My theory about the Flood

That paragraph is a train wreck. I can’t tell what it’s even trying to say, except that this is about as far from accurate as a word salad can get:

Until Homo sapiens personalis no group of animals is properly a “species”

Yikes! That’s nonsense.


@sfmatheson, I think I can get a grip on what @AntoineSuarez is trying to say. But the way he is saying it is certain to get him into a bar fight with molecular biologists some day!

If you are going to wrap your arms around a population over the span of centuries or eons, it is the same kind of problem face by those who steady Ring Species.

Individually, each population appears compatible with its neighboring population. It’s only when you compare the two terminal populations that we run into definitional troubles!

When the researcher is spanning time instead of geographical barriers the same problem can emerge. It’s only when the middle populations are eliminated that clarity is obtained:

If the Midwest Rabbits were to be wiped out tomorrow, we would have a clear case of two remaining populations (reproductively incompatible) who represent two species. If we bring back the Midwestern rabbit … have we changed this conclusion? Depending on your definitions, you haven’t changed anything. But as long as there are intermediate populations, genetic exchange can theoretically still happen between the Terminal Populations.

Conclusion?: Keep the definitions of Species relevant to the context! You can’t go into any bar of scientists and say that there is no species distinctions between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens. That’s just asking for troubles!

But some of us will know what you are trying to say. But you would be saying it badly.

We’ve all noted (or read someone who has noted), at one time or another, that just because modern alligators look like alligators from 20 million years ago, doesn’t mean they should be considered the same species.

But there was a time in natural philosophy where “appearance” was all we had to hang our hat on!

The Wiki article on Ernst Mayr is instructive in this point:

"Although Charles Darwin and others posited that multiple species could evolve from a single common ancestor, the mechanism by which this occurred was not understood, creating the species problem. Ernst Mayr approached the problem with a new definition for species. In his book Systematics and the Origin of Species (1942) he wrote that a species is not just a group of morphologically similar individuals, but a group that can breed only among themselves, "

This is pretty sexy thinking considering the discovery of DNA’s molecular structure was a decade away, right ?!?

As I have mentioned in another thread, the real irony here is that Mayr introduced reproductive compatibility as a litmus test for differentiating species - - which brings us full circle back to the Biblical understanding of “kinds”: animal “kinds” are those groups that can “produce” a new generation! What’s the test for a “kind”? Not an animal’s appearance… but its ability to produce “its own kind”.

While some flippant critics sometimes emphasize how poorly this kind of definition works in some situations, imagine how badly a definition based on Appearances worked!

Obviously the limitation to this definition of reproductive compatibility is that it pretty much doesn’t allow for testing modern populations against fossilized dead ones.

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I think BioLogos needs a content editor, don’t you? Accurate science writing is important.

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I dunno. It’s a discussion forum. I think the forum currently has several voices of knowledgeable experts who can and should watch for examples (like the latest one in this thread) of falsehood or significant error. A “content editor” would be nice but runs the risk of making the discussion look curated or controlled. Maybe another idea is for readers to be able to flag a post for the attention of “official” participants like @DennisVenema, so that a thread like this one (which I was ignoring due to its title) doesn’t turn into a place for irresponsible speculation couched in scientific (or theological) terms by a person who may seem credible at first glance.

I agree with your basic point, though, that accurate scientific writing anywhere, but especially at BL, is important enough that caveat lector is not a responsible position.


Thanks for this Jon.

I have more and more the impression that we agree to a large extent, and it may be worth trying to ascertain in which points we deviate from each other.

I think we both agree that the Flood has been an actual historical event around 3000 BC, and that on the basis of the available data this event must have happened along the following scenario:

  • About 100,000 humans living around Noah in Sumer became destroyed by the Flood because of their sins,

  • and about 7,000,000 humans living far away from Noah spread all over the world remained untouched.

In case you don’t agree to some of these tenets please let me know in order we can found common ground for arguing.

Now I further assume that:

  • The 7,000,000 human living beings living far away were incapable of sinning and therefore were not in “need of Salvation”.

  • After the Flood these living beings were transformed by God into human persons capable of sinning and in “need of Salvation”.

  • The postdiluvian Nephilim were descendants of these humans capable of sinning created after the Flood.

From our debate in this Forum I am getting the feeling that the terms “global” and “local” are not appropriate to interpret 2 Peter 2:5. In fact the message this inspired writing conveys is twofold:

  • “The ancient world” was the world where all humans capable to sin lived.

  • All these people (except Noah and his family) were destroyed by the Flood.

In other words, the author of 2 Peter 2:5 is speaking from the “Salvation perspective” of the “Council of Jerusalem”. For him “people” was synonymous of “human beings capable of sinning”.

This “Salvation perspective” is clearly supported by 1 Peter 3:18-21, where it is stated that Jesus Christ after resurrecting went to deliver the imprisoned spirits who were “ungodly” in the days of Noah immediately after the Flood, but apparently repented from their sins before dying (as Peter did after his denial of Jesus!), and were awaiting Jesus’ Resurrection to go to heaven together with the Righteous of the Old Testament (Abel, Noah, Abraham etc.).

Theologically Thomas Aquinas S.Th. III, q.73, a.3 interprets 1 Peter 3:20-21 in the sense that “there is no entering into salvation outside the Church, just as in the time of the deluge there was none outside the Ark, which denotes the Church.”

In summary for the writer(s) of the Letters of Peter what matters is “people” who were in need of Salvation and capable of sinning. According to the parsimony principle one should then choose as explanation that the 7,000,000 living far away from Noah were not capable of sinning.

Regarding the Nephilim we seem to agree that with Genesis 6:4 the Yahwist is interested in stressing that after the Flood there were in earth people who were not descendants from the 8 in the Ark.

Nonetheless, in my opinion, the interpretation that the Nephilim “living on on earth afterward” were necessarily "people capable of sinning who survived the Flood” does not follow from Genesis 6:4. One can very well interpret, as I do, that such Nephilim were the descendants of “the sons of God” created after the Flood. I think to decide this question we should previously settle the interpretation of the term “sons of God” in Genesis 6: 2 and 4.

Thanks in advance for your response.


Jon (and others reading Antoine’s latest post):

It’s important that you understand the “Catholic-Style” doctrine that @AntoineSuarez is relying upon!

I started a whole thread to discuss his scenario:

The former Pope (still breathing) started recent-times discussion of the idea … but I do not know if Antoine is saying that the retired Pope was the one to first formulate the idea in complete form … or if he merely picked up the burden to teach someone else’s idea from generations ago!

Antoine is now applying the idea (that was intended to apply even to Creationist interpretations of Post-Eden’s population) to the parallel problem of Biological Hominids being identical in all physical ways to the Hominid family that God adopted and “infused” with Moral understanding … making them humans as we now understand the term!

  1. Hominids abound (by Creation or by Evolution).

  2. God takes one, or one pair, and makes them Morally aware.

  3. By contact, or by God’s intervention in all future hominids, all humanity becomes morally aware within a finite number of generations.

4) At some point, the first behavior of Sin occurs. This is probably not because of the holy behavior of the hominids, but because it takes moral awareness to be guilty of sinning. Once God triggered Moral Awareness in all hominids, only then can the first Sin occur.

  1. God is confronted by the choice of “Saving” just the humans who have sinned (and ignoring the other non-sinners), or deciding if all humanities require the same treatment (whatever the treatment is).

  2. God concludes that he cannot ignore the non-sinning humans, because they are not exposed to Moral Choice if he does ignore them.

  3. God adds “The Original Sin” as part of their Soul for all humans born from now on.

  4. God is then able to extend the same grace and salvation to all Humans.

Correlate Conclusion: Original Sin is not transmitted genetically (genetics are a part of the flesh/physiological side)… but because God intentionally Includes the nature of “Original Sin” in each human soul.

Isn’t this getting overly complicated?

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Oh my yes… absolutely.

I think it is much simpler to set aside the Western doctrine of Original Sin. The Eastern Orthodox communities have done so for generations.

But what is fascinating about @AntoineSuarez’s approach is he has named the conduit for this Original Sin… it is the Soul… the Soul, with its “humanizing element” of Original Sin is being packaged together by God, and delivered to our fleshly expression of the soul in the “space-time” dimension… for our own good!

In his article he describes the human body as the material manifestation of our spiritual soul. A totally delicious idea.

For me, I see the human neo-cortex as the “physiological/neural” lense that focuses the Soul’s operations in a higher spatial plane, down into the mortal realm where it can be seen by flesh-based eyes and heard with flesh-based ears.

Actually the global population at around 3,000 BCE looks like it was probably around 12-14,000,000, but yeah most people were living outside the Mesopotamian region and yes I agree only those in the Mesopotamian flood basin were affected by the flood. There’s clear physical evidence for a Mesopotamian mega-flood at around 2,900 BCE.

  1. The people living far away were capable of sinning insofar as they were morally aware. They had a sense of right and wrong, and they formed societies in which morality was prescribed. However, they were unenlightened as to God’s law, so sin was not imputed to them. They were not responsible to the law of God.

  2. Consequently they had no need of being “transformed by God into human persons capable of sinning”. They were already human persons capable of sinning.

  3. A natural reading of the Genesis account is that the Nephilm preceded and ante-ceded the flood; they were around “in those days” (the days before the flood), “and after”.

I think you’re making it a lot more complicated than it needs to be.

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Just for clarity’s sake, let me summarize a key difference between your position and what it looks like is @AntoineSuarez’s position:

Jon, you propose 3 categories of hominids:

  1. Those who had Moral Agency, and knew God’s law, and violated it.

  2. Those who had Moral Agency, and didn’t know God’s law, and so were not “Sinners” in terms of God’s law, even though they could still act immorally, because even without awareness of God’s law, they had Moral Agency.

  3. And the foggy implication that somewhere in the evolution of hominids, there were proto-humans, on the verge of having Moral Agency, who couldn’t sin against God’s law, or against Human law, because they had not yet developed (or been given) the insights of Moral Agency.

Antoine’s categories are more chronologically arranged:

  1. Proto-human hominids achieve humanity, either because one group evolves to the stage of Moral Awareness, or is provided with Moral Awareness by God.

  2. This Moral Awareness (or Moral Agency) spreads throughout the entire human population. And virtually all humanity successfully resists violating the Morality they have become aware of.

  3. One kin group, associated with “Adam and Eve” as an historical couple or as a figurative representative of them, chooses to Sin against their Moral Awareness (while the rest of humanity (the Nephilim) continues not to.violate any of their Moral Awareness (with no differentiation between knowledge of God’s laws of their own devising).

  4. Eventually God decides to wipe out most of the immoral humans, with the exception of Noah and his family, but he decides to add the ingredient of “Original Sin” to the souls of all those born (presumably those born after the flood?), whether they were related to Noah or not, so that he could treat all humans alike by his grace of Salvation.

Naturally, I could be misunderstanding one or the other viewpoints, but offer this compare/contrast to help see the differences…

@Jonathan_Burke @AntoineSuarez

At the BioLogos conference there was a presentation by Alexander Saleh that I thought you guys might find interesting, as it seems relevant to these Adam and Eve and moral agency discussions.

Saleh was not speaking directly to the issue of the Fall, but he was jumping off Walton’s framework of functional ontology and material ontology and incorporating some ideas of psychologist William Harvey.

The gist of the argument went something like this: We have traditionally seen the cosmos as a collection of objects. But if we look at the cosmos as a collection of functions, then the focus is redirected to the ordered systems, not the individual components and capacities of the systems. If the primary emphasis of Genesis is as Walton says on the functions of creation then it is not on the (material) components or individual capacities of those components. ‘Very good’ means ready to function in the system (capacity), but accountability doesn’t exist until capacity is activated and functions are actually performed.

Using Walton’s temple inauguration model, Saleh argued that functions were not activated until the seventh day, when God took up his rest (rule) in his cosmic temple. He claimed there are several implications: 1) The designation “very good” doesn’t exist until the cosmic temple is instituted by God. 2) the existence of functions (capacities) is not the same thing as activation/performance of functions (capacities).

I thought these ideas might be interesting for your discussion since it seems to me that people are usually conflating moral agency (capacity to function) with moral accountability (performance of function) and Saleh teased those two things apart in an interesting way. Personally I think that the capacity for moral reasoning and behavior is not one and the same as “the image of God,” which I see as a conferred function and role, not a “component” of humanity. Being morally capable in no way requires God to confer image bearing status on humanity. Their performance of a role/function in God’s cosmic temple was independent of their capacity to perform the role.

I don’t know if the powers that be are planning on making the recordings of the presentations available at some point, but if they do maybe you would be interested in that one. It was called “Function, Genesis, and the Philosophy of Biology.”

If you mean there’s a difference between moral agency and moral acts, I agree. And I am actually differentiating between moral agency and moral accountability. Humans are morally accountable to any laws of which they are aware. So they are not accountable to God’s laws until they are aware of them, but they are accountable to human laws of which they are aware.

I agree with this.


Thanks Dennis for this apposite response!

You bring to me memories of the comedy “The Englishman Who Went up a Hill but Came down a Mountain”:

When does a hill cease to be a hill and become a mountain?

There is no way to answer this question by geographical concepts like ‘heights’ or ‘reliefs’. It requires an act of definition coming from outside geography, and may be useful for human practical purposes: Nowadays, the UK Ordnance Survey generally defines a mountain as having a minimum height of 610 meters or 2,000 feet.

Something similar happens with the beginning of humanity: It cannot be established by genetic or other biological means. Humanity is mainly a community of living beings governed by moral rules and law. As such a community, humanity begins at the time when God endows Homo sapiens with the sense of law, and humans become responsible to Him and capable of sinning. This is the moment referred to in Genesis 2:16-17. My tenet is that we can ascertain when this occurs by finding vestiges revealing sense of law.

In this respect the following story may be of interest:

In January 2014 I organized in London an Interdisciplinary Seminar to discuss the question of the compatibility of the emerging results in evolutionary genetics and the Christian teaching on original sin and atonement. Richard Durbin accepted my invitation to present his results and participate in a panel. And Denis Alexander was also there.

On January 3rd Richard and I met for lunch with Peter Adams, who was supposed to moderate the Conference panel in the afternoon. Toward the end Peter asked to Richard whether it is possible to define sharply the moment when the species Homo sapiens begins. After pondering a bit Richard arose from his chair saying: “I will add a slide in my presentation for answering this”, and he left for the library. And this was the slide he added to close his presentation:

“General points:

• From the point of view of biology, some units represent true discrete objects, others useful descriptive concepts:
–True objects: nucleotides, mutations, individuals
–Useful concepts: genes, species

• Compare to the relationship in geography between heights and contours as true physical measurements, and mountains as a useful concept.”

I remained amazed by the statement that ‘species’ is not a sharp biological concept but rather as fuzzy as the concept of ‘mountain’ in geography. This was the beginning of the “mental fight” that led to my Essay in BioLogos.

I became intrigued whether this view was supported by other authors, and soon discovered that Charles Darwin himself states in The Origin of the Species: “… I was much struck how entirely vague and arbitrary is the distinction between species and varieties.” However Darwin did not realize the crucial role of the elimination of intermediate varieties to the end of assigning rights. This may explain why he tends to use racist categories in describing Fuegians. In any case he overlooked a basic feature of Evolution. A bit the same like Einstein overlooked the fundamental role of Quantum Nonlocality in Physics.

In summary, I fully agree to your statement in #BioLogos2017: “when scientific evidence is strong we reexamine theological interpretation as general revelation is also of God.”

But we have the duty to give such a theological interpretation, if we do not want to slide in intellectual frivolity.

Like Francis Collins: “I feel for scientists who have to hide their faith at work, and hide their science at church.”

I think Denis Alexander is right: “there is no need to keep theology in a watertight box, in isolation from the materiality of the created order.” I myself try to act accordingly [see this Comment in Nature].

Why is nucleotide a true object but gene a concept?

I see what Durbin is trying to say here, and I think he’s roughly right. I would probably avoid the dichotomy and instead try a kind of a spectrum. ‘Nucleotide’ can be defined so as to deliberately encompass a finite number of specific objects. ‘Individual’ seems at first like it can, but on further reflection it’s more a concept than an object. Most are discrete, but there are situations in which that falls apart. ‘Mutation’ is fully a concept and not an object at all, IMO, since its definition is solely based on a historical process, analogous to ‘daughter.’ But an individual mutation, once defined, is something discrete and concrete. It is especially obvious (perhaps in an important way that I don’t see in the muddle of this thread) that ‘gene’ and ‘species’ are more concepts than objects, at least because neither is prone to obeying discrete boundaries.


Your posting is a nice contemplation. But I would add that the Biblical notion of “Kind” is rather specific:

A “kind” brings forth offspring (as embraced in Genesis 1); when the context is handled correctly: the correct handling of “kind” is to specify the chronological context!

In the long history of hominids, each set of parents represent a “kind”’ in respect to the offspring. And multipile sets of parents represent a “kind” in respect to their total population.

But we know and understand that a set of Homo erectus parents do not represent a “kind” to us, the great/great/grand descendants of Homo erectus.

An Alaska Rabbit and a Minnesota Rabbit, in a mating pair, represent a “kind” to their hybrid offspring, as do a Florida Rabbit and Minnesota Rabbit. But a pair of rabbits, one Alaskan and one Floridian, do not; there can be no offspring.

Changing the terminology from “kind” to “species” shows that the same context requirements apply to Species.

George, I still have my doubts about that. Growing up and until relatively recently when I started reading about the Ark Experience, when “all kinds of animals” was used in relation to Noah and the ark, it was synonymous with “all sorts of animals” or “all varieties of animals” and had nothing at all to do with classifications of biologic types. Only relatively recently was it used in that way, as a means to explain how the ark could hold all animal creation. I do not accept that definition as valid IMHO.



To be clear, I reject how YEC’s employ the use of the term “kind” … or how they use it to get out of the way of a related conclusion.

But I am using the word “kind” in connection with that video that @Socratic.Fanatic brought to us… showing a long running youtube feud between a Creationist and a skeptic… .it features a very simple and clear discussion on the Alaska Rabbit population vs. the Florida Rabbit population (which i will not repeat at this point).

It also shows how the Creationist instructor himself uses the word kind. And he is willing to step forward and use it the way it seems to be intended in this part of Genesis:

Gen 1:11
And God said, Let the Earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

Gen 1:12
And the Earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

Gen 1:24
And God said, Let the Earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the Earth after his kind: and it was so.

Gen 1:25 [a doublet of 1:24, where God inserts himself as the ultimate cause of The Earth]
And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

So it seems unavoidable that there are two themes in Creationism, to use the term “kinds” in the most general and loose sense of the word (to mean general categories), or in the most specific sense of the word (to mean the offspring of a genetic type reproductively compatible with other members of that type).

The former really doesn’t do Creationists any good at all, because they still have to propose Hyper-Speciation of all the animals “of a general type” as soon as they are released from the Ark.

The latter has the benefit of being Biblically consistent and of being compatible with genetics.

Over time, I have no doubt that Creationists will disavow the more specific meaning. But that doesn’t mean we should reject it’s use. It’s the one place in Genesis that is perfectly consistent with our view of how speciation can be consistent with the Bible… and we should embrace it’s simplicity (as it is demonstrated in the video).

[Youtube video below: aka Potholder/Sketpci vs. Creationist Hovind on Alaska Rabbits]

So what is your definition of “kind”?

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A “kind” is represented by the members of a population that are genetically similar enough that they are reproductively compatible, and produce (“after their kind”) offspring.

This is virtually the same definition proposed and encouraged by Prof. Ernst Mayr - - for the word Species - - more than 50 years ago!