There have been three ways of approaching this question.

1. The human-like remains predated Adam and Eve’s creation. Hominoids died out and are unrelated to modern humans.

Strength: This idea allows a more or less literal reading of the creation record of Gen 1, 2 while at the same time attempting to reconcile it with paleontological findings.

Weakness: When first advanced in the early and mid 19th century (for example by John Thomas the founder of the Christadelphians) it seemed like a reasonable reconciliation of science and scripture. However major advances in science over the last 200 years have made this position increasingly difficult to maintain. For example, comparison of DNA sequences between human and non-human primates, including hominoids, have provided overwhelming evidence of common ancestry.

2. The hominoids are more recent than Adam.

There are two variations of this idea:

a)      The palaeontology of hominoids is unsoundly based. There has been a combination of poor science in combination with persecution of anyone who points out weakness in the theory; arguments are advanced for a recent creation of the earth and even of a recent universe.

Strength: This allows a specific literal interpretation of Genesis 1, 2.

Weakness: When carefully examined, conventional scientific arguments are soundly based and the arguments for a young creation have no merit. There is strong evidence that hominoids are much older than 10,000 years, the approximate time of Adam. Many Christians who have come to realise this have become disillusioned and lost their faith. Supporting evidence for these statements is not provided here, but is not hard to find.

b)      God created things with the appearance of age.

Strength: This allows a specific literal interpretation of Genesis 1, 2. It is suggested that miracles such as the turning of water into wine indicate that the miraculously provided wine was created with an apparent age. This idea is extended for example to God creating trees with apparent annual rings that God had fabricated.

Weakness: Did God deceive us by creating a young universe, but falsifying evidence of great age in many details? Here are just two examples of many possible:

a)      Several different combinations of radioactive isotopes in the rocks independently  indicate an age of several billion years; why would God deceive us in this way?

b)      Light that reached the earth on Feb 23rd 1987 was of a supernova that occurred 168,000 years earlier. Or was this an part of an elaborate hoax by God?

It is difficult to overstate the moral problem with the idea that God has deceived us. If we cannot rely on the evidence that God has left us, then we cannot really know anything. God could have created us last Thursday at 9am with our memories built-in.

3.  Hominoids share common ancestors with modern humans.

Strength: This allows for the scientific evidence as well as a valid interpretation of Gen 1, 2. There is nothing in the Old Testament to invalidate such an interpretation.

Weakness: The apostle Paul appears to have believed that no human predated Adam, and appears to base important arguments on this:

Rom 5:12  Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned

1Co 15:45  Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

Whatever Paul may have believed or not believed regarding scientific matters is not important. There were many things that Paul did not know and are not important for the gospel message he taught. There is evidence that Paul regarded the heart as being the part of the body that controls thought:

Rom 10:9-10  because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  (10)  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

No-one today would maintain that view of anatomy that was common in ancient times. And Paul’s argument does not depend on it. Similarly whatever Paul believed (or did not believe) regarding the existence of humans before Adam is not important. The argument that Adam was the first man should be read in combination with Paul’s statement that Christ is the “last Adam”. Since Jesus was not literally the last man, nor need it be insisted that Adam was literally the first man, although there was something special about Adam and his surrender to sin just as there was something special about Christ and his overcoming of sin. Note that there can be no scientific evidence that Adam was not a real person.

 

There are many ways this answer could be extended, but it is long enough as it is already.

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  • David & Kerry Alexander

    Thanks for the summary of strengths and weaknesses for each approach.

    The analysis of 2 b) sounds rather too dogmatic – it’s not the pot’s place to tell the Potter how it should have been made (Isaiah 45:9).

    If we believe the Bible then we’re committed to lots of things, like Christ’s miracles, that contradict naturalistic explanation.

    To repeat the view that “My explanation of the data is right and if God did it differently then it was dishonest of Him to give me that data” not only presupposes the infallibility of your conclusion but holds God culpable for letting you reach it! This is hardly a Biblical concept of morality. Is God to blame for allowing Eve to be deceived?!

    The appearance of age, if it is only appearance, is no less deceptive than the appearance of blood created by God in 2 Kings 3:17-24, which misled the Moabites. 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 explicitly describes God sending a strong delusion, so that those who have pleasure in unrighteousness may believe what is false. There’s no moral problem at all in God creating an appearance of age.

    At the start of a movie you can usually guess some of the ‘history’ that must have already happened, but (until the prequel comes out) none of it ever happened – the movie just starts where it starts. It isn’t ‘deceitful’ of God or a screenwriter to start a story halfway through.

    Whether the ‘hoax’ is ‘elaborate’ or not depends on your definition of elaborate – Tolkien’s background to The Lord of the Rings was quite elaborate, and an infinite God’s background to history might be even more elaborate. The story begins on page 1 nonetheless.

    As to whether or not God created us last Thursday, the world we inhabit would be exactly the same either way, so it wouldn’t make any real difference. If we believe the Bible then not only do we know creation was longer than a week ago, but we’re confident in God’s care from here to the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6) – and I think this is the main point, regardless of the history of hominoids!

  • Ken Gilmore

    Thanks Russell for your summary. Even if we ignore the hominid fossils and consider only those that are anatomically human, there are problems with reconciling the palaeontological and genetic data with a literal reading of Genesis:

    * The earliest known anatomically modern human fossil has been dated to around 195,000 years ago, whereas if the events of Genesis 4 are dated to when animals and plants were domesticated in the Ancient Near East (ANE), Adam can be no earlier than around 10,000 years ago.
    * There is no evidence of a sharp genetic bottleneck dating to around 10,000 years ago, and this genetic evidence is fairly unambiguous.

    The geologist Davis Young (who is an evangelical Christian) has commented on these issues and set out possible resolutions to this data:

    1. Adam and Eve as recent creations and sole ancestors of the human race

    Strengths: harmonises with literal reading of Bible
    Weaknesses: refuted by significant genetic and palaeoanthropological evidence

    2. Adam and Eve as ancient creations and sole ancestors of the human race

    Strengths: harmonises with a literal reading of Paul
    Weaknesses: no evidence of animal and plant domestication in the ANE earlier than around 10,000 years ago. Genetic data also hard to reconcile with this view

    3. Adam and Eve as recent creations but not sole ancestors of the human race: the first people with whom God entered into a covenant relationship.

    Strengths: no conflict with genetic or palaeoanthropological data. Also harmonises with a plain reading of Gen 4 which assumes existence of other people contemporary with Cain (ie: source of his wife and those whom he feared would kill him)
    Weaknesses: conflicts with literal reading of Paul

    Your point that “since Jesus was not literally the last man, nor need it be insisted that Adam was literally the first man” is a valuable observation, particularly since Gen 4 does appear to assume the existence of people contemporary with Adam, Eve and Cain. Arguing that Cain married his sister is frankly an ad-hoc solution with no credible Scriptural support other than a distorted reading of Gen 5:4. More importantly, the genetic evidence argues strongly (overwhelmingly in fact) against universal human descent from a recent primal pair.

    Any resolution to this problem needs to be done without reducing the Bible to a pastiche of metaphor, legend and history, but equally, must not be done in defiance of the genetic and palaeontological data.

    References

    1. Mcdougall, Ian; Brown, FH; Fleagle, JG (2005). “Stratigraphic placement and age of modern humans from Kibish, Ethiopia”. Nature 433 (7027): 733–736.
    2. Venema D “Genesis and the Genome: Genomics Evidence for Human-Ape Common Ancestry and Ancestral Hominid Population Sizes” PSCF (2010) 62:3;166-178
    3. Young DA “The Antiquity and the Unity
    of the Human Race Revisited” Christian Scholar’s Review (1995) XXIV:4, 380-396

  • Ken Gilmore

    Hi David and Kerry

    Russell’s analysis of 2b is anything but dogmatic. The hominid fossil record and the genetic evidence for common descent are overwhelming. Take the fossil record. This evidence is hardly trivial – a recent reference work on palaeoanthropology notes:

    “Opponents of scientific biology are fond of dismissing that record as a pathetic handful of controversial fragments. If that wre so, this book would be a lot shoter. An often-repeated creationist canard insists that all known human fossils would fit on a billiard table. This was probably true in the late 19th century, but it has not been true for a hundred years. Known human fossils number in the thousands and represent the remains of hundreds of individuals…Having seen most of the major collections of human fossils in the world’s museums, we can assure our readers that those collections can no longer be laid out on a billiard table. It would be hard to cram them all into a boxcar.”

    What we need to avoid doing when confronted with evidence that challenges a particular *interpretation* of the Bible (apart from not conflating our interpretation with what the text really means!) is to remember that if evidence from the natural world contradicts an interpretation of the Bible, then we need to seriously consider that our interpretation is wrong, and adjust it in the light of the evidence from the natural world.

    When you say “If we believe the Bible then we’re committed to lots of things, like Christ’s miracles, that contradict naturalistic explanation.”, you have overlooked the fact that the miracles of the Bible are forever beyond scientific evaluation. However, the genomic data in humans and primates and the hominid fossil record are available for study. Consistently, scientific examination of both show both the reality of common descent (just from the genomic data alone) and a hominid fossil record stretching back around 6 million years containing many transitional fossils. Dismissing it is not an option, particularly when scientifically literate believers confront this data in their professional lives, and start asking hard questions.

    That’s the position in which I find myself. As a medical doctor trained in the genomics era whose knowledge of human and comparative anatomy and medical genetics does allow me access to the data at the level of the primary literature, I can assure you that the genetic evidence is real and compelling. Furthermore, the hominid fossil record is likewise compelling.

    We’re not talking about *appearance of age* but *appearance of common descent and large scale evolutionary change.*, and frankly, the burden of proof is on us to convincingly explain this data to those who are both well acquainted with the evidence, and the less than satisfactory arguments offered to date.

    Reference

    1. Cartmill, M. Smith F.H. “The Human Lineage” (2009 Wiley-Blackwell) page xi

  • ez

    Science is unqualified to validate the ‘theories of evolution’. These convoluted theories are simply not within the commission of such.
    It’s also never a great idea to dilute scripture for our own individual needs. I think this section of scripture really highlights this and warns against such deviation.

    “20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
    21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
    22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,
    23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
    24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
    25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
    (1Co 1:20-25 ESV)”

  • Ken Gilmore

    Hi Ez

    You said:

    “Science is unqualified to validate the ‘theories of evolution’. these convoluted theories are simply not within the commission of such.”

    I suspect you are are arguing about a subject on which you are poorly informed. Your comment claiming that science is not in a position to validate scientific theories is self-contradictory and cannot be taken seriously. Science is the only way in which we evaluate scientific theories.

    Moving on, it would appear that you are confused on what the term ‘theory’ means in science. It does not mean a hung, or speculation. Rather:

    “a theory in science, again following the definition given by the NAS, is “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.” Science not only generates facts but seeks to explain them, and the interlocking and well-supported explanations for those facts are known as theories. Theories allow aspects of the natural world not only to be described, but to be understood. Far from being unsubstantiated speculations, theories are the ultimate goal of science.” [1]

    The next question is whether you know what science means by evolution. Evolution refers to (1) large-scale evolutionary change and common descent and (2) the mechanism proposed to explain the first point. Then there is the path taken by life over time as revealed by genomics and palaentology. If you are unclear as to what science means by a theory, and do not know what mainstream science means by evolution, then your objections carry no weight and can be readily dismissed.

    Ez, citing the Bible out of context does not make scientific evidence go away. The fossil hominid record is real, extensive and shows a clear trend towards bipedality and increased cranial size. The genetic evidence likewise is comprehensive and overwhelming. Again, it will not go away simply because you do not like what it implies.

    I cannot help but notice that you have completely ignored the scientific points raised. The burden is on you to show that the evidence is better interpreted by special creationism. As I said, ignoring the evidence or demonising science merely reinforced the stereotype of Christianity a haven for obscurantism.

    Ken

    References

    1. Gregory TR “Evolution as fact, theory and path” Evo Edu Outreach (2008) 1:46-52