The GAE and W.L.C’s model of human origins

Joshua knows I’ve talked with him in the past about his GAE model for human origins. Our communication has been through email but I would also like to raise further discussion on this forum. I’d like to also bring in William Lane Craig’s model and his take on the GAE model. My criticism of the GAE in the past focused quite a bit on the de novo creation view because it seemed to me that you were assuming this in so much of your book. You’ve made it clear, however, that this is just one option of several. I’ll take it that we are not considering de novo creation, and with that I’ll try to clarify exactly what difficulties I still see in your model. Before I do so, I need to say that I hope you understand that I do think the GAE is a viable model and it should be added to the table for discussion of possible explanations for a biblical view of human origins.

I think that more than anything else, what does still bother me is this idea that there were two distinct humanities. I think this is the main difficulty most other evangelical Christians would have with your view. If the age of A&E does not concern you (whether they existed 6kya or 500kya), I would think the idea of two humanities is Craig’s biggest difficulty with your model as well. (Or would you think something else might be of greater concern to him?) So let me focus on the dual humanities issue. It just seems to me to be more likely that the Bible teaches that A&E were the first ancestors of absolutely all people. Assuming a first human couple, the main alternative is that A&E would have children who were mating with non-humans. This you find too disturbing whereas I find two distinct types of humanity too problematic. I’ll number my basic questions and issues of concern.

  1. If we had some good evidence for two humanities in the Bible, I would be much more open to the GEA model. In fact, if I could read the scripture as being completely silent on the issue, neither hinting that there are or are not two humanities, I think your model would be much stronger as well. But even if this were true, I still have an issue with the intuitive persuasiveness of your view. That is, it seems to me much simpler to accept a normal evolutionary view and say the A&E came into being by that process (with a small amount of providential intervention and spiritual in-breathing of course) than to posit a second humanity stemming from A&E with A&E being created separately or created from the earlier human population (simply chosen from that population, or chosen and spiritually and/or physically refurbished).

Other than the simplicity issue, Occam’s razor, the big issue is the biblical data. In my next post let me bring up some discussion we had by email and ask you and any others on this forum to respond. I’ll look at the biblical passages specifically and also consider some of Craig’s statements.

  1. On Bertuzzi’s “Capturing Christianity” YouTube video of your dialogue with William Lane Craig (YouTube) you asked Craig about the problem of how we distinguish humans from non-human predecessors. But don’t you have the same problem? The humans outside the garden (call them H1), what made them human as distinct from their predecessors? If you want to maintain that they are not non-humans in order to avoid accusations of bestiality (since A&E’s descendants, H2, later interbred with them), then these H1s have to be distinguished from their non-human predecessors by some characteristics. Or would you honestly attempt to argue for something other than a structuralist view of humanness?

In your book you suggest at one point that H1 could be unfallen yet subject to death as all other animal forms are. On the other hand, if you are open to the possibility that they are fallen, it seems that this must be because A&E sinned and as H1’s representatives chose for them to be bound by original sin. This view is open to its own special difficulties. Again, a simpler approach to either of these alternatives would seek to eliminate this special form of humans if at all possible.

  1. After hearing Craig’s current model, or at least a rough form of it, it seems to be very similar my own. I do see some minor differences but also possibly one major difference. A couple of statements Craig made I find a little confusing. On Bertuzzi’s video, Craig admitted that there would be interbreeding between A&E’s descendants and their closest non-human contemporaries. Craig mentioned that this was a result of human wickedness. I have to admit that that is a good explanation and a real possibility. Perhaps I should have brought up this idea in my previous post when defending my own model. However, in his podcasts on this subject (16mr20) he said that if we go back to 500k to 700kya, we can get back to an originating population of two and we do not need an interbreeding population of 10,000 to fit current genetic evidence. In fact I believe he mentioned in your dialogue that it was you, Joshua, who demonstrated that we could reduce the time from a couple of million years to 500k. (Do I have that correct or have I misstated Craig?) If that is true, why would Craig think there is reason to think A&E’s descendants interbred with non-humans?

Craig does have the date of A&E near the time of H. Heidelbergensis prior to the split between Neanderthal/Denisovans (N/D) and the modern human linage. (Was that 770–550kya?) I favored something closer to 130kya since this was a time when all of the species was either in one area (south central Africa) or there was migration back to this area from coastal and possibly other outlying groups. This was followed by migrations out of this area. This may also have been a time when the first signs of modern human genius begun to develop. The cultural big bang of 40k to 50kya in Europe showed its first signs in Africa thousands of years earlier. If this could have gone back to 130kya, the single location and the advanced cognitive abilities fit together to suggest that this was where the first humans originated. (Here I’m largely following the recent work of Vanessa Hayes and colleagues. If her view does not stand up, I will modify the date and scenario.)

Craig favors a time prior to the split between N/D and modern human linage. He does so, I take it, because of current evidence that Neanderthals were close or equal in intelligence to modern humans. I’m not opposed to going back this far, I just find the evidence for a 130ky date very attractive at the moment. Much depends on how strong the evidence turns out to be concerning the intelligence of the Neanderthals. Some have questioned the evidence for sophisticated Neanderthal artifacts and art, artifacts requiring the same or very similar intelligence to that of modern humans. For example, Fuz Rana (and others) have questioned the effectiveness of the dating methods used to place these artifacts prior to the presence of modern humans. Another issue to consider, just as our closest human predecessors could have had the same intelligence or almost the same intelligence or cognitive abilities as the first humans, so Neanderthals may have been very close to modern humans in intelligence. Neanderthals could have still lacked humanness. Other factors such as moral awareness may be more important than mere technical intelligence.

BTW, just one final side comment. In your dialogue with Craig you questioned whether Jesus had a Y chromosome. Might Mary have been an XY female? On the possibility that the virgin birth occurred by God allowing Mary to have a clone which with only a little genetic engineering on God’s part had the Y chromosome activated, Jesus could have been formed an XY male.

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Somehow I think you are getting stuck where most folks dont.

Genesis 1 talks about humanity at large (in the modern view, produced by evolutionary processes).

Genesis 2 talks about 2 special creations, Adam and Eve, who are made totally compatible with the larger population.

Once expelled from Eden, Adam’s offspring would seamlessly inter-breed with the rest of humanity.

Biblical passages opposing a dual humanity

As I mentioned in my last post, except for the last two passages we discuss, most of the following is from my email discussion with Swamidass. I’ve put the passage or a summary of the passage in bold so we can look at them separately and as a whole to reach our own conclusion: do these passages teach a single humanity or leave open the possibility of a dual humanity. (I hope you don’t mind my using these terms, “dual” and “single” humanity, to characterize this facet of the GAE model). Again, I am using the shorthand H1 to indicate those humans who have come to exist through normal evolutionary processes, and H2 as A&E and their genealogical descendants. Though some of these passages are stronger than others, these are the passages which I find most difficult to allow for a dual humanities view. If anyone is aware of other passages which might count against a dual humanity view, please post them so we can discuss them. In a later post I would like to look at some passages and arguments which some would argue do suggest a dual humanity. So I hope it is clear that I am still in the process of trying to think these issues through just like many of you are doing.

Acts 17.26

J (Jensen): [Swamidass states:] “Acts 17:26, where Paul teaches that 'from one’ God made all the ‘nations’ (not biological humans)” (p.146). “The term ‘nations’ in Acts 17:26 also connects Adam to a recent date; the move from tribes to ‘nations’ takes place within the last ten thousand years” (p.167). But Paul was likely not aware of this transition and assumed all people were always consigned to and categorized by nations.

S (Swamidass): The passage itself is talking about NATIONS not people any ways.

J: This doesn’t answered my argument. If, as I said, Paul was not aware of the transition from tribes to nations, then he would be assuming that all people had always existed in different nations. Thus it would be extremely difficult to say that he is not speaking of absolutely all people, H1s as well as H2s. He is making a categorical statement about all people. If you think that H1s are human, then when Paul speaks of all humans, he is most evidently including them and assuming they all have a single male progenitor.

1 Corinthians 15.45

J: 1 Corinthians 15.45 says that the first man was Adam and that he was made a living soul. Why would Paul say Adam was the first if there were others before him?

S: Was he referring to people in the past any ways? Probably not.

J: If Paul was speaking of Adam as the first man, he was definitely speaking of people in the past.

S: Note, he doesn’t say Adam was the first human. Just that he is the first. That passage is not talking about the origin or end of biological humans

J: No, Paul says “Adam” was the “first man,” “ anthropos.” He does not say Jesus was the last man but the “last Adam.” So Adam is compared to Jesus and Jesus is called the last Adam, yet Adam is called the first man while Jesus is not called the last man. Paul’s care not to call Jesus the last man but to call Adam the first man indicates that he means he is simply the first of all humans.

Rom 5.12–19

Summary: Death came to “all men” through the sin of “one man” (12, 17), Adam (14).

J: But the passage says this is how death came to all men. How can we honestly think that Paul is not speaking of absolutely everyone who might be called human?

S: Not only can we, we can be sure that this is the case. “All” is a relative term, that always comes with contextual bounds. In this case, we know he meant geographic universality across the globe, but there was no reason at all to mean temporal universality,

J: “All” should always be taken literally to mean absolutely everything it includes, unless the syntax or context indicates some qualification. If this is what you mean when you say it has “contextual bounds,” then I agree. Nothing in this passage or context indicates a limitation to only geographical universality. The passage and context are speaking of people in the past, about when sin entered the world and sin being in the world before the law was given, etc. So it is speaking of the past. We definitely cannot be “sure” that a geographic “only” interpretation is correct. The better interpretation is that it means all humans universally both in space and time.

I would think that the only way you can get out of this problem is to take the approach some have taken following a similar Evolutionary Creationist view. You would need to say that Adam’s sin brought death to all humans, both H1 and H2, both those descended from A&E and those not. A&E became the representatives of H1 so that A&E’s decision to sin affected them to bring them death. This approach does get into other difficulties I won’t bring up here, however. Those H1s who lived and died before A&E were created, how did Adam’s sin bring them death? Some theologians would appeal to God’s foreknowledge. God knew A&E would sin and therefore brought death to all humans even before A&E sinned. You might consider this view but I find it very problematic in other ways.

Genesis 3.20

J: Another important passage is Genesis 3.20. Adam says Eve is the mother of all living . Like Romans 5, this statement sounds very categorical. How can this mean that this refers to only some of those humans who have lived? [If I remember correctly, I think Craig also mentions this passage.]

S: Did you read what I wrote about these things in the book? It seems like you haven’t.

J: We talked about Romans 5 already and I quoted some of your statements so you know that I did engage your comments there. However, I do not see that you wrote anything about Adam’s statement in Genesis 3.20 other than that this is one passage which is often used to claim A&E are the ancestors of us all (p.114). So unless I completely missed something else you said about this passage, there is not much to respond to except that the passage sounds like Eve is the mother of absolutely all humans. If I did miss another one of your statements about Genesis 3.20 in the book, please point it out.

S: Also, it is not clear why we need to treat Adam’s statement as true. Likewise, even here, there are contextual boundaries to “all”. She isn’t the mother of the beasts of the field, even though they surely are living too. There is really no plausible reason to think that this is a challenge to what I wrote.

J: What we see from the text alone is that Adam is only naming her Eve. The narrator says that the reason he did so was because she would become the mother of all living.

“All” here clearly mean all humans. You agree that Adam was obviously not referring to living beings other than humans. The context makes that clear but neither the syntax nor the context in any way limits the all to any certain group or kind of humans. As such it should be taken as referring to all humans. So I think this is an important challenge to your view that some humans are not descended from Eve. The writer must be saying then that Eve is the mother of absolutely all living humans with no exception.

Genesis 2.5

In addition to the biblical texts I’ve just brought up, Craig mentions a couple of others. Genesis 2 says there was no man to till the ground and then it speaks of God creating Adam. Instead of thinking this says there were no other humans at all, this passage might simply be saying that there was no human in this particular area to work the earth. This also seems the best way to understand the rest of this verse which says there was no rain in the land. We know that rain had existed on earth for billions of years prior to the first humans. The word for land or earth often referred to simply a limited area of the world. Thus the later statements in Genesis which tell us that the flood covered the whole “earth,” eretz , can still be taken as speaking of a flood of limited size.

Genesis 2.20

Also, Craig brings up the statement that there was not found a helper fit for Adam . This one isn’t quite as strong as Craig thinks it is either. It could be saying, not that there was no one else around but that no one else was suitable for Adam; God wanted Adam to mate with someone who was different from the rest of the population just as Adam was different from them.

These passages don’t say what you think they do. I’ve written about them extensively. If you read my book if I recall, so you should know this

Josh, you know I did read your book and in the above I even used quotations from and references to pages in your book. I then quoted your responses to my questions with my responses in turn. If you take it that your last responses are sufficient to answer my final responses, that’s fine. The readers on this forum must simply decide for themselves whether your response or mine or someone else’s best accounts for this biblical data. But if you would like to make further comments, please do so. Also notice my response to Genesis 3.20. I noted a comment from your book in which you mentioned this passage but you never did explain how it avoids a single human population. If you did so elsewhere in the book, I was unable to find it. Finally, I mentioned that next time I hope to bring up one other argument which supports the dual humanities claim. I believe you did comment on this argument, but it might be good to see if any further discussion is forthcoming. I wanted to bring it up because it does make me question a single humanity model.

Honestly it is very hard to read. Can you please learn how to use the quote tool?

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You are bringing up the question of whether Genesis 1 and 2 should be seen sequentially or as the second chapter providing a more detailed explanation of specific events in the first, as an elaboration or focusing on certain events in 1. Here I would have to disagree with you when you say that most people do not get stuck here. Most Jewish and Christian readers through history have not seen Genesis 2 as sequential to 1 but as a focused elaboration.

I think this might be a good segue to look at an argument for 2 being a zoom-in on 1 as opposed to 2 following 1 sequentialy. Gleason Archer ( Encyclopedia of Biblical Difficulties , 68–69), argued against the two-creation view (that Genesis 2 is a separate creation account added on to the Genesis 1 account by later redactors). He cites Kenneth Kitchen’s argument that we have Ancient Egyptian and Middle Eastern stela and inscriptions which have the same form as the first two chapters of Genesis. It appears that it was not uncommon to first offer an outline of the general events and then follow that with a detailed account of the same event or a part of the same events. I think this is good evidence for the zoomed-in view as opposed to the sequentialist view. I’m aware that John Walton has argued for at least the possibility of the sequentialist view. Notice however Jack Collins’ strong disagreement. (Would anyone be interested is looking at Walton’s claims?) I could imagine that from the time of Christ, some readers could look at Genesis 1 & 2 as being sequential if they had no other data to inform their view. A sequentialist view has not been very popular, however, since some of the biblical passages we have looked at already and maybe a couple of others would more likely be taken as indicating a zoomed-in view. From Kitchen’s argument, I would also think that a more ancient reader or hearer of Genesis 1 & 2, someone more contemporaneous with the time of the writing, would see the second chapter from the zoomed-in view.

At this time let me point out some features of the texts which do suggest to me a dual humanity view. If we can see the sequentialist view as at least being possible, I think that this plus the old “Where did Cain get his wife?” problem would be very suggestive of the dual humanity view. Doesn’t it look as though the two fit together to suggest a background humanity prior to A&E? Just reading the text in a translation with no prior inclination to one view or the other, it could look as though A&E were created separately in ch 2 after humans were created in 1. We might notice that the word for man, “ adam,” is used in both 1 and 2 for both human creations and this might incline us away from a sequentialist view. But if it does not, we might wonder where Cain got his wife, and the obvious answer would come to mind that there could have been others created before him and his parents. Also, the mention of others who might kill Cain after God had cursed him to be exiled makes us wonder, where did these others come from? Able died before he had any children, so it is unlikely that Cain had any, yet the text seems to indicate that these two were the first children of A&E. Since it was unlikely that Cain had children at the time he was cursed, we have a real problem as to who these people were who might kill Cain. Even if Cain did have children at this time, is it likely that any of his line would want to kill him? You don’t kill your family patriarch. The only way out of this problem I can see is that other children were born of A&E not long after Cain and Able were born and there were a lot of them and they were very fertile early on and there was a lot of sibling incest. Still, just how many children can Eve have in that short of time? Now if Cain was at least in his 40s or 50s when he was cursed, maybe Eve could have had a number of other children by then. But if Cain had no children at this age (40 or 50), is it likely that A&E’s other children would? This scenario just seems very forced and unlikely given the wording of the text. This is very suggestive evidence that there were others around with whom A&E’s children could interbreed.

I would think that one of the big questions at this point would be how strong Kitchen’s argument might be. We should perhaps look at the ancient texts he brings up. Also, we should consider whether Walton offers any other arguments for his defense of the sequentialist view. The passages and arguments we have looked at seem to me to be the important ones. If there are any other factors I may have missed which might have a bearing on the argument, I hope someone will bring them up. We need to honestly come to our own conclusions concerning a dual or single humanity.

If we can accept that Genesis is a compilation of originally unconnected stories, which it does seem to be, the question to ask is how the people who compiled those stories thought of them, not what the original writers thought. They don’t seem to have gone to a lot of trouble to reconcile the various versions.

Note that in Genesis 2 Adam is created before the animals, while in Genesis 1 he’s created after them. You can invent a past perfect tense for the relevant verses, but I don’t see any evidence for it. Cain clearly lives in a world full of people, which can be explained if his story was attached to the Adam/Garden story after the fact.

After God created Adam, Genesis 2.19 says God now formed from the ground every beast of the field and bird of the air and brought them to Adam. Keil and Delitzsch argue that this style of narrative simply indicates that the statement means “God brought to Adam the animals he had formed” ( Commentary on the Old Testament , v1, p. 87). It does not indicate when the animals were created in relation to humans. They point to 1 Kings 7.13 as a similar example of a biblical statement which sounds as though Solomon sends for the skilled artisan, Hiram, years after Hiram had arrived in Israel and done his work. After the text describes how the Temple was built, the Hebrew simply means to describe who Hiram was and Solomon sending for him. I could offer other arguments, but I think this is sufficient to show that there is no good reason to think that Genesis 1 conflicts with 2 or that they could not come from the same mythical history.

Yes, that’s what I meant by the invention of a past perfect tense. No such tense exists in Hebrew. But in fact the story doesn’t work as written unless God creates the animals after Adam. And have you ever thought how weird it is? God makes Adam as the sole human, and then can’t figure out that he needs another human, not an ox or meerkat, as a companion, so only after trying all the other specie she decides on a female human. And yet he’d already created all the other mammal species as male and female. Presumably he’d already created Adam with functional reproductive organs. But for what purpose?

Your effort to read into the Bible what you want to see is amusing, John. This is the best critics of the Bible can offer? I’ve shown how Genesis 2 does not give a chronological account of the creation events (and neither does Genesis 1). Keil and Delitzsch don’t just claim out of the blue that the animal creation in 2.19 was in a past tense, they give evidence for their claim. Now they do not rely on merely the Hebrew grammar, they also rely on Genesis 1 as a context to support their claim. They think it provides a chronology and that it tells us the animals were created first. But since I would argue that Genesis 1 does not establish any chronology of creation events, the best we can do is to recognize that we cannot show which meaning is more likely. We should accept that though either would be possible, the text does not tell us if the animals were created before or after Adam.

When they were created makes no difference to the story. The story just tells us that God understood that Adam needed a mate, that God brought the animals to Adam to be named, that none of the animals made an appropriate mate for Adam (none was sufficiently “like him”), and that God then made an appropriate mate for Adam. The animals were just brought to Adam to be named. Perhaps they were also brought to him so he could see that none of them would make an appropriate mate. But to read into the story the idea that God didn’t know in advance that Adam needs another human as a companion instead of a non-human animal is just bizarre.

What you mean is that they don’t rely at all on the Hebrew grammar, and they interpret two separate stories as a single story, and thus their contradictions aren’t really contradictions. I do not find that logic compelling. The text of course tells us both that the animals were created before Adam and that they were created after Adam. You may choose to believe that it doesn’t actually mean either of those things, but that is what it says.

Isn’t that a silly story, all by itself?

Yes, it’s quite bizarre, but that’s just what the passage says, so don’t blame me for it.

I’m sorry that Harshman (and others) can so easily drag me off on these rabbit trails. When they argue for the POE or against miracles or make some ungrounded statements about the Genesis creation account, I just can’t resist replying. I hope this will not distract any readers from the original post. I know there are some more theologically and biblically oriented members of this forum who might have some insights and comments on the problem passages I offered. I’d really like to hear what you have to say. Do you really think that the GAE can withstand these passages? Even if you can find a way around most of these passages, I don’t see that 1 Cor 15.45 can possibly allow for two humanities. How could Paul say that Adam was the first human and a living soul if there were other humans before him? Even if they were another kind of human, he would not have said this.

So you think it is silly and bizarre for God to be aware that Adam needs a mate, for God to bring animals to Adam to be named, for Adam to be made aware that no animal is suitable for a companion, and for God to create a mate for him? No, there is nothing bizarre about this basic story. The details do offer picturesque and likely symbolic language. What is bizarre is to read into the story some idea of God not knowing in advance that the animals cannot make a suitable companion for the first man.

No. I mean they do rely on the grammar. For a language as ancient as Hebrew, the earliest meanings are not always clear. That’s why one sometimes needs to look to other OT passages to understand the grammar. When a particular account (e.g. 1 Kings 7.1,13) clearly indicates that event X occurred and was followed by Y, and yet the normal grammatical form of the sentences might otherwise indicate that Y preceded X, this shows us that our normal understanding of the grammar, which was established much later, is off. It shows us an earlier understanding of the grammar, that X can be seen as occurring before Y in this passage. We gain a more accurate understanding of the early usage. Now I do not see that Genesis 1 & 2 are each presenting sequences of events. But I bring up this argument only if you insist that it does.

It is not difficult to show that both Genesis 1 and 2 were accounting for entities not sequentially but topically. So even if 2 says clearly that God created animals after he created Adam, it doesn’t matter. There is no conflict between 1 & 2 on this point if they are both concerned about what was created, not when they were created. I could get into this argument in more detail if you like, but even if you do not accept it, the previous one I just offered by Keil & Delitzsch does answer your claim. Any other claims concerning conflicts between 1 & 2 are pretty easy to answer.

Thanks. This would appear to be the actual methods paper:

Koren, S. et al. De novo assembly of haplotype-resolved genomes with trio binning. Nat. Biotechnol. 36 , 1174–1182 (2018).

Yes, that would be silly, but it’s the much sillier story actually in Genesis that I was talking about. You’re making up a new story that’s biased by your idea of what God would and wouldn’t do. You can argue that it doesn’t really mean what it says, but you can’t really argue that it doesn’t say what it says.

Certainly it’s not difficult if you first assume the conclusion.