Is evolutionary science in conflict with Adam and Eve?

It is difficult to classify every way of understanding Adam and Eve alongside evolution. These four questions are a helpful starting point.

  1. Were Adam and Eve real people in a real past?

  2. Which models of Adam and Eve are consistent with evolutionary science?

  3. Do Adam and Eve sit at the headwaters of humanness ?

  4. Were Adam and Eve created de novo without parents?

See this excellent whitepaper by @dga471, @naclhv, and @jongarvey. This article is meant as a scholarly introduction to the public.

  1. Is there any reason to think that they were?

  2. That they were just two people in a large population.

  3. Before we can consider that, we have to know what are meant by “headwaters” and “humanness”.

  4. Seems unlikely, and certainly inconsistent with evolutionary science as in #2.


In addition, other theological concerns may make a historical Adam and Eve necessary, such as maintaining the uniqueness of human beings as made in the image of God, the unity of all humans, a historical Fall from original sinlessness, and the doctrine of original sin.

This would appear to be an Appeal to Consequences fallacy.


That isn’t a fallacy if one believes for independent reasons that Scripture is a valid way of knowing things.


And that you have correctly determined what things it’s a valid way of knowing, right?

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We have certainly established beyond any shadow of doubt that many Christians see Scripture as a valid way of knowing things about the world. You can disagree with them, even as you accept the existence of this view point as you enter into dialogue with it.


But do they have independent reasons for that opinion other than the afore-mentioned appeal to consequences?

Anyway, my point was something else: that even those who take scripture as a way of knowing disagree one what it’s a way of knowing about, which casts doubt on its value as such a way.

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Yes, they do. Independent of the evaluation of the scientific evidence, they (and I also) see Scripture as a valid source of truth about the world, when interpreted correctly. Of course, I also think science is a valid source of truth about the world too!

One also could say…

even those who take science as a way of knowing disagree one what it’s a way of knowing about, which casts doubt on its value as such a way.

The fact there is disagreements about what Scripture and Science are telling us does automatically invalidate them as sources of truth.


And what’s your basis for that belief?

One could, but one would be justifiably discounted. I don’t think there’s anyone claiming that science is allegorical.

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Good to see that this is finally out!

I find it a little sad that people often want to cut out entire realms of evidence by simply labeling them as invalid ways of seeing the truth. The Truth touches all things and is reflected in all things; thus everything must be considered in approaching it.

I hope that, through this article, more people will see that there is perfect harmony between science and the Bible, and that nothing needs to be cut out!


I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I clicked on some linked footnotes and they seem to all go to Zotero, an file share/editing program. So something is not working right @naclhv @swamidass


I’ll give my two cents…I don’t think they conflict, I think they confirm each other. But, I also believe that Adam and Eve were a separate creation and represent the first of God’s chosen people, not the first humans on earth. Time is the problem, they could have been in Eden for billions of years, we have no way of knowing for sure.

My answers:

  1. I don’t know, I don’t need to know, it wouldn’t change the truth I receive from scripture (in regard to my relationship with God) to know if they were real or not.
  2. Any non-literal interpretation in regard to time agrees with evolutionary science.
  3. No, they sit at the Spiritual convergence of sinfulness and righteousness in humanity. Scripture is ambiguous but states that there are people in Nod (Gen 4).
  4. Yes, because that’s the story, regardless of whether or not they were real people.
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Yup. I need to fix that. Thanks for flagging the issue.

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Thank you for your answers, Mark! Can you elaborate on them a little bit more, specifically with respect to the content of the article?

For example, for your answer to #2, you say “Any non-literal interpretation in regard to time agrees with evolutionary science”, but the claim of the article is that a number of quite “literal” interpretations are in good agreement as well, and that the space of space of “consistency” is quite a bit larger than what is popularly perceived.

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No Joshua, I’m afraid I have to emphatically disagree with you.

Yes, “Adam and Eve existed, because Scripture is inerrant” would be a logically-valid argument (if one that non-Christians would dispute the premise of).

This does not however affect the logical validity of the completely separate argument that Adam and Eve existed, because if they didn’t there would be a number of unfortunate theological consequences.

The existence of a logically-valid argument for conclusion does not as a matter of logic validate a logically fallacious argument for that conclusion.

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But how do you know that these entire realms, whatever they may be, are really evidence? I presume you reject some ways of knowing, e.g. astrology and phrenology (correct me if I’m wrong); I presume you also reject the Ramayana and the Elder Edda, similarly. So it must be OK with you to cut out at least those entire realms. What’s different?


It has been my experience in conversation with both sides on this forum that the bottleneck always arrives at the literal interpretation of time in Genesis. I understand that GAE provides a bridge genealogically, but I find that there is still a huge gap in terms of the rest of creation, including the argument regarding the origin of life.

2 Peter 3:8 - 8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

I interpret this as Peter representing the fact that God is outside of time, not that a day is literally a thousand years. If God was the one that communicated to Moses the history of the beginning of time, I would expect that the terms used would be similarly ambiguous, or at minimum not clear to the limited mortal human experience. God was and is and is to come (Rev 1:8). God is eternal and invites us into eternal salvation with Him (John 3:16), He has already won (Rev 1:18). There is much more scripture, I will spare you all unless truly interested.

YEC insists that the timing is literal to what we understand today, specifically six 24 hour periods. That does not resonate with the truth that I receive from God. The timeframe also conflicts with evolution in regard to the age of the universe and earth. We are still in process of reaching the seventh day, that entering God’s rest has not yet happened (Heb 4), that Jesus is “preparing” a place for us (John 14) presently (not in the future, right now) in New Jerusalem (Rev 21-22), that creation continues to groan (Rom 8:22)…we know the ending, and we know the beginning, and they are the same (again Rev 1:8), so time to God in regard to Genesis is not as we experience or understand it.

So then, my interpretation of time in Genesis is non-literal. I can affirm evolution in its entirety and affirm Genesis as truth at the same time without conflict. The big bang happened when God breathed the universe into existence. I will add that I see two distinct human creations in Genesis (1:26 & 2:7) and am not convinced that it is a chronological account. I see 1:26 as the human animal and 2:7 as the human spirit and the origin of God’s chosen created de novo apart from the rest of mankind. Then they blend and become one over time.

In fact, there are so many ways to understand Adam and Eve that it is difficult to classify all of the different models that have been proposed.

Honestly, I do not know all the models, so I am just offering my interpretation.

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This is very simple, and I’m baffled how you can’t see it. As a statistician, I’m assuming that you’re familiar with the concept of proof by contradiction. Assume that someone holds the following presuppositions to be true:

  1. Scripture is inerrant (i.e. what Scripture teaches is necessarily true).
  2. Scripture teaches a historical Adam and Eve.

from which it follows

  1. Adam and Eve were historical figures (from 1, 2).

Then any other argument (e.g. from science, philosophy, or theology) that results in the negation of 3) will result in a contradiction in one’s belief system. Surely it is not an informal logical fallacy to desire that one’s belief system be logically consistent. To retain consistency in one’s belief, we have to give up one of the assumptions of the belief system and/or the argument. Some people might prefer to give up the premises of the argument in question rather than 1) or 2), because they regard the latter as epistemologically very certain. That’s all we mean.


It’s a simplistic view of evidence to classify the world into things that are “really evidence” and “not evidence”. Everything is evidence; to be slightly more technical in Bayesian terms, any E is evidence for H if P(H) != P(H|E).

This means that I do not simply reject some ways of knowing, like astrology. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I find astrology convincing. Rather, I have weighed the evidence for it and have found it wanting. But I don’t simply ignore it. It does do a good job of, say, telling me what the night sky might have looked like when I was born, and the fact that some people believe it does count for it, although it doesn’t count for enough to convince me.

You’ll note that the same can be applied to Scripture. You may find it unconvincing, in whole or in part, or for certain purposes or not for others. None of that changes the fact that it’s evidence, and that it speaks on its subject matter. You’ll also note that we explicitly include this kind of view in the article itself, in discussing the position that Adam and Eve were not historical persons at all.

At any rate, the initial “appeal to consequences” issue is a completely moot point, anyway. To @Tim 's argument, nobody is saying that we want to avoid these theological consequences as a simple matter of personal taste; we want to avoid them because they’re likely to be false. Framed this way, this is merely a probabilistic version of a proof by contradiction, which is easily understood in Bayesian terms. The “appeal to consequences” as a fallacy falls apart pretty quickly in this frame.

(@dga471, I see that you replied after I started typing - but I’m glad to see that our thoughts are in alignment!)

@Mark10.45 , you’re absolutely right that there’s huge gaps - as there must be, in any finite text discussing creation! I think I’m perfectly okay with such gaps. Going with my “totality of evidence” line of thought, I’m perfectly willing to let science fill in the gaps in the Bible, and the Bible fill in the gaps in science. And what I hope the article demonstrates is that there are many, many ways to do that!

Not that we should simply leave it like that, of course. I’m glad that you’re willing to state some specifics, beyond just leaving it at “many ways” to fill the gaps. I, too, have a much more specific interpretation of the Genesis creation story, beyond just leaving it at “many ways” to harmonize the Bible and science. But the focus of this article was to serve as some introduction to that vast space of possibilities.