This month’s Christianity Today cover story concerns ‘The Search for the Historical Adam’, and includes thoughts from various Christian scientific and biblical camps on the historicity of Adam.
Fuz Rana and Hugh Ross from Reasons to Believe (great scholars we’ve had on The Line of Fire multiple times) gave the following response to the article, which Rana describes as unbalanced, calling it “more of a mouthpiece for theistic evolution”:
In the audio file, Dr. Rana responds to the assertion from BioLogos in the article that “… the human population, … ‘was definitely never as small as two …. Our species diverged as a population. The data are absolutely clear on that.'” with the following statement (the models he mentions are the ones that are used to make the claim that BioLogos is making here):
These models are not that robust, they are prone to error, so … for us to completely abandon the historic Christian faith in light of the evidence from genomics that indicates a recent origin for humanity, from a single location, from a small population of individuals arguably traceable to a single man and single woman, to throw that all out, and the historic Christian faith out the window, based on population size estimates, when we know these estimates are crude, that to me is very short-sighted, and its a defeatist attitude I think, on the part of at least some evangelicals.
The article that Rana mentions on the results of a genetic experiment involving sheep, which shows how models may predict larger original population sizes than there actually were , is below:
In 2007 a research team reported on the genetic diversity of wild mouflon sheep on one of the islands that are part of the Kerguelen sub-Antarctic archipelago. This group of sheep provided researchers with an unprecedented opportunity to study the effects of population dynamics on genetic diversity in small populations.
In 1957 a male and female yearling were placed onto Haute Island (an island in the Kerguelen Archipelago). These two sheep were taken from a captive population in France. By the beginning of the 1970s, the number had grown to 100 individuals and peaked at 700 sheep in 1977. Since that time the population has fluctuated in a cyclical manner between 250 and 700 members.
Given that the population began with only two individuals (the founder effect), has experienced cyclical changes in the population size, and was isolated on an island, the researchers expected very low genetic diversity (measured as heterozygosity).
Using mathematical models, the heterozygosity of a population can be computed at any point in time from the heterozygosity of the ancestral population (which was known for the original mouflon pair) and the original population size.
What the researchers discovered, however, when they measured this quantity directly for the sheep on Haute Island was that it exceeded the predictions made by the models by up to a factor of 4. In other words, the models underestimated the genetic diversity of the actual population.
As we attempt to sift through the various biblical and scientific evidences on the historicity and meaning of the Adam of Genesis, lets keep in mind these words from agnostic mathematician David Berlinski on where evolutionary biology as the exclusive mechanism for the diversity of life we see really stands with regard to testability and coherence:
“Before you can ask ‘Is Darwinian theory correct or not?’, You have to ask the preliminary question ‘Is it clear enough so that it could be correct?’. That’s a very different question. One of my prevailing doctrines about Darwinian theory is ‘Man, that thing is just a mess. It’s like looking into a room full of smoke.’ Nothing in the theory is precisely, clearly, carefully defined or delineated. It lacks all of the rigor one expects from mathematical physics, and mathematical physics lacks all the rigor one expects from mathematics. So we’re talking about a gradual descent down the level of intelligibility until we reach evolutionary biology.”
The launch of BioLogos from Francis Collins resulted in fierce criticism from David Klinghoffer of the Discovery Institute (Dr. Brown’s review of Klinghoffer’s book “Why The Jews Rejected Jesus” can be found here). He wrote the following concerning theistic evolution on May 28th for Evolution News & Views:
Collins and Giberson are sincere Evangelical Christians — as far as I, a Jew, can tell — and undoubtedly innocent of all guile, but they represent an insidious trend in religious and intellectual life. This genuine opiate of the masses works as a stupor-inducing fog, enveloping the debate about intelligent design versus Darwinism. The fog lulls you with the thought that between the idea of design in nature, and that of no design in nature, there is actually no need to make a choice.
As the battle over human origins continues, I thought it would be worthwhile to look through Collins’ book “The Language of God” and present some of his ideas for thought and dicussion over the next few weeks as I read through it.
The book’s introduction includes a wonderful section concerning the presentation of Dr. Collins’ most well known work, the Human Genome Project, to the world:
But the part of his speech that most attracted public attention jumped from the scientific perspective to the spiritual. “Today,” [Clinton] said, “we are learning the language in which God created life. We are gaining ever more awe for the complexity, the beauty, and the wonder of God’s most divine and sacred gift.”
Was I, a rigorously trained scientist, taken aback at such a blatantly religious reference by the leader of the free world at a moment such as this? Was I tempted to scowl or look at the floor in embarrassment? No, not at all. In fact I had worked closely with the president’s speechwriter in the frantic days just prior to this announcement, and had strongly endorsed the inclusion of this paragraph. When it came time for me to add a few words of my own, I echoed this sentiment: “It’s a happy day for the world. It is humbling for me, and awe-inspiring, to realize that we have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God.”
What was going on here? Why would a president and a scientist, charged with announcing a milestone in biology and medicine, feel compelled to invoke a connection with God? Aren’t the scientific and spiritual worldviews antithetical, or shouldn’t they at lest avoid appearing in the East Room together? What were the reasons for invoking God in those two speeches? Was this poetry? Hypocrisy? A cynical attempt to curry favor from believers, or to disarm those who might criticize this study of the human genome as reducing humankind to machinery? No. Not for me. Quite the contrary, for me the experience of sequencing the human genome, and uncovering this most remarkable of all texts, was both a stunning scientific achievement and an occasion of worship.
Reading this made my heart leap. Yes! This is what true scientific discovery and the pursuit of truth is about. Peering deeper into the wondrous design of the Universe and the design of man is cause for worshiping He that is the author of life. For “in Him we live and move and have our being.”
Below is a video of Collins on CNN discussing his journey into faith: [Link to Video]