Does De Novo Adam in an Evolved Population Make Sense?

Much of the Catholic specific conversation has wrapped up on another thread: A Catholic Approach to the Genealogical Adam.

The conversation is turning to questions more broadly relevant, and we should continue those conversations here.

Josh, it’s late and I have just come across this. I haven’t been getting heads up reminders when you reference me.

No, I am not convinced. I see no distinction between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, but then I am not looking for a point by point match in the texts. Just as I don’t look for a point by point match in the details of the Gospels. I see no evidence for a community in Genesis 1. That seems to me to be reading into the text what you want to be there.

I can find no reason in scripture or science to think your model is true. It’s a bit like multiverses. Would you say that theory was thought up to avoid the big bang and the fine-tuning of the universe?

It also doesn’t seem like something God would do. I know, it’s always risky to make that statement. But why would he do it? You use the argument that not accepting common descent makes God out to be a deceiver. Well, what about this? Two populations, and one not recorded except by implication? The great body of humankind gets no mention? Did God intend to deceive us into thinking we were specially created?

I know, I know. George will say, “But it was all the story of of the lineage from Adam to Jesus. Everybody else was unnecessary.” But there were a lot of everybody elses. And it seems a really big oversight to not mention 10,000 plus neighbors already in existence (more like millions) just outside the garden. Somebody should be able to make a really good cartoon out of that.

My chief complaint is that you require two classes of human, one from within the garden, specially created, and one from outside, evolved. One with original sin, and one without. It’s much more profound than the Jew/ Gentile distinction.

If God’s going to use evolution to make the greatest number of humans, why would he specially create, de novo, two humans, and place them in a garden? Is it a set up? Obviously it’s not for racial purity if they emerge and immediately mingle. All I can say is, it seems remarkable circular. We postulate this pair in the garden so we can explain Genesis, and Genesis is how we know this pair existed.

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I am a Protestant (I can hear you going “I think we found your problem right there”) and don’t have a dog in this fight, but there are some things in scripture that support the idea that his framework of one community inside and one outside the garden is correct.

The blessing God gives to mankind in 1:28 does not sound like the conversation He has with Adam and Eve later on. The Hebrew on the words “dominion” and “subdue” have connotations of treading down and conquering. “Subjugate” might be a way to say it. That is very unlike the garden where the LORD God did all the work and the animals did not need subjugating and the ground only needed tending and keeping.

Further, the command to be fruitful and multiply was the first thing mentioned in chapter one. In chapter two its almost an after thought!

This doesn’t figure into his model, but it does figure into mine which shares the same framework of two communities, but in 1:27 there is no mention of “male and female” being created in the image. Only THE man (in the Hebrew its there) and the echo of that which uses a singular pronoun. This hints at a community which is not yet a part of the fellowship between the LORD God and the Man, with fellowship being a requirement to fulfill the human capacity to bear the image.

None of that in chapter one is explicit I will grant you, but 2:1 is explicit. It describes what God had just done- create the “host” of “them”. Them being heaven, and earth. Look up the word “host”. It refers to an assembly of sentient beings capable of military action (like subjugating the earth). Sometimes it refers to the heavenly bodies themselves but isn’t it so that the stars were identified with heavenly beings without distinction?

So God created a “host” on the earth according to Genesis 2:1. That military language fits perfectly with the mission He gave to humanity in 1:26 and 1:28 but is a tall order for a single couple.

All that is before the standard arguments you hear about Cain’s wife and even more telling, that Cain acted like he knew that he was not the first murderer in the world and was terrified that “whoever” would kill him if he were cast out of the family fellowship.

So like I say, I don’t have a dog in the specific fight of whether the Catholic church accepts GA as a possibility, because I am neither Catholic nor is the Christ-centered model a perfect fit with GA, but if it is rejected let it not be because there is nothing in scripture to suggest it.

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There is a lot to unpack here.

  1. It would not be the great body of humankind unmentioned, but a tiny fraction. There are more people born in a single generation now than in all history between 10 kya and 300 kya.

  2. God would not be intending to deceive us at all. He is just telling us the important part of the story in Genesis, not the unimportant part of the story that science tells us.

  3. Many historical interpreters have thought there were beings outside the garden that eventually interbred with Adam’s line. If this was “reading it in,” they would have not thought this in the past. It is not just Gen 1, but it is also the differences between Gen 1 and 2, and Genesis 4, Genesis 6, and Numbers 13:33. See for example the Myth of Lilith, and the Book of Enoch.

  4. I do not say that “not accepting common descent makes God out to be a deceiver.” That is not correct. I say, rather, “it looks like we arise by common descent, but science does not consider God, perhaps there is another design principle that explains this, or a theological reason He specially created us this way.” Then I invite people to provide such theological reasons.

  5. I do not the think the Deceptive God Objection is durable, but it the cases it arises, it has to be engaged and dismissed with, for example, a reason why God would have made us by special creation in a way that looks like common descent. With that reason (and I have even put some forward), it can be reasonable to reject common descent on theological grounds, even if the evidence points that way. I’ve made a big point about this in the past: The 100 Year Old Tree

  6. As for “why?” I start by emphasizing that I am very puzzled about “why” God would send his only son to die for us while we were still sinners, enemies of God. This makes no sense to me, and reminds me that God’s ways are not like my ways. Second, this is a good question to think about, because answering it can lead us to a more coherent view.

For us in the more protestant background, we do care more about the details of the text. Looking at the details of the text, using agreed upon hermeneutical rules (e.g. the Chicago Statements), it does seem that Genesis 1 and 2 are sequential accounts, or at minimum this is a possible reading.

We can test this historically too, asking how readers over the last 3,000 years have read early Genesis. We see several example of people reading it sequentially, often for the same reasons as us. Maybe we are wrong, but we are solidly within the traditional account.

We are not reading this into the text. Several scholars take a similar view, based on entirely textual arguments, including scholars that do not affirm evolution. @jongarvey, for example, has found a common of Scripture with Greg Beale, Seth Postell, and Sailhammer. I’m seeing similar things too when I talk to theologians and exegetes. They are frequently telling me:

  1. The argument being made here makes sense from a Scriptural point of view, and it is using the same rules to understand Scripture as us.
  2. We have independently come to a similar conclusion about the meaning of Genesis 1 and 2, even though we were not even thinking about evolution (and perhaps do not even affirm it).

This is just what arises from a plain, literal reading of the text. Maybe we are wrong, but we are no more wrong than the people reading this as the same story recapitulated.

Multiverse is used in argument to avoid the fine-tuning argument. However there are some independent reasons it might make sense. It has not been proven either.

The difference here is that we are taking Scripture as what we think it is telling us. Then, from there, asking if we would see genetic evidence one way or another. A careful (and now undisputed) analysis shows that we would not expect to see this in genetic evidence. Therefore, we conclude that scientific evidence does not really give us enough information to tell us one way or another if Adam was de novo created.

The exact same reasoning can be applied to (insert as you please) the Resurrection of Jesus, the Virgin Birth of Jesus, the miracle of Jesus turning water to wine, the miracle of Jesus walking on water. Exactly all the cases where we agree God intervened in this world will NOT produce genetic evidence of God’s action. That seems to be the rule, and Adam’s de novo creation is just like the Virgin Birth in this sense, something we might believe based on Scripture, but is totally beyond science’s ability to adjudicate.

I’m not sure here what the objection really is, unless we come with the unjustified presupposition that it must be detectable. Science is not nearly as powerful as we might hope. I wish it could tell us about God’s action, but it cannot.

It is no different with the single-couple bottleneck too. If it happened in the distant past, we are not seeing positive evidence for it, or against it. The fact that there is no evidence for it, is not evidence it did not occur. When Venema argues against your position (based on lack of positive evidence) you recognize it as absurd, and I’m just being consistent here. We just do not expect there to be positive evidence in science, given what we know of genetics. I know this is 100% against the intuitions of ID, but I do not know how to make science as powerful as you hope it could be.

The argument for a Genealogical Argument is, in these sense, parallel to the argument for an ancient sole-progenitor that you are making with Buggs. You can’t prove that there was a single couple bottleneck, but you can show the limits of the scientific evidence. There is no circularity here. You can’t object to a Genealogical Adam here without also agreeing with Venema’s case against you.

It seems to brilliantly capture the paradoxes of the text. We are God Imaged and Fallen. We are “of the dust” and “God breathed.” We are continuous with the animals, but called to something greater. We are creatures, but invited into fellowship with the Creator. These paradoxes, it seems to me, are beautifully embraced in this view. We see that we share common ancestry with the great apes, but we are more than just great apes, as God also specially created us.

That tells a coherent theological story consistent with how I learned Genesis back when I was a child, being raised in a YEC family.

This whole idea of God announcing his presence privately to a few, and working with them to bring it across the earth seems to be a very consistent pattern: Abraham, Moses, Jesus, etc. I’m reminded of the Road to Emmaus. Jesus seems to want to work through a few to reach everyone. That is his pattern, and it is just about as counter intuitive as the crucifiction. It might not be how I would have set things up, or how you would have done so, but it does seem to be the way of the God we find by way of Jesus.

God did not create Adam with original sin. That was a consequence of the fall. God did not author sin, that was Adam’s doing.

I haven’t explained how I am thinking about original sin yet, but @jongarvey has seen it. That is still being worked out, but we can understand it not as God’s creation, but a logical consequence of Adam being a reproducing creature in rebellion to a merciful God, who exiles him instead of executing him when he sins.

This reading, which I have not explained yet publicly, would start to make a great deal of sense of these questions. At the moment, it is better to live with some of the tensions and wonder how it could make sense. It is like we are being posed math problems.

The right answer is not throw up our hands and say “this just doesn’t make sense” (and I am not saying you are doing that). A better approach, which I see all the time among Lutherans (@JustAnotherLutheran), is to embrace the tension of paradox, and sit in it for a while, chewing the questions. A great deal of coherence might arise as we embrace two things that superficially seem in conflict, only to find there is a deeper reality that makes sense of both.


Just want to agree with you here. While the multiverse is used to argue against fine-tuning it was not thought up for that reason. It’s a prediction of other theories that try to explain the universe we see. I’m a multiverse proponent. As are other prominent Christians.


A post was merged into an existing topic: Ancient Sole-Genetic Progenitors


Regarding [Part A] of your quote above, can’t we say the exact same thing about Cain’s situation?

Gen 4:16-17
“And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.”

It would have been incredibly easy for God to have said, “and Cain eventually married his sister, and they founded a city”… but he didn’t. What he did inspire was two distinct Genesis stories. Who can say how much of these two stories might have been trimmed, because some scribe didn’t want to acknowledge the other humans.

As for [Part B] the fastest way to create a humanity with moral agency is to introduce a pair to communicate that to a large existing population. Ultimately we can’t know for sure what was at stake. But the point of discussing the first population is that this is genetically and archaeologically indicated by reality. You may want to eliminate them as a distraction… but you really can’t. They are the historically provable part of the story.

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Have you had time to think about the relevance of my comments in my posting above?

2 posts were split to a new topic: Larkin’s Take on Adam

Not sure why any proposal of a sequential reading gets sequestered away to another topic.
I, for one, would be happy to answer any questions @Agauger has regarding it. Of course she’ll know they’re not necessarily the same as what you, Josh, might propose, but it’s totally in line with GA, while not being the only view it works with. An ancient “de novo” Adam is in line with it, too.
The sequential view does posit that the humanity outside the garden is what is being described in Genesis 1:26-27 and ff., so referring to them only as “evolved” might unnecessarily predispose a rejection of the view. They were “created in the image of God” long before Adam came on the scene.

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An idea I would like to float for consideration as to why two creations of humans.

What if the creation of the Genesis 1 humans was to make way/carve out a niche for the existence of humans in the natural world /animal kingdom? As long as there was a human presence in the evolution of life then there is a place for humanity brought forth through the creation of Adam.


Okay. And?

My operational assumption has always been that God’s preferred approach to the creation of life is through common descent… Human family common descent runs all through the patriarchal narratives.

The various peoples of the Babylonian period can all be traced back to the ancestral population described in the prior chapters of Genesis.

The de novo creation of Adam/Eve is the special treatment.

That’s it. Does de novo Adam in an evolved population make sense?

This is my answer to that. Or, should I say, this is my answer that doesn’t involve free will.

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Yep. It makes sense.

Yep. This idea that the universe was invented to avoid fine tuning is a myth that needs to die as it simply isn’t true.


Especially since that’s not the idea being advocated in the first place. The idea often advocated by apologists is that multiverse theory is conjecture designed to avoid conclusions of fine-tuning. But, it doesn’t even do that! It just kicks the fine-tuning can down the road a bit further, by positing a random multiverse cosmic lottery scenario, rather than a designed, fine-tuned universe. Point is, both scenarios are observationally justifiable, but not equally probable. For theological hyperskeptics, we shouldn’t be so lucky! But, in the real universe, we are.

“In science (–and in theology! /Ed.), mistakes always precede the truth.”
–Horace Walpole

How do you figure?

If we’re talking about kicking the can, how fine tuned do things have to be to have a god that creates a world perfect for humans?

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I don’t follow your apparent question. How would a “world perfect for humans” look different than the one we inhabit?

No religions. :sunglasses: “No hell below us, above us only sky”