We now supposedly have a definitive statistical analysis of the "genetic pool" from which the first members of homo sapiens emerged, and lo and behold -- the analysis claims that there could not have been an original pair, such as Adam and Eve. Instead, the genetic "bottleneck" from which all subsequent humans evolved supposedly contained somewhere between 7000 to 10,000 members, according to the mathematical analysis of the DNA of homo sapiens. The conclusion, smugly drawn by most atheists and agnostics, is that Adam and Eve could not have been an historical pair. From that observation, they conclude that the entire Bible is fiction.
One the one hand, I must say that I am tempted to let the atheists and agnostics stew in their own juices -- that is, after all, the worldview they have settled upon, and neither any one Christian, nor any event short of the Second Coming, is going to persuade them of the limitations of that perspective on human affairs. But on the other hand, I am concerned lest the secular viewpoint serve to undermine the ongoing faith of my fellow Christians who might lack the ability to understand the technical scientific details involved. So, if you find your faith challenged by these latest "findings", this series of posts on Adam and Eve may be of interest to you.
It is a very large topic, far too big to be covered in just one post. There is a good overview of the Christian debate in the current issue of Christianity Today, entitled "The Search for the Historical Adam." There is also a very wise editorial in the same issue, which cautions:
At this juncture, we counsel patience. We don't need another fundamentalist reaction against science. We need instead a positive interdisciplinary engagement that recognizes the good will of all involved and that creative thinking takes time. In the long run, it may be the humility of our scholars as much as their technical expertise that will bring us to deeper knowledge of the truth.
What is happening is that scientific scholarship in biology is advancing more rapidly than is the scholarship in current theology and philosophy. It is not so much that theologians need to re-examine the first chapters of Genesis in order to adapt their interpretation to the latest scientific findings: the Bible is not a book of science. It is first and foremost a book of revelation -- and that means that the revelations it contains, while all stemming from the single source of inerrant truth, were received by different peoples at different times, each with their own particular ability to comprehend the revelation, and to record it in terms which we can understand today. The task is made the more difficult by our having to view these revelations through the filter of translations from ancient languages, which predate English by many thousands of years.
So I cannot promise that it will not be a bumpy ride. But the huge topic is a worthy one, and Christians need to work their way through it in love and charity, without rancor or spite. In the next post in this series, I will survey some of the various theological responses to the new anthropological findings that have been offered to date, before delving into more of the science itself.
[Note: This is just the introduction to what will be a multi-part series. To read the rest of the posts, follow this link to Part I, and take the link at the end of that post which will take you to the next Part.]