William Lane Craig goes after me about Adam and Eve

O frabjous day! Just when I thought I had nothing to say today—and these days happen—Ceiling Cat (praise be unto Him) sent me something interesting in an email from reader Brian. Brian called my attention to the latest “Reasonable Faith” podcast by theologian William Lane Craig, a broadcast called “The historical Adam and Eve.” It’s 14.5 minutes long, and has a free download and iTunes connection at the link, so it’s not too onerous timewise—though it is brain-wise. The best part is that it’s devoted to attacking me, or rather my views on the historicity of Adam and Eve. When someone like Craig or Chopra goes after me, I know I’m in for some chuckles.

I didn’t find my exact post about the Primal Couple that Craig is attacking, but I’ve posted quite a bit about the issue, and so you can just search for “Adam and Eve” on this site. I have a section about this problem in the Albatross (soon available at fine bookstores everywhere).

The problem, as you’ll know if you’re a regular here, is that genetic data show clearly that the genes of modern humans do not descend from only two people (or eight, if you believe the Noah story) in the last few thousand years. Back-calculating from the genetic diversity seen in modern humans, and making conservative assumptions, evolutionary geneticists have shown that the human population could not have been smaller than about 12,250 individuals: 10,000 in Africa and 2,250 in the group of individuals that left Africa and whose descendants colonized the rest of the world.  There was a population “bottleneck,” but it was nowhere near two or eight people.

This shows that Adam and Eve were not the historical ancestors of all humanity. And of course that gives theology a problem: if the Primal Couple didn’t give rise to everyone, then whence our affliction with Adam and Eve’s Original Sin? That sin, which the pair incurred by disobeying God, is supposed to have been passed on to the descendants of Adam and Eve, i.e., all of us. And it’s that sin that Jesus supposedly came to Earth to expiate. But if Original Sin didn’t exist, and Adam and Eve were simply fictional metaphors, then Jesus died for a metaphor. That’s not good!

That doesn’t sit well with theologians, of course, who, if they accept the science (and most of the smarter ones have), must then explain the significance of Adam and Eve, and whether they really existed. I discuss this in the Albatross as well; suffice it to say here that there are several interpretations of Adam and Eve as both historical and metaphorical, many of them funny and none of them coming close to solving the problem of Original Sin and the coming of Jesus.

William Lane Craig, though, still buys the Genesis view that Adam and Eve were not only real people, but that all humans are their actual descendants. He believes not just in a bottleneck of two people, but that Adam and Eve were the first two people, presumably created de novo by God.

Craig defends that view in his podcast, which you can hear in about a quarter of the time it takes me to write this. But let me reiterate a few of his claims:

  • He first denies that the historicity of Adam and Eve is critical for Original Sin. What? Well, says Craig, the Eastern Orthodox Church accepts the reality of Adam and Eve, but doesn’t believe in Original Sin. So, concludes Craig, the dependence of Original Sin on Adam and Eve “is not inherent to Christianity.” Case closed.

The big problem, of course, is that Craig is not a member of the Eastern Orthodox church, and doesn’t hold that view! (He’s an evangelical Christian.) So what is he on about? I’m baffled. And even if he did deny that there was such a thing as Original Sin, he’d still face the problem of Adam and Eve not being the ancestors of every living human.

  • Craig gets around the genetic data by saying that the population-size estimates by geneticists are based on mathematical models, and “It could well be the case that these mathematical models are simply incorrect.”  Well, maybe, but they use conservative assumptions, and there are two different models giving pretty much the same results. If the models are wrong, let Craig present some cogent criticisms and, perhaps, make his own model, or have a Christian geneticist do it. In the interim, on one side we have two sets of decent scientific estimates of historical population size, and on the other we have Craig’s bluster. I’ll go with the science.
  • Craig does level one criticism of the models: they assume a constant mutation rate in humans. That’s not a bad assumption, actually, for we have no reason to think that the rate of errors in DNA replication changed drastically in the last ten thousand years. But Craig says that the mutation rate could have been much higher in the past than we see now. That would then give us a misleadingly high population sizes if we use the lower present mutation rates. If they were much higher in the past, then maybe there could have been just two people in H. sapiens, and the huge mutation rates in their immediate descendants would give us the genetic diversity present today.

There are two points against this. First, human mutation rates are not estimated by direct observation, but from population-genetic estimates, with some estimates based on data from many generations. So if mutation rates were higher in the past, much of that would already have been accounted for.

Second, if mutation rates did change over time, you’d expect them to be higher not in ancient times, but recently, since now we’re exposed to all kinds of mutagens (like chemicals and X-rays) that we didn’t have in the past.

Craig’s desperate invocation of the nonuniformity of mutation rates reminds me of those theologians who, seeing a contradiction between their beliefs in a young Earth and the fact that we can see light from stars millions of light-years away, invoke either a non-uniformity of the speed of light (“it was higher in the past”) or God’s creation of light in transit from the stars along with the stars (after all, what good would stars be to humans unless we could see their light as soon as God made them?). This isn’t science, but apologetics—an attempt to save an a priori emotional commitment.

  • Craig gloats about the fact that the “Y-chromosome Adam” (the single male from which all our Y chromosomes come) and the “mitochondrial Eve” (the single female from which all our mitochondria descend) lived about the same time, in contrast to what I said in my post.  So they could have been Adam and Eve!  Indeed, a few years ago estimates based on a limited number of Y chromosomes showed that these ancestors did live at non-overlapping times. But more recent analyses show that there could have been some overlap.

This, however, hardly supports the idea that the genomes of all modern humans came from a couple who lived at the same time and mated with each other. There are huge error bars around these times. So, for example, the Y chromosome Adam could have lived any time between 120,000 and 160,000 years ago, while “mitochondrial Eve” could have lived any time between 99,000 and 148,000 years ago.  While there’s overlap, there’s also 32,000 years when they don’t overlap. This is not good support for the claim that the two individuals lived at exactly at the same time. 

But there’s a bigger problem. As I note in the Albatross, “although all the Y chromosomes of modern humans descend from this one individual, the rest of our genome descends from a multitude of different ancestors who lived at various times ranging from 100,000 to about 4 million years ago. Our genome testifies to literally hundreds of ‘Adams and Eves’ who lived at different times—a result of the fact that different parts of our DNA were inherited differently based on the vagaries of reproduction and the random division of genes at when sperm and eggs are formed.” It’s not just mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal DNA we have to consider, but the entire human genome. And that shows clearly that parts of the genome go way back before the DNA on the Y and on the mitochondrion. Indeed, parts of our genome originated even before our divergence from the ancestors of chimps! We have some variable genes, for example, with variants that are more closely related to gene forms in chimps than to other genes in humans. That shows that the variability was hanging around in our common ancestor, and that the variability has persisted over more than five million years.

But none of this so-called “contemporary” DNA data refutes the data showing that the human species was never as small as two individuals. It’s a separate issue.

  • Near the end of the podcast, Craig gives his own take, and that’s a literal view of Genesis: Adam and Eve were real people and the ancestors of all humanity. As he says,”I’m inclined to stick to the literal Adam and Eve until I’m actually forced by the evidence to abandon that view, and I’m far from that point.” Surprise! He also claims (at the beginning) that there is good evidence for the historical resurrection of Jesus, though I’m not quite sure what that “good evidence” is. Is it simply what the Bible says?—because that’s the only evidence I know of. He does raise the point that perhaps a historical Adam and Eve were part of Paul and Jesus’s “incidental beliefs,” but not part of their “teaching.” This is theobabble. If Jesus and Paul believed in a literal Adam and Eve, as the Bible says they did, what does it matter whether they just believed it or taught it? For Craig, after all, Jesus is part of God, and if God thought Adam and Eve were real, it must have been true.
  • One of the most amusing parts of the podcast is when Craig’s pal on the podcast (I don’t know who he is) tells Craig that I deliberately misspelled “Jesus” as “Jebus” in my post. (I plead guilty.) Craig is flummoxed, for he can’t believe that anybody could actually make fun of the Lord in that way. You can hear the horror when Craig realizes that “Jebus” was not a typo, but a deliberate misspelling. I’m then told not only that I’m immature, but that I should “get a life, and become a Christian while I’m at it.”

No thanks, Dr. Craig: I’m not drinking your Kool-Aid.  It’s clear (and you’ve said this about Jesus’s Resurrection) that there are no data that could possibly dispel your idea that the Bible is historically true. You are not open to any findings of science if they go against your faith.


  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    A literal view of Genesis? That’s not very sophisticated of WLC!

    • Posted February 2, 2015 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      The angel Gabriel once sang lead vocals for Genesis, that much I’m pretty sure of.

      • Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:19 am | Permalink

        Are you sure? There must be some misunderstanding.

        • darrelle
          Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:35 am | Permalink

          It’s just a Tale to Trick you.

          • moleatthecounter
            Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:46 am | Permalink

            Nope.. That was on Phil Collins’ album, ‘No Haircut Required’.

  2. Posted February 2, 2015 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    “He first denies that the historicity of Adam and Eve is critical for Original Sin. What? Well, says Craig, the Eastern Orthodox Church accepts the reality of Adam and Eve, but doesn’t believe in Original Sin. So, concludes Craig, the dependence of Original Sin on Adam and Eve “is not inherent to Christianity.” Case closed.”

    This is even worse than a matter of his personal beliefs. It’s a basic logical fallacy. The Orthodox view is that OS is dispensable for the existence of AnE. This doesn’t imply that AnE are dispensable for the existence of OS.

    • Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      Yes, your second paragraph. This just shouted out to me as well. And he’s supposed to be a (effing) philosopher??

      They don’t mind throwing out any bullshit required to “win” the debate. (Lying for Jesus, dontcha know?) Which proves how useless debates are for anything beyond entertainment value.

      • Posted February 2, 2015 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

        “And he’s supposed to be a (effing) philosopher??”

        He makes a lot of claims that shouldn’t survive a freshman philosophy course. I have no doubt that if someone else were using the same reasoning processes about some other subject, he would immediately spot the error.

    • Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Yeah, that fallacy immediately jumped out at me as well. The claim is not:

      A&E → OS


      OS → A&E

      Craig is making a basic logical error.

      • darrelle
        Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        I bet he is aware of that too. Which sorta points towards that L word.

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted February 2, 2015 at 6:59 pm | Permalink


          • Posted February 3, 2015 at 4:12 am | Permalink

            or LORD (ala C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity)

            • Mark Joseph
              Posted February 4, 2015 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

              That’s what I had in mind (of course); the fourth possibility, legend, unfortunately does not apply to WLC.

              • Posted February 5, 2015 at 1:16 am | Permalink

                Not even in his own lunchtime?


              • Diane G.
                Posted February 5, 2015 at 1:23 am | Permalink

                Or in his own mind?

        • darrelle
          Posted February 3, 2015 at 9:22 am | Permalink

          Lunatic and LORD sound like good options too, but I was thinking of “Lying”.

          • Mark Joseph
            Posted February 4, 2015 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

            I know 😉

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

        Sheesh, that immediately hit me right in the eye too. And I ain’t no philosopher, never ever. But still a better one than WLC, apparently 🙂

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      Most refrigerators have built-in icemakers. But some do not. Therefore, says Craig, refrigeration is not required for making ice!

    • Robert Seidel
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      Well, he’s the man straightfacedly saying: Without god, there would be no absolute moral values; but we all know that absolute moral values do exist; therefore, god exists.

      Source: This debate with Lewis Wolpert. Forgive me if I’m not listening to Craig again to find the precise time stop.


      “That, which you didn’t lose, you’ve got; you didn’t lose any horns; therefore, you’ve got horns.” – Ancient Greek syllogism.

      • Posted February 2, 2015 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        “That, which you didn’t lose, you’ve got; you didn’t lose any horns; therefore, you’ve got horns.” – Ancient Greek syllogism.

        Oh, I like that one. I’m surprised I never saw that in my philosophy classes!

        • Robert Seidel
          Posted February 2, 2015 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

          I don’t have any English source, but you can cite:

          Friedrich Kirchner: Kirchner’s Wörterbuch der Philosophischen Grundbegriffe. 5. edition, Leipzig 1907, under the heading “Hörnerfrage”.

          Or: http://www.textlog.de/924.html

    • Gordon Davisson
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

      This struck me as an obvious error as well, but it appears to be a misunderstanding of what Craig said. He didn’t say Adam & Eve weren’t necessary for original sin, he said that original sin isn’t necessary for Christianity. From about 2:23 – 3:25 in the podcast:

      “The Eastern churches, like Russian Orthodoxy, 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’s 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’s just not, it’s part of Catholocism, and Protestantism for the most part, but it’s not characteristic of Orthodoxy.”

  3. Posted February 2, 2015 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Particle-antiparticle pairs spontaneously pop into existence all the time from the void. Science has shown this conclusively.

    So what’s the problem, scientifically, with Adam and Eve popping into existence as well ?

    Perhaps that was a time when other people simply materialized, too. Lots of mysterious, crazy stuff was going on then. Besides, the list of “begats” doesn’t have to be exhaustive. Thinking that would definitely be unsophisticated.

    (I shouldn’t be giving them any ideas.)

    • Alex Shuffell
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      I think Quantum Theology could be a very profitable area for you.

      • Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:14 am | Permalink

        I’ll call it QFT. (where the F stands for the obvious).

        I see it following some very eloquent posts around here, so I might as well co-opt it. That way, whenever anybody uses that acronym, my newly-created area of expertise will get the credit.

        It’s like conservation of charge… or something like that.

        • Alex Shuffell
          Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:14 am | Permalink

          With Quantum Theology you could solve most contradictions in the Bible with Schrodinger’s Cat experiment. Jesus and his Dad are the same (or something) because light is both a wave and a particle, it depends on how you observe It. Expand to 300 pages and go tour.

          • Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:34 am | Permalink

            The effect is called Quantum Incoherence (QI), I believe. It’s well described in the literature, a popular TV show in the UK is based on it, and is also an active Chinese principle forming a part of any living thing. It’s where east meets west, according to the highly knowledgeable physicist Gary Zukav.

            I know you’re trying to be helpful, but please don’t try to tell me about my new business. I’ll run rings around you, logically.

          • Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:51 am | Permalink

            You’ve heard of Gell-Mann and the “eightfold way”, I presume. (alluding to the Noble Eightfold Path in Buddhism.) …the whole mess ultimately relying on the SU(3) Lie group?

            Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. None of the flavours can exist in isolation. Taken together, communion hosts are flavourless. Think about it.

            – QFT

            • Reginald Selkirk
              Posted February 2, 2015 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

              Not to be confused with eight-limbed yoga, which is a Hindu thing.

        • Posted February 2, 2015 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

          Except, alas, there’s no conservation law for bullcrap.

          • Posted February 2, 2015 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

            Then why are conservatives so full of it? Aha. Got you.


    • kennyrb
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      It’s possible so it’s also probable.

      • Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:48 am | Permalink

        Aye, you’ve got your theological Bayesian probabilities down for sure.

      • Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        Or, in its Latin form: “itso ipso”. But only if we’re looking.

  4. Posted February 2, 2015 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I don’t really know anything about genetics but that aside, original sin has other philosophical problems that don’t require genetics to refute.

    • Sastra
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      It’s always been my dark suspicion that the concept of Original Sin has its roots in the parent-child relationship. In every culture there is a gradual move from thinking of a baby as incompetent and irresponsible to seeing them as willfully disobedient. The dividing line is arbitrary. An authoritarian culture is likely to blame infants for wickedness and expect discipline at very young ages. The child is a brute animal which must be trained to obey and become acceptable.

      If you are particularly authoritarian, you may well think that the crying and messing and general self-focus of the newborn is in itself wrong. It shouldn’t be that way. The hierarchy ought to be harmonious. Adam and Eve therefore represent the idealization of newborn humans. They were perfect, but chose to spit up and mess themselves. Original Sin = being naughty. Blame them and make them feel ashamed.

      And as the nanny-raised CS Lewis put it, don’t you just know you’re bad and need forgiveness? It’s innate.

      • Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        Reminds me of Erikson’s description of early stages in psychosocial development (initiative vs. guilt, autonomy vs. shame).

        Explains the subconscious component of fear that drives so many believers to desperately establish a secure parental attachment.

      • rickflick
        Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        That theory, and it may be yours, sounds plausible. But, I think many non-literalists/liberal Christians take human misbehavior generally for the meaning of original sin. In fact there is a biological imperative to survive and reproduce which immediately implies self preservation at the expense of others. These impulses can be felt by any adult in their own mind and observed in others (parking in handicapped). That’s all it takes to assign this to the category of deep questions that require an explanation (read: myth or superstition). Thus, we imagine a time when selfishness and greed did not exist and posit some event that made humans aware of the sin and shame in society.
        Now, in fact there is an evolutionary explanation for this change that would have been gradual, not sudden. Pre-humans at some point in the past were innocent of the moral implications of their behavior, like Cheetahs, until they no longer were. But I doubt there are many Christians who would worry about such nuance.

        • Sastra
          Posted February 2, 2015 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

          No, it’s not a nuance. The knowledge of the distinction between good and evil was in the apple, a major part of the plot. So the transition between being innocent of moral implications (like an animal or a newborn) and being accountable (human) concerned them a lot.

          Thus, we imagine a time when selfishness and greed did not exist and posit some event that made humans aware of the sin and shame in society.

          There’s a name for this: the Naturalistic Fallacy. What’s natural is good — and what’s good is “natural” — or better yet, normal (if they’re dividing between a corrupt physical world and the supernatural Perfection which was the way everything was and is supposed to go.)

      • Posted February 2, 2015 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

        It’s just like the christian apologist who told me he views humans as inherently bad. I believe that many are interpreting the natural way we are as a bad thing. I makes me sick that children are viewed in this way.

  5. Colin
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    God is the finish line that is drawn at the start.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      Are we back to Chopra?

      • Posted February 2, 2015 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

        Colin just means god is a foregone conclusion for theologians like WLC.

        An honest appraisal of the evidence did not lead them to the conclusion “god exists”. Rather, they started with that “finish line” already drawn and now try to pass off all sorts of baloney as evidence.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted February 3, 2015 at 12:02 am | Permalink

          A bit like chemistry students doing an experiment. Work out the results from theory then adjust the data to give the desired result.

  6. Posted February 2, 2015 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Neither creationism nor evolution allow room for a free will. Even if Adam and Eve disobeyed god, it was clearly a setup by god anyway for creating the tree and creating the serpent, and for creating them in such a way that they would be tempted. So it would all have been god’s will anyhow.

  7. A. DiLuca
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Wow! Thank you Mr. Coyne.
    Well done!

  8. Sastra
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Craig is a master debater (see what I did there?) and is used to throwing out as many ‘defeaters’ as he can, regardless of whether or not they’re consistent with each other. That’s how you score in debate — and with the audience, which will ooh and aah in admiration of the sheer number of reasons why atheists are wrong.

    I attended the Craig-Flew debate and watched the Christians next to me eat up the kalam argument, cheering and applauding and nodding to each other in satisfaction. Yup, Craig really won on that one. When I found out that they were Young Earth Creationists I asked how they could possibly be pleased with an argument that relied on Big Bang cosmology being true. I don’t remember exactly what they said, but iirc it was something to the effect of ‘beating the atheist at their own game.’

    In print he’s out of his element. Personal charm, confidence, and intelligibility to the audience doesn’t count. His errors are more obvious and vulnerable to attack, particularly from people who are genuine experts in areas in which he’s only become expert enough to solve its ‘apparent conflict’ with Holy Writ. That’s a low bar.

    For one thing, you don’t need to bring up magic because it’s always lurking there in the background, the ace up the sleeve. You know it’s there, your opponent knows it’s there, the audience knows it’s there — and it effects the way the game is played. But if you don’t actually bring it out you can always deny that it made any difference. You established God and/or Christianity through reason alone. Faith only gives that extra little nudge to our natural reluctance to admit what we now realize.

    Say it three times and it’s true.

    • Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      For all we know, he may be a master batter as well. 🙂

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted February 2, 2015 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

        I looked on the internet and there’s a mass of William Lane Craig debates. So you could say he’s…oh I can’t.

      • Posted February 3, 2015 at 4:24 am | Permalink

        Well he certainly is master of his own domain.
        (Seinfeld ref for non-Americans)

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted February 3, 2015 at 8:40 am | Permalink

          Well, I’ve watched WLC and, as Kramer put it, “I’m out”.

    • Posted February 2, 2015 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      “beating the atheist at their own game.”

      That highlights the fact that there are two types of arguments: 1) one in which people are trying to defeat each other, and 2) two people are attempting to discover truth.

      I normally assume that I’m engaged in argument type 2, but an awful lot of people automatically assume a type 1 argument.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted February 4, 2015 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

        That’s because that’s all they have.

    • Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

      Personal charm? I’ve always found his mannerisms insufferable. Is there a large contingent of people who think otherwise?

      • Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

        I think he acts the way people who don’t have much experience being around intellectuals think intellectuals are supposed to act.

        Formal, stuffy, feeble attempts at humor.

        I suppose you could kind of think of this as “charming” his audience into thinking he’s an intellectual.

        • Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

          Maybe it reminds me too much of the Catholic conferences I attended when I was a kid. Faux intellectualism steeped in stuffy formal language with your aforementioned feeble attempts at humor. “Ahahaha we can make joke but we mustn’t forget that this is very serious business and we mustn’t allow blasphemy lest we pop you in the nose. Ahahha.” Then the speaking continues with utter disdain for anyone who disagrees and it is repeatedly pointed out that these people must be idiots. I always thought all this nonsense only appealed to other faux intellectuals though.

          • Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, I don’t think his style appeals to his audience on a personal level, either.

            I just meant that his audience feels they have someone with intellectual authority to whom they can point. That kind of “appeal”.

            • Saul Sorrell-Till
              Posted February 3, 2015 at 8:55 am | Permalink

              I agree with you. If charm isn’t exactly right, he certainly has a kind of surface charisma, a sheeny, manufactured aura.

              With some people, people who are used to relying on authority, people who don’t understand much at all about science or philosophy and need a simple heuristic to decide between two opinions, this is important, like you say.

  9. Posted February 2, 2015 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    One way Christian literalists have of escaping Jerry’s argument is to say that A&E were ancestors of us all, but not the only common ancestors who were around then. So some part of our genome came from them, but the rest came from all those other people who were wandering around outside of the Garden of Eden at the time.

    This leads to interesting science, such as asking in which stretch of the genome the Original Sin is encoded. It should show a stretch of reduced diversity.

    It also fits in with this marvelous take by The Onion on the discrepancy between archaeological dates and biblical generation-counting.

    • Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      But who were those other people? The folks in the land of Nod? And even if that’s true, there’s still the bottleneck of 8 people that came with Noah’s Ark. That wiped the Earth clean of humans. The data don’t show a bottleneck that low.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted February 2, 2015 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

        The education material these people use on their poor kids shows the eight people, and how they account for today’s genetic diversity. I only have one page of it, but I’ll email it to you.

        • John Scanlon, FCD
          Posted February 4, 2015 at 7:41 am | Permalink

          Multiple gonad allografts?

      • 3p1415926
        Posted February 17, 2015 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

        I was a catholic for 27 years. During that time I would feel that it was enough that genetic Adam and Eve would have a chance to reproduce. All the other people around would be animals. Adam and Eve were the first people (the first animals with a soul).

        The scientific data makes it very improbable that Adam and Eve shared the same time span but it must be shown impossible before people of faith even think in reconsidering it!

    • daveyc
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

      Isn’t it also the case that the identities of A&E (the mitochondrial and Y-chromosome versions) are not fixed in time but fluctuate as gene lineages go extinct? If so, then 10,000 years from now the person we would identify as “Mitochondrial Eve” would not necessarily be the same person who carries that title now? Which would also be the case if we moved into the past. It seems to me that trying to draw any significance whatsoever from the identities of Mit. Eve and Y Adam is to fundamentally misunderstand what the science is saying.

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted February 4, 2015 at 7:44 am | Permalink

        Yes, and our best estimates of the ancestor also change with increasing sample size (as rarer, deeper lineages come to light), hence the thousands of individuals investigated in the re-dating papers that Jerry linked to a discussion of.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted February 4, 2015 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

      Ha ha!

      Here’s the last paragraph of the Onion article: “These two people made in his image do not know how to communicate, lack skills in both mathematics and farming, and have the intellectual capacity of an infant,” one Sumerian philosopher wrote. “They must be the creation of a complete idiot.”

  10. GBJames
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    First DeepChop and now WLC? It is hard to know whether to be jealous or feel pity.

  11. Posted February 2, 2015 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    The very moment anyone starts taking seriously about sin and its washing through humanity you may feel free to immediately start laughing your ass off and calling for the emergency therapy van, or as I like to call it, rubber room van.

    Deepak, Craig, Rauser. The proper 911 call: “Please, send an extra big van.”

    Craig is a mentally impaired person who does an excellent job, just like Chopra, et.al., looking like he’s not in need of an IV Thorazine drip. He should be giving free lectures to an assembly at Bellevue but instead, he’s roamin’ the streets w/o a straight jacket irritating the rest of us.


    • Sastra
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      Craig, Chopra, and their followers are neither mentally impaired nor mentally ill. That’s an argument which will go down in flames.

      Other problems. First, I think this sort of hyperbole does a disservice to people who actually are mentally impaired or mentally ill. They deserve respect for the challenge of coping with real difficulties, and for their own worth.

      Second, never misspell “morons” in a diatribe aimed at “morons.”

      • Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        My remarks were meant to be humorous and mockulatory, not a journal-approved psychiatric diagnosis.

        As for your sense of my misspelling, I offer evidence to support my claim of accuracy.

        • Timothy Hughbanks
          Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:52 am | Permalink

          I.e., the misspelling of “morons” as “morans” was offered in just the same spirit that our host misspelled “Jesus” as “Jebus”.

        • Sastra
          Posted February 2, 2015 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

          I know it was humor, I’m just not sure it’s mocking the right people.

          As for the spelling, I stand corectted.

          Unless he’s telling people to get a “Brian Morans,” whom I don’t know. Perhaps it’s an emergency and Brian’s the man for the job. In which case he misspelled a different word.

    • Posted February 3, 2015 at 4:27 am | Permalink

      With extra head space.

      • Posted February 3, 2015 at 4:30 am | Permalink

        That was in response to R.E.M. re: making an emergency call to send an ambulance (van).

  12. Delphin
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    There’s almost something unsporting about dismantling W L Craig. Not that it isn’t jolly great fun!

    It’s useful work too. Drifting about on the net I am actually shocked by how many people take Craig seriously. Not just random fools either, but intelligent, educated fools. He, Plantinga, and Behe are the bafflegab peddlars I see referred to most often.

  13. Colin
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    WLC is not the most intellectually honest individual. You can see his assertions & arguments get thoroughly decapitated in a debate, and then see him regurgitating the same old junk a week later.

    • darrelle
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Craig is pretty much the opposite of intellectually honest. He is a carny. As he has admitted there is nothing that could change his mind, evidence be damned. He does not see his debates as anything other than selling xian beliefs, and Buyer Beware.

    • colnago80
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      The late and unlamented Duane Gish used to do this all the time.

      • Posted February 2, 2015 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        Ye olde Gishe Galloppe …

  14. Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    I feel that anyone who says they’ll change their mind based on evidence should be required to state specifically what sort of evidence would change their mind.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      That should always true. But their answer can be an impossible standard. Or they may simply say they cannot be made to change their minds.

      • Posted February 2, 2015 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        And that’s fine. But they should at least admit it outright to save others the time. There’s nothing worse than trying to help someone reach an evidence-based conclusion, only to slowly realize that no evidence you can possibly provide will work.

        • Posted February 2, 2015 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

          “You cannot reason a man out of something he was not reasoned into.” (Swift)

          Anyway, the reason for engaging in debate is not to convince your opponent. It’s to convince the listeners.

  15. Sciencefictionfan
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:12 am | Permalink


    Such nonsense can only happen, when an uninformed theologican tries to interpret modern evolutionary theory, biology and genetics. What a shame.

  16. Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Craig, your retrospective evidentialism is acting up again. Praise Jebus!

  17. Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Leaving aside all the very important considerations such as the rest of the DNA data, geography, etc., and just looking at a crude probability that they even were contemporaneous, I get a 0.05% (1 in 2000) chance that could have been living at the same time such that they could have bred.

    This is very crude; but, assuming no bias in the ranges:
    YA (“Y Adam”): 70% chance he lived during the overlap period
    ME (“Mito Eve”): 57% chance she lived in the overlap period
    That’s a combined 40% chance they both lived in the overlap period.

    Dividing the overlap period into 20-year blocks (1400 of them) and assuming they would overlap for 20 years for breeding to happen successfully, that’s 1/1400. I multiplied that by 2, assuming YA has 2X the fertile period of ME and a 20-year fertile period for ME (seems reasonable for the time).

    You get (1/1400)*(2)*(0.40) = approx. 0.0005

    Very crude as I said, and of course it says nothing about whether they were within range of each other (seems very unlikely in itself; you could square the result above, not that such a number would mean anything; but it would be 1 chance in 4 million — better buy that lottery ticket!!).

    More fun with meaningless numbers …

  18. Stephen Barnard
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    non sequitur here:

    Heaven is infinite bliss, so it must have WIFI with infinite broadband. Hell only has dial-up.

    • Posted February 2, 2015 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      Well. of course WiFi, so God can listen in!

  19. Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    It’s so kind of the woomeisters to do the advance marketing work for the Albatross. Any thinking person who hasn’t heard of PCC and Googles him will find a wealth of accidental endorsements.

  20. MAUCH
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Am I correct that religious people do not understand that when scientists describe the mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal  Adam they are only claiming that that all of today’s population have a common heritage with these individuals? Scientists in no way are claiming that these two individuals were the only ones living in a garden with a talking snake?

    • gluonspring
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      It’s kind of amusing to be having an argument about population genetics with someone whose counter theory includes a talking snake.

      You’d think a debate with such a person would go like this (Craig, Geneticist):

      C: There was a real Adam and Eve that all humans are descendants of.
      G: Did Eve have conversations with a talking snake?
      C: Yes.
      G: I rest my case.

  21. Steve Pollard
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    I have never been quite happy about Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosome Adam being identified with unique individuals. Would it not be more accurate to say that they represent specific lineages (the only ones that have survived to the present day) rather than specific people? And if this is so, is it not also possible that the last surviving member of a different ME lineage could have died, say, only 50 years ago, before modern genetic dating techniques were developed?

    Or am I talking b*llocks as usual?

    • GBJames
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      It is one actual male and one actual female, but only with regard to the Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA. IOW, there was one male who had an Y chromosome that we guys all share. And there was one female who had the mitochondrial DNA that all of us are descendants of. But there is a whole lot of other DNA that isn’t included here. It could be that we share nothing at all with the fellow whose Y chromosome is in our ancestry. And maybe we share no nuclear DNA with “Mitochondrial Eve”.

      At least that’s how I understand it.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      This gets to a subject called ‘coalescent theory’, which is very powerful and important, but also damn hard to grasp without pictures. Here is one. Scroll down to the coalescence picture and click on it.
      ME and YA would literally be single individuals who lived in larger populations. Using ME as the example, she acquired a mutation in mitochondrial DNA in a developing egg, and passed it down in an unbroken line to the present. It could have been a maternal ancestor to her, but that does not really matter. All other mitochondrial lines ended at some point by someone not having a daughter. Some lines might have ended just before the DNA tests were done. Actually, there could really be lines today that are different, but not detected in the finite population screen. No matter, ME did exist, it just might not be the one we are describing.
      The key bit is that the process has to start from a single individual, since mutations start that way — one cell, in one individual. That is, it ‘coalesces’ to that individual.
      I hope I am right enough. It is damn tricky, coalescent theory.

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted February 2, 2015 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

        Mark: right, I think I understand the link. Yes, there was a single ME whose mitochondria have descended in an unbroken sequence to all of us today. That sequence may have begun with her or earlier. There may have been other sequences that have not survived because no daughters. Either way, no evidence for WLC’s strained assertions that ME and YA lead to A&E.

    • James
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

      Y-chromosomal Adam and mitochondrial Eve are not fixed individuals. They can always change. If a Y-lineage dies out, then by out definition of Y-chromosomal Adam, Adam no longer has to account for that lineage, and so Adam can change.

  22. Alex T
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    AFAICT, “Save me, Jebus” is a Simpsons joke from season 11, all of 15 years ago! If “getting a life” means getting out more and experiencing the world, then clearly it should be directed at the doofus who is only just now stumbling onto a pop-culture reference that’s been around for over a decade.

  23. eric
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Times like these, I like to step back and remind myself that WLC et al. are actually defending a story that describes the worst and most unnecessary collective punishment of all time like it’s a good thing.

  24. Timothy Hughbanks
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    As an inorganic chemist, I have always had fun with the ol’ “the speed of light was higher in the past” crap. I like ask such idiots whether they were aware of how different the physical and chemical properties of gold and mercury would be if the speed of light were much faster that it is “now”. Amusingly, gold would likely not have the color of … well, gold! And mercury would likely not be a liquid at room temperature.

    Similarly, you’d think the scourge of cancer would play a huge role in the Bible if mutation rates in the good old days greatly exceeded those of today – especially with people hanging around for 900 years.

    What a moron.

    • eric
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      Cancer? We should be so lucky. Increase the mutation rate by a couple orders of magnitude and I doubt most of us would have made it to birth.

      • Posted February 2, 2015 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        Or, to make the numbers work, IIRC, it requires the earth to have been *a gas* or something like that (maybe a plasma) at the time of the Garden of Eden. I’m all for different sorts of plants and stuff, but I’ve never seen a gaseous plant!

  25. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    There’s a basic logic flip on Craig’s part here.

    “He first denies that the historicity of Adam and Eve is critical for Original Sin. What? Well, says Craig, the Eastern Orthodox Church accepts the reality of Adam and Eve, but doesn’t believe in Original Sin.”

    Nope, WLC!!! That would mean belief in original sin is not critical for belief in Adam and Eve, NOT the other way around!!!

    As Augustine (main promulgator of the notion of original sin) well understood, you DO need Adam and Eve to believe in original sin!!

    And one can of course believe in neither.

    (And one has to have a quite different view of the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and alleged resurrection when you ditch original sin. The Eastern Orthodox have that as well, but Craig doesn’t want to go there.)

    • Posted February 2, 2015 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

      Well, not really. Many, possibly most, Christians understand the Genesis account of the Fall of Man to be a metaphor for the human condition, for the fundamental sinfulness of human nature. This does not require a literal Adam and Eve. You can believe that Jesus overcame sin and death without explicitly believing in the serpent and the apple.

      The problem with this understanding is that it is based on a misreading of Genesis, presumably by Paul, who believed that the Fall brought death into the world. It did not. Adam and Eve are never represented as having been created immortal: God states quite clearly that he has to kick them out of Eden before they eat of the Tree of Life, which would make them immortal.

      Genesis is a metaphor for the human condition, which, instead of lollygagging in a Garden that provides every material need and having no knowledge of such nuisances as good and evil, consists of working for a living and bearing children in pain. The concept of Original Sin is utterly foreign to Judaism, whose myth the Christians appropriated and distorted.

      I’ve often wondered if the original authors understood that metaphorical Adam actually did us a favor. Human existence is a lot more interesting out of the garden.

      • rickflick
        Posted February 2, 2015 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

        I agree. The idea of a metaphorical fall does not require a literal Adam and Eve. Pragmatically, myths and legends like the Bible are based in concerns that are natural to the human condition unfiltered by scientific understanding.

        The fun begins, really, with literalists like WLC. Many Christians would laugh at his antics. WLC reminds me of those performing contortionists from circus times who tie there limbs in knots to make a living.

  26. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Very interesting. Not just for the take-down of WLC, which is always fun, but for providing new information about our evolution. I did not know that Y chromosome Adam was possibly more recent, for example.

  27. Dominic
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Mitochondrial ‘Adam’ & ‘Eve’ for creationists must surely be Noah & Mrs Noah!

    • Dominic
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      I mean Y chromosome ‘Adam’ & motochondrial ‘Eve’ of course…

      They are the 4,000BC bottle-neck!

    • Dominic
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      All Noah-ed up after just watching that terrible film – Emma Watson, what were you thinking???

  28. Randy Schenck
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Religious radio, that’s where we go for science. The best parts were the “could be” and “we just don’t know”. But until the evidence is piled so high I can no longer spin it we will continue to have a job.

  29. Michael Johnson
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    “if mutation rates did change over time, you’d expect them to be higher not in ancient times, but recently, since now we’re exposed to all kinds of mutagens (like chemicals and X-rays)”

    I know what you mean, but this sounds really dumb. Seems to be saying that we weren’t exposed to chemicals (!) or X-rays in the past. Maybe “like certain chemicals and X-rays in larger amounts”.

    • eric
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Given the young earth timeline, I bet it would be relatively easy to disprove the mutation claim. We can literally dig up bodies from 2-3,000 years ago and check. Heck, if he’s making a mutation claim about animals (because of the Noah story; they had to arise from small bottlenecks too), we’ve got a fairly intact woolly mammoth we can check.

      • Posted February 2, 2015 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        That’s a great point.

      • rickflick
        Posted February 2, 2015 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

        Otzi, the mumified “ice man” dates from around 3,300 BCE. So that’s over 5,000 years BP. A critical data point. Say, isn’t that pretty close to the age of the Earth according to some literalists? Maybe Otzi is actually Adamzi?

        • Posted February 3, 2015 at 11:20 am | Permalink

          This sort of thing shows how impossible the “young earth” views really are – it is a real challenge, to say the least, to “graft on” the history needed. This is what seems to have eventually convinced people that something was amiss with the biblical chronology.

  30. colnago80
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Craig’s desperate invocation of the nonuniformity of mutation rates reminds me of those theologians who, seeing a contradiction between their beliefs in a young Earth and the fact that we can see light from stars millions of light-years away, invoke either a non-uniformity of the speed of light (“it was higher in the past”) or God’s creation of light in transit from the stars along with the stars (after all, what good would stars be to humans unless we could see their light as soon as God made them?). This isn’t science, but apologetics—an attempt to save an a priori emotional commitment.

    A couple of more sophisticated explanations have been proposed by one Russell Humphreys using gravitational time dilation and Jason Lisle who posits that light approaches us with infinite velocity and recedes from us at 0.5c.

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

      …posits that light approaches us with infinite velocity and recedes from us at 0.5c.

      LOL! So if you and I synchronize our watches and you travel to the moon, and by prearrangement we agree to shine our lasers on each other’s mirrors for half a second at exactly 12 midnight let’s work out when you and I will see each other’s laser pulse and when we will see the reflection of our own pulses.

      • colnago80
        Posted February 2, 2015 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

        This proposal works mathematically for instruments like interferometers because interferometers are two way system. In a one way system, of course, this would fail. I recall that the first accurate measurement was made with an instruments called a tooth tweedle which I recall was a one way system. My recollection is that the result was slightly high but quite far from infinite.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 3, 2015 at 12:28 am | Permalink

      “light approaches us with infinite velocity and recedes from us at 0.5c.”

      Wouldn’t we instantly vaporise in the universe’s biggest supernova explosion? E=mc^2 and all that?

  31. Dominic
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Lilith was Adam’s first wife…

  32. Mark R.
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    “So long as a belief in propositions is regarded as indispensable to salvation, the pursuit of truth as such is not possible, any more than it is possible for a man who is swimming for his life to make meteorological observations on the storm which threatens to overwhelm him.”
    -George Eliot

  33. ichiban
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    What really ticks me off about Craig is how disingenuous he is. He invokes science when it is compatible with his beliefs, ie possible overlap of mitochondrial Eve and y Adam; but just hands waves it away when it contradicts his beliefs, ie the size of the population bottleneck (the math could be wrong, really? that’s the best he could come up with! )

    Is just like the fine tuning advocates. They “calculate” the odds of all these different parameters, trying to find the probability of the universe coming about naturally. Then they invoke as the answer a supernatural all powerful, all knowing, disembodied super mind, which somehow just happens to exist. You would think they would then try and calculate the odds of something so extraordinary as that existing, but no, their interest in the probabilities of such things suddenly goes away.

    • darrelle
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      I know what you mean about Craig invoking science when it is convenient for him. But it isn’t so much when it is compatible with his beliefs as when he can distort it in a way that his target audience will buy and be impressed with.

  34. Jeffery
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    To accept Genesis as the literal word of God is absurd (unless God happens to be a really bad writer): in its first two pages are two major contradictions (KJV)- in Genesis 1: 24-27 God creates the beasts BEFORE man (24: “THEN God said ‘Let the Earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind'”; 26: “THEN God said, ‘Let Us make man in our image…'”), creating Adam and Eve at the same time (“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; MALE and FEMALE He created THEM”). Then the story starts over again (?), with God creating Adam first (Gen 2:7- “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground”); in 2:19 God creates the beasts, AFTER creating the garden and Adam, and “brought them to Adam to see what he would call them”. God, only then, in Genesis 2:21, creates Eve out of Adam’s rib.

    In Genesis 2: 16-17, shortly before (again) creating Eve, God says: “Of every tree in the garden you may freely eat”, except for one- “…but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”- they ate it, and did NOT die that day, proving the serpent to be more truthful than God (although, in the mental gymnastics so characteristic to Babble “interpretation”, this is often viewed as a “spiritual” death, which is nowhere referred to in the text).

    An interesting question arises when Eve eats the fruit: before she ate it, she had NO knowledge of good and evil (nor of what “death” was)- despite having been told by God to not eat it, she would have had no idea that this was a “bad” thing to do. So- was she, indeed, “willfully” disobeying God?

    After A&E ate the fruit and hid from God, in Genesis 3:9 God says to Adam, “Where are you?”- one would imagine that an omnipotent, all-knowing deity would KNOW where Adam was, and also would know that they’d eaten of the fruit, a fact which God belies by going on to ask, in 3:11, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded that you should not eat?”

    After cursing everyone roundly for their disobedience, also but making some nice skin clothing for the couple as a “a parting gift” (Gen. 3:21), God starts talking to Himself, in Genesis 3:22: “Behold, the man has become like one of US, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever—“. Who is this, “Us”? Is God referring to Himself as the “royal we”, or is this an indication that the beliefs of the time in which the tale was written included more than one God?

    I wonder how the story would have played out had Adam, in his wanderings through the garden, eaten the fruit of the tree of life BEFORE eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? After all, according to what God said in Gen 2:16, eating the fruit of the tree of life was perfectly OK- God would have been “stuck” with an immortal couple who knew what good and evil was!

    If all this seems appallingly confused, it’s because it is.

    If an all-knowing being creates a world, that being will know everything that’s going to happen in that world before it ever happens: this implies that God already knew Eve would eat the fruit, who’s going to turn against Him, and whom He’s going to send to Heaven and whom He’s going to punish in Hell. “Free” will isn’t an “out” either, because it doesn’t work: you can’t “fool” an all-knowing deity, nor can you do anything He doesn’t expect. Religionists claim that life without a belief in God would be “pointless”, and “meaningless”, yet, wouldn’t the above scenario be the most pointless, meaningless exercise that could possibly be?

    • kieran
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      Makes you wonder when there was a switch to monotheism with all the references to “our image” and the like

  35. Pliny the in Between
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Several years ago I did a post where WLC took on the role of Vizzini in a debate with the Man in Black on theology.

    Below are some of the quotes that allegedly came from him, illustrating the futility of arguing with the man.

    If the universe were discovered to be eternal, we’d be obliged to give up biblical inerrancy (as well as the kalam cosmological argument), since the Bible teaches that the universe was created a finite time ago. But obviously, that wouldn’t imply that God does not exist or that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.

    Of course, anyone (or, at least any sort of theist) can claim to have a self-authenticating witness of God to the truth of his religion. But the reason you argue with them is because they really don’t: either they’ve just had some emotional experience or else they’ve misinterpreted their religious experience. So you present arguments and evidence in favor of Christian theism and objections against their worldview in the hope that their false confidence will crack under the weight of the argument and they will come to know the truth.

    There are many things that I would take as proof for disbelief. Say, If Jesus’ bones were actually found, then the doctrine of his resurrection would be false and so Christianity would not be true and there would be no witness of the Holy Spirit. So if Jesus’ bones were found, no one should be a Christian. Fortunately, there is a witness of the Holy Spirit, and so it follows logically that Jesus’ bones will not be found. But I have proven that I am open to evidence against my faith should it be found

    For not only should I continue to have faith in God on the basis of the Spirit’s witness even if all the arguments for His existence were refuted, but I should continue to have faith in God even in the face of objections which I cannot at that time answer. The first claim is not really all that radical: I think most theologians, not to mention ordinary believers, would say that arguments of natural theology are not necessary in order for faith in God to be rational. In the absence of some argument for the truth of atheism, I can be perfectly rational to believe in God on the basis of the Spirit’s witness.

    I find it odd that because I also believe that there is a self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit, that fact is thought to somehow undermine the arguments and evidence I present.

    What I’m claiming is that even in the face of evidence against God which we cannot refute, we ought to believe in God on the basis of His Spirit’s witness. Apostasy is never the rational obligation of any believer, nor is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. God can be trusted to provide such powerful warrant for the great truths of the Gospel that we will never be rationally obliged to reject or desert Him.”

    If it were proven that morality were merely a socio-evolutionary tool, then theism would be false and there would then be no witness of the Holy Spirit, since God would not exist. For theism entails that objective moral values and duties exist. So if they didn’t, theism would obviously be false. The key here is the word “merely.” We can agree that the way in which we come to know moral values and duties is through the evolutionary process, but to conclude that they are therefore not objectively real would be to commit the genetic fallacy of trying to invalidate a view by showing how someone came to hold it. Absent a proof of atheism, the socio-evolutionary account of our moral beliefs does nothing to negate their objective validity.

    What I claim is that for the person who attends to it the witness of the Holy Spirit overwhelms the putative defeaters brought against the truths to which He bears witness.

    • Posted February 3, 2015 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      The universe *was* discovered to be eternal, once conservation laws were well established. (Note: Not the hubble volume.)

  36. Robert Seidel
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Remember, too, that Cain, when god exiles him for Abel’s murder, states fear of getting slain by “everyone”. Apparently, there were whole tribes lurking around besides the supposedly sole people on earth!

    The contradiction disappears, however, if you think of Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel as the original CHOSEN people, those worth the name “people” – and I think that is what the original authors of the story intended to say.

    • eric
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      I believe the hard core literalists get around that by claiming several hundred years pass between A&E and the Cain exile. Remember, they think the antediluvians lived for many hundreds of years. The “other people” are the offspring of the offspring etc.. of A&E.

      The inconsistency that I like bet about the Cain story is that you get fundies claiming there was no predation before the Fall – animals only ate plants (yeah, I know, its crazy) because that’s the way God wanted the system to work. Fast forward to Cain and Abel, and you see God punishing the gardener Cain for bringing him veggies, and rewarding the shepherd Abel for killing and cooking a sheep. Nice consistency there, authors.

      • Posted February 2, 2015 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

        Some Jewish scholars seen the Cain/Abel story as a metaphor of a clash of ways of life, between nomadism (Abel, good) and settled agriculture (Cain, evil). This is reinforced by Cain then going off and founding a city (even more evil than agriculture, if you’re a nomad).

        The point is that there are many more subtleties in Hebrew mythology than Christianity, literalist or otherwise, bothers to deal with. And there is more to theism than literalist Christianity.

        Of course, from our standpoint as nonbelievers, the greatest threat to the scientific worldview would seem to come from the fundamentalists. Fortunately they are also the easiest to shred in debate (while remembering, as noted above, that the purpose of debate is to convince the listener, not the opponent).

        • rickflick
          Posted February 2, 2015 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

          Again, I think you’re correct in pointing out that taking on literalists is like shooting perch in a bucket. The more interesting quest is to eradicate the more insidious limp liberal position. As we sometimes say, the metaphor enables the literal. It may be the wishy-washy hand waving apologists that really influence politics most.

          • eric
            Posted February 3, 2015 at 8:37 am | Permalink

            Agree with the first part but not the second. I think the more valuable effort is in reigning in the extremists who want to alter public policy in a bad way (e.g., put creationism and prayer back in schools). I’ll go with TJ on the issue of liberal theists – don’t care, they aren’t picking my pocket or trying to break my leg.

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted February 4, 2015 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

          Daniel Quinn’s book Ishmael is a spectacular development of that idea (among others), and not at all religious. One of the few books I’ve ever read that left me gasping at the import of the ideas.

          • Posted February 4, 2015 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

            I was unaware of it. I’ve looked it up. I’ll be reading it. Thank you for the pointer, Mark.

  37. Wim V
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Maybe it would be more useful to point out to Dr. Craig that evolution doesn’t allow for the essentialism he’s trying to inject into it: There is no such thing as a “first human”; there is no essential set of properties that we and this imagined “first human” have in common. Whichever arbitrary ancestor he points to in the past as the “first human”, that individual’s set of properties is more similar to his parents’ than they are to mine. In the same way, there was never a “first speaker of French.” I can understand how this inherent fuzziness could upset theological sensibilities, though.

  38. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I recently read Science and Religion: 5 Questions
    (ISBN-13: 978-8792130518, ed. Gregg Caruso)
    and recommend it. It’s a survey of what current “thinkers” (construed broadly – included philosophers, scientists and theologians) have to say about the compatibility of science and religion. Some responses are thought-provoking, some are not. Craig participated, and his response is among the latter. He takes a break from his usual butchering of cosmology and mathematics to butcher biology.

    I recommend the book to get an idea of the ideas and positions currently held. It is not a detailed defense of any one position.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted February 4, 2015 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

      the compatibility of science and religion

      I hear there’s another book on the subject coming out in May…

  39. Roan Ridgeway
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    “I’m inclined to stick to the literal Adam and Eve until I’m actually forced by the evidence to abandon that view, and I’m far from that point.”

    And one could be inclined to stick to the belief that the sun orbits the earth until actually forced by the evidence to abandon that view. One so inclined would be beyond all help for the existing evidence, in both cases, is overwhelming.

    Anyway, the claim that the available evidence is as yet insufficient is misleading for there will never be enough evidence for Craig. He is too practiced in the art of denial.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted February 4, 2015 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      Your analysis is obviously correct. Does anyone know what Craig’s view is concerning the age of the earth? If he’s a YEC, then he’s just joking about willing to be convinced by the evidence.

      • Posted February 4, 2015 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

        He’s an Old Earth creationist. From what I gather, his gap that God fills i at the beginning ( and possibly again when he ensouls people). He reads scientific literature and trots out some truly bizarre conclusions based on what Physicists say. In fact, I’ve seen him trot out the same contingent Universe argument against Sean Carroll and Lawrence Krauss. Both of them, especially Carroll, obliterated the assertions Craig made, yet he continues to drag the same argument out repeatedly hoping to capture some new ears each time. Willfully ignorant, to be charitable.

  40. Posted February 2, 2015 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    One thing that science education should really start addressing at some point is this whole “it is only a model, therefore I don’t need to believe it” schtick.

    I mean, you hear the same thing everywhere, e.g. when discussing climate change or economics; but the thing is, “human activities have no influence on climate” or “printing money always leads to inflation” are ALSO models, it isn’t only the better and more reality-fitting ones that are accepted by the experts.

    Similarly, Craig has an implicit model of population genetics the moment he makes an argument about Adam and Even, even if it is and incoherent and nonsensical one, so he shouldn’t be allowed to just say, the others use models and that is icky. We really cannot talk about a lot of things without invoking models of how we think those things behave.

  41. kelskye
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    “I don’t necessarily need to believe it – I just do.”

  42. J Smith
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    As usual Craig shows himself to be a complete idiot and ideologue in the service of sophisticated reworkings of his fundamentalism. So the point remains, why do prominent scientists and philosophers continue to debate this guy? His arguments are not really distinct from Ken Ham yet they think he is worth debating. The next generation of scientists and philosophers needs to decide that the need for these debates is over. We need to move on.

    • Greg Esres
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      “they think he is worth debating”

      Craig is a good debater and he’s certainly not an idiot, even though all of his arguments are bogus. It would be easier to say we should move on if we routed him during these debates, but we never do. There is a great opportunity for someone to make Craig look foolish on the stage, in the way that Jerry did for Haught.

      • Michael
        Posted February 2, 2015 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

        My favorite Craig debate is with Lawrence Krauss. I felt he did a stellar job. Not that Harris or Hitchens lost, but as many have mentioned before, Craig has a lot of debating experience and he SOUNDS good to the untrained ear. Krauss is the first one I’ve seen that demolished him. But if Coyne so desired, I’d love to see that. I also would have loved to have seen someone more sagacious take on Ken Ham, as long as that debate was going to take place anyway. I felt like Nye went easy on him.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted February 2, 2015 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

          Is that right? I haven’t seen it but I remember reading a post by Lawrence Krauss subsequent to a debate he’d had with Lane Craig(I don’t know how many the two have had) in which he made clear his unhappiness with Craig’s behaviour and intellectual dishonesty. Krauss didn’t seem to have come out of it well, but that was just my impression of his reaction, as, like I said, I haven’t seen the debate.

          I have seen Krauss utterly annihilate an Islamic debater called Hamza Tzortzis, to the extent that I genuinely felt sorry for the guy. There were points where he was so humiliated I was uncomfortable. He’s surprisingly ferocious in debate. So I can well imagine Krauss doing well. But then again, I’ve also seen him come unstuck when he’s up against philosophical logic-choppers, particularly on the subject of ‘something from nothing’. Which debate are you referring to?

          • Michael
            Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

            If I remember right, there were 3 Krauss/Craig debates as part of the same “tour” in Australia. The first one I remember feeling like Krauss didn’t come off quite as strong, but maybe a bit ingenuous. Perhaps that is the one he was writing about.

            They were all really good, but the other two stood out as superior, for me anyway. Especially since at one point Krauss called out Craig’s dishonesty blatantly and gave references.

            If you have some time to kill, I suggest watching them. They are a bit long, but highly entertaining. The Q&A parts were fun as well as the moderator let them go at it for awhile without interrupting.


            …I just watched a few minutes of these debates while preparing the links, and I must say there are portions of their dialogue that rival a Carlin bit. There is a common erroneous stigma that scientists are “boring”. Those people have not watched these!

            • Michael
              Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

              Sorry for not posting the link as a text. If this is overly irksome for anyone, please fix it.

              • Saul Sorrell-Till
                Posted February 3, 2015 at 9:19 am | Permalink

                Thanks very much…that’s exactly what I was looking for. It’s not surprising that when he’s denied a rigid debating format, and he’s forced to converse with someone in a spontaneous way, he apparently doesn’t do as well.

        • Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

          If you’re referring to the one in which they have more of an informal discussion, interruptions and all, then I agree. Craig can only come off strong in the context of a formal debate, and even then, he only seems strong to those who don’t see the emptiness of his arguments.

          But in a conversation, where he can be interrupted and told, on the spot, why the claim he’s making at that point is wrong, he loses.

          This is another conversation-style “debate” (with Yale philosopher Shelly Kagan) in which Craig does not look strong.

          • Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

            Ok. Let’s try again with the hyperlink.

            This is the debate.

            • Saul Sorrell-Till
              Posted February 3, 2015 at 9:08 am | Permalink

              Thanks Beefy, there’re so many Craig debates it’s bewildering. I think I’ve only seen him debate Peter Atkins(who’s bloody awful at debates) and Vic Stenger. Watching Craig and Carroll at the moment though.

              Only seen Krauss debate Hamza Tzortzis but that was an utter rhetorical evisceration. I think he’s great. An articulate, funny, likeable professor Frink.

  43. Stephen B
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    If anyone wants to see WLC get his clock cleaned and handed back to him check out this debate with Bart Ehrman from 2008 on the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus.

    • Greg Esres
      Posted February 2, 2015 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

      I don’t agree that Craig got his clock cleaned. I really don’t like the tack that Erhman took here….rather than arguing that Jesus rising from the dead didn’t happen, he merely argued that historical science can’t even consider the hypothesis.

      • Posted February 3, 2015 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        And this is a mistake for “our side” – one should be allowed to do “inference to the best explanation”, like in any other field.

      • Stephen
        Posted February 3, 2015 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        Greg you are of course entitled to your characterization but I think you miss the point. Ehrman is arguing as a historian. Not as an anti-apologist. Of course there are other approaches in dealing with people like WLC. But Ehrman is a historian so he approaches the subject as a historian.

  44. W.Benson
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    Genesis 2:21-24 describes in gruesome detail (see below) the rib-removal surgery of Adam, the rib from which Eve was made, as an object lesson for marital fidelity (using questionable logic) and as justification for calling the macrogametic sex “woman”. Without the rib, there would seem to be no moral imperative for husband and wife to become “one flesh”, whatever that may mean. Since the literal Eve was the literal flesh and bone creation (clone?) from Adam’s literal rib (“bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”; Eve must have been a very small woman), Eve was necessarily XY (or Adam XX) and the two genetically identical. Biblical literalism demands that the world’s first woman be nothing less than Adam’s transgender twin. Also N ≤ 2. Of course, God may have simply been ribbing us.

    “21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
    23 The man said,
    “This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
    she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”
    24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

  45. Prof.Pedant
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    “Our genome testifies to literally hundreds of ‘Adams and Eves’ who lived at different times”.

    There you go, problem solved.

    We are descended from many Adams and many Eves, people important to us because they are our progenitors and because of the consequences of the imperfect ways that they lived their lives. Consequences that echo throughout our lives today. Consequences that show our responsibility to lead generous, caring, and truthful lives, so that we may reduce the ‘burden of sin’ that our descendents have to bear.

    Contact me off-list for information on where to send the check Mr. Craig.

    [Rationalization Services ™ (dba as Making Stuff Up) are available for a number of quandaries, each and every rationalization is informed by and compatible with Science!]

  46. Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    I listened to the whole thing. A couple points stand out. The first is Craig’s smug, holier than thou attitude throughout, especially when he speaks of Mitochondrial Eve and Chromosomal Adam naturally being taken from the Bible, with what sounds like the insinuation that all atheists just know the Bible is true so we steal cultural references from it.

    Secondly, Craig finishes by saying there isn’t ample evidence to abandon the literal Adam and Eve story, yet this is the same man who takes as literal Yahweh’s commands to commit genocides. If that is literal, why are all these mind-numbingly boring pages of lineages not literal? I would say it presents a pretty big problem when the Bible attempts to trace lineages from Adam to Jesus and takes care to name every generation for 4000 years yet conveniently forgets about 146000 other years. If Adam and Eve are literal, then the young Earth would need to be literal too, else it is simply calling anything that is contradicted by science metaphor. Of course, we know that is exactly what is going on anyway. Lying for Jebus.

  47. James
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    Dear Dr. Coyne,

    Other comments have talked about this, I think it should be made clearer in the original post.

    (1) Original Sin ==> Adam and Eve

    (2) Adam and Eve =/=> Original Sin

    WLC says that Original Sin does not need Adam and Eve because the Greek Orthodox Church believes in Adam and Eve but not Original Sin. The Greek Orthodox Church can do that because of (2). WLC’s claim does not stand because of (1). In his own philosopher’s terms, Adam and Eve are necessary, but not sufficient, for original sin.

  48. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted February 2, 2015 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Original Sin is a hoax. I’ve been trying for ages to find a truly original sin, but whatever I think of, someone’s been there before. 😦

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 5, 2015 at 12:58 am | Permalink

      Ah, are you a Boomer, too?

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 5, 2015 at 1:15 am | Permalink

        Umm, I think so, if I’ve interpreted you correctly. Not sure of the relevance, though.

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 5, 2015 at 1:20 am | Permalink

          Because I discovered some time ago that as a Boomer, you can’t do anything unique. Just when you think you’re on some untrodden path there’ll be an article about how popular whatever it is, is.


          • Diane G.
            Posted February 5, 2015 at 1:21 am | Permalink

            Your excellent joke just reminded me of my lame truism. 😀

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted February 5, 2015 at 3:00 am | Permalink

            Ah yes. A bit like Rule 34 of the Internet ((which is not unrelated to un-original sin…)

  49. staffordgordon
    Posted February 3, 2015 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    I have read your excellent book and need no persuading.

    However, despite having repeatedly tried to “Unsubscribe” I continue to receive your Why Evolution is True emails.

    My Inbox is very busy and I don’t have time to continually delete them.

    Can you please take me off your mailing list.


    Stafford Gordon.

    • Posted February 3, 2015 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      Scroll to the end of any of those emails and follow the “Subscription Options” link.


  50. Stephen Barnard
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    All this misses the point. Even if there were a historical Adam and Eve, which is highly unlikely, does it make sense that when they listened to the talking snake and ate the apple, that that would condemn billions of people in the future, through no fault of their own, to eternal damnation and hellish torture if they refused to accept (or weren’t privy to) a particular religious dogma? The whole concept is ridiculous on its face. It’s only a manifestation of the Christian, and especially the Catholic, distaste of sex for anything but reproducing more Christians for the benefit of the bejeweled clergy.

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] The only question that remains is whether to accept or reject what Genesis 1-3 says. If a Christian goes with science and the universe being 14 billion years old, they must explain what they plan to do with Adam and Eve and the fall. Earlier this year, biologist Jerry Coyne had this to say about Adam and Eve: […]

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