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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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:23AM (#37176644)

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

  • by Haedrian ( 1676506 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:23AM (#37176646)

    When I had religion in primary school they had basically told us that the Genesis was to be taken metaphorically and not literally, in secondary school we had a light analysis of certain Jewish cultural things in that story (like 7 days, and a garden being paradise for a tribe which lived in the desert...)

    I didn't think people still believed it LITERALLY, this is news to me.

  • by xyourfacekillerx ( 939258 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:23AM (#37176652)
    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? Only when it apparently contradicts science you can reject a doctrine, or what is the verification principle at play here for these "Christian" "scientists".

    Notice I'm not coming out in favor or against either science or religion here. I'm pointing out, I think these people are nothing more than deep-cover atheists. Their entire movement hinges on reconciling contradictions, by discarding the one assertion (religious dogma) in favor of the other (science), and then claiming the religion saved - which is at worst, a willful deceit, at best (I'm being charitable here) a collosal failure in the history of all rationality, and casts their ability to do logical inquiry into doubt. Neither alternative makes me willing to trust them.
  • Single source? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Compaqt ( 1758360 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:24AM (#37176658) Homepage

    >it is unlikely that we all descended from a single pair of humans.

    I thought that Lucy/African Eve was the one that we're all descended from. Or was that a single pair of humans ... Lucy and multiple males.

    Or if we don't all descend from a common source (the rest having died or being killed off), does that give weight to racist arguments that blacks and whites are separate species?

  • Re:v_v (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:27AM (#37176684)

    It's pretty funny, actually. They take their smartest creationists, put them in a room together, and tell them to think about it for a while. The result? "Yeah, this can't actually be true."

    What, exactly, did they think would happen?

  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:28AM (#37176690) Homepage

    If there was no fall, there was no need for redemption. If there was no need for redemption, there was no need for a savior. And without a savior, there is no Christianity.

  • by rufty_tufty ( 888596 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:29AM (#37176696) Homepage

    I'm intrigued, how did they suggest you choose which should be taken as metaphors and as fact/instructions? Or did they indicate that all of the bible should be taken as a metaphor?

  • Re:Single source? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jez9999 ( 618189 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:33AM (#37176740) Homepage Journal

    Not if you define seperate species as species that are unable to interbreed. Various lines of Homo could have descended separately down the evolutionary tree for a while, but not diverged enough that when they came together again, they were unable to interbreed.

  • The really funny part is that the Bible itself says that it uses allegory! (Trivia question! Name a word which occurs exactly once in the entire Bible!) []

    Which things are an allegory...

  • by slim ( 1652 ) <> on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:37AM (#37176814) Homepage

    According to Karen Armstrong's book "The Case For God", taking religious stories literally is a pretty new development. She reckons that right back into prehistory, people understood that creation myths were just that -- myths. Stories with a point; something to teach us about how to live our lives, but still just stories. This is why the stories were so malleable, or why the same culture could have more than one, contradictory, creation story on the go at once.

    She reckons that was true of mainstream Christianity for most of its lifetime; literal readings being a 19th-20th century thing.

  • Re:Single source? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ardeaem ( 625311 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:42AM (#37176862)

    >it is unlikely that we all descended from a single pair of humans.

    I thought that Lucy/African Eve was the one that we're all descended from. Or was that a single pair of humans ... Lucy and multiple males.

    No. Lucy is the name given to some skeletal remains, we are HIGHLY unlikely to be descended from her. "African Eve" is a completely different idea.

    Or if we don't all descend from a common source (the rest having died or being killed off), does that give weight to racist arguments that blacks and whites are separate species?

    No, it doesn't. The idea that "blacks" and "whites" are separate genetically, much less different species, is ridiculous.

  • by MemoryDragon ( 544441 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:43AM (#37176880)

    Unfortunately there are nutjobs like that still in existence. If you read a book you always should know about its creation and its cultural background. Thats what most of those nutjobs never do and know.

    The Bible was written about 400bc in the babylonian exile, which basically fortified the one god believe in israel. Add to that that basically every religion in that area had its own creation myth and those did not live in isolation and most of this was oral tales you end up with nice stories which might have some historical background or roots. For instance adam and eve could have existed but not alone and definitely not as first humans on earth but as historical persons sometime in the early bronze age.

    The prophets probably have been in existence given the timeframe of 1000-400 before the canonization, but even the existence of david and salomon are under question up until now at least as universal rulers over israel. I personally dont doubt both existed, but I personally doubt Salamon really was the ruler over the huge rich realm. But in the end, who really cares about all this.

    So there is a load of things in the old testament which is rather questionable from a historical point of view.
    Also have in mind that the middle east countries always have been countries of tales and fables, and all this stuff is dark bronze age.

    But back to those nutjobs, they read the bible word by word and think everything happened without even knowing an inch about the surrounding where it was written, when and by whom and which agenda was on the table. The political situations back then and why it was written (To give israel a solid cultural foundation and to fortify the one god believe which slowly but surely was winning thanks to the exile)
    You should never ever read a book written in the bronze age like you would do a historical book today. The mentality does not fit. Those books were not written for political accuracy but for giving tales to their people to live on and to answer the questions which arise in every generation, which have had ben orally transmitted and changed for hundreds of years.

  • by StabnSteer ( 705930 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:46AM (#37176908) Homepage
    One of the biggest problems with denying the Adam and Eve story is that it negates the fundamental reason Jesus appeared - that is, to take on "our sins" created by the fall. Denying Adam and Eve pretty much throws a wrench into the whole works of Christianity, so this is bigger than just admitting that it is allegory or metaphor...
  • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:56AM (#37177008)
    Actually, the Bible does not say that Cain married his sister. It does not say who her parents were at all. All it says is that after Cain killed Abel he went to the Land of Nod, then it says that he made love to his wife and she became pregnant and gave birth (which is the first and only mention of her in the Bible). The Genesis story does not rule out the possibility that God created other humans besides Adam and Eve at some point after creating Adam and Eve.
  • by Giant Electronic Bra ( 1229876 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @09:00AM (#37177042)

    6-10 thousand years is a pretty trivial amount of time in evolutionary terms. There is simply no way that 2 people could produce in 10k years the diversity we actually see in actual living humans unless they mutated so fast that practically every single person would be born with fatal mutations.

    Actually the evidence is much like you suggest in terms of there being one unique woman, Mitochondrial Eve, that falls in the female line of every living human being. There is probably likewise some point at which you can find a single male line in every living human lineage, but they didn't happen at the same time, weren't a couple, and nobody ever living at any one given instant was ever descended from those two people. Beyond that the timelines are MUCH longer. The last bottleneck was at least 50k years ago and there was probably another at 200ky.

    The upshot is certainly that human lineages are vastly older than most bible scholars seem to think, at least those who are at all literalistic.

  • by Sasayaki ( 1096761 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @09:12AM (#37177200)

    I'll admit, it does seem remote, especially if you're dealing with time periods of 50,000 years or so. What do you think the likelihood of this event occurring is? A million in one chance, per year? One in a billion per century?

    Let's go even further, way, way out there. What if it was one in 10^24 per 13 billion years?

    Just so we're clear on the numbers we're using, that's 1 in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 chance per 13,000,000,000 years.

    This is really, really, really, really, really unlikely. However, statistically speaking, this means that there are... dum dum dum...! 9 planets in the entire universe where this has occurred so far. Earth is one of them. :)

    This, of course, assumes the lifespan of the universe to be 13 billion years and the number of stars in the observable universe to be 10^24. Which, based on our current scientific estimates, is about right give or take (see sources). It could be off by, say, five or six planets either way -- although we're only dealing with the *observable* universe, so there could be many many many many many more.

    The scientific world is an amazing, wonderful, powerful, inspirational thing that is just so incredible in its majesty and beauty that it seems so very belittling to claim that there's a divine hand behind this truly unique and awesome thing called existence.

    Bonus question: If the universe created God, what created God? If X, why can't X apply to "the universe at whole"? If NOT X, then why can't the universe be held to the same standard? "It always was, and always will be..."

    Further reading: [] []


    - []
    - []

  • by pnewhook ( 788591 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @09:28AM (#37177434)

    It doesn't rule out extraterrestrial life either, or say that Earth was the only place He created life in the universe.

  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @09:42AM (#37177608)
    Actually, the Jewish bible can be divided into four types of text. The first are the stories, essentially the legends and myths of a group of ancient near-east tribes that were originally passed down orally and eventually written, along with a few more recent stories found in the Writings section of the bible (the Jewish bible has three sections, Torah, Prophets, and Writings). Then there are the laws, which are the civil and criminal laws of an ancient near-east country. Related to the laws are the chronicle-type texts, which are a combination of court records, military records, and historical documents (with a bit of mythology mixed in, which was apparently the style of that time). Finally there are the prayers / poems, which are things like Psalms, Lamentations, Song of Songs, and so forth.

    As for what should be taken as a metaphor, in general the legal sections are not taken to be metaphors, although some of the legal sections are not applicable anymore (e.g. pretty much everything concerning the temple in Jerusalem), and some have been expanded or superseded by later legal texts (e.g. the Talmud). The mythology and historical sections are almost always used as metaphors or in the context of teaching lessons about morality, or to put parts of the legal code into context. The prayers are still used in Jewish religious ceremonies, and people frequently read their prayers metaphorically.

    Of course, the view I just described is very much not-orthodox, and if there are any orthodox Jews reading /. this morning who would like to weigh in, I invite them to do so.
  • by Toze ( 1668155 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @09:55AM (#37177808)

    It helps to understand that "the Bible is literally true in every word in its literal meaning and there are no metaphors" is a relatively recent aberration that is mostly restricted to America, as a result of the (I speak technically, not denigratingly) fundamentalist reaction to the legal victories of evolution over creationism. It generated a tremendous anti-intellectual feeling among a certain crowd of Christians, and that rift has been getting wider and wider. Part of that rift is the insistence that the Bible is to be taken "literally," which is a misappropriation of a method of interpretation most recently popularized by Martin Luther. Luther, however, emphasized the _plain_ meaning, not the _literal_, and was perfectly content with metaphorical interpretations- as, in fact, has most of the church since the period of the pre-Imperial church fathers.

    In other words, modern American anti-intellectual fundamentalism, while more noticeable to Americans, is neither the American nor the worldwide Christian norm, and those outside that strict/reactive interpretive tradition view it negatively for its very restricted view of scripture. Plenty of people do identify themselves as fundamentalist, or descended from fundamentalist traditions (which were, originally, about holding to the fundamentals of the faith and letting everything else slide, in a sort of ecumenism), without being rabid Bible-thumpers.

    To answer your question more directly, two mutually exclusive things can be true, as long as you're using "truth" carefully. In this case, Genesis as a mythic creation account is an explanation of why the world doesn't seem to be fair, why bad things happen to good people, and why there is still hope. It is "true" whether or not we're descended from a single pair or the rise of a species. The 6-day creation account is "true" as an explanation of the moral order of the universe, no matter how long it took to make the universe. And, of course, it's "true" as a reminder of the ultimate spiritual authority. None of these ideas are in conflict with scientific knowledge. Which isn't to say that this is my particular interpretation on things, but it's generally how people are reconciling new scientific knowledge with old religious views.

  • by gutnor ( 872759 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @10:39AM (#37178360)
    When he has no reason not to, he believes in whatever makes him feel good.

    That is normal mental condition, the expected result is generally called "hope".

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