I’m now returning to these questions…
Why specifically do you think the inference to best explanation is not to a historical Adam?
We see that in the Genesis 1-3 texts, the word adam is used both as a generic and as a proper name, or at least the name of a character in the text. Put another way, the word adam in Hebrew simply means “human” generically and is often used in these texts with the article, thus “the human.” Eve” means “mother of the living” or “life.” Thus that their proper names were not “Adam” and “Eve.” Their names are essentially “Human” and “Life,” or as New Testament scholar Scot McKnight—emphasizing different nuances in the original Hebrew—phrases it, “Dusty” and Momma.” Moreover, if this pair lived even six thousand years ago, it is improbable that they spoke Hebrew, which didn’t come into existence until at least a couple thousand years later. This signals that Adam and Eve don’t really come off as proper names, but as symbolic or typological ones. This is a signal the nature of the text indicates we shouldn’t interpret them literally. (Here I’m taking a natural over a literal interpretation.)
And respectively, I’m also surprised by a willingness of those who see an historical Adam and Eve in these texts then also eschew or ignore other clear features of the narrative. It strikes me as a position that lacks consistency, and even integrity, to affirm the historical Adam and Eve, but to cast out key biblical affirmations such their special creation by God ( Yahweh Elohim ) in Genesis 2:7 and that this occurs in the ancient near east in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:8, 1-14. How does a person decide to take some core elements of the narrative literally, but not others?
In terms of the science behind human development, I’m essentially convinced that science doesn’t entirely disprove the possibility of a first pair to which we are all geneaologically related. On the other hand, it certainly doesn’t prove that to be the case. Stated another way, the only reason that we are concerned with this original pair living in Mesopotamia around 6,000-10,000 is our biblical and theological tradition. Instead, and what is most fitting with the various sciences that bear, there appears to be a bottleneck of about 5,000-10,000, but not a single pair, many thousands of years before the time table of Genesis 1-3 (And yet, the problem is that the theological tradition has been built on that first, specially created pair 6,000-10,000 years ago.)
The inference to the best explanation (which I’ll just sketch here) is that Homo sapiens (or Homo sapiens sapiens ) evolved as a group from other hominins, and at some point, gained self-consciousness between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago. In this period, human beings were able to respond to God consciously and decided to rebel. This is what we read in Genesis 1-3. And thus we begin the story of humankind…
And, by the way, I’m happy to address other questions besides Adam and Eve that arise from my book, which is why the next questions—which are not in the book—are still welcome.
Could you tell us more how your thoughts on race are developing? What you been coming to understand? You ran the Scientists in Congregations program. How did you deal with the disparity in African American Churches there?
I would affirm again that, as a white male, I need to listen, listen, listen because too often white males have spoken with far too many self-assured answers. But, since you ask, I will speak: I am learning (as in conversation with your pastor and colleague, Brent Roam) that race is largely construct sociologically and not from primarily from natural science. And this construction has been to been used to oppress various people throughout the ages of human history. Consider that to the Greeks, all others are “barbarians,” which means that they sounded like “bar, bar, bar” when they spoke their “weird” languages (i.e., tongues other than Greek). For Jews, everyone else was a goy and sometimes a “dog” (and we need to remember that dogs were rarely pets in ancient times, but scavenger animals roaming through towns). In the Gospel, we know that it’s about breaking down walls (Ephesians 2:14), where there is neither Jew nor Greek (Galatians 3:28).
We didn’t do was much in specifically reaching out to African American churches in SinC (Scientists in Congregations), http://www.scientistsincongregations.org, but worked more with STEAM (Science and Theology for Emerging Adult Ministries), http://thesteamproject.org. Still, the talk of “science and faith” sounds off-putting to many churches that aren’t primarily white. Nonetheless, I did find that African Americans seem more interested in promoting STEM education—which is part of God’s calling to the sciences and various forms of technology. I also heard more about health care as an issue and how it, as a form of science, is justly or unjustly available. Those are a few notes. I hope to sprinkle more in future responses.
Thanks for the questions…