First a short introduction to contextualize:
I appreciate very much the “It’s Okay to be Smart” videos, although sometimes contain misleading claims on Evolution, as Jerry Coyne and I myself have commented in [“Why Evolution is True”, my comment on December 31, 2015].
The video “There was no first human” you refer to is an excellent presentation of a brilliant thought-experiment by Richard Dawkins in his book “The Magic of Reality”, and in a corresponding video: I quote both in my articles and my video on “Original sin”.
In fact it was Dawkin’s thought experiment, together with the conversations with Richard Durbin and Mark Thomas, which prepared my mind for the sudden insight I had in Down House on September 14th, 2016, and elaborated later in my Essay:
Let me also say that Richard Dawkins is always for me a source of inspiration: Although he loudly insists to be an atheist, when you look attentively at what he claims you realize that he is strengthening the proofs of God’s existence after all (for an example see this video).
Having said that, the video “There was no first human” you link uses a subtle but big fallacy, which consists in constructing a paradox with the three following claims:
Claim 1: Every single human generation belongs to the same human species as its parents and as its children.
Claim 2: However going back 185 million generations, you find that your very distant grandfather was a fish.
Claim 3: Nonetheless it is biologically impossible to establish when the human species Homo sapiens begins, and consequently there was no first human person.
The fallacy consists in assuming that Claim 1 is a “principle of science” that holds for all animal species. Actually it holds only for the human species as it appears today, and it is not founded on science alone. From a strict biological perspective the concept of species is “useful nonsense” (as Thomas Mark provocatively says): When we use it, we are extrapolating from humans to animals. And for humans Claim 1 is a moral and legal principle, eminently important for assigning rights. It derives from the foundation of law: the observable basis for assigning rights is the human body; and we can unambiguously establish which body is a specific human one thanks the big gap Evolution has produced between us and non-human animals (see my Essay).
In fact, species didn’t evolve into other species: Life evolved by incredibly tiny leaps and “magical disappearance of intermediate varieties” into the sharply separate human species we know today: Until Homo sapiens personalis no group of animals is properly a “species”, and the use of this term is rather arbitrary.
Therefore, from a biological point of view it is true: There never was a first Homo sapiens, as there never was a first Chimp. By contrast there was a first human person or a primeval community of human persons, that is, humans with sense of law and capable to sin.
And how do you establish the time when these primeval human persons appeared on earth?
This time is undoubtedly well-known to God.
However in this respect you can read God’s mind by finding vestiges that reveal sense of law, and therefore capability to sin.
This is a very good point:
If you admit that divine intervention is not sort of biological engineering (Intelligent Design), then you can’t help admitting that way back then there were non-personal Homo sapiens animals, which were indistinguishable from us in every observable biological way. But (as I have repeatedly said) this do not allow you to think that today “going to Houston you may run into non-personal human animals” [quote from a beaglelady’s joke].
Does Genesis support the label “Homo sapiens animals”?
I think YES, in Genesis 2:7:
“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
The same term ‘living nefesh’ (‘living creature’) in the immediate context of Genesis refers clearly and repeatedly to non-human animals: these and ‘Adam’ are made from the dust of the ground, and are each a ‘living nefesh’. “It is not man’s possession of ‘the breath of life’ or his status as a ‘living creature’ that differentiates him from the animals”. [Wenham, G.J. p. 102]. Thus Genesis 2:7 can be read in correspondence to the gradual appearance of the species Homo sapiens in Africa about 500,000 years ago.
And you may still ask: How did the human ‘living nefesh’ (Homo sapiens animal) become a human person (Homo sapiens personalis)?
Well at a certain moment God endowed the Homo sapiens animals with sense of law. This happened at the spiritual level through some influence coming from outside space-time without any observable biological discontinuity. This is what Genesis 2:16-17, and Genesis 1:26-27 describe in marvelous terms.
The issue with the (spiritual) “immortal soul” is crucial to account for Jesus Christ “fully God and fully man” [Biologos, What we Believe, 4. I can elaborate on this in another post if you wish, or you read my article]. However, for the question we are debating here is not that crucial.
Here it is enough to acknowledge that: “God created humans in biological continuity with all life on earth, but also as spiritual beings.” [Biologos, What we Believe, 10.] This is the same as stating that human persons are incarnated immortal spirits.
And now I dare ask: Is it the problem that you feel you have to deny that we are called to have eternal life?
By the way ‘souls’, like angels and God Himself, head all directions: they all act from outside space-time, very much the same as quantum nonlocal influences do.
Thanks to you as well, and to all participating in this high quality debate, which is helping us to understand the Bible more in depth thanks Evolution.