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Evangelical Scientists Debate Creation Story 1014

Hugh Pickens writes "Polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center find that four out of 10 Americans believe humanity descend from Adam and Eve, but NPR reports that evangelical scientists are now saying publicly that they can no longer believe the Genesis account and that it is unlikely that we all descended from a single pair of humans. 'That would be against all the genomic evidence that we've assembled over the last 20 years so not likely at all,' says biologist Dennis Venema, a senior fellow at BioLogos Foundation, a Christian group that tries to reconcile faith and science. 'You would have to postulate that there's been this absolutely astronomical mutation rate that has produced all these new variants in an incredibly short period of time. Those types of mutation rates are just not possible. It would mutate us out of existence.' Venema is part of a growing cadre of Christian scholars who say they want their faith to come into the 21st century and say it's time to face facts: There was no historical Adam and Eve, no serpent, no apple, no fall that toppled man from a state of innocence."
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Evangelical Scientists Debate Creation Story

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  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr@@@mac...com> on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:23AM (#37176650) Journal

    Genesis is allegory.


  • by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:27AM (#37176680)

    Yes, yes they are.

    I think perhaps the title is misleading. Evangelical Scientists would be scientists who were evangelical about science.

    These people are Evangelical Christian "Scientists", who are part of the evangelical christian movement. While it's good they realise that the genetic evidence gives a good case against their religion, what they have failed to realise is that they are now no longer fundamentalist evangelical christians because they have just put reality over and above the idea of inerrant scripture.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:31AM (#37176724) Journal

    When I had religion in primary school they had basically told us that the Genesis was to be taken metaphorically and not literally

    That's because you were from a group that was not completely, shit-in-your-pants insane, like a certain group of presidential candidates that have been in the news lately.

  • by localman57 ( 1340533 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:36AM (#37176794)

    Why even bother with a theology you must admit contains errors? Which part of the Bible contains the facts, and which doesn't? And if you don't know, then what's the point of your faith?

    Why even bother with history, when you must admit it contains errors? Which part of History Books contain facts, and which doesn't? Then what's the point of history?

    Same with the bible. The problem with the Bible, as I see it, is the fact that it's been hijacked by the all-or-nothing crowd. Read it. Decide what part of it (none, some, most, all) you believe. My denomination tends to see it as one of the leading human efforts to record a combination of history, myth, and philosophy. Other texts, including ones not yet written, may prove equally useful for exploring your faith, and relationship with God.

    BTW, even if you're a dyed-in-the-wool athiest, take a thumb through Proverbs sometimes. Theres a lot of good stuff in there (although some of it is a bit trite).

  • Dear Evangelicals, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wubby ( 56755 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:37AM (#37176816) Homepage Journal

    Welcome to the 19th Century.


  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:55AM (#37176986) Homepage

    Never underestimate the weakness of the mind of the religious. It is their duty to surrender their minds for their god. To do otherwise would be unfaithful.

    What tickles me are the people who make exceptions and reservations in the minds. They think logically and critically except for that bounded region they call religion which they will not cross. The rest of the natural world is there to explore, work and play in, but when they get to the border of the forbidden zone, they halt in their tracks and can't seem to think beyond that. "Some things are sacred."

    I recall the controversy even about discussing DNA as the building blocks of life. Playing with DNA was playing "god" and it just wasn't to be tolerated. Before that, it was flight right?

    On one hand, it's great that man is killing god, one little bit at a time. On the other, it's sad I won't see an end to god in my life time. There are just people who won't let go and I'm just not sure it's helpful that there are these "in between" people who keep saying "there's no conflict between the two." That's crap. In one person's mind, maybe, when they are okay with segments, walls, forbidden zones and all sorts "things you can't think" but for people who really have a desire to understand, that's just not good enough.

    I am okay to have no conclusions on a topic. But when people answer "god" to something, that in itself is a conclusion for which further research is blasphemy. This is bad. Worse that other people seem unable to see it.

  • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:55AM (#37176990)

    "The land of Nod." (Genesis 4:16)

    And I agree. Most people fail to realize several important contextual clues in the biblical genesis stories.

    1) genesis 1:26 implies multiple humans, simultaneously. Not just adam.

    2) genesis 2:5 says specifically that god had not yet created FARMING humans. (No man to "till the earth"). Hunter gatherers could well exist, but are not mentioned, since they are not the focus of the story. This is reiterated in genesis 3:22.

    I would say that the genesis story does what many ancient histories/verbal accounts/stories of myth do, which is to focus on the people that are deemed important to the story and omit any extra content. For instance, the odd lack of female characters in the geneology section, except where there are extraordinay circumstances. The omissions do not mean that males greatly outnumbered females, it means the recorders of the tradition valued males more highly, and considered the women's names superfluous. By the same vein, mentioning nomadic hunters outside "eden" would be superfluous except where they come into the narrative though interacting with a major character, such as Cain. (In the land of Nod.) Keeping the story simple is essential for these early traditions because written language has not been invented yet. (Agriculture predated written language by several thousand years. As such any such traditions or origin stories would HAVE to be oral ones. That is why there are omissions for the sake of simplicity.)

    Taking such a literal approach as to imply adam was the only human at the time is absurd both from the perspective of the narrative itself and from any biological perspective as well. As such this article only should upset dyed in the wool literalists and super fundies.

  • Basically no evangelicals are really young-Earth types. How do I know? Because they don't put their money where their mouths are.

    Finding oil is a very important and high-stakes issue for oil companies. Literally trillions of dollars are riding on it. Exxon's exploration budget alone is around $20 billion per year. When the chips are down and they need to find the most likely spots to drill - what kind of geology do they use? Flood geology, or mainstream? Which one actually delivers the goods?

    Let's assume the Earth is only a few thousand years old. Where did the oil come from? Was it created in the ground with the rest of the Earth? If so, is there a way to predict where it might be found? Or perhaps it really did form from plankton (with a few plants and dinosaurs), but about 10,000 times faster than any chemist believes it could in those conditions? Any way you look at it, a young Earth and a Flood would imply some very interesting scientific questions to ask, some interesting (and potentially extremely valuable) research programs to start. How come nobody's actually pursuing such research programs?

    Why don't creationists put together an investment fund, where people pay in and the stake is used as venture capital for things like oil and mineral rights? If "Flood geology" is really a better theory, then it should make better predictions about where raw materials are than standard geology does. The profits from such a venture could pay for a lot of evangelism. Why isn't anyone doing this?

  • by Asic Eng ( 193332 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @09:02AM (#37177056)

    Why even bother with history, when you must admit it contains errors? Which part of History Books contain facts, and which doesn't?

    If we manage to gain new information about history, we will change the history books to reflect this. I don't believe the same is true for the bible.

  • Garden of Eve (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sp3d2orbit ( 81173 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @09:05AM (#37177106)

    The Christian creation story is an allegory for the evolution of free will.

    Humans evolved in their present form hundreds of thousands of years ago. But for some reason civilization didn't take off until about 7,000 years ago, give or take. The reason civilization could not take hold everything to do with man's ability to live in a herd.

    We already know that humans can't deal well with herds of more than 150 people. For settlements to grow past 150 people meant that individuals would regularly come in contact with other humans that they did not directly know. For any stable settlement to occur, past 150 people, there had to be some new advancement in herd management, or as we call it: religion.

    At some point, or possibly in multiple places, humans developed this idea of god. God was the invention that allowed humans to live in a herd of more than 150 because it created an immortal, infinitely powerful alpha that could not be toppled via violent means. We hacked our own evolution. By trusting in a god, instead of a human leader, herds could grow past the 150 person limit. By trusting in a god rules could be handed down in his name and people would follow them (for the most part) without having to be beaten into submission. These rules, like don't sleep with your neighbors wife and don't kill each other, laid the foundation for larger and larger settlements.

    This advancement did not happen everywhere at once. It was a gradual transition. "Civilized" settlements would often come across humans who had not made this leap. To to the civilized, these rogue wanderers would seem like animals. They would be controlled by the desire to eat and rape and probably had no qualms about violence. Look at herds of baboons to see how aggressively they handle their herds.

    Free will, as we know it, is the idea that we are not controlled by our basic animal impulses. Those who lived in religious settlements could control their desire to rape and make decisions for the good of the herd. Those who lived outside those societies were still animals with no free will -- they lived only to eat and rape.

    The creation story is an allegory for this development. We used to live as animals (Garden of Eden) and were happy (though full of rape). Ignorance is bliss. Then, at some point we discovered free will (Tree of Knowledge). Forever after we would be cursed with the knowledge of our own death, but able to live with one another.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @09:13AM (#37177226) Journal

    Do you believe in everything for which there is no evidence? If not, how do you decide?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @09:14AM (#37177240)

    How can you hate that which doesn't exist?

  • Extremely old news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tar-Alcarin ( 1325441 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @09:15AM (#37177250)

    It's been 15 years, and still most people (including most Christians) have not picked up on the fact that the Catholic church concluded this long ago.
    In a papal statement on the subject of evolution, dated Oct. 22nd 1996, pope John Paul II stated that "truth cannot contradict truth", and therefore the Genesis story of the Bible needed to be interpreted metaphorically, not literally.

    For those who are interested, the message is available here: http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp961022.htm [ewtn.com]

    How is it that Christian people (Catholics in particular; the pope is supposed to be your earthly representative for God) just seem to "forget" this ever happened?

  • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @09:27AM (#37177430)

    By hating the ephemeral concept embodied by the beliefs of others.

    You hate the concept of god, which exists.

    A concept can exist without a physical or rational archetype to base it on. This is by definition what faith actually is: the firm assertion of a conceptual model without evidence.

    As an agnostic, I have to point out the logical error of asserting that god does not exist. The only logically sound argument that does not fall victim to the fallacy is to assert ignorance of that which is provably unknowable.

    The only rational answers to the "god" question are:

    1) "Unknowable"
    2) "not relevant"

    Any other assertion, be it for or against, fails at logic.

  • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @09:37AM (#37177534)
    The thing is, the Bible says that the most recent common male ancestor (Noah) was significantly closer in time than the most recent common female ancestor (Eve). So, the Biblical account, also, says that the most recent common male ancestor was not the husband/mate of the most recent common female ancestor.
  • by bertok ( 226922 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @09:37AM (#37177538)

    Why even bother with history, when you must admit it contains errors?

    History books can be checked against and cross-referenced with other facts -- ruins, fossil evidence, artefacts, multiple sources, geological evidence, art, and linguistics.

    The theological content of the Bible is the whole thing, in and of itself. There's few "real world" facts that it can be verified against. The few parts that can be verified -- like the creation story -- prove to be false, or otherwise are plain historical content instead of theological material.

    And truthfully, I don't bother all that much about history. It's interesting, entertaining even, but at the back of my mind I always know that the accuracy and authenticity is limited. I don't base my life on history. I don't force rules or behaviour onto others based on history. I don't change my vote based on history.

    Theres a lot of good stuff in there

    But which part is the "true word of God", and which part is myth, fabrication, or distortion? Based on authority or faith alone, you can't possibly know, not even in principle!

    Decide what part of it (none, some, most, all) you believe.

    You are in no position to 'decide', and nobody else is either. That's the problem. It doesn't matter how you feel about a passage, or whether you agree with it or not. The only thing that ought to matter is if the passage is the true word of God or not -- and that's not something that can ever be determined from ink on dead trees.

    For example, what if God approves of rape and slavery? It says so right in the Bible, so there's a decent chance that he does! You might decide to skip over those bits -- but then you no longer believe in the word of God -- and you are no longer a Christian.

    My denomination tends ...

    Exactly. You're not a true Christian who believes in the word of God. You picked some random mishmash to believe in that made you feel good.

    Don't worry though -- I'm yet to meet two theists who could agree with each other on the specifics, so you're not exactly unique in that regard. I bet that if I quizzed two random people from your denomination, they wouldn't agree with each other, let alone with some other random theist...

  • Re:Land of Nod (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zarthrag ( 650912 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @09:40AM (#37177564)
    It's fairly plainly written in the bible that mankind "male and female both" were created on the sixth day. The Earth was already populated when Adam came along. Adam and Eve's significance wasn't about populating the Earth, but about the lineage of the nation of Israel, and Jesus himself. If you're going to practice a religion - read it for yourself, learn it for yourself - and try your hardest to verify what some random "authority figure" tells you. As a Christian, I find it hard to deal with being surrounded by so many people who say they believe in the bible, yet refuse to believe what it says. Everyone has their own interpretation - yet few came about it on their own by simply reading to comprehend.
  • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @09:41AM (#37177586) Journal

    As an agnostic, I have to point out the logical error of asserting that god does not exist. The only logically sound argument that does not fall victim to the fallacy is to assert ignorance of that which is provably unknowable.

    Do you assert that the tooth-fairy doesn't exist?

    I'm quite happy to assert the non-existence of very many silly and unlikely things that there has ever been a shred of evidence either for or against. I don't see why god gets special treatment.

  • by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @09:48AM (#37177708)

    One day, you'll be able to recognize, and accept, that there is no evidence for the existence of a God.

    Not so. You are confusing evidence with proof. There is plenty of evidence for the existence of God (the "religious experience", for example), but it is not compelling evidence, and the scientifically minded favour other explanations of it. It does the scientific position no favours to misrepresent it, because the religious will see that what you are presenting is obviously false and think from that that the scientific position is obviously false.

  • by Giant Electronic Bra ( 1229876 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @09:59AM (#37177854)

    Perhaps, but the whole flood story becomes vastly suspect in any case since it is clearly impossible that there was a worldwide flood within recent prehistory, nor can anything even close to a literal interpretation of the Noah story make any sense. Clearly it is at best an allegorical tale and/or cultural myth. Once we accept that any given Bible story is clearly not literally an accurate attestation of fact then there's no particular reason to expect any other part to be particularly either.

    I'd say that tales like Genesis are actually pretty good summaries of the common sense reasoning of the day. People are seen to be related and families and people's increase in number over time, so logically you would expect to be able to go backwards to a time when there were "only 2 people", and likewise to some sort of time when the world began in some fashion or other.

    In other words I just don't think there's much point in debating the actual scientific relevance of Bible stories. They're pre-scientific legends, informed by some common sense reasoning but no actual facts. They may happen to match with scientific findings in some random cases, but at best that shows that some science is also common sense, and at worst indicates that no matter what fantastical tall tale you tell sometimes you get lucky and the truth bears some (albeit faint) resemblance to your story.

    In any case, most Christians throughout history have not held that there was any great specific literal accuracy to the Bible. Even ancient late classical Christian theologians pretty much took it all metaphorically, and so have Jews and Moslems going all the way back to ancient times. Other posters are right about the super literalism prevalent in some places in the US today being a recent phenomenon. I dunno what it is about the US, but we sure do breed a unique form of fanatics.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @10:05AM (#37177926) Homepage

    This is due to our heavy consumption of High Fructose Corn Syrup and our public school system.

  • by Tyler Durden ( 136036 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @11:04AM (#37178754)

    So, once again I will assert that it is provably impossible to empirically disprove the total (universal) existence of god, given that we cannot search the whole universe, and will again assert that the asking of the question is irrelevent, since it is unlikely that god gives a toss.

    An atheist is simply someone who does not believe in the existence of any gods. It does not necessarily follow that he or she believes they can prove that no gods exist. The question remains as to why you make such a big deal out of god. Do you always make such a long-winded defense if someone tells you they do not believe in any other one of the infinite possible metaphysical claims out there?

    Although an empirical disproof of the existence of god is impossible, that doesn't rule out discounting specific definitions of god a priori.

  • Re:Garden of Eve (Score:5, Insightful)

    by euroq ( 1818100 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @11:58AM (#37179624)

    Cool story, bro.

    However, almost all civilizations which developed religion separately were polytheistic and generally believed in ancestral spirits as well. They by no means believed in a single omnipotent god. The Credo religions (requiring "I believe...") first started with Zoroastrianism, and then much later and possibly separate with Judaism. Even Israelites were polytheistic until after the Babylonian Captivity.

    If you want your story to work, then you'll have to replace "God" with "the gods". There rarely was a single "alpha" omnipotent God. The idea of only a single God is actually very new historically.

    And exactly why do you emphasize rape so much? Do you think that atheists and Buddhists rape others constantly?

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