The genetics challenge on Adam and Eve

NPR ran a story a few weeks ago that I came across on the Richard Dawkins blog.

It talks about how more scholars within the theology community are acknowledging a disbelief that Adam and Eve were literally the first two human beings on earth given the vast evidence to the contrary within the Human Genome Project. Genetically, humans cannot all be related to two individual people; the scholars concede.

The article quotes Dennis Venema, a biologist at Trinity Western University. Venema states that to have only two ancestors:

“You would have to postulate that there’s been this absolutely astronomical mutation rate that has produced all these new variants in an incredibly short period of time. Those types of mutation rates are just not possible. It would mutate us out of existence.”

Over time, more and more Christians have given up some literal views within the Bible. For instance, it is becoming much more the exception to the rule for Christians to believe in the earth having been created in six literal days a few thousand years ago, as opposed to a continuing cosmological expansion which has been ongoing for upwards of 13.7 billion years.

Likewise, there is a plethora of geological evidence pertaining to an old earth that has existed for billions of years.

Over the past generation, more and more information about genetics has been gained and the evidence contradicts the plausibility of humans sharing two common ancestors.

Some fear accepting these scientific ideas because it means that there are things in the Bible that cannot be taken literally true. But for the believer, I don’t think that this needs to be a reason to lose faith.

I think that this comes from an individual having a house of cards view of the scriptures. That if one of the cards is pulled off of the house, the entire structure collapses. Likewise, some have this belief that if something in the Bible is not literally accurate, that nothing in the Book should be trusted.

But is the point of the Adam and Eve story really focused on two individuals? Or is the point of it an inherent imperfection of the human race and a man-created divide that separates us from God?

One possibility is that there were two people who had been chosen by God to have a unique relationship with the Creator, but that these two individuals were not literally the first two humans to have ever existed.

With this view, they are more like the spiritual mother and father of the human race converse to being the genetic mother and father.

While Adam and Eve may not be our blood relatives, if there is a God and if He is the author of the Moral Law, and sin exists, then there is necessarily a sin which came before all others. For the Christian, we can still believe that sin came into the world through man. I don’t see genetics disproving this claim.

Geology shows that the earth is older than the Genesis account. Cosmology shows that the universe is older than the Genesis account. Now genetics shows that the origins of man are contrary to their literal interpretation within the Genesis account.

I don’t understand why God would have created a universe in which these things are all observable and which are, at the same time, false. Some could argue faith, and while I acknowledge faith is not a matter of reason (otherwise it wouldn’t be faith), we also do have the capacity to reason, and I don’t think that just because we do have faith and that just because our views are challenged, that we should check our minds at the door.

The fear of this undermining faith shows a total lack of faith.


Photo: Greg Mione, “Miniature Japanese Garden (January 10, 2010.)” This photo is not the property of, and the owner of the copyright on this photo does not endorse this blog. For more information, please click on the photograph.

Further reading
For the National Public Radio article titled “Evangelicals Question the Existence of Adam and Eve”

Categories: Commentary, Culture, Philosophy, Theology

Tags: , , , , , ,

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