Vincent Torley's Unanswered Objections to Christianity: H. Human Origins

Hi @swamidass,

Here’s a new post of mine that may interest you:

Background on the series of posts I’ll be putting up, over the coming months:

Cheers. Sorry for the long delay.


Vincent, while I’m sure that you’ve put a lot of work into this, and it seems like there are some substantial points, this is honestly hard to read, because 1) it’s very long (>50,000 words - reminds me of your “summary” of Michael Alter’s arguments), and 2) the font on the Skeptical Zone website is very thin and incredibly uncomfortable to read. I think you can get more of a response if you could summarize this into something more succinct.

This might be best, also, as a new thread.

Is this actually true? And if it’s true, is it also true that if there was no such moment Christianity is in trouble?

There is a range of views in Christianity on this, and even among those that take this view there are contextual bounds that limit it from being an absolute statement.

Hi @dga471 and @swamidass,

If you’re having trouble reading my OP, may I make the following suggestions.

  1. If you find the column width at The Skeptical Zone too narrow, then I suggest you copy the whole document into a Microsoft Word document and try reading it there.

  2. If you’re in a hurry, try reading the “KEY POINTS” at the top of the OP. If you want a somewhat longer overview, you can watch the Dawkins video near the beginning of the OP here, read Professor Roger Seymour’s article (which I refer to in Part A) here, have a look at The TEN ADAMS table at the beginning of Part B here, and finish off by reading Part C (which is fairly brief) here, and the Conclusion here. Let me add that you can access those parts of the article that interest you, simply by navigating the MAIN MENU.

  3. Another option is to simply read one section per day, instead of trying to digest it all in one hit.


Hi @swamidass,

A quick request. I don’t know how to get in touch with Dr. William Lane Craig, as I don’t use SNS and he doesn’t seem to use email, but I do know that he’s profoundly interested in human origins, and I know he’d find my article informative, even if he doesn’t agree with its conclusions. I’d be very grateful if you could let him know about it, or just pass on the link to it.

There is a range of views in Christianity on this, and even among those that take this view there are contextual bounds that limit it from being an absolute statement.

Allow me to quote from the article “First Words” by Catholic physicist Stephen M. Barr (First Things, April 2017):

Perhaps the most sensitive point of contact between religion and science is the issue of human distinctiveness. Christian teaching affirms that there is an “ontological discontinuity” between humans and other animals. Only humans are made in the image of God and have immortal souls endowed with the spiritual powers of rationality and freedom. This does not admit of degrees: One either has an immortal soul or one does not. The discontinuity must therefore be historical as well as ontological. In our lineage there must have been a first creature or set of creatures who were human in the theological sense, but whose immediate progenitors were not.

Later, he praises a book called Why Only Us by Robert C. Berwick and Noam Chomsky, which suggests that human language arose in the space of a single generation, and concludes:

Is there an ontological discontinuity between humans and other animals? Berwick and Chomsky arrive, on purely empirical grounds, at the conclusion that there is. All animals communicate, but only humans are rational; and for Berwick and Chomsky, human language is primarily an instrument of rationality. They present powerful arguments that this astonishing instrument arose just once and quite suddenly in evolutionary history—indeed, most likely in just one member of Homo sapiens, or at most a few. At the biological level, this involved a sudden upgrade of our mental machinery, and Berwick and Chomsky’s theories of this are both more plausible than competing theories and more consistent with data from a variety of disciplines.

In my article, I present evidence showing that Berwick and Chomsky are probably wrong, and that language did not arise overnight. But the important thing here is that Barr, a Catholic physicist, knows perfectly well what the Christian tradition teaches: namely, that humans, who are made in the image and likeness of God, literally arose overnight. And he thinks the difference between humans and their non-human forebears is a very sharp one: humans are rational and use language; non-humans aren’t rational and use “memorized two-word combinations with no hierarchical structure.” That’s pretty clear-cut.

I have in front of me a beautifully illustrated religion book called “From God We Come,” by Catholic author Mary Purcell (1906-1991), which I used to read a lot when I was a child. (The illustrators made a conscious effort to make Jesus look Jewish, rather than Northern European.) The book was published in 1966 and given an imprimatur by the Archbishop of Dublin. Page 8 shows a picture of a boy named Con running with his dog, which is named Spot. Allow me to quote:

Con can run. Con can see. Con can hear.
Spot can run. Spot can see. Spot can hear.

Con can think. He can add big numbers.
Con can remember his birthday.
Con can learn about God.
When Con gets money he decides what he will buy.

Spot cannot add any numbers.
Spot cannot remember his birthday.
Spot cannot learn about God.
Spot is a dog. He has not got a soul like Con’s.
I have a soul. My soul is like God, my Father.

I think that’s about as black-and-white as you can get.

And it’s not just Catholics, either. My grandfather was a Scots Presbyterian, and he had a Scofield Reference Bible, which was an enormously influential version in its day, and which I used to love reading when I was a child, because of the extensive footnotes and the detailed chronology. Here’s an excerpt from its commentary on Genesis 1:26:

(1) Man was created not evolved. This is

(a) expressly declared, and the declaration is confirmed by Christ Matthew 19:14 ; Mark 10:6,

(b) “an enormous gulf, a divergence practically infinite” (Huxley) between the lowest man and the highest beast, confirms it;

(c ) the highest beast has no trace of God-consciousness–the religious nature;

(d) science and discovery have done nothing to bridge that “gulf.”

(2) That man was made in the “image and likeness” of God. This image is found chiefly in man’s tri-unity, and in his moral nature. Man is “spirit and soul and body” 1 Thessalonians 5:23 .

“Spirit” is that part of man which “knows” 1 Corinthians 2:11 and which allies him to the spiritual creation and gives him God-consciousness. “Soul” in itself implies self-consciousness life, as distinguished from plants, which have unconscious life. In that sense animals also have “soul” Genesis 1:24 . But the “soul” of man has a vaster content than “soul” as applied to beast life. It is the seat of emotions, desires, affections Psalms 42:1-6 . The “heart” is, in Scripture usage, nearly synonymous with “soul.” Because the natural man is, characteristically, the soulual or physical man, “soul” is often used as synonymous with the individual, e.g. Genesis 12:5 . The body, separable from spirit and soul, and susceptible to death, is nevertheless an integral part of man, as the resurrection shows ; John 5:28 John 5:29 ; 1 Corinthians 15:47-50 ; Revelation 20:11-13 . It is the seat of the senses (the means by which the spirit and soul have world-consciousness) and of the fallen Adamic nature. Romans 7:23 Romans 7:24 .

As you can see, it’s a little different from the Catholic explanation, but it still insists on a clear-cut boundary between humans and the beasts, and a beginning of the human race at a fixed point in time, which it identified a 4004 B.C.

I will send it to him, but honestly @vjtorley I’m doubtful he will read it. It isn’t clear what you are trying to asking him or to tell him.

How about writing a short version specifically directed to him? I’d send that link, and He might respond to it directly then. If you’d like, just do so in a new topic here at PS, including excerpts from your longer article as you see fit, ideally with clear questions interacting with his ideas. Of course, you could also post at TSZ.

Thanks @swamidass. Here’s my new post. Cheers.

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@dga471, I think it’s best to keep that other thread open. :slight_smile: