Sunday, March 01, 2015

Craig on Adam and Eve

I'm going to comment on this podcast, which is a mixed bag:

Dr. Craig: Before we conclude that the sky is falling, the sky is falling, it isn’t true that the whole story of human sin and redemption falls to pieces if you deny the historical Adam and Eve. As I share in the Defenders class, the doctrine of original sin, though common to Catholicism and most Protestant denominations, is not characteristic of Eastern Orthodoxy. The Eastern churches – like Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox – do not hold that all of mankind falls in Adam’s sin and inherit original sin from Adam. They do believe in a historical Adam. That is true. But it isn’t the case that the whole story of sin and redemption falls apart without Adam and Eve. For the Orthodox Christian, Adam is simply the floodgate, so to speak, through which sin enters into the world and then spreads to the rest of humanity. But it could have entered at any point when you think about it. There was nothing particularly special about that point. So, as important as Adam and Eve are, we mustn’t think that the doctrine of original sin is inherent to Christianity because it is just not. It is part of Catholicism and Protestantism for the most part, but it is not characteristic of Orthodoxy.

That certainly illustrates Craig's big tent philosophy. However, Christianity is a revealed religion. The criterion isn't Eastern Orthodoxy but Biblical revelation. 

Dr. Craig: What he is talking about there is the genetic diversity that is exhibited by the human population on Earth. The claim is that you can’t get that kind of genetic diversity from a bottleneck of just two people. You need a few thousand. I’ve heard as low as 2,000 individuals as this bottleneck. 
What we need to understand is that these are genetic estimates based upon mathematical modeling and projections into the past. We know that that kind of mathematical modeling is based upon certain assumptions that may or may not be true, and can sometimes be wildly incorrect in their projections. So, although Coyne has a great, great deal of confidence (I think he even speaks of scientific certainty), that, I think, is hyperbole.[4] It could well be the case that these mathematical models are simply incorrect. I don’t want to minimize the challenge that is presented by the genetic data, but it is not as cut and dry as what Coyne presents it. I talk a little bit about this in the Defenders class in the section of Doctrine of Man where we look at the question of the origin of humanity.
This reminds me of global warming. Climatologists make predictions based on computer models. But, of course, their predictions have been wide of the mark.
Dr. Craig: No, the age isn’t the problem. The problem is the population size. In order to get this amount of genetic diversity, the claim is you needed to have at least 2,000 people originally to result in this. 
One of the assumptions that is based upon is that the rate of mutation doesn’t change. But if the mutation rates are changing then they could accelerate and that could produce greater diversity than one might expect. You might say that increasing diversity would have a selective advantage so this perhaps would be a kind of accelerating process. Again, we just don’t know that these mutation rates have been constant over all of these thousands of years.
That raises two issues:
i) Even on naturalistic grounds, science requires unprovable operating assumptions. 
ii) Moreover, the Biblical doctrine of human origins isn't naturalistic. So there's even less reason to presume mechanistic uniformity. 
Dr. Craig: All right. He is talking here about the so-called “Mitochondrial Eve.” That is to say, astonishingly, geneticists have established that all human beings on Earth are descended from this single woman who he claims lived about 140,000 years ago. Scientists have called her, in reflecting on the biblical Eve, the Mitochondrial Eve. 
Kevin Harris:but that genes on the Y chromosome trace back to one male who lived about 60,000-90,000 years ago. 
Dr. Craig: This is the so-called Chromosomal Adam, again playing on the biblical figures. So the claim is that the Chromosomal Adam – the Adam from whom all persons are descended today – lived around 60,000-90,000 years ago, but the woman lived around 140,000 years ago. That doesn’t match up, right? Well, I am no geneticist, but recently Michael Murray, who is involved in the BioLogos movement and with the Templeton Foundation, sent me an email in which he said some recent studies have just reestimated the dates of the Mitochondrial Eve and Chromosomal Adam and they’ve determined that they were roughly contemporaneous. 
Kevin Harris: Really? 
Dr. Craig: Yes! Which, if that is correct, that is just astonishing. This could be Adam and Eve. It could be the original human pair that we are talking about. So this evidence might come back to bite Coyne. Coyne knows more about this than I do, but I am simply reporting what I have been told that would make one really sit up and think about this.
At any rate, what it would show would be, again, the uncertainty of these dating approximations. They are based on mathematical models, and they are subject to radical revision.
That illustrates how tentative the science is. 
Dr. Craig: I think the most plausible take for those who want to deny that Adam and Eve were literal persons would be to say that the literary genre of Genesis 1 and 2 and 3 is not meant to be historical; that this is something like myth or fable or something that teaches some deep truths in the way, say, that Aesop's fables teach deep truths. But it would be a mistake to take these as literal people. These are not meant to be taken in that way. That would be the most plausible spin, I think, for those who want to take the non-literal view. The really hard part for that, though, is that Jesus and Paul seemed to take it literally. They seem to think that there really was such a person as Adam in which case you’d have to either say that they were wrong (which raises all kinds of problems) or you could say that this was just a part of their incidental beliefs but not part of what they actually taught. For example, Paul may well have believed that the Earth was flat for all we know. He probably believed that the sun went around the Earth based on their perception. But they nowhere teach that. They don’t teach this as Christian doctrine. Maybe you could say that about the historical Adam. It is a really difficult problem as to how you are going to sort this out. For that reason, I am inclined to stick with the literal Adam and Eve until absolutely forced by the evidence to abandon that view. I think we are far from that point.[7]

i) Although that's better than outright capitulation, it's weak and unstable. One issue is what science can prove. Ironically, proponents of methodological atheism shoot themselves in the foot. They rightly perceive that if an omnipotent, interventionist God exists, then you can't stipulate the uniformity of nature. In principle, God can do anything anytime or anywhere. 

Moreover, God's involvement in human affairs is often direct. 

ii) The narrator of Genesis was not a modern theistic evolutionist. That's not his frame of reference. That can't be driving his outlook. 

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