It’s been nine days now since I posed a theological question, with the best answer to receive an autographed paperback of WEIT. As you recall, the purpose of the contest was to help those confused Christians who want to accept both the Biblical story of Adam and Eve and the known genetic fact that humans could not have descended from a single pair of individuals who lived at the same time. Like Michael Ruse, we’re trying to give our believing friends an anchor for their faith. Here was the question:
In one short paragraph propose your own theological solution:
What is the best way to reconcile the Biblical story of Adam and Eve with the genetic facts?
You cannot answer that these issues are irreconcilable; remember, you’re being a theologian who is trying to help the Christians, and so have to propose a solution that sounds superficially plausible. If possible, write it in theologyspeak, too, and try to give it a name as interesting as “The Federal Headship Model.”
The answers were many: the thread had over three hundred posts, though only a fraction of those involved the kind of theological answer I wanted. You can imagine how difficult it was to choose among them. In fact, there were so many good ones that the creationist website Uncommon Descent chose its own favorites in fourteen separate categories.
My own take: some of the answers didn’t make genetic sense and were so eliminated. Others were simply too easy: positing that Adam and Eve were the ancestors of humans insofar as souls—but not genes—were concerned (kudos to Ben Goren, though, for a most thoughtful and elaborate presentation of this hypothesis). Some were humorous but without the gravitas required in such an answer, and some simply finessed the problem by requiring too many miracles.
In the end, I couldn’t decide on a single winner, so I have chosen three—one in each of three categories. All will receive books.
1. Overall theological and biological plausibility. This answer, by Drew, appealed to me because although it posited another miracle (multiple germ cells in the Ancestral Couple), the miracle made good biological sense: that added genetic diversity was there to prevent inbreeding depression among the incestuously-produced descendants of Adam and Eve. Although the soul part appeared a bit gratuitous, I think this is the kind of answer that BioLogos might have loved.
The Multi-Germic Theory
Roughly 140,000 years ago God slightly tinkered with the genes of two existing hominin pairs to ensure that the next baby they each had would have brains which were capable of interacting with a soul. These two individuals, one male and one female were Adam and Eve. God then imparted them both with many germ line cells each carrying a different genome, this allowed that each of Adam and Eve’s children would not be genetic siblings so that there would be no loss of fitness due to sibling interbreeding. Each distinct gene set was based roughly on the genomes of various human-like beings that had preceded Adam and Eve, which had evolved through natural processes, but was distinct enough that it allowed for the brains of the offspring also to interact with a soul. One consequence of this modification was that it gave the F1 generation enough genetic diversity to appear as though they sprang up from a large pool of existing ancestors. It may also have been necessary that for a few generations following F1 that the individuals continued to have the variable germ cells to further protect the offspring from inbreeding defects.
2. Sophisticated-sounding obfuscation. This one, by Aqua Buddha, just struck me as so outré, so incomprehensible in its lucidity, that it might just pass for serious theology. And I loved the gratuitous Biblical quote at the end.
The Existential Dispersion Model
A false dichotomy prevails in this debate, one in which a human Adam is said to either exist or not exist. A more nuanced formulation, informed by recent advances in theology, envisions Adam as the sum total of human genes that coalesce by some divinely delineated point in our genealogy. This point (the exact time of which is unknown to us, as is true of all temporally indexed divine interventions), corresponds to the moment at which the Almighty bestowed the soul upon mankind. Biblical Eve is an overdetermined formulation of this same concept. And the Lord saith “set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” (Ezekial 4:20).
3. Pure LOLz. Many of the entries were funny (I love my readers!) but this inventive one, by Ichneumonid, coopted modern physics in a way that might not convince a theologian, but certainly strikes the funnybone. It perfectly satirizes the crap emitted when modern theology tries to digest science.
The many theologies model
A consequence of quantum theory is the many worlds hypothesis. That is, every particle in the universe occurs in every possible location leading to an infinite number of universes in which all possible outcomes are realised. In at least one of these universes (actually an infinite number – this is the really neat thing about infinity, everything is infinite!) there actually is an Earth in which humans are descended from just two ancestors, Adam and Eve, and, remarkably, everything that is described in the Bible actually happened! Unfortunately, the minor shortcoming of this hypothesis is that there is no evidence that any of this actually happened in our particular universe. However, God in His infinite infiniteness, is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent in all of these universes and (I know this is the bit that doesn’t quite get me there) momentarily has confused our universe with another (does God get Alzheimer’s?) and so has inadvertently given His followers on this Earth the wrong information. But wait, this is where God’s test of faith comes in! HE knows this is NOT the universe where all that occurred, but has set this as a test for us, so that we can come to truly know Him through faith alone.
Drew, Aqua Buddha, and Ichneumonid: please email me with your addresses to get your autographed books. To the rest of the readers, many thanks for your deep thoughts on theology and genetics, and though you may not have won this time, you may get the satisfaction of seeing your ideas come to fruition in future theology. Keep your eye on BioLogos!