Ken Keathley: Notes from Dabar and a Baptist's Hope

Great to hear from you @rcohlers. Looking forward to our conversation on Divine Action next week too: Clinton Ohlers: Two Parables on Divine Action.

Thanks for joining this conversation too. I had two question for you.

First off, can you explain what you mean by “energy and engagement”? You were there, and so were @kkeathley and myself, but most those listening in were not. You’ve also been to Dabar three times now. What type of energy and engagement did you see? How would you explain it to someone who wasn’t there?

By last summer, you are referring to my Sapientia article. I still remember our exchange in the comments of that article.

So here comes my second question. You are a historian of intellectual thought (and I hope you meet @TWReynolds soon, an aspiring historian), and mention “patterns” in history. What are the historical analogues you are thinking of? On what topics did this happen before? How who were the key people who instigated the “second” approach of a more sober analysis in the past? What can we learn from them now?

I’m gonna ask you this again next week, so you might as well get to answering this one @rcohlers :smile:. And not to distract from @kkeathley, what are your thoughts here too?


Once again I’m flattered that you read my blog.

I don’t see quite how a 50-200K Adam solves the “non-gardener” problem: if you take the “Great Leap Forward” as signifying the point of Adam, then if you step back in time 1 year the leap hasn’t happened, and the tools you find are just that much less advanced. And all those non-Adams are still, presumably, in existence a year later - unless one postulates a mass-change, in which case it’s no longer a historical Adam scenario.


Can you define “others” here? It seems to me that there is a difference between what God allows and what God intends. Was the interbreeding you are referring to Neanderthals and Denisovans or to a human population outside the garden, or do yo see no difference? Yes, Neanderthal human hybrids were possible but there also seem to have been barriers to fertility. And of course by the time Adam and Eve came nature had mostly sorted that out. So I don’t think that believing that there was a pre-Adam human population in the world obligates one to accept the humanity of Neanderthals or Denisovans.

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Reproductively compatible beings with whom Adam’s offspring eventually interbreed.

Yes, that is a distinction between the RTB and a GA.

The RTB position seems self-contradictory, especially because they think Adam and Eve were specially created. If God had done that, there is every reason to believe he could have created them in such a way that they could not interbreed with Denisovans and Neanderthals. He did not. Why not? There is no really good reason for that, and it is going to come again soon elsewhere: A Science Fiction Riddle. The fact that the can interbreed (and the barriers to interbreeding are debatable regardless) seems like de facto evidence that God wanted them to interbreed. That leads to some deep incoherence in the RTB position.

@vjtorley somewhat avoids this problem by saying Adam and Eve were not specially created. So it is a hang over from common descent that allows them to interbreed. Still God could have made them infertile, but He didn’t. Why not? I’m not sure there is a good reason.

GA just goes the other direction, making a natural theology argument that if they can interbreed, then God originally intended it. That seems to be the most coherent theological position, at least to me.

Notice, all cases include interbreeding. In all cases, there are people outside the garden. We are just theologically thinking about it in different ways. And, I would add, GA is doing it head on, but RTB is treating it like a footnote. The fact that they don’t announce interbreeding up front does not some how reduce the significance of the fact that they include it in their model.

Hmmm…depends on what you mean by “shake out.” If you mean “for the representative factions to interact with it,” then probably over the next year or two.

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Thank you Guy! I enjoyed my time with RTB this January. They were wonderful hosts.

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Yes, to his credit, Fuz acknowledges this in the 2nd edition of his Who Was Adam book. If I understand him correctly, at this point he argues (tentatively) that if they interbred then this was indeed bestiality. If that is so, then that raises questions about “humans” and “nonhumans” having the ability to interbreed. I get your point that, if this is the case, then the RTB model also has the problem of non-adamic “others”.


Still curious your thoughts in this.

I think you’re referring to my observation that OEC and EC proponents have at great deal of agreement about Gen 1:1-25, or at least the areas of agreement far outweigh the disagreements. Both affirm creatio ex nihilo . Both affirm the remarkable evidences for fine tuning–at the cosmic level, the planetary level, and even the biological level. Both affirm the continuation of divine action in bringing all this about. We disagree about how some aspects of divine action and whether or not this action is detectable in natural history, but theological debates about the nature of divine action are nothing new. It’s beginning at Gen 1:26 (with the arrival of humans) through Gen 3:24 that we have our disagreements. Without minimizing those disagreements it’s helpful to remember our common affirmations.

So @kkeathley what advice do you have for us at Peaceful science in the coming season? How can we best serve the common good?

Motivations for placing Adam in such a distant past are scientific, not theological or textual. This desire is to place an original couple at the headwaters of the human race. As you indicate, Gen 4-5 don’t seem to be describing a world of 100K+ years ago. It seems to be presenting a scenario that fits better with 10K-15K years ago. One perhaps could argue that the texts possibly are deliberately anachronistic, and there are examples of deliberate anachronisms in other places in the OT. One advantage of the GA model is that it understands Adam to be in a neolithic setting.

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I think that is the key point. There were already “those outside the garden” so the idea of other Homo sapiens outside the garden is not so big a stretch. The amount of genetic diversity in humans, even neglecting the 1.5% other-hominid DNA that Eurasians typically have, may still be too great to be explained by a bottleneck of two persons in any reasonable time frame. We will see how further research on the “bottleneck of two (Sapiens)” goes.

If the outside-the-garden humans had evolved from a common ancestor with the other hominids it would explain why a de-novo Adam and Eve could interbreed with both- it would just be an artifact of the way that the initial human population came about. I suppose the question RTB should be asking is ‘are there any purely creationist scenarios where this would be an artifact of the way the original human population came about?’ I do have some speculations on this which I want to hold off on for now- if RTB ever agrees that this is the sort of question they should be asking

You say that the idea that there were barriers to fertility between humans and Neanderthals is “debatable”. I suppose anything is “debatable”, particularly around here, but I don’t see that as a debate you are going to win if Dr. Rana chooses to engage you on it. The same kind of evidence which shows the interbreeding occurred can be used to show that there were barriers to fertility. I strongly urge you to look into the details. The supposed absence of such barriers is not a position you should stake anything on IMHO.

Now if you make it about there were genetic contributions to Adam’s descendants from outside the garden I think your position is strong. If you make it about God’s intent for other hominids and humans to interbreed you are on much shakier ground, with one caveat: The universe itself seems designed to weed out the wicked and prefer those who behave. Scripture says that the land itself will “vomit out the inhabitants” that do very wickedly. Those who honor their fathers and mothers are promised many days on this earth, etc…

So I suppose God Himself is practicing “evolution” in a way. And perhaps one of those ways the least obedient among us were weeded out were these sorts of unions and the fertility problems entailed. I mean we don’t even know that Adam and Eve were directly fertile with Neanderthals and Denisovans, it may be that they were only fertile with humans who had a small proportion of such ancestry. I am starting to babble here, but I just urge you not to be led off on any side trails that are dead-ends.

@kkeathley, on another thread, an OEC just decided to call me a philosophical naturalist: Swamidass is Inescapably a Philosophical Naturalist. Why does this sort of thing happen? How are some good ways of defusing these sorts of misunderstandings?

@swamidass, here’s a partial list of the historical analogues I’m thinking of. For sake of time and brevity, allow me to leave of the key people for now: the discovery the Antipodes and the Antipodeans – people living on the other side of the earth (post 1492), the Heliocentric solar system (1543-1636 and following), the Nebular Hypothesis (1796), discoveries early in the 1800s, such as those that indicated that the earth must be much older than 6,000 years, perhaps the synthesis of urea (1828), evidence of the ancient age of the human race (1858-1863), Darwin’s theory (1859-1875) are the main ones that come to mind. In all of these cases, a moderate development of thought accompanied (in most of these) by a more nuanced interpretation of passages of scripture resulted in lasting accommodation.

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Sounds like a great topic for an article, or even a book. What do you think @TedDavis?

By the way, Kepler is one of my heroes in this regard. I hope my work follows the spirit of the Introduction to Novia Astronomia.

Jack Collins seems to argue this, and one can only allow the possibility. But the two major problems I have with that are

(1) that it takes the Eden story out of continuity with the rest of Genesis - we have genealogies and events which, whilst almost undoubtedly incomplete, also arguably exaggerate the patriarchal ages to balance it out. By the time of Babel, we have a pretty close timeline, and that is reinforced by Abraham’s cultural setting. Simply because of the pedigree collapse of genealogy, a family history going back thousands of years becomes meaningless.
(2) it also takes the Eden story out of any possible historical tradition, oral or written, as I argued in a recent Hump post. Adam becomes a figure purely of supernatural revelation, not history.

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And so, on the basis of @jongarvey 's work and valid points, a sequential reading of the first two pericopes, perhaps separated in time, neatly disposes of all the “icky” implications of a recapitulatory reading. I’m finding that Jon is not as likely to restate the obvious as I am.
But, both scenarios “work,” so, no offense meant.

Concluding Observations of an Old Earth Creationist
Joshua, thank you for the opportunity to take part in this conversation. It seems to me that if evolutionary creationists want to make EC more palatable, if not more attractive, to conservative evangelicals, then they would need to present evolutionary models that are compatible with a high view of Scripture. There are very good theological reasons for opposing the decoupling of Gen 1-11 from history—and this is not, I repeat, is not a slippery slope argument. OEC proponents such as @jack.collins and Fuz Rana are not merely being stubborn. The Bible, for all the diversity and variety within the canon, must be taken as a whole. One cannot dehistoricize the beginning without affecting all the other parts. The quest for the historical Jesus serves as a good analogy here. A few conservative scholars (Pannenberg, for example), want to deny the historicity of Christ’s virgin birth while affirming his resurrection. Most scholars (both on the left and the right) just scratch their heads at this approach.

So what might EC proponents do? Possibly three things, of which Jeff Schloss is trying to do the first two and you are attempting to do the third.

1. Emphasize how evolution is compatible with teleology. Most popular Darwinists (both historical and current) have been infamously anti-teleological. One doesn’t have to embrace some of the more ham-handed versions of design in order to affirm purpose and intent. Perhaps more attention should be given to biological fine-tuning.

2. Emphasize the importance of altruism and cooperation in evolution. Again, popular Darwinists often trumpet selfishness and cruel indifference as the primary features of evolution. Think of the movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey. The first hominid creature to fashion a weapon out of bone was the one who survived to reproduce. Perhaps more attention should be given to the role of cooperation and community.

3. Present models that are plausibly compatible with an affirmation of the doctrine of inerrancy. On the biblical/theological side, this appears to be what John Walton is attempting to do. Your proposal intends to do the same from the scientific side of the discussion.

Darwinism undermined the traditional doctrine of creation in the areas of God’s providence, Creation’s goodness, and Scripture as reliable revelation. The three suggestions I outline above are intended to address each area respectively. Some within the EC community understand the concerns of conservative evangelicals. Others, quite honestly, seem to see the controversy as an opportunity to move evangelical theology to the left. OEC proponents, by and large, have no desire to be merely recalcitrant and obscurantist. We desire to identify correctly the essential features of our common faith and then hold to them faithfully. Show how an inerrantist can reasonably embrace evolution, and I think many will go wherever the science leads. Can it be done? We’ll see. There’s still a lot of work ahead.


The one thing that needs clarification is that I personally am not an Evolutionary Creation (EC) proponent. This gets to the heart of why I left BioLogos…

I no longer am a theistic evolutionist. Since I first became public in my work, I have never been intent on evangelizing evolution. For this reason, I am not well defined as an “evolutionist.” My worldview does not rest on evolution; it rests on Jesus, the one who rose from the dead. I am not well defined as a “theist” either, because I see great evil in this world justified by generic (and specific) theism; and I follow Jesus, who is much greater than theism.

I am instead scientist in the Church and a Christian in science, giving an honest account of what I see. I am not an evolutionary creationist, because my worldview is elsewhere, and my advocacy is for The Empty Chair. I’ll normally avoid putting comments on closed threads like this. In this case, though, I want to be clear where I stand with EC.

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