William Lane Craig's (WLC) update on trip to Peaceful Science - St. Louis gathering

(Brad Cooper) #1

Good stuff, @swamidass, seem’s to be supportive of the science of GA, although perhaps not the theology?

Looking forward to hearing more of WLC’s thoughts on the that, perhaps with a discussion you.


"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."