Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How is Adam Real if Evolution is True?

Because I don't want the comment section to get wildly off topic, I will answer a question posed to me regarding Adam that was posted on my last post.
This may be a ridiculous question, but it's something that I've been wondering about nevertheless, and I can't seem to find anything written on the matter. Anyway, do you have any idea how Adam imputed sin to this universe? If evolution were true, then how could an "Adam" actually have existed?
By "evolution" I assume you mean the biological side of the Grand Story, as JP Moreland calls it, which is how certain naturalists put forward as the way life emerged and developed on this planet. This includes a simple organism emerging from some prehistoric puddle and eventually evolving, by the mechanisms of random mutations and natural selection, into all of the various species we see today. You have to assume this Grand Story is true for your question to even make sense, since even 6 day young earth creationists accept that some life evolves, and biological organisms change from generation to generation.

Of course, the Grand Story is far from proven, and I'm not sure that, short of a time machine, it could ever be proven. To take what we have in terms of observations of biological organisms and extrapolate it into this Grand Story requires massive amounts of unbacked assumptions. Add to that the fact that the evidence strongly suggests that the mechanisms of random mutation and natural selection seem to be woefully inept at creating small changes in populations, let alone the vast diversity of life and biological function we see today, I don't think there's any reason to even dabble with thinking the Grand Story is true.

However, if it were, and humans were a part of this grand story, you could say much of the beginning of Genesis is metaphor, and Adam simply represents humanity or something, though this would seem to contradict the gospel writers and Paul, who seemed to consider Adam a real and historical person. It would require further explanation to solve those apparent contradictions.

Or, you could say that Adam evolved from lesser primates, and at that point God imported a rational soul into him, or he evolved his soul, or something of that sort, and that's when humanity began. But that seems extremely ad hoc (though not any more so than the Grand Story, ha) and then what do we do about Eve?

Of course I think these scenarios are highly contrived and don't think they're feasible for one that takes the Bible seriously. Frankly, as God's written revelation, the Bible has an epistemic authority that our often pitiful attempts at historical science do not have. When people get it wrong interpreting God's natural revelation, we have to dismiss what they say in favor of what God reveals, no matter how many defend the bad science or how emphatically they defend it. However, since there has been no good evidence that makes the Grand Story even begins to seem feasible, it's not a problem.

I tend to lean toward Progressive Creationism, though I am very open on the issue.

21 comments:

John said...

Hmm.. Interesting point.

However, setting aside for a moment whatever evidence that's pro or contra the "grand story", it seems to me, when compared to "progressive creationism", still a much easier sell.

But I'm more tending to believe that the whole Genesis account simply means that somewhere along the line a rebellion took place which consequently brought sin to this world --the exact details of which we may never understand. Perhaps Eden was another universe or something.

But thanks for this answer. I'm learning a lot from your blog.

A.M. Mallett said...

Sometimes it is profitable to distinguish between "evolution" and the theory of "common descent". The former can be evidenced without a challenge to scripture (micro-evolution) while the latter is easily challenged with "commonality among species" i.e. there is not one piece of evidence used by evolutionists to support common descent that cannot also be used to support commonality among species.

SLW said...

How do you explain death and entropy from your progressive framework? I've always found them a hurdle for any approach that doesn't interpret Genesis 1-3 literally.

bossmanham said...

I take the death as human. I don't really see a problem with the ecosystem developing prior to man being placed on earth. What regarding entropy would be a problem? If God isn't introducing any new energy into the system by using matter He already had created, I don't see how it's an issue.

SLW said...

The entropic principle is one of a tendency to disorder. That cannot be, in my mind, something of original design (see Genesis 1:2 & 31), but fits well as an effect of cursing (Genesis 3:17, Romans 8:20-22). Death as a principle of life and entropy as a principle of energy do not reflect the natural order of things as God made them, but the natural order of fallen creation. The question for me is how either can or could exist prior to sin and the curse of death which followed.

bossmanham said...

SLW,

As far as cosmology is concerned, entropy has been in the mix since the beginning of time. You simply can't have a closed system and have its energy last forever. I think there are several things that could be said about that, one being that since God foreknew human sin, He designed the world to adhere to the entropic principle. Another would be since it is so far removed from human history in terms of the universe actually exhausting itself of its heat energy, and God had to perhaps consider different trade offs in a material world, that actually is an aspect of His design. If I'm not mistaken, that's a part of the fine tuning of the universe isn't it? Or maybe God would have continually injected more energy into the system had we not sinned.

Dembski has a suggestion, in his book The End of Christianity I believe, that the creation was actually cursed in time before the actual sin of man occurred because God knew of our sin, and it's disastrous impact started before it actually happened.

Finally, the death spoken of in Genesis could be spiritual, and not physical at all, and physical decay had always been part of creation.

David said...

I think you're a little mixed up in your thermodynamics.

The law of the conservation of energy states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, and the total amount of energy in the universe is unchanged from the amount present at the start. In other words, the universe cannot exhaust its energy supply. There will be as much energy in the universe at the end of the universe as at the beginning (and the universe as a whole is a closed system).

The second law of thermodynamics says that, over time, energy will become more "disordered", or less "concentrated", or less available to do useful work. That is, the total amount of entropy in the universe increases from moment to moment. From one moment to the next, if you take the entire universe as a whole, the energy that exists becomes increasingly less useful or less avaible to do work. However, the total amount of energy does not change, and in that sense, energy does last forever. Or at least for the lifespan of the universe.


On the bright side, while on the scale of the entire universe each passing moment increases the total entropy of the entire universe, at the level of a local open systems, there can be a net decrease in entropy. Living things actually decrease entropy at the local level during the life of the organism by accessing the energy in sunlight. During a lifetime, the net entropy of (sun plus organism) increases, but within the organism itself, there is a decrease in entropy. If this didn't happen, life itself would be impossible.

As far as anyone can tell, this is how it's been since the universe started. Now, what that has to do with Genesis is up to you. Carry on.

Kevin Jackson said...

I'm open to the idea that Adam was around more than 8k years ago, but I think he must have been a real dude.

Why would God use natural selection as his preferred method to create? It seems inconsistent with his character. Natural selection rewards the strong, the aggressive, the fertile, the selfish, the genetically perfect. It's efficient, but not kingdom oriented. Jesus says the last will be first, blessed are those who mourn, the meek will inherit the earth.

It seems to me that natural selection is best explained as a way for creation to continue to renew itself after the fall, and not as God preferred method.

bossmanham said...

David,

Technical precision was not my idea. To say the universe "exhausts it's energy" is to say over time, energy will become more "disordered", or less "concentrated", or less available to do useful work. As time goes on, and the universe continues to expand and entropy continues, there is less and less energy available to do any sort of useful work. It will get colder and colder, and in the distant future, all things being equal, the universe will be a dark frozen wasteland of continually drifting planet and star junk. Of course no energy is literally "destroyed." I never said as much.

bossmanham said...

I meant to put what I quoted from you in quotes. Consider it done here:

"over time, energy will become more 'disordered', or less "concentrated", or less available to do useful work."

bossmanham said...

Also, David, upon my review of the cosmological phenomena you just cited, which I believe was Boltzmann's proposal, I see that you have missed what modern cosmologists think of it. If it is the case that the small local pockets of low entropy that develop, then our observable sphere should be much much smaller than it is, courtesy Paul Davies. It's just the way the probabilities work themselves out.

It is far more probable that we are observing a single universe of relatively low entropy generally evenly dispersed.

David said...

"Technical precision was not my idea."

Obviously.

But now you've cleared things up, and all is right with the world.

Carry on. It's always interesting to watch young earth versus old earth.

bossmanham said...

Thank you, and I agree.

David said...

Guess no one else finds the young earth vs. old earth thing worth commenting on. Oh, well.

I do commend you for your willingness to consider that possibility that Earth is not 6000 years old. In that sense, you've got your blog friend Alan beat, hands down.

However, ironically, I honestly think that the young earthers are probably more theological and textual "correct" about what the OT writers meant when the Genesis stories were recorded. This story is what it is. Yom means 24 hour day, and the writers meant to say that all life is created in an ordinary week's time. That's what the writers meant, and unfortunately, they're simply wrong about the history of life on Earth.

I went through a bit a of progressive creationism stage myself in my younger days, but eventually, I gave up. You end up saying silly things like "the creation was actually cursed in time before the actual sin of man occurred because God knew of our sin, and it's disastrous impact started before it actually happened." You have to just make stuff up as you go along. The theological backflips and pretzel logic that is required to keep old earth creationist scenarios afloat is too much for my small brain, and the young earther are quite good at pointing this out.

In short, as I was slowly sliding away from Christianity, I concluded (1) that the young earth position was totally untenable in light of observations, evidence and data and (2) the old earth position was not consistent with the text and overall Jewish-Christian theology unless you just ignored what I believe the words were meant to say. Neither young nor old earth works, and I think that's for a simple reason. The Bible just got it wrong.

David said...

...I guess one could say that Genesis says, in some vague, poetic way, that in the beginning, some incomprehensible power created everything, and that's all it says. I can't think of any way to disprove that and I can't say that I know that's wrong. So, I guess that's one way to save a bit of Genesis.

But I don't think that you want to stop with something limited, vague and squishy like "Genesis says that God created" and leave it at that. At least, it would suprise me if you did.

bossmanham said...

Yom means 24 hour day

No it doesn't. There are many instances in the OT where Yom refers to long periods of time.

and the writers meant to say that all life is created in an ordinary week's time

Prove it.

If you gave up your faith because you had bad information of the way Genesis should be interpreted, I have questions about the sincerity of that faith. Even if Genesis did mean literally that the earth was created in 6 24 hour days, and is not a more poetic description given by a poetic culture of the creation, it could be that the observations are faulty. The more I read up on the philosophy of science, the more open ended the models look to me. Induction can only go so far before one's prior assumptions have to take over.

My position: open ended on the age of the earth, Adam and Eve were real historical people, open ended on the historical timeframe from Adam and Eve to Noah to Moses etc.

David said...

"No it doesn't. There are many instances in the OT where Yom refers to long periods of time."

Yes, but I don't think that this is one of them. I once saw Ken Ham make a pretty good argument in a debate that this was not one of those cases (yom = long period). Yeah, it suprised me, too. A good argument from Ham. Who'd have guess it? What I'm saying that the arguments for interpreting yom in this context as a 24 hour day were, to my suprise, much better than the arguments to the contrary.


"Prove it."

Prove that anything in the Bible means what you say it means. Good Lord, we could play "prove it" games from now until the cows come home, and all that would "prove" is that no one can know what the Bible really means about anything!

But if you want proof, I'm sure that your buddy Alan would be glad to prove this for you.

"It could be that the observations are faulty."

That's always possible, of course, but at this point in time, given what is known, it seems extraordinarily unlikely that the Earth is 6000 years old and was covered by a global flood just a few thousands years ago. Doesn't mean that we can say for sure what happened, but I think we can say with a high level of confidence what didn't happen. Not absolute confidence, but a very high level of confidence.

"My position: open ended on the age of the earth...etc."

Again, I commend you for this. However, again, you're then left with pretzel theology (see Dembski). You know what they say, if you have to work that hard, then you're doing it wrong. If you can pull it off to your satisfaction, then good for you (I mean that in all sincerity - no snark). However, I can't do this anymore myself.


"I have questions about the sincerity of that faith."

This what believers always say about those who come to doubt. I'm sick of it. You don't know me.

bossmanham said...

I once saw Ken Ham make a pretty good argument in a debate that this was not one of those cases (yom = long period). Yeah, it suprised me, too. A good argument from Ham. Who'd have guess it?

Except that yom doesn't always mean one day......and Hugh Ross has much better rebuttals. I also like how you say that Ham is unreliable in his other arguments, but this one is totally reliable. Seems to be cherry picking what you want from the guy to come to your present state of alienation from God. Nice. Why don't you study some actual Hebrew scholars?

Not to mention that even if taken literally it's supposed to be one day, the fact that it could be a poetic description of the creation alleviates the issue.

Prove that anything in the Bible means what you say it means.

You can do that a lot by examining the context and the overall message that is being given. It's not clear at all the the intent of the author of Genesis is to give a scientifically accurate description of the creation. In fact, given that culture, it seems highly unlikely with how the structure is.

But you said that one time you thought one thing, but then found out you were wrong. Prove that. Surely you've got an argument? (see sarcasm)

You know what they say, if you have to work that hard, then you're doing it wrong

Yeah, sometimes thinking is just too hard. I ought to just stop and let people tell me what I should believe.

This what believers always say about those who come to doubt. I'm sick of it. You don't know me.

You're the one who shared the account. I gave you my impression of what you shared, and it's a pathetic progression toward atheism. It shows egregious ignorance, a lack of serious study and thought, and a pathetic conclusion that you're never able to defend. No, your supposed faith at one point looks pretty thin.

You don't want my opinion, don't give me the story.

David said...

"Except that yom doesn't always mean one day......"

Ah, so we can't really say what the Bible says then, can we?

"Why don't you study some actual Hebrew scholars?"

Actually, during the debate, everyone was busy citing Hebrew scholars. That's what impressed me. So, who's scholars are right? What on earth does the Bible actually say?! Who knows?!

You can do that a lot by examining the context and the overall message that is being given."

So why the deep and bitter disagreement over a simple word lke "yom"? As you know, folks will go to the mattresses over this one. Goodness, if you can't figure yom out, what hope is there when it comes to complex concepts?

"Surely you've got an argument?"

Again, ask your buddy Alan. I'm sure that he could provide a better argument than I can. Off the top of my head, I don't remember the details of what Ham said, but among other things, the context of morning and evening certainly suggested that we're talking about an ordinary day. Also, given the order of the creation of flora and fauna, you have to have everything in place in a very short period of time for everything to work. That suggests that a day is an ordinary day.

"I ought to just stop and let people tell me what I should believe."

No one told me what to believe.


"I gave you my impression of what you shared."

An impression that was uninformed and largely irrelvant to the discussion.

"Pathetic progression toward atheism...egregious ignorance, a lack of serious study and thought, and a pathetic conclusion that you're never able to defend. No, your supposed faith at one point looks pretty thin."

Thanks for all the proof I need that you don't really beleive what you profess to believe. By their fruit ye shall know them.

bethyada said...

bossmanham, I think David is correct here. While yom can have several meanings, the context of Genesis 1 demands daylight occasionally, and 1 earth rotation in most. Genesis 2 has indefinite duration in ?1 instance.

To your other question, Jesus accepts Adam was a real person, and Paul argument requires him to be a real person and the ancestor of all men.

David said...

Uh, oh.

Better start insulting Bethyada.