Finding plausible answers to The Problem of Adam and Eve

It seems to me that the biggest problem with evolutionary creation is how to reconcile the Adam and Eve story with the theological significance of that story in the Bible. Deborah and Loren Haarsma rightfully acknowledge that there are either scientific or theological problems with each of the five ways of thinking about the Adam and Eve story in their final Origins video.

You can go the way of seeing Genesis 1-11 as figurative, but that leaves the question of where does ‘original sin,’ death, and the need for a savior, as well as how Paul’s apparent reference to a literal Adam fit in. You can go the route that the Adam and Eve story is all literal, but that totally contradicts mainstream scientific evidence. What remains is some mix of literal and figurative. I don’t think we have to ‘know’ exactly what that story was, but I think we need to have a ‘plausible’ answer to avoid the idea that evolutionary creationism doesn’t have a clue as to how science and faith can really reconcile.

I offer a ‘plausible’ reconciliation of this problem, which leaves room for variation to those who want to see it in different ways. You can read in lots of literal aspects or minimal literal aspects:

First, all homo sapiens, quite possibly including early ‘anatomically modern homo sapiens,’ were essentially advanced animals. They acted out of instinct, not any awareness of good or evil.

Sometime between 100,000 and 50,000 years ago, possibly after what science calls the “population bottleneck” leaving only 1,000 to 15,000 of them left, God could have completed the creation which He began billions of years before, by deeply interacting with a couple of chosen homo s. sapiens. While the story could have had lots of figurative and spiritual elements (including the beginning of ‘souls’, sin, spiritual life and spiritual death), it also could conceivably have a number of the literal elements that Genesis portrays.

As a result of the encounter with God, Adam & Eve ‘jumped the line’ to consciousness, symbolic thinking, language development, and an awareness of good and evil and free will, including to disobey God, which ultimately resulted in the first sin. They then influenced the surrounding homo s. sapiens, where their new excitement, behaviors, and story about God, would have spread, leading the others to also have an awareness of a new way of thinking, moral and immoral behavior, and free will - effectively ‘jumping the line’ to spiritual life as well, including sin and potential spiritual death. Eventually, this spread to all surviving lines of homo s. sapiens and all other hominids died out. It ultimately contributed to a big growth in symbolic thinking, consciousness, language, religious behavior, ability to make more advanced tools, ability to work together more, and to migrate more successfully. This was part of what scientists call “behaviorally modern homo sapiens,” “the Great Leap Forward” into modern behavior, and the “Out of Africa” migration to the rest of the world. Leading secular scientists like Ian Tattersall say that the speed of these changes (not counting the spiritual aspects which scientists don’t recognize) is “almost unimaginable.”

Adam and Eve in this way, become the spiritual father and mother of all soul based humans (who ultimately were the only humans left). For those who like the idea of Adam being the ‘proto-Israel,’ this could allow for that as well, although it is not required.

We tend to think of the introduction of evil and spiritual death as making it a pretty negative story, and it certainly is to some extent. However, there is huge beautiful step forward into spiritual life that took them way beyond animals in their earthly lives. Also, although it’s a little foggy here, but perhaps there is a way - for those who believed in the one God of Adam and Eve and/or sought to be ‘righteous’ – that they could be part of the ultimate resurrection.

By the way, @aleo has a somewhat similar theory told from the point of view of a Catholic.

What do you think?

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And what about the Neanderthal, Denosivans and Erectus Humans (pop. 1M+) who were living at the time all over Europe, Asia and Africa? What’s so special about Sapians?

@Patrick @DougK

Doug explained this quite well, I think, Patrick. The Homo species you name and also the archaic Homo sapiens (200,00 to ~40,000 yrs. BP) acted mostly by instinct and can be considered amoral. Just like Piinocchio, as soon as they acquired a conscience (ate of the tree of knowledge of good & evil or listened to Jimminy Cricket) and behaved accordingly they became Human(s). The evolutionary forces that shaped their biological nature were intrinsically selfish; i.e., they did not encourage true compassion and selfless love. God might have wanted those qualities in His creation, and so He used some biological mechanism, as yet unknown to science, to accomplish the Great Leap Forward that bestowed consciousness upon the ‘over-designed’ (exapted) Homo sapien brain. The ‘dark side’ of this gift was that A&E could now sin, whereas before they could not.

This scenario will undoubtedly NOT please all scientists or all evangelicals, but it is rationally plausible.

Welcome to the Tattersall Fan Club, Doug. He and Simon Conway Morris put the arguments of the New Atheists to shame.
Al Leo

The Neanderthals, Densovians, and Erectus Humans go back to about 700,000 years ago to about 40,000 years ago. Sapians lived a long side them and breed with them over this period. They all died out around 40,000 years old and only Sapians remained (and maybe Flores humans). There was little difference in their livestyles over most of this time period. All species hunted and cooked meat. At some point, they ritualistically adore their dead. They killed others of their own species and possibly ate them (cannibalism). They cared for their young and even their old. Neanderthals even heated water in caves. So how can you say that they were amoral and Sapians were not? A Neanderthals mother and father loved their children the same way as a Sapian mother and father loved their children.

When do you place (time and location) of your Great Leap Forward? The jump to agriculture? Which was gradual from as far as 32,000 years ago to about 12,000 years ago. At 12,000 years ago there were about 5M sapians all over five continents.

The Great Leap Forward is a term by scientists for “behaviorally modern human” behavior. The evidence of it was particularly in Europe 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. However, now that science shows that a lot of that behavior started happening in Northeast Africa and probably was a catalyst to the “Out of Africa” migration approximately 50,000 years ago. To avoid being too specific (which tends to limit a theory), by having a range of 50,000 to 100,000, I have allowed that the God interaction could have happened earlier, with the results happening more gradually.

Regarding Neanderthals, et all, I don’t know that they ‘loved’ their children anymore than animals that gently care for their children.

Elephants treat dead elephant carcasses with respect. While there is some evidence that hominids did on occasion also, it doesn’t rise to the level of consistent ‘behavioral modernity’ that science shows happened with homo s. sapiens in the time period climaxing about 50,000 years ago.

Yes, but what behaviors are they talking about? What behaviors did Sapians have that Neanderthals didn’t?

Hey, don’t disparage my ancestors. My genome contains about 1-2% Neanderthal DNA and I don’t like it when they are called just animals. I am thankful for my family hair and eye color from my Neanderthal ancestors. :wink:

I listed some of the biggest evidence of ‘behaviorally modern behavior’: growth in symbolic thinking, consciousness, language, religious behavior, ability to make more advanced tools, ability to work together more and to migrate more successfully.

By the way, you helped remind me to add the adjective “advanced” to “animals.” The predecessors to the behaviorally modern homo sapiens were definitely beyond the other animals of their day - but they did not rise to the level of being fully human.

At the time of their extinction about 40,000, Neanderthals and Sapian were pretty much the same in all these behaviors. So where do you put A&E? They have to be placed somewhere in a location and time. At 45,000 years ago, there were Sapians in Austrialia. And Neanderthals in Europe and Denosivans in Asia. About a million “advanced animals”. Where and when was A&E?

From everything I read, Neanderthals, and others did NOT show much advanced behavior like homo s. sapiens, despite having slightly larger brains. It goes to show that brain size isn’t everything.

Most likely, Adam & Eve were in Northwest Africa (where science shows that homo s. sapiens were concentrated after the population bottleneck). However, we don’t know for sure that was where they were and again I don’t want to limit this theory unnecessarily. The when would have been before the “Out of Africa” migration (which was about 50,000 years ago) but there is flexibility as to how much before.

Quite a lot of recent discoveries show that Neanderthals were as advanced as Sapians at the time of their extinction around 40,000 years ago. Google Neanderthal News to get the latest findings.

Well Northwest Africa was a busy place 50,000 years ago - About a million Homo Sapians, and pre-Sapians around with a lot of Neanderthals in Europe and Denosivans in Asia. The Sapians in West Africa as a population were no more advanced in behavior than the other Human Species. So A&E were Sapians? And other human species were not in the image of God? And did not fall, did not have original sin, weren’t saved? Very cruel to these people who gave humanity so much in the form of genes to protect us from certain diseases…

That’s very funny! I had never thought of the parallel with Pinocchio.


Hi Patrick

Obviously I have not viewed the evidence for the GLF myself. I depend on what respected paleoanthropologists publish. My preferred order for these are: Tattersall (Becoming Human, Masters of the Planet); Diamond (The Third Chimpanzee);S. C. Morris; & Christian de Duve. It came as a surprise to find Richard Dawkins supporting the GLF (The Ancestors Tale) since, for the appearance of humanity, he had to admit it was NOT “in small steps with no particular direction”. Of course, like myself, he was no expert. If you have not read these authors, I think you will enjoy them.

Yes, there is good evidence that Neanderthals and archaic Homo sapiens lived contemporaneously in the Levant for perhaps thousands of years. The amount of interbreeding is still a matter of contention, but is not important for its theological implications. Burials with grave goods does have important theological implications, according to Tattersall. It is common with modern Homo sapiens, beginning with Cro Magnon. With the Neanderthals it is absent (or extremely rare). The Neanderthal ‘grave with flowers’ at Shanidar has come into question, but it may indicate that the GLF may not be as sharp and definitive as I have implied.

My ‘rational scenario’ for Origins goes something like this: The rapid expansion of the brain of the Homo species was largely an exaptation (over-designed), imparting survival value in the face of environmental challenges, but providing more potential circuits than the IBM Watson computer by the time of the Neanderthals. At some point in time (~45,000 yrs ago and thru an as-yet-unidentified epigenetic mechanism) the brains of a few (perhaps just a couple) of Homo sapiens were transformed into a Mind capable of inventing words that symbolized both tangible and intangible concepts. [“In the beginning” (of humankind?) “was the word.”] In the later hominids, the larynx had descended to allow better articulation of vocal sounds, and these symbolic words could be transmitted to other Homo sapiens, teaching them and, in effect, ‘programming’ their brains to become minds. Over a period of thousands of years, this teaching/programming spread from its origin (perhaps the Levant) to everywhere Homo sapiens had migrated.

This scenario satisfied my personal difficulty in the belief in an immortal soul. If God created humans gradually through evolution, which is a scientific certainty from a biological perspective, how could He determine when to grant immortality to their souls? Genesis 2 & 3 says A&E ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which I interpreted as acquiring a Conscience and therefore responsibility for their behavior. The behavior of Homo sapiens took a GLF about 45,000 yrs ago, and that seemed to me to be a good point to, theologically, grant them the status of Humanity.

I really will welcome your critique of my scenario, Patrick. I know it must have ‘holes’ that I have not considered properly.
Al Leo

I really don’t have any critiques of your scenario as it relates to our species Homo Sapiens especially after the other human species have died out. But I am concerned how these other species especially Neanderthals are handled theologically. Why? I guess you can say I am humanistic. If we are going to treat all humans the same, should I treat humans with 1-2% Neanderthal genes the same as humans with no Neanderthal genes?. To me Neanderthals who lived from 600,000 to 40,000 years ago were every bit as human as I am. Shouldn’t they be treated the same theologically as Sapians? If so A&E moves way back in time to an ancestor of both Neanderthal and Sapians. This far back and it doesn’t make much sense to talk about a fall. If a tree of forbidden fruit with a talking serpent in it were found by a band of hominids, well the fruit would be eaten instinctively, perhaps saved to be given to children and I think that it would be a good chance the snake would be eaten also. So to me, given current scientific knowledge, A&E seem to be characters in a story meant to provide inspiration about the nature of God to/from the people of the ANE 3000 years ago. Nothing more or nothing less.

to me Neanderthals who lived from 600,000 to 40,000 years ago were every bit as human as I am.
Patrick, if you could transport a Neanderthal to the present day, do you think you could have this theological discussion with him/her? You are considering the Origin of Humans from a biological perspective. That’s what most folks do. You may not be comfortable with the distinction I make: for religious discussions we need to consider the Origin of Human Behavior. Teihard de Chardin called that the beginning of the Noosphere, the sphere of communicable Ideas, and that seems to coincide with the Great Leap Forward and the invention of language. It is important to consider the evolution of the Noosphere, for that is proceeding at a very rapid pace and is having a more noticeable impact on each of us than evolution in the Biosphere. And the Noosphere is spreading out from earth at the speed of light (radio waves), and if or when it reaches another intelligent form of life, we may be in for some surprises.

The Fall, the Forbidden Fruit and a talking Snake are all to be taken as myths that convey a truth not easily expressed in normal language. The brains of archaic Homo sapiens, the Neanderthals and earlier primates apparently were not ‘wired’ to express ideas in the form of precise language, and thus could not participate in the Noosphere. Since Cro-Magnon times we have a foot in both spheres, and it is sometimes confusing in assigning the cause of a problem to one or to the other.
Al Leo

[quote=“Patrick, post:14, topic:2707”]

I don’t think I could have any meaning discussion with him/her. But I feel confident that if a Neanderthal or Sapian baby (of 100,000 years ago) were put on my doorstep in 21st century America, that baby by high school and college age would be indistinguishable from the others in the classes (except for the brow ridges in in the case of a Neanderthal.) In fact I would think the Neanderthal would be a better wrestler because of it’s shorter huskier stature. But yes, he would be able to converse with you about theology as any other young adult.

To me theology is more of a cultural meme than a biological part of humanity.

There are many many people today with whom you could not have this kind of theological discussion… we facetiously call them neanderthals…

Hey that’s my (and your) ancestors (1-2%) that you are talking about. :grinning:

Or cousins, neighbors, posters…
. :slight_smile:

In fact, I detect some of this in my own mind from time to time…

I agree that theology is an offshoot of culture. But. in view of the compelling evidence for the GLF, Simon Conway Morris asked “What were the archaic Homo sapiens doing for 150,000 yrs? As far as their ‘culture of tool-making’ is concerned, there was only modest progress–about equal to the Neanderthals.” Almost certainly there was some biological change that initiated the Leap in the Homo sapien line. For instance, DNA methylation in mammalian genomes regulates gene expression, but it seems to have a different function in the brain where it is important in the maturation of neurons in the process of development. In my opinion, this is worth looking into in more detail.

So, Patrick, I think it is possible that you could raise a Neanderthal baby to be a functional human in today’s society, but it is not a certainty. I am in total agreement with the respect you show for the participants in the evolutionary process that produced each of us. Seldom does anyone thank them for their efforts to overcome the challenging environmental changes they faced.
Al Leo