More on Adam and Eve

Bonifacius raises objections to the “Cain-married-a-monkey” explanation of human genetic diversity:

Dear Bonaldus,
I am surprised and shocked by the prevalence among otherwise rational, thoughtful Catholics of the theory of post-Adamic copulation with sub-humans. I will explain why this theory DOES NOT WORK. God created Adam and Eve and joined them in matrimony. Matrimony requires rational consent. It is to last until death. Let’s say that Adam and Eve mate and have children. Then those children, per your theory, mate with sub-humans (irrational brutes). Well, those matings aren’t marriages, are they? No, they aren’t, as the sub-humans lack reason and free will. So God provides the model for marriage in Adam and Eve so that He can then turn around and, presumably for several generations, have the children of the first marriage forget what marriage is.
Face it: in the first generations of man, the rules against incest were suspended. Mating with one’s sibling is a far lesser violation/exception to the natural law than mating with an animal, which is what irrational brutes (even very human-looking ones) are. Presumably in the preternatural arrangement of things God provided Adam and Eve with enough genetic variance for their immediate progeny to mate with each other without yielding serious genetic disorders. In the second generation you would find first cousins mating, which is common enough around the world even now. Within three to four generations we reach the point where consanguinity would no longer pose much of a problem. Same thing with Noah and his descendants.
Disgusting that in the first generation after Adam and Eve we have siblings marrying? Well, they wouldn’t be even as closely related as Adam and Eve since Eve came from Adam’s side, a relationship even closer than that of siblings. And mating with brutes is much worse.
The idea of Adam’s children mating with non-humans is a sick, sick deviation from traditional Christian teaching and a shameful symptom of rapprochement with modernity. Please cease and desist.

~Bonifacius

Heaven forbid I try any rapprochements with modernity, but evolutionary biology being, I think, a legitimate field of inquiry, is something I’d like to square away my beliefs with.  It is true that we have options.

  1. The one Dr. Feser, I, and others put forward before.  Adam and Eve were the first metaphysically human beings.  Biologically, they were very close to the other homonids of the time, and their progeny were able to mate with them.  Thus, nothing genetics has or can find–even evidence of interbreeding with Neanderthals–would be a problem.  The reason I like to put this theory out first is that it’s sort of the minimalist one:  it accepts all the theological positions of orthodox Christianity, with a minimum of deviation from the natural order.  Besides, it seems hard to believe that sooner or later there wouldn’t have been some interbreeding.  Tell me you don’t find Nova in Planet of the Apes slightly sexy?  The question is just how long until the first incident.
  2. God created Eve special, so that her eggs were all as genetically distinct as if they belonged to different women.  This would be somewhat fitting to her role as “mother of all”.  Then either she and Adam live and breed for a preternaturally long time until they have thousands of offspring, or, more plausibly, God just does the same thing with the first several generations of women.  This will, of course, mean incest, but there is a distinguished tradition of scriptural interpretation (e.g. in Augustine’s City of God) that is willing to accept this.  In this model, we assume that the real humans then for the most part left the quasi-humans alone, with maybe only a little mixing.  The only drawback is that it seems that God is intervening miraculously to do something that would have happened anyway through natural materials He had already created, i.e. the not-quite-humans.

Several other things to keep in mind:

  1. We could have tagged the first metaphysical man wrongly.  Adam and the Fall may have come well before 50,000 years ago.  It could be the Neanderthals were ontologically men as much as we are.  In this case the problems may be different.  We have more diversity to explain, but more time for mutations.  My suspicion is that the former is the bigger factor, and we’ve just pushed the problem back in time.
  2. Is it possible that there have been multiple spiritual families of metaphysically human beings?  For example, the Neanderthals were a distinct race of men who had their own ancestor and their own Fall–or perhaps they didn’t fall, but lived a beatific existence until we supplanted them.  We float these sorts of ideas all the time regarding extraterrestrials.  Why not on our own planet?  This may fall foul of one of the condemnations of polygenism.  It’s not obvious though, since the scenario doesn’t deny that all currently living humans have Adam as a common ancestor.
  3. Is it an article of faith that Adam and Eve were married?  Theologically, most of the emphasis always seems to go on Adam.  Could the first real woman have been Adam’s eldest daughter?  This is what one might call the extreme minimalist position–sacrificing even the claim that the two first humans were mates.  My feeling here is “no”, this seems to go too far against the natural sense of Genesis.  I wouldn’t definitively rule it out without explicit Magisterial condemnation, though.

9 Responses

  1. A question that immediately springs to mind, Bonald, is: what is worse, bestiality or homosexual sodomy?

  2. Nice try. It would help if you actually read Genesis as it is written.

    On day six God created man.

    On day eight He created Adam and shortly thereafter Eve, as “there was no man to plow the earth.” “New guy” and then a “New gal.”

    After Cain murdered Abel (read the Septuagint account – Cain did not bring the “whole offering” which is what angered God), God told Cain he had to leave the familial group as a result of the murder. Cain responded by saying that “the others will kill me.” Okay, “Bright Sparks”, see day six. Other humans were already here and Cain was being told by God that he had to leave his ingroup and join an outgroup, normally a fatal situation. “Cultural anthropology.”

    God responded by telling Cain that he would not allow members of the outgroup to kill him and just as importantly, stated that Cain was to take his wife from amongst those people. It’s right there in the Bible, people, plain as day. There was no incest between Cain and the forever uncited, un-named, and therefore 99.9% likely non-existent daughter(s) of Adam and Eve. Let me repeat this – God told Cain that he (Cain) was to take his wife from among the population of the outgroup. It is right there in the Bible. Read the book!

    The little picture bible you read as a child is wrong and so is every other either well-meaning but erroneously taught “man of the cloth” or the plain old religious charlatan. Adam was not the first man, but he was the first man to “walk with God”, period. It’s in the book, people.

    End of story. Get out of fantasyland. See above. Read the Bible. Get a concordance and start doing word studies. “Adam: He who blushes. Of ruddy complexion.” There is not a definition in either the Hebrew or the Greek that argues that Adam was the first man, period. If you cannot master basis math you cannot possibly succeed at higher levels. The story given to us in the Bible is absolutely wonderful if you have the ability to understand it but effectively worthless if you cannot.

    Start over, and start right at the beginning.

  3. And here is where your brand of Christian reaction runs into lots of trouble, especially for an intelligent guy such as yourself: attempting to square all the scientific, archaeological and historical research of the last few centuries with…the Bible. For intelligent people, this often entails ignoring or marginalizing entire sections, i.e. reading them “metaphorically.”

    But then this gives rise to the question regarding which sections can be ignored, de-emphasized, or reinterpreted and which must still be taken as authoritative and pertinent. And once you start having these hermeneutical debates, others will start to realize that you’re no so far away from the relativism and the liberalism that you abhor (some have even suggested that liberalism arose out of the tradition of Biblical hermeneutics!). And many people will simply accuse you of selecting the stuff you like and declaring it “natural law” or “the word of God” to give it a veneer of authoritativeness. And it will be very difficult to refute this accusations because, unless God parts the clouds to give us mortals the “correct” answer, one interpretation of the Bible that supersedes all others is not tenable.

  4. Sometimes it is simply best to say, we don’t understand how the empirical evidence can be explained in light of the Faith but we know it can be.

    Btw, the Neanderthals were human, they had rational souls as evidenced by their cave paintings which require an immaterial soul to produce. A nice rule of thumb is the specific difference of man is his being rational.

    If it’s rational, it’s in turn a man, and in turn a progeny of Adam and Eave.

  5. I expect people of all commitments have some such issues: having (or thinking they have) reasons to believe A, B, and C and then trying to figure out how these beliefs relate and are compatible. What I don’t understand is people who don’t try to reconcile them, but just keep A, B, and C in separate boxes.

    In my defense, it’s not true that I have unlimited freedom to reinterpret the Bible. Tradition and the Magisterium lay down clear limits. Needless to say, I also don’t have unlimited freedom in interpreting scientific evidence. Also, while I can be accused of reinterpreting, I don’t think I’ve deemphasized. It wouldn’t be okay with me if we swapped Chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis with the equivalent Greek, Babylonian, or Indian creation myths, saying that “it’s all just metaphors anyway”. Maybe it is, but it’s metaphors for different things, and specific metaphors have different specific meanings. For the same reason, I wouldn’t dismiss these other creation myths as silly. False, but not silly.

  6. Why do we need to take a position on any of this? Dr Feser was responding to a gnu atheist challenge about how Adam & Eve could be squared with evolution. As long as his response does that, who cares whether it is actually right?

    If a gnu says “There exists no explanation for Adam & Eve and for evolution,” all you have to do to prove him wrong is exhibit one such explanation.

  7. Hi Bill,

    No, I don’t think we need to take a position. I think we should just list the possibilities and wait for further evidence.

  8. I totally agree with John, Sept. 26, 2011. There was another group of super humans, created before Adam. Created in the image of God. Not from the DUST of the Earth. Adam was dust, the son’s of God spoken of in chapter 6 of Genesis are a totally different group. A group of super humans that marred the daughters of man.
    this union of Sons of God and Daughters of Man created a race of Giants/men of Renown. It would be worth your time to go to the Bible KJV and read it.

  9. I read about these ideas over at Feser’s. I think this illustrates the extreme dangers of trying to mix rationalism with pre-modern myth, not that I have anything against either. Do you have any idea how aesthetically grotesque this is?

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