Edited later to add this notice: I’m not going to be continuing with this series. For some reason, my interest in it died a horrible and entirely inexplicable death. It might revive sometime in the future, but it’s definitely dead right now. And that is that.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I love genetics. You’ll also know that I’m a Christian, and that I like to talk about the hard stuff to do with Christianity.
So, naturally, when I read a comment on Facebook where someone gave their reasons for calling the Bible a glorified science fiction book, I knew I had to tackle the subject. And, of course, I decided to pick the biggest, most important, and toughest of the topics listed:
How could the Bible possibly be right about Adam and Eve being the ancestors of all living?
A Good Argument
When people decide to call into question the scientific and historical validity of the Bible, they will nearly always bring up the problem of Adam and Eve being the ancestors of all human beings.
The argument, is as follows:
- Their children would have to have babies with each other (incest)
- Incest leads to deformity and illness.
- Therefore, humanity would be wiped out as a side-effect of inbreeding in only a few generations.
- Humanity is still around, and we’re doing pretty darn well, thank you very much.
- Therefore, all of humanity could not possibly have come from one man and one woman.
This is what is known as a Good Argument. The premises are true, they follow a logical form, and they lead inevitably to the conclusions. And, until this decade, it accurately described what scientists knew about heredity and genetics.
Not a Good Argument
Until about two years ago, I couldn’t come up with a proper argument as to why Adam and Eve was actually a plausible theory. The farthest I got was realizing that, if God is as smart as the Bible says he is, and if, in the beginning, he made everything perfectly, then he’d have made Adam and Eve with perfect genes.
My argument went like this:
- Adam and Eve had perfect genetics (aka, no deformities or genetic illnesses present in their DNA).
- People with perfect genetics have children who are strong and healthy, because they would also have perfect genetics.
- Therefore, humanity could survive and thrive, like we are doing.
- We don’t have perfect genetics, thus the problems we have now with incest (and various other things).
- Even if we take into account mutations, those occur much too rarely and kill much too often to result in what we see today, especially if I’m going for a Young Earth theory*.
- Same with mistakes happening when eggs or sperm are formed.
- There isn’t enough room in the DNA of only two people in order to contain all the genetic diversity of human beings, even if we’re just looking at the harmless stuff.
- Therefore, either that argument just isn’t enough to explain what’s going on, or the Bible’s wrong about Adam and Eve being the ancestors of all of humanity.
The other problem is that, even if there was an accumulation of mutations and DNA duplication errors, the Bible describes a bottleneck (a drastic decrease) in human genetic diversity between creation and now: The flood.
Basically, in the space of a few hours, the world population went from an unknown (but presumably large) number to a grand total of eight people: Noah, his wife, their three sons, and their wives.
Why is it that everyone forgets about Noah?
The atheist scientific community is freaking out about the Bible saying that all of human beings come from two people, while forgetting that their argument about the Bible being stupid because incest couldn’t have possibly produced all the people we see now is actually strengthened in some ways by the story of Noah. Because, keeping that in mind, we now have all of modern-day humanity resulting from six people (Noah’s sons and their wives). Who are descendants of two people.
But, wait, there’s more! If you read through Genesis, you find that families tended to travel together somewhere, stay there, and have kids. The problem is that they’re often the only people mentioned there… which means that there had to be incest at some point along the line in order for children to keep being born.
In fact, it’s not until Exodus (the second book of the Bible) that we get a prohibition against incest. That is, from creation to the time of Egyptian pharaohs, incest wasn’t ever mentioned as a bad idea.
(There are very many reasons that an accurate movie/miniseries/TV show made from the Bible would be X-rated. This is only one of them.)
In other words, the incest argument used against the Bible’s account of Adam and Eve being the only two progenitors of the human race is the absolute weakest form that argument could take.
For a Biblical Theory to Work
Any theory that wants to explain how the Bible’s version of events could be true has to take everything into account. That is, it has to cover:
From the Bible:
- Adam and Eve being created perfectly by a perfect creator
- The bottleneck that occurred during the flood
- Families spreading out and inbreeding the heck out of each other (both before and after the flood)
- Incest not being a problem for a rather long time
From how the world is now:
- Human beings showing quite a bit of diversity in appearance
- …while all having enough DNA in common to be considered more genetically similar to each other than a bunch of inbred monkeys (paraphrased from an article I read several years ago)
- Most of us not being deformed, having genetic diseases, or surviving beyond conception
- Incest having a big chance of resulting those above things
- The fact that human genetic diversity is actually too diverse for it to be contained within the DNA of only two people
From modern scientific research and understanding:
- How genetics work (including why incest turns out the way it does)
- How human beings across the world are related to each other
- Any new discoveries related to this
But it cannot take most of its support from:
- Problems in the formation of eggs or sperm
- Human DNA being fundamentally different before the flood (I’ve seen some rather odd theories to this effect)
Why All This Rigour?
If you’re going to make a theory, then that theory has to explain the facts. If the theory and the facts are at odds, then you have to either modify or throw out the theory to fit the facts, not the other way around.
A theory based on the Biblical account that wants to explain real life has no choice but to take its facts from both the Bible and our understanding of how the world works now. Otherwise, it can’t be taken seriously, because it’s not actually talking about what it says it’s talking about.
The Stage Is Now Set
Next week, we’re going to introduce the actors and continue to discover how this play is taking shape.
*I tend to lean towards arguing in favour of this theory simply because it’s the most difficult one to argue for. Even with Old Earth theory, though, mutation alone simply doesn’t cut it. Approximately 99% of mutations are fatal.