up about the genetics” and that the genetics is “not important” here – I don´t think it is that unimportant however… The concept of “descent” here does only make sense if a “soul” is indeed a genetic trait,

        Unfortunately, you’re wrong here – so everything that comes after this point is irrelevant.

        You’re under the impression that, if every and only descendants of X have trait A, then it must be a genetic trait. That’s trivially wrong. A reasonable example: “Royal lineage.” Try as you might to find The Royal Gene, you’re not going to find one. And yet royalty is in many cases traditionally passed by descent, sometimes exclusively. The soul under discussion is not some material thing – it is the form of the human (using Aristotilean/Aquinas talk of form here), particularly the intellect, which is non-material.

        (A quick aside: there’s also more than one understanding of ‘material’ in the offing too. I think the naturalist understanding is inadequate and a bit silly. Other understandings are better, but most people would regard accepting those as rejecting materialism. It’s moot here, since even on the A-T understanding of material, the intellect/rational soul is immaterial, or at least that’s a fine way to put it for this conversation.)

        Remember what you yourself said: if you don’t have a common understanding of ‘soul’, then you’re not getting anywhere. So really, it won’t help you to try and shoehorn what I and many Christians and Catholics traditionally regard as ‘soul’ into some materialist framework. That framework is rejected straightaway.

        I will say this…

        simply granting every human being a soul by divine action

        You just quoted the CCC without realizing it, apparently. 😉

      • Hi Crude,

        You just quoted the CCC without realizing it, apparently. 😉

        I indeed didn´t realize that 🙂

        There is no test for ‘grasping abstract concepts’ in the relevant way, anymore than there is a ‘test for consciousness’, scientifically speaking. The most you can test for, scientifically, is behavior – and this isn’t a behavioral question, so it’s moot. You can certainly make guesses based on the behavior, which you’re welcome to, but let’s not obfuscate what ‘tests’ are – or what minds are.

        Conscious thought in general and abstract thinking in particular are indeed not *directly* accessible for scientific experiments. That is nothing unusual for science however, because deductive reasoning based on *indirect* evidence is in fact much more common in scientific practice than studying any given phenomenon *directly*. That is true even in physics – we have no way of *directly* observing nuclear fusion happening in the sun, but physicists are still certain that this process is going on, without ever travelling to the sun and taking samples and without even any way of *directly* observing subatomic processes even if we *could* travel to the sun and take samples. That nuclear fusion is happening in the sun (and other stars) is not inferred based on *direct* observation of subatomic processes going on in the sun, but rather based on observations of the *consequences* of whatever is going in the sun, which together with our background knowledge in physics lead us to the conclusion that it must be nuclear fusion. Inferring conclusions about thought processes based on indirect evidence, such as observations about animal behaviour, without any way of directly observing any thought process *directly*, is not qualitatively different IMO (if you think it is, how so?).
        One can design experiments to test whether an individual (human or not) is capable of grasping the concept of a number for example – merely teaching an individual the correct solutions to simple exercises like “2+5=?” would not tell you whether the individual has an abstract understanding of numbers or not (it could simply have memorized the solution without having any abstract understanding of numbers), but there are experimental setups which rule that out. One experiment that has been carried out involved showing Bonobos two pictures and they had to point to a number that corresponds to the total number of rocks on both pictures, this was repeated and the two pictures that were used were never the same (varying number of rocks and the rocks had varying arrangements, varying sizes and shapes etc.pp.) – the Bonobos were able to point to the correct solution (and after some training they could do so significantly faster than a control group of biology students 😀 ), and since the experimental design rules out the explanation that the Bonobos simply memorized symbols like “2”, “+”, “7”, “=” and “?” and also memorized the correct solutions, the scientists that carried out the experiment concluded that they must have grasped the *abstract* concept of a number, probably only on a rudimentary level, but the scientists argued that solving this task repeatedly with 100% accuracy is completely impossible without at least a rudimentary understanding of the abstract concept behind the symbols, and I agree with their reasoning, do you disagree? (and if so, why?)
        You say “Grasping universals is having determinate thoughts about abstract concepts and universals” – and intuitvely, the example I mentioned above would count for me as “having determinate thoughts about abstract concepts” (in that case, numbers), if you think it doesn´t, why doesn´t it and what would count? It doesn´t have to be an example involving non-human animals, an example involving humans would also be fine, if that is also not possible – would you say then that it is impossible to know whether *any* human being (except for yourself) has a “rational soul” and thus the ability to have “determinate thoughts about abstract concepts and universals”?

        You’re under the impression that, if every and only descendants of X have trait A, then it must be a genetic trait. That’s trivially wrong. A reasonable example: “Royal lineage.” Try as you might to find The Royal Gene, you’re not going to find one. And yet royalty is in many cases traditionally passed by descent, sometimes exclusively. The soul under discussion is not some material thing – it is the form of the human (using Aristotilean/Aquinas talk of form here), particularly the intellect, which is non-material.

        Ah, that makes much more sense. At first I thought that you have a rather “unorthodox” conception of what “soul” means, based on your previous comment, but this sounds much more “mainstream” ;-).
        The reason for why I was confused by your earlier comment was how you related a “soul” to descent / ancestry, the way you did that only makes sense to me if a soul were a biological trait, but not for a non-material entity.
        Your example of a royal lineage nicely illustrates that. Nobility / a claim to a throne, is not a biological trait, there is nothing *intrinsic* to a human being that makes him / her a King or a Queen – it is simply based on an *idea* that people agree upon that some are born with a claim to a throne while others are not, and the common agreement as to who has a claim and who doesn´t can change on a whim, as countless succession wars and revolutions have shown. Descent / ancestry is thus only superficially relevant for who becomes a king / a queen and who doesn´t, what *actually* matters is the social institution of aristocracy – *ideas* that people agree upon, if those ideas change and people decide that they no longer want to be ruled by a King, then a throneless wannabe-King can complain as much as he wants that he has a birthright to a throne, it won´t matter at all.
        For a “soul”, as you understand it, it seems to be similar – descent doesn´t actually matter at all, the *only* thing that determines if you have a “soul” or not is whether the deity you believe in grants you one or doesn´t grant you one. But then, your reconciliation of science and scripture seems to collapse, because I understood your reconciliation to mean that an original couple as described in the Bible is not contradicted by scientific facts that show that the human population did not start with just two individuals, but rather *much* more than that, because God could have selected two individuals out of this population and grant them a soul, and these two individuals are the “father / mother of all” in this sense:
        “Imagine there’s a particular mutation X that male and female specimens A and B had, and who interbred. 2000 years later, everyone has mutation X. A and B can be called the mother/father of all of that species in the sense that – again, even if the patrilineal/matrilineal lines were broken – all came to have X through descent.”
        => and that´s what confused me, because this doesn´t make sense if “souls” are not be biological traits, for a soul that is granted by a deity (completely independent of your particular genetic makeup), descent is utterly irrelevant and this reconciliation of science and scripture doesn´t work then.
        What could work would be saying that “Adam & Eve” merely refers to the first two individuals who had “a relationship with God” (whatever that exactly means), if you introduce the category of descent on top of that, I doubt that you can reconcile your theological views with science.

      • Crude, you say:

        Let me put it to you this way: Let’s concede for the sake of argument that Y-Adam and Mito Eve were not a couple. Indeed, they were born and died thousands of years apart.

        That seems to be the most likely case, yes.

        That’s fine, because a first couple is still entirely compatible with the known science. Their having been a couple is not required for this.

        Er, say what? It’s not necessary for a man and a woman to be a couple in order to be a couple? Can you explain this?

        Do you even understand what Y-Adam and M-Eve are?

        I think I do. I minored in Paleontology at UC Berkeley. What are your scientific credentials?

        It’s about unbroken matrilineal/patrilineal lines. But those are not required for an Adam and Eve and a real fall. Go ahead – interrupt the lines. You still have descendants.

        Yes, lots of couples still have descendents. But being the most recent father to all living humans, and the most recent mother to all living humans, logically requires an unbroken line of descendents. If you don’t have that, then there’s no biological reason for the titles “mother of all” and “father of all”.

        Now, I will say that the recent discoveries that Y-Adam and Mito-Eve is evidence against the old claim that they couldn’t have lived at the same time.

        It makes it less unlikely, true.

        Your talk of ‘astronomically unlikely odds are – let’s face it – pulled out of thin air, and are utterly irrelevant anyway.

        Bad math here. What are the chances that any couple chosen at random from a population of at least several thousand to a couple million, scattered over the inhabited Earth, would just happen to be, say, you and your spouse? Still astronomical odds. And yes, it’s irrelevant, if you give up all claim that Adam and Eve are the only progenitors of the current human race. But it was my impression you wanted to claim that.

        But more than that, the entire Y-Adam and Mito-Eve talk means nothing here. I hope you see that now.

        If that’s your stance, then you will get no argument from me. But many Christians disagree with you, and claim that Adam and Eve were a real couple who were the parents of all humans. You might want to put them straight.

        cheers from foggy Vienna, zilch

      • Er, say what? It’s not necessary for a man and a woman to be a couple in order to be a couple? Can you explain this?

        I’m saying that Adam and Eve do not need to be M-Eve Y-Adam. Don’t let the fact that they’re called ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ confuse you.

        I think I do. I minored in Paleontology at UC Berkeley. What are your scientific credentials?

        If I told you I’m a political science major, would that mean I speak with more expertise and knowledge than you regarding politics, or that my political knowledge was obviously superior to someone who lacks those things?

        Yes, lots of couples still have descendents. But being the most recent father to all living humans, and the most recent mother to all living humans, logically requires an unbroken line of descendents.

        Okay, let me try to explain this.

        Do you understand that M-Eve and Y-Adam are not about ‘people who have an unbroken line of descendants’ but ‘An unbroken matrilineal and patrilineal line of descendants’, respectively? In other words, if M-Eve had 5 daughters, and daughter 4 had all sons, then the matrilineal line of descent is broken for daughter 4.

        Let me quote the wikipedia here: Mitochondrial Eve is named after mitochondria and the biblical Eve.[2] Unlike her biblical namesake, she was not the only living human female of her time. However, her female contemporaries, except her mother, failed to produce a direct unbroken female line to any living woman in the present day.

        But we’re not interested in strict matrilineal and patrilineal descent. We’re just looking for descent. Daughter 4’s offspring break the M-Eve line, but they don’t break (obviously) the descent line.

        Bad math here. What are the chances that any couple chosen at random

        Done, right out of the gates. Adam and Eve weren’t selected at random.

        If that’s your stance, then you will get no argument from me. But many Christians disagree with you, and claim that Adam and Eve were a real couple who were the parents of all humans. You might want to put them straight.

        Adam and Eve were a real couple. They were the parents of all humans in the sense I’m talking about. So why would I disagree there? You must mean the YEC or similar version where the ‘first couple’ is directly created with no ancestors, etc.

        But when I come up against Christians who talk about that, I’m more than happy to argue – forcefully – that at the very least, theirs is not the only reasonable interpretation on offer, and I point out flaws with the evidence they provide.

      • Andy,

        Conscious thought in general and abstract thinking in particular are indeed not *directly* accessible for scientific experiments. That is nothing unusual for science however, because deductive reasoning based on *indirect* evidence is in fact much more common in scientific practice than studying any given phenomenon *directly*.

        Not in the relevant sense, no. You may as well be telling me that science studies the immaterial soul (and therefore science accepts the existence of said immaterial soul) because someone is able to kinda-sorta reason to its existence based on such and such data or coming from this or that metaphysical view. No, they’re engaged in some pretty clear philosophy. You can’t even, using science alone, recognize the existence of consciousness, abstract thought, or subjective states at all. Those are (non-scientific) concepts we bring into science right from the get-go.

        So no, the experiments don’t scientifically demonstrate that bonobos – or, for that matter, humans – have abstract thoughts, or this or that. You can reason to that, you can make a guess, you can infer from your metaphysics and your observation – but science, it ain’t. The only thing a scientific experiment, as far as science itself goes, can show is a mechanical correlation. But we’re not interested in mechanical correlations here.

        would you say then that it is impossible to know whether *any* human being (except for yourself) has a “rational soul” and thus the ability to have “determinate thoughts about abstract concepts and universals”?

        Nope, it’s not impossible at all – you can reason to it. Fallibly, but it’s not like either science or philosophy is infallible. The problem is you’re asking me for a scientific test for something that is not a scientific question, and I really am not interested in the game of pretending that A) only scientific evidence counts for any claim, or B) that such and such is actually ‘scientific’ evidence or a ‘scientific’ demonstration when it’s nothing of the sort. Science has a radically limited sphere of investigation and, therefore, knowledge. I’m quite fine with that. More people should accept it.

        Your example of a royal lineage nicely illustrates that. Nobility / a claim to a throne, is not a biological trait, there is nothing *intrinsic* to a human being that makes him / her a King or a Queen

        Yep, but that wasn’t the point of the example. The point was to show that descent can determine a status without biology in a broad sense. In the case of Adam and Eve, biological descent is necessary (well, in the biblical sense) but at the same time the soul is not ‘genetic’. Pretty straightforward.

        because this doesn´t make sense if “souls” are not be biological traits, for a soul that is granted by a deity (completely independent of your particular genetic makeup), descent is utterly irrelevant and this reconciliation of science and scripture doesn´t work then.

        Once again, I’m going to repeat something that you said: it doesn’t really make sense to criticize an understanding of ‘soul’ that isn’t what a person is offering up.

        First off, you’re wrong even on your own count. Think about what you’re saying: you’re conceding that biological descent (and thus evolution) is utterly irrelevant on this front to the existence of the soul, or the fact that humanity can all trace their origin to a first mother and father (the first ensouled humans), but are then arguing that there is no reconciliation… precisely because there is no conflict to begin with! That’s nonsense. You’d be better off saying there is no reconciliation because there’s nothing that needs to be reconciled – there was no conflict even to begin with, on this view.

        Second, descent isn’t irrelevant on the Christian view. What’s irrelevant, right here, is particular genetics with regards to the immaterial soul (which itself is not some Thing Out There constructed of a particularly weird kind of matter – that’s just another form of materialism. It’s not even Cartesian Dualism, which is distinct from the form of soul being discussed here.) You’re confusing the fact that biology and thus descent isn’t operative in one sense of a broad discussion (There is no ‘soul’ part of the DNA, there is no ‘code that lets one perform immaterial operations of thought’) with the idea that biology and thus descent isn’t part of anything at all (Our descent from Adam and Eve matters and determines in part who we are.)

        So there we go. Reconciled, or more likely, no reconciliation needed because there was never a conflict on this front. There was a conflict with YECs and OECs, perhaps, but I’m not them. And frankly, I think they often get a bum rap, as bad as some of their arguments are (there’s plenty of bad arguments for evolution and such.)

        • Not in the relevant sense, no. You may as well be telling me that science studies the immaterial soul (and therefore science accepts the existence of said immaterial soul) because someone is able to kinda-sorta reason to its existence based on such and such data or coming from this or that metaphysical view. No, they’re engaged in some pretty clear philosophy. You can’t even, using science alone, recognize the existence of consciousness, abstract thought, or subjective states at all. Those are (non-scientific) concepts we bring into science right from the get-go.

          So no, the experiments don’t scientifically demonstrate that bonobos – or, for that matter, humans – have abstract thoughts, or this or that. You can reason to that, you can make a guess, you can infer from your metaphysics and your observation – but science, it ain’t. The only thing a scientific experiment, as far as science itself goes, can show is a mechanical correlation. But we’re not interested in mechanical correlations here.

          1. If this is not “in the relevant sense”, then what exactly would be a “relevant sense”?
          2. Setting aside whether the line of reasoning re the Bonobo experiment is scientific, philosophical, both, or something completely different – do you find the argument that these results demonstrate that Bonobos are able to think in abstract terms to be sound and if not, where does the argument fail?

          Nope, it’s not impossible at all – you can reason to it.

          How?

          Science has a radically limited sphere of investigation and, therefore, knowledge. I’m quite fine with that. More people should accept it.

          Alright, so which non-scientific methods do you use and what knowledge have you gained about this subject by using them?

          Yep, but that wasn’t the point of the example. The point was to show that descent can determine a status without biology in a broad sense.

          Again, it doesn´t. Descent is actually *completely* irrelevant in this example – what actually matters is ideas and social institutions, they determine who gets a throne (if anyone) and who doesn´t.

          In the case of Adam and Eve, biological descent is necessary (well, in the biblical sense) but at the same time the soul is not ‘genetic’. Pretty straightforward.

          No, that actually isn´t straightforward at all. Based on your beliefs, the only cause that determines whether you have a “soul” is divine action, the status of your parents is completely irrelevant (you even said that humans with a “rational soul” could have reproduced with humans that don´t have one) – you can´t just handwave your way around this, you say descent is relevant for this issue (of humans allegedly possessing a “rational soul”) *how* exactly is it of any relevance?

          Once again, I’m going to repeat something that you said: it doesn’t really make sense to criticize an understanding of ‘soul’ that isn’t what a person is offering up.

          I suppose you don´t deliberately obfuscate what your position actually is, but this is what you are doing – it really would be nice if you could clarify how exactly descent is relevant to a “soul” as you understand it.

          First off, you’re wrong even on your own count. Think about what you’re saying: you’re conceding that biological descent (and thus evolution) is utterly irrelevant on this front to the existence of the soul, or the fact that humanity can all trace their origin to a first mother and father

          Of course I concede that descent is irrelevant for “souls”, I don´t even believe that there is any such thing (at least for the various definitions of “soul” that I´m aware of). I certainly don´t concede that humanity “can all trace their origin to a first mother and father” – that is a priori astronomically unlikely and also demonstrably false.

          (the first ensouled humans), but are then arguing that there is no reconciliation… precisely because there is no conflict to begin with!

          The Bible says there was an original couple, there never was an original couple in any biological sense however, so you have to interpret “original couple” to mean something different, like a couple that was selected out of a population of people and who were the first ones who had been granted a “soul” – that would be completely ad hoc, but it would at least in part reconcile the Bible with science in this respect (what´s still missing is an explanation for how Adam & Eve could be considered “Father / Mother of all”, since they certainly are not that in any biological sense)

          Second, descent isn’t irrelevant on the Christian view. What’s irrelevant, right here, is particular genetics with regards to the immaterial soul (which itself is not some Thing Out There constructed of a particularly weird kind of matter – that’s just another form of materialism. It’s not even Cartesian Dualism, which is distinct from the form of soul being discussed here.) You’re confusing the fact that biology and thus descent isn’t operative in one sense of a broad discussion (There is no ‘soul’ part of the DNA, there is no ‘code that lets one perform immaterial operations of thought’) with the idea that biology and thus descent isn’t part of anything at all (Our descent from Adam and Eve matters and determines in part who we are.)

          Then WHY did YOU bring up descent in the first place?? Again, I don´t believe that you are deliberately obfuscating what your position is, but it is positively impossible to make any sense of this.

      • Andy,

        1. If this is not “in the relevant sense”, then what exactly would be a “relevant sense”?

        A relevant way for science to study consciousness and intentionality as opposed to correlations and mere mechanistic behaviors? There is none. Science deals with third person and mechanistic abstractions. Behavior is as close as you’ll get, and behavior is not enough.

        do you find the argument that these results demonstrate that Bonobos are able to think in abstract terms to be sound and if not, where does the argument fail?

        Nope, I don’t. For the same reason I don’t think that a computer is engaged in abstract thought even though I can write a program where a computer gives the ‘right’ response to a variety of math problems I plug in – because abstract thought isn’t simply a matter of behavior, even correct behavior.

        The scientists said it was completely impossible to give correct answers without grasping abstracta. Do they think computers grasp abstracta? And just where is this experiment anyway? I’d like to see the actual research and such.

        How?

        Philosophical argument, general reasoning, etc. Sometimes it’s sloppy, but it’s reasoning all the same. A little like how I can reason to the existence of other minds – in that case I don’t even have a rapt and clear philosophical solution onhand, and I certainly have no scientific demonstration, but I can still manage to reason about it all – fallibly or not.

        Again, it doesn´t. Descent is actually *completely* irrelevant in this example

        That’s just false. Descent is obviously completely relevant to the example; ‘descent’ is being referenced to determine who is and isn’t eligible for the throne, etc. What you mean is that *genetics* is irrelevant, at least in the sense of there being a ‘nobility gene’ present. Yep, agreed. That was rather my point, eh?

        No, that actually isn´t straightforward at all. Based on your beliefs, the only cause that determines whether you have a “soul” is divine action, the status of your parents is completely irrelevant (you even said that humans with a “rational soul” could have reproduced with humans that don´t have one)

        Nope, the status of parents – at least one of them – is entirely relevant. Two unensouled proto-humans wouldn’t produce an ensouled offspring. The presence of the ensouled human is rather important here. You can point out that the proto-humans aren’t themselves ‘producing’ an ensouled human, but God is – just as, by the way, God sustains creation moment to moment. Yep, but the status is still relevant.

        I suppose you don´t deliberately obfuscate what your position actually is, but this is what you are doing – it really would be nice if you could clarify how exactly descent is relevant to a “soul” as you understand it.

        I don’t think what I’m saying here is even particularly difficult to follow. What do you need clarity regarding? Souls, while made directly by God, nevertheless follow descent. I suppose I’m speaking Catholic here, but really, this isn’t complicated. ‘I will give every offspring of X 20 dollars as long as their lineage exists.’ If you ask me ‘Why are you giving X’s offspring 20 dollars? What does descent have to do with it!’ I’ll just look at you funny.

        I certainly don´t concede that humanity “can all trace their origin to a first mother and father” – that is a priori astronomically unlikely and also demonstrably false.

        Nope, it’s neither. It’s certainly not demonstrably false in the sense I’ve outlined here – I hope you’re not replaying the M-Eve Y-Adam bit, because I think I’ve already put a fork in that one in this very thread. It’s not even a priori astronomically unlikely – (yet again), ‘a priori’ doesn’t matter here because it’s not as if the claim is that Adam and Eve were ensouled at random and then just by a stroke of luck found each other and mated and, etc, etc.

        The Bible says there was an original couple, there never was an original couple in any biological sense however, so you have to interpret “original couple” to mean something different,

        The Bible is exceptionally brief and vague about the first couple save for discussion about their fall. And an explanation of how Adam and Eve are mother/father of humanity has been given multiple times in this thread. You keep circling back to ‘But that’s not what *I* mean by a first couple!’ and I keep wondering why you think that matters. What’s relevant here isn’t your definition of a first couple, but Christians’ and, for the purposes of this conversation, mine.

        Then WHY did YOU bring up descent in the first place??

        I didn’t. The OP did, in mentioning/implying that science had disproved Adam and Eve and a fall. Then I got into it with another commenter who argued the same and went off on M-Eve and Y-Adam. This is also a very, very common new atheist trope that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

        Honest to God, Adam – I think the confusion here is all on your end, not mine. Everyone else has been able to follow where I’m coming from on this front, or so it seems.

      • @ crude

        “Everyone else has been able to follow where I’m coming from on this front, or so it seems.”

        perhaps, perhaps not.

        i’m having a slight problem understanding what is a soul.

      • Philosophical argument, general reasoning, etc. Sometimes it’s sloppy, but it’s reasoning all the same. A little like how I can reason to the existence of other minds – in that case I don’t even have a rapt and clear philosophical solution onhand, and I certainly have no scientific demonstration, but I can still manage to reason about it all – fallibly or not.

        Then do go ahead, how do you reason that there is any other being except for yourself that can engage in abstract thought?

        That’s just false. Descent is obviously completely relevant to the example; ‘descent’ is being referenced to determine who is and isn’t eligible for the throne, etc.

        If crown princess Victoria of Sweden cheats on her husband, but her husband never finds out or he does but chooses to keep it a secret to avoid a scandal, then the child would have the *exact same* claim to the swedish throne as it would have if Victoria did NOT cheat on her husband – now, how can that be if descent is actually relevant?

        Nope, the status of parents – at least one of them – is entirely relevant. Two unensouled proto-humans wouldn’t produce an ensouled offspring.

        1. You know that how exactly?
        2. So Adam & Eve didn´t have “unensouled” parents then or what? (meaning that billions of years of evolution where just a complete waste of time since God will just magically pop Adam & Eve into existence ex nihilo anyway)

        I don’t think what I’m saying here is even particularly difficult to follow. What do you need clarity regarding? Souls, while made directly by God, nevertheless follow descent.

        Oh really, so where does the Bible say that?

        I suppose I’m speaking Catholic here, but really, this isn’t complicated. ‘I will give every offspring of X 20 dollars as long as their lineage exists.’ If you ask me ‘Why are you giving X’s offspring 20 dollars? What does descent have to do with it!’ I’ll just look at you funny.

        Again, where does the Bible say anything like that? If it doesn´t, then you are merely making stuff up.

        Nope, it’s neither. It’s certainly not demonstrably false in the sense I’ve outlined here – I hope you’re not replaying the M-Eve Y-Adam bit, because I think I’ve already put a fork in that one in this very thread. It’s not even a priori astronomically unlikely – (yet again), ‘a priori’ doesn’t matter here because it’s not as if the claim is that Adam and Eve were ensouled at random and then just by a stroke of luck found each other and mated and, etc, etc.

        It is astronomically unlikely and it is demonstrably false. ALL human beings that lived before the identical ancestors point are either direct ancestors of EVERY human alive today, or they have no living descendants at all, and the identical ancestors point was just a few thousand years ago. Which means that there are quite a lot of people that are direct ancestors of every human alive today, and this includes plenty of Adam & Eve´s contemporaries (if they in fact existed at all), the only alternative to that would be a ridiculous amount of inbreeding and thus, effectively, an extreme population bottleneck (as extreme as conceptually possible for a sexually reproducing species) that would be trivially easy to detect by studying extant genetic diversity – we don´t see it, ergo, there never was a first couple. Even if God selected two guys from some human population and their lineage is still alive today, we are exactly as closely related to plenty of their contemporaries as we are to them. Saying that there was a “first couple” IS astronomically unlikely (not only for humans but for most multicellular + sexually reproducing species) and also demonstrably false.

        The Bible is exceptionally brief and vague about the first couple save for discussion about their fall. And an explanation of how Adam and Eve are mother/father of humanity has been given multiple times in this thread.

        Where?

      • @crude
        An addendum to my earlier comment, you said:

        …the fact that humanity can all trace their origin to a first mother and father (the first ensouled humans), but are then arguing that there is no reconciliation… precisely because there is no conflict to begin with! That’s nonsense. You’d be better off saying there is no reconciliation because there’s nothing that needs to be reconciled

        => and this is simply false. You try to reconcile scientific facts with scripture by making up ad hoc hypotheses for which you have zero proof and zero scriptural support. Examples:
        – Adam & Eve were not actually the first humans and neither the first / original human couple, but only the first humans with a “soul”.
        – Adam & Eve are not *THE* “mother / father of all” but merely *A* “mother / father of all” (at least you do have to propose that unless you want to argue that Adam & Eve are the only ones among their contemporaries who have living descendants – which would be demonstrably false even if one were to concede that Adam & Eve existed in the first place).
        – The descendants of “unensouled” humans cannot have a “soul” (with the exception of Adam & Eve who had “unensouled” parents but who still got a “soul”).
        – The descendants of one “unensouled” human and another “ensouled” human however WILL have a “soul”.
        – God grants “souls” based on descend although he doesn´t have to and although the Bible doesn´t say anything about him doing that.
        – “Unensouled” and “ensouled” humans co-existed for many generations. If you place the population that Adam & Eve were selected somewhere in the range where scientists place the dawn of humanity, then this original population numbered no less than ~4000-12000 individuals, and no matter where you place it, it can never be less than ~1200 individuals even if you choose the most extreme population bottleneck that humanity ever experienced. A very good approximation of how long it would take until all humans could have been descended from Adam & Eve could be calculated if you select a specific point in time, based on the number of humans and their geographical distribution at this point in time, but anything less than ~2000 years would be ridiculously implausible in ANY case (this is an ad hoc hypothesis that you do not state explicitly, but it is required for your scenario).

        And here it has to be pointed out that EVERY claim that is not logically self-refuting can be trivially reconciled with observable reality IF you are allowed to invent an arbitrary number of ad hoc hypotheses that themselves require no proof. And that´s what you do, and its ok that you do that, but then you cannot pretend that there “never was a conflict to begin with” or that “no reconciliation is required” – if that were true, then you would have no need to make up these ad hoc hypotheses out of thin air.

    • Happy New Year, xon-xoff! I agree that not everyone is on a spiritual journey. This article was first posted on my own blog and most readers of my blog are on a spiritual journey of some sort.

      That would not necessarily apply to Lothar’s readers.

      • Well I see Crude has done most of the heavy lifting for me. (Thank Buddy! You Rock dude!). If I might add my two cents……

        I see no rational reason to believe Evolution is at odds with a literal historical Adam. Nor do I require a biological monogenesis to believe in a literal historical Adam & Eve nor do I have to identify either Biblical & Historical Adam & Eve with Y- Chromosome Adam or Mitochondrial Eve(the later two not being contemporaries with one another). Thus there is no scientific contradictiowith St Paul.

        As a Thomist I know some things can be deduced by mere natural reason alone(like the conclusions of Natural Theology) & some things require divine revelation for humans to know (example:knowledge that God is a Trinity). There is no way we can know by mere natural history wither or not God gave an immortal soul to a pre-historic hominid or so we must rely on divine revelation alone to tell us and there is no logical way empirical science can prove it did not happen.

        I see no reason to believe St Paul was “wrong” other then a dogmatic insistence on a Liberal Protestant fundamentalism being employed to replace a Young Earth Protestant fundamentalism.

        Believe what you like but I see no rational basis for it.

        Here are some links to broaden your perspective.

        The First Man
        http://www.aish.com/tp/i/moha/48931772.html

        Monkey In Your Soul
        http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/09/monkey-in-your-soul.html

        Science, Theology, and Monogenesis
        http://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/papers/kemp-monogenism.pdf

        Happy New years!

        God Bless.

    • Vernon, I completely agree with Tim as I defined faith as “ hoping in the face of insufficient evidence” during our mortal confrontation which turned you into a ghost.

      Given that definition, I consider it obvious that every human being is a believer.

      • @ lotharson

        “Given that definition, I consider it obvious that every human being is a believer.”

        perhaps this is the case.

        however, if, as you defined it, we do not have sufficient evidence, and i do not have that–je ne sais quoi–witness of the holy spirit they call it, then, i surmise, where Tim and you have the faith, i do not.

        perhaps i’m missing something that allows me to have faith?

        “If you’re like me I’m sure a minor miracle will do…” Lou Reed

        BTW: “every” is a very, very big word.

  3. >They are not red herrings. Are you perhaps thinking of this quote from the recent Nature article?

    100% Red Herrings.

    >But if we don’t require unbroken lines of decent, and if we allow the genes of others to add to these lines of descents (your “unsouled humans, whatever they are), then this couple cannot be distinguished from many other couples living at the same time, and thus there’s no meaning to “the mother of all” or “the father of all”:

    Sorry but no. Since we only have 23 pairs of Chromosomes that means once you get past your 20th great grandparent you will find some of them do not in
    fact transmit any of their DNA to you but how does it follow they are not your 20th plus great grandparents or are only your 20th great grandparents in either your direct male or female line your “real” 20th great grandparents?

    That is absurd. Jesus told the Pharisees that God could turn the stones on the ground into children of Abraham & not to glorify in him as their Father.

    Humans are not defined biologically but metaphysically in terms of being Animals with a Rational Soul. We would inherit our Rational Souls from Our first
    parent regardless if any of their DNA survives in the modern gene pool.

    I only have half of my Father’s DNA but I am 100% his son. I am 100% my Grandfathers grandson even if I have only 25% their DNA & 0% of my “step” GrandFather’s DNA but I am 100% his Grandson too. How does it follow if I have a 100th Great Grandfather in my past from whom I inherit 0% of his DNA that I am not in fact 100% his 100th great Grandson?

    None of these arguments are coherent IMHO.

    There is no logical reason here to reject a literal historical Adam and Eve.

    We should instead reject bad fundamentalist philosophy both liberal and Young Earth Creationist.

    • BenYachov. you say, “There is no logical reason here to reject a literal historical Adam and Eve.”

      Perhaps I should share an important feature of my blog. I state clearly that I have no objective to persuade anyone to adopt my views. Instead, I offer my analysis for those who might find it helpful.

      Secondly, I am unsure what some commenters here mean by ‘Adam and Eve’. If they refer to distant progenitors of whose names and identities we know nothing–not a problem. But if they are trying to historicize the Adam and Eve story of the Genesis account, then I cannot agree.

      I reject a literal historical Adam and Eve, but it doesn’t bother me that other people do not. However, the arguments put forth so far in these comments do not cause me to reconsider my conclusions.

      • JWB,

        I’m not trying to convince you. Believe what you wish.

        As for ‘historicizing Adam and Eve’, it depends what you mean. I don’t take A&E as rapt literal documentary history. I think there was a first couple, and there was a fall, and that this first couple are the ‘mother and father of humanity’. I accept evolution, an old earth, etc, and always have.

        My main issue here was your presenting it in the original post as if science had demonstrated there was no fall, there was no literal Adam and Eve, etc. If you just don’t believe it, for whatever reasons, go for it. But science simply hasn’t shown what you’re talking about, and arguably can’t be expected to show it. Disagreement doesn’t bother me, and you’re a considerate person as near as I can tell, so hey.

      • Hi Crude, I don’t recall ever talking “as if science had demonstrated there was no fall, there was no literal Adam and Eve.” The segment you might have in mind is:

        “Against an increasingly solid scientific case for evolution, creationists defend an historical view of the story of Adam beyond all reasonability. This appears a bit odd since the Bible rarely refers to Adam after the first chapters of Genesis. He appears in a few genealogical lists, but the only other writer to mention Adam is Paul.”

        The scientific case is for evolution, not against Adam. But creationism insists on a literal, historical, created Adam, and the fall, in opposition to evolution. This does not address theistic evolutionists.

        I should have written the statement more clearly.

      • The scientific case is for evolution, not against Adam. But creationism insists on a literal, historical, created Adam, and the fall, in opposition to evolution. This does not address theistic evolutionists.

        A ‘theistic evolutionist’, in the sense I’m talking about, has a literal, historical, even ‘created’ Adam – he’s simply an Adam with biological precursors. Of course, a fall is included.

        The problem is, you also imply that science shows Paul to be dead wrong about this – but Paul doesn’t require what the creationists you speak of suggest he does. Paul’s views are compatible with the TEs.

      • Okay Crude, I think I understand what you are saying, and we can disagree in our conclusions on the matter.

        However, I still point out that my rejection of a literal Adam and a fall had nothing to do with science; it was based on literary considerations. My adoption of evolution came later.

    • Ben Yachov, you say:

      Since we only have 23 pairs of Chromosomes that means once you get past your 20th great grandparent you will find some of them do not in
      fact transmit any of their DNA to you but how does it follow they are not your 20th plus great grandparents or are only your 20th great grandparents in either your direct male or female line your “real” 20th great grandparents?

      I know this, but it doesn’t affect my argument: I’m talking about (theoretical, not in any practical sense discoverable) actual lines of descent, not the possession of any particular genes. This should of course be tempered with the fact that all humans possess more than 99% of the same genes- of course, through many different lines of descent. In fact, some of our genetic differences go back to prehuman lines: the ABO blood types, for instance, are shared by the other great apes. Thus I, with my B type blood, am actually more closely related, for that one genetic line anyway, to some chimps than, say, to you, if you have some other blood type. But that’s by the way.

      Humans are not defined biologically but metaphysically in terms of being Animals with a Rational Soul. We would inherit our Rational Souls from Our first
      parent regardless if any of their DNA survives in the modern gene pool.

      That seems to be Crude’s argument as well. I’m fine with it, because it completely rules out any participation by science at all, and can thus not be debated scientifically.

      None of these arguments are coherent IMHO.

      There is no logical reason here to reject a literal historical Adam and Eve.

      As I said to Crude: I agree, but it deprives Adam and Eve of any biological status whatsoever. It’s like sainthood: undetectable to science.

      cheers from foggy Vienna, zilch

      • >As I said to Crude: I agree, but it deprives Adam and Eve of any biological status whatsoever. It’s like sainthood: undetectable to science.

        But we don’t care since humanity is defined metaphysically by having an immortal soul.If every human living today has Adam and Eve as their ancestor threw some line of descent then they have souls. It doesn’t matter if even one Chromosome of Adam or Eve still lives in the gene pool or not.

        Like I said even i I have none of his genes I am 100% the 100th great grandson of all my 100th great grandfathers.

  4. BTW as Scott Hahn once said only male humans or God can be properly called “Fathers”. Male animal parents in the strict are “Sires” not Fathers per say.
    Un-souled biological male ancestors sired our human biology but only Adam is our Father since only he & his wife had souls. To be human is to be a rational
    animal with a rational immortal soul made in the divine image. Merely being humanoid counts for nothing otherwise Apes would be human.

    Adam is the Father of us all & that is true regardless if any of his DNA survives in the Modern Gene Pool.

  5. One last bit.

    Mitochondrial Eve & Y- Chromosome Adam where original ancestors in that they are individuals we can identify as being the ancestors of every human
    being alive today. But we have a host of original ancestors from whom we are objectively descended from but whose DNA has not survived in the modern gene pool.

    Historic Biblical Adam and Eve by definition where original ancestors who
    no doubt proceeded Mitochondrial Eve & Y- Chromosome Adam but like I said
    there is no reason to believe their DNA has to survive in the modern gene
    pool for them to be Our First Parents.

    I am afraid I am still 100% the 100th Great Grandson of ALL OF my 100th great grandfathers not just the one in my pure male lineage from whom I get my Y-Chromosome.

    There is no reason to choose between St Paul & Evolution. None at all from a
    theological, philosophical, metaphysical & scientific perspective.

    Live with it guys.

    I will go off now & do my “Triumph over Fundamentalism both liberal and young earth creation” happy dance.

    Cheers.

    • BenYachov, enjoy your triumph dance, but I don’t understand what the triumph is. I was not aware we were participating in a fight, and I don’t feel defeated. I don’t think I ‘won’ anything either.

      How does one triumph in a dialog? I would say that it is if we understand each other better.

      • “How does one triumph in a dialog? I would say that it is if we understand each other better.”

        Great response! 🙂

        This is what my blog is all about…even though I do sometimes want to be right and the other person wrong 🙂

      • I like to triumph dance & as long as I feel triumphant then I am happy.

        If you don’t feel defeated well then good for you. You are a better person then moi.

        But I feel even more triumphant since I restored my Window 7 32 bit operating system to my VMware which means I can play STAR WARS
        THE OLD REPUBLIC on an IMAC.

        So triumphs all around!

      • @ lotharson

        “This is what my blog is all about…”

        and we’re grateful.

        and hear, hear: well said JWB.

        “even though I do sometimes want to be right and the other person wrong”

        i’m curious: why would you want to be right and the other to be wrong?

        not to spout cliches, but, is it not better that we try to understand better, to know more? being right or wrong is just a by-product of the quest, methinks; but it is not the quest, right.

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