William Lane Craig on The Genealogical Adam and Eve Workshop


(Daniel Ang) #1


From the March monthly report. Bold emphases are mine:

I began February with a trip to St. Louis to participate in a workshop at Washington University hosted by Dr. Joshua Swamidass, a computational biologist whom I came to know through the conferences of the Creation Project at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Josh has been a great help to me in understanding the ostensible challenges posed by population genetics to the historical Adam, the subject of my ongoing research. Josh has a forthcoming book provisionally entitled The Genealogical Adam which was the subject of this workshop. The manuscript was distributed to selected scientists, theologians, and biblical scholars in advance, who then came together to discuss the book from their respective points of view. Dr. Swamidass welcomed graciously comments and criticisms from every viewpoint.

His book defends the thesis that a relatively recent Adam, from whom all people alive today are descended, is scientifically unobjectionable. Swamidass argues that a de novo creation of Adam out of the dust of the earth around ten thousand years ago is wholly consistent with the evidence of population genetics and evolutionary biology. Why? Well, the number of your ancestors grows exponentially as you go back in time (two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, etc.), while at the same time the human population declines. This requires that before too long our ancestors begin to overlap. Within around four thousand years there must be someone who is a common ancestor of everyone alive today. Swamidass calculates that by AD 1, the time of the New Testament, every person on Earth would be a descendant of Adam and Eve. The rub is that this hypothesis requires that there were other people outside the Garden of Eden, not descended from Adam and Eve, but evolved from pre-human primates according to the usual story of evolution. After the expulsion from the Garden, Adam and Eve’s descendants interbred with these other people, and that is why our genome exhibits the traces of a large human population and even Neanderthals. They, too, are our ancestors through their interbreeding with the offspring of Adam and Eve.

Swamidass’ hypothesis seems to be scientifically unassailable. My reservations concern whether it is the most plausible interpretation of the biblical story of human origins. It seems to me that three factors combine to support the view that Adam and Eve are intended by the author of Genesis to be the ancestors of every human being that has ever lived, that is to say, truly universal human ancestors: (1) The purpose of the primeval narratives of Genesis 1-11 is to explain God’s universal plan for and dealings with humankind. Scholars have often asked why the Pentateuch doesn’t begin with the call of Abraham and the founding of Israel in Genesis 12. Commentators seem widely agreed that the reason the author prefixes the pre-history to the patriarchal narratives is his universalizing interest. He wants to show that God’s original plan was to bless all mankind and that this aim still remains ultimately in mind through the election of Israel, which is now God’s means of fulfilling His original intent. So God wasn’t preoccupied with just the offspring of one human couple to the neglect of everyone else but with all mankind at that time. (2) A comparison of the story of the creation of man in Genesis with other ancient Near East creation stories shows that they had an interest in telling of how mankind, in general, came to exist. For example, in the famous Atrahasis Epic the lesser gods, tasked by the greater gods with the hard work of manual labor, like digging ditches, rebel and demand relief. In response, the mother goddess decides to create man to take over the labor for them. Humans were created basically as slave labor for the gods. Such stories seek to answer the question of human origins in general. Genesis has a similar interest–and a very different answer! (3) In the Genesis story of man’s creation in Genesis 2 it states explicitly “there was no man to till the ground” (Genesis 2.5). This statement does not concern just the Garden of Eden, which had not yet been planted, but the general condition of the earth. There weren’t any people outside the Garden. Then the story proceeds, “then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being’ (Genesis 2.7). For these three reasons, it seems to me very likely that what we have in Genesis is a description of the origin of all of mankind. Now, this is not to say that the account should be taken literally; maybe Genesis 2 is a mythological narrative. But even if it is, it is a myth of human origins, not a story about the creation of one human being out of many others who were about at that time.

It seems that the issue here is the implicit identification of Biblical human = homo sapiens without further discussion. In Josh’s model, there is a differentiation between Biblical/theological humans and biological or DNA humans. In one variant of this model, A&E were originally also meant to be a blessing to the rest of biological humanity, similar to how Israel was chosen to bless the rest of the nations, but they failed.

(Brad Cooper) #2

WLC seems to hang his hat on Genesis 2:5, where there must not have been any other hominids at the time capable enough to “till the ground.”

So, if agriculture started 12k-20k yrs. ago, it would seem you could move back the Garden to that time period, but that would still be outside of the 6k-10k in the @swamidass GA model.

But yes, to WLC, then what’s a “human being” and at what time period does he think Adam and Eve lived? And then who is Cain’s wife?

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #3

Yes, this is discussed in my book. I’ll explain this soon, just got some stuff on my plate the next couple days!

(Crazy Cat Lady) #4

I recognize that view out your office window.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #5

Perhaps @dga471 can help make sense of this. He was at the workshop with WLC, and also @Agauger, and @AJroberts. All three of these scholars take a “structural” understanding of the image of God, and I think this pushes them to want sole-genetic progenitorship. WLC is willing to give up on the de novo creation of Adam and Eve and a recent Adam and Eve, and any connection to the narrative of Genesis, except Genesis 2:5. I do not fully understand how he is making that trade-off.

@cwhenderson, WLC was at HBU too. Did you see him?

(George) #6

This is a sharp condensation of WL Cragi’s reaction to “Geneal.Adam/Eve”! So let’s parse it out:

First, let’s remind ourselves that there is plenty of room for Creationists to fixate on the usual interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. This is not a shocking surprise… at least no more shocking that the idea that millions of years of Evolutionary evidence should be dismissed, over-turned and dumped, because of the approximately 800+ words found in Genesis 1.

We should not be looking at Geneal.Adam scenarios as the most obvious interpretation of Genesis 1-3. But Genealogical Adam scenarios produce the most coherence between Genesis and the real world. There are inconsistencies between Genesis 1, 2 and 3 that are not insurmountable (obviously, they have been ignored for millennia), but which are immediately eliminated because of a combination approach to these first chapters of Genesis:

A) Why is the timeline different between Genesis 1 and 2?
B) Who does Cain fear for retribution?
C) Who does Cain marry?
D) Why does Cain build a city?
E) Who would live in that city with Cain?

As for WL Craig’s specific arguments, my responses are:

(1) “The purpose of the primeval narratives of Genesis 1-11 is to explain God’s universal plan for and dealings with humankind.”
Sure. This does not require Genesis 1 to be the same as Genesis 2. In fact, it would be immediately intuitive that while Genesis 1 provides the “soft touch” on the creation of all humanity, the more vivid discussion is focused on a special pair of humans.

(2) “A comparison of the story of the creation of man in Genesis with other ancient Near East creation stories shows that they had an interest in telling of how mankind, in general, came to exist. For example, … the famous Atrahasis Epic … Such stories seek to answer the question of human origins in general. Genesis has a similar interest–and a very different answer!”
And a study of the world around us, by our eyes and ears, tell us that the different answer includes the evolution of humanity… which is deftly handled, and presented with a minimum of emphasis - precisely for the reason that Genesis has a different answer. The writer proceeds to the important part… how God first interacts with humanity! Does he use a loud-speaker, and try to reach all the humans across the face of the earth? No. He makes and meets 2 of them… and from there, all else is possible.

(3) In the Genesis story of man’s creation in Genesis 2 it states explicitly “there was no man to till the ground” (Genesis 2.5). This statement does not concern just the Garden of Eden, which had not yet been planted, but the general condition of the earth…"
**No matter how you slice it, the introduction of TILLING THE GROUND is a rather key aspect of Genesis. And science tells us that agriculture was not something all humanity knew how to do all at once. What are we to do with the REST of HUMANITY that isn’t tilling the ground… are all of these people descendants of Cain? And wasn’t he a farmer from the very beginning? It was his brother, the hunter (!), that was murdered. So would it be his fellow hunters that would bring retribution onto Cain’s head? Is the inspiration of agriculture something more realistically spread from family to family from Adam’s kin?

(George) #7


It would seem that the trade off is based on: “what is the easiest way to foil Genealogical Adam”.

I doubt other Evangelicals are going to give up on Romans 5 (and de novo Adam/Eve) as easily as WL Craig.

(Daniel Ang) #8

I think one possible weakness with Josh’s model is that de novo creation (DNC) of A&E as humans which are structurally identical with those outside the Garden doesn’t serve a clear purpose other than trying to stay faithful to a “literal interpretation” of biblical text of Genesis 2:7 (“The Lord God formed man out of the dust”). What does DNC impart other than the fact of DNC? What difference does it make if A&E were miraculously created as opposed to through the natural processes of evolution? Is it to ensure that Adam was sinless, “pure” or “set apart” in some way? How does this work?

In the book, there is not much discussion on this question, as it is more concerned with showing that the DNC hypothesis is not ruled out by science. It is mostly punted off as a theological matter to be discussed by theologians. But I suspect that when people like Keller or Grudem say DNC is necessary, they are assuming some deeper theological implications from DNC beyond just clinging to biblical literalism of Genesis 2:7. It might be that when they say DNC, they are really thinking of “unique DNC”, i.e. creation of humans as completely new species. Thus, we have to be careful when we say that the GA model is compatible with Keller’s views, or something like that.

These reasons could explain why many people favor a structural view. We tend to want the biblical text to make sense philosophically and theologically within our overall framework of our notions of humanity, sin, and salvation. If DNC gave some additional capability (physical, mental or even spiritual) to A&E that made them more special to God, or capable of communicating with God, then it makes sense why God did it. Otherwise, it would add nothing more compared to the model of refurbishment or calling of existing humans. After all, Abraham was not created de novo when he and his descendants were called to be God’s special people.

This could be one solution to the utility of DNC. Maybe DNC imparted a set of special mutations which accelerated the development of human cognitive capabilities, which led to the possibility of the rise of agrarian societies later.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #9

The DNC is optional. This is what is now added to the manuscript, to exlpain why some people might find value in it.

  1. Rightly or wrongly, the de novo creation of Adam and Eve has become a litmus test for orthodoxy in some circles.

  2. Affirming the de novo creation of Adam and Eve specifically states that God acts in the world, and that science does not give a complete account of the physical world. This specific statement is seen, by some, to be an important confession for Christians in a scientific world.

  3. Historically, most Christians have reading of Genesis have understood Adam and Eve as a de novo creation event. Several theological traditions confess that Adam and Eve were our “first parents” or “without parents.” There may be value in reading Genesis consistent with this tradition.

  4. Some conceptions “originally righteousness” might entail the de novo creation of Adam and Eve. Perhaps they must have entered the world without sin in a sinless environment, and for this reason needed to enter the world in different way.

  5. A literalistic reading of Genesis 2:7,20-22 seems to teach that Adam and Eve were de novo created from the dust and from a rib (or Adam’s side) by a direct act of God. For example, Wayne Grudem, a young earth creationist theologian, argues that Genesis teaches the de novo creation of Adam and Eve. Tim Keller, a pastor who affirms an old earth, similarly concludes Adam and Eve were de novo created.

What do you think?

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #10

2nd workshop was heavy on the structural view. The one before was heavy on the vocational view. This is what I wrote about that:

If you ask ten scholars to explain the Image of God , you might end up with more than different answers. This is a wide range of views. In my conversations with scholars here, however, I saw an important pattern. When considering the Genealogical Adam and Eve, most scholars feel into one of two camps, philosopher “structuralists” and exegete “vocationalists.”

The structuralist “philosophers” want to define “humans” by their attributes. Though structuralists often disagree amongst themselves about which attributes are important, they are all taking a common approach. They are often focused on Scholastic philosophy, which emphasizes metaphysics. They tend to be “systematic theologians.” Catholics tend to be structuralists, often drawing on Thomas Aquinas’s metaphysics. Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana of Reasons to Believe take a structuralist understanding of “human” too, often connecting “human uniqueness” to the Image of God .

The vocationalist “exegetes” understand the Image of God as our role in creation, for example, as stewards of what God made. They are often focused on exegesis, understanding what Genesis says on its own terms. They were usually “biblical theologians,” that were following the narrative of the story. Rather than building up a total and internally consistent metaphysical definition of “human,” they were more focused on what the text said. In response to their objection, structuralists would often insist that they too see a vocational component to the Image of God . This is true. The key distinctive, however, is uncovered with this question: can one have the biological structure of a “human” without the vocation of a “human”? A vocationalist would say “yes,” but a structuralist would say “no.”

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #11

This also is important:

In the last couple years, I have been with meeting scholars of all sorts, discussing this proposal in many places. I presented this work at the Dabar Conference of The Creation Project in 2018, with about 70 scholars. Later, in early 2019, bringing together about 40 scholars from across the spectrum gather for two workshops to give feedback on an early version of the book. The range of theological questions on which these discussions touched was astounding. I am continually surprised by the degree of disagreement and range of view I encounter. Theologians cannot agree on what is “human,” and even within separate camps there are a wide range of views. Exegetes, those who study Scripture, have more consensus on what Genesis is saying, but they also disagree on important details of relevance now. Philosophers come with their own set of traditions and debates that have been raging for centuries too. No one can produce a consensus understanding of what it means to be “human” in theology. I found that theologians were just as divided on what it means to be “human” as the scientists.

(Daniel Ang) #12

Points 3, 5 seem to be about staying faithful to a literal hermeneutic. Sure, but what does the results of this interpretation teach us, theologically?

But most Christians, DNC or not, affirm the Resurrection and the many miracles of Jesus and throughout the OT. Why isn’t this sufficient evidence of God acting in the world beyond the natural order detected by science? DNC doesn’t seem to add much in this respect. In fact, it breaks the pattern of miracles in the Bible as it is not witnessed by any humans and doesn’t cause anyone to believe, whereas in the NT and OT, God’s interventions have a purpose of teaching people something about Him.

I think this is the only point which has strong potential as an argument for the necessity of DNC. It could be compared to the conception of Jesus by a virgin, and we did have discussions about the implications of that in the workshop.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #13

You missed some of my conversation with Chuck Arand and Jeff Malinson. They were were fairly astounded by the whole conversation. In particular they were surprised (along with me) at how “scholastic” WLC was in these conversations. That is why I’m not so sure how he is arguing from Genesis 2:5.

(George) #14


I would also encourage adding a discussion on the methodology of Yahweh:

If the Adam and Eve he creates do novo are too different from the Humanity he creates by evolution, will they share the same psychological and emotional profile? Will the “Clan of Adam” mix seamlessly with the evolved population of humanity?

What would the logic be for God to evolve a population of humanity, and then create de novo two humans who are not, at least to start, JUST LIKE the evolved humans?

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #15

There is also the ability to infer that God intends for Adam and Eve to interbreed with those outside the garden. This inference is strongest in a scenario where Adam and Eve are de novo created (I’m going to add that to the list now).

It has to do with affirming God’s action in creation. All those things are not God’s action in creation, but Adam and Evee from the dust and a rib are an affirmatino of a creation doctrine.

(John Harshman) #16

Let’s recall that Cain was the one tilling the ground, while Abel was the herdsman. Anyway, there is no way to make agriculture a simple diffusion worldwide from one source. It was clearly invented many times in many different places, independently. Even once in the interior of New Guinea and at least twice in the Americas. Further, the origin of agriculture doesn’t fit neatly into your preferred time for Adam.

(George) #17

@dga471 and @swamidass:

If God is “testing” (or “formulating”) a people to redeem, does it make sense for God to run thousands of humans through the “Eden moral laboratory” ?

Or does it make more sense to carefully “establish” the human pair that will serve as the leaven … and then release the leaven into the dough that is all humanity ?

(George) #18

@John_Harshman, (& @swamidass )

While you may find this historical fact a deal-breaker… it’s obviously not a deal-breaker for Evangelicals.

And having it EMERGE in different places is not really the issue. Where did it FIRST emerge? That is the question, don’t you think?

It’s emergence in other areas in subsequent centuries could just as easily be a factor in the spread of Adam’s offspring all around the globe.

(Daniel Ang) #19

I don’t quite understand what you mean here. Doesn’t interbreeding also happen if A&E are refurbished from existing humans?

It seems that once you go down that road, there is a need to affirm that God intervenes also in the creation of natural things in general. This could undermine the power of science to determine truth about the natural world and lead us to the “historical vs. observational science” dichotomy commonly espoused by YECs.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #20

You can’t infer intention in the same way.

We do not know Adam and Eve’s genome, so there is no genetic evidence against the de novo creation of Adam and Eve, or any physical refurbishment of their genomes (C, D, E).

Adam and Eve were monophyogenetic with those outside the garden, without any genetic differences that propagate to all of us (A, B, D). If Adam and Eve were recent, it would take ongoing miracles for important genetic differences to propagate to all of us.

If God physically refurbished Adam and Eve, it suggests that God intended for their offspring to interbreed with those outside the garden ©. This inference, perhaps, is stronger if they were de novo created (D, E).

With these three conclusions in mind, there may be most coherence in a scenario where Adam and Eve are created de novo , biologically the same as those outside the garden (D). A model where Adam and Eve are chosen from a larger population, possibly spiritually refurbished, is certainly consistent with the evidence too (A, B). However, models that infer important biological differences in Adam and Eve appear to require ongoing miracles to propagate, and are therefore disfavored by the vidence (C, E). There are, therefore, reasons for considering the de novo creation of Adam further.