Adam, Revisited

Discussion in 'Religion Archives' started by Balerion, Mar 2, 2013.

  1. Balerion Banned Banned

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    I stumbled across a very interesting article at another forum, and was curious to see what the regulars (and irregulars) here at Sci would think of it. It seems that we have been so preoccupied with the War on Science largely waged by Evangelicals, we've failed to notice the dissent within their own ranks. Conservative theologians are beginning to change their tune regarding a central tenet of their faith--the historicity of Adam and Eve--thanks to advances in our understanding of evolution, and the failure of the ID movement to compensate.

    Dennis Venema, a biologist at Trinity Western University, is one such convert. Dubbing himself an "evolutionary creationist," Venema has taken up the mantle of Dawkins by making evolutionary biology accessible to a broader audience by putting it in language we can all understand. His message is pretty shocking, considering the source. When asked how likely it is that we are all descended from Adam and Eve, Venema said, "That would be against all the genomic evidence that we've assembled over the last 20 years, so not likely at all." He addresses the subject further here:

    Venema says there is no way we can be traced back to a single couple. He says with the mapping of the human genome, it's clear that modern humans emerged from other primates as a large population — long before the Genesis time frame of a few thousand years ago. And given the genetic variation of people today, he says scientists can't get that population size below 10,000 people at any time in our evolutionary history.

    To get down to just two ancestors, Venema says, "You would have to postulate that there's been this absolutely astronomical mutation rate that has produced all these new variants in an incredibly short period of time. Those types of mutation rates are just not possible. It would mutate us out of existence."


    It should be noted that Venema is a senior fellow at BioLogos Foundation, which is a Christian advocacy group trying to reconcile science and faith. Such an endeavor isn't likely to win supporters on either side of the fence, but I think we can agree that science-based Christianity has the potential to be a more benign brand of Christianity than the big-tent nonsense we see from the Evangelical movement today. And the very existence of such a foundation begins to reframe the issue of evolution as not a disagreement between science and religion, but between scientific thought and unscientific thought. John Schneider, former professor of theology at Calvin College until he was forced out after publishing an article questioning the historicity of Adam, agrees, and sees Christians having the next move:

    "Evolution makes it pretty clear that in nature, and in the moral experience of human beings, there never was any such paradise to be lost," Schneider says. "So Christians, I think, have a challenge, have a job on their hands to reformulate some of their tradition about human beginnings."


    But Adam and Eve as fable rather than history is a tough pill to swallow for many Christians. Without Adam's sin, there is no Fall. Without the Fall, says Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, then this whole Jesus business is a mess:

    "When Adam sinned, he sinned for us," Mohler says. "And it's that very sinfulness that sets up our understanding of our need for a savior.

    Mohler says the Adam and Eve story is not just about a fall from paradise: It goes to the heart of Christianity. He notes that the Apostle Paul (in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15) argued that the whole point of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection was to undo Adam's original sin.

    "Without Adam, the work of Christ makes no sense whatsoever in Paul's description of the Gospel, which is the classic description of the Gospel we have in the New Testament," Mohler says.


    We always hear from fundamentalists that science is this good-old-boys network that smothers dissent so that it can evangelize its own mythology--evolutionary theory--so it was surprising (though it probably shouldn't have been) to discover that it is in fact the fundamentalist movements that silence dissenters, firing them or forcing them out of tenured positions for questioning tenets of the faith, particularly this one:

    This debate over a historical Adam and Eve is not just another heady squabble. It's ripping apart the evangelical intelligentsia.

    "Evangelicalism has a tendency to devour its young," says Daniel Harlow, a religion professor at Calvin College, a Christian Reformed school that subscribes to the fall of Adam and Eve as a central part of its faith.

    "You get evangelicals who push the envelope, maybe; they get the courage to work in sensitive, difficult areas," Harlow says. "And they get slapped down. They get fired or dismissed or pressured out."

    Harlow should know: Calvin College investigated him after he wrote an article questioning the historical Adam. His colleague and fellow theologian, John Schneider, wrote a similar article and was pressured to resign after 25 years at the college. Schneider is now beginning a research fellowship at Notre Dame.


    When the issue of evolution is considered from the perspective of debunking Adam, and therefore, at least by proxy, Jesus, it's easy to understand why heads within the Evangelical world tend to roll when they are less than wholly dismissive of it. To them, no Adam means no faith. In this context, it's safe to say that evolution is easily the greatest challenge to religion the world has seen. Of course, people like Dennis Venema will tell you that there's nothing for Christians to worry about.

    "There's nothing to be scared of here," Venema says. "There is nothing to be alarmed about. It's actually an opportunity to have an increasingly accurate understanding of the world — and from a Christian perspective, that's an increasingly accurate understanding of how God brought us into existence."

    A healthier, albeit still delusional way to approach the matter, to be sure. But regardless of the consequences to one's faith, many Evangelicals are saying it's time to face facts.

    "This stuff is unavoidable," says Dan Harlow at Calvin College. "Evangelicals have to either face up to it or they have to stick their head in the sand. And if they do that, they will lose whatever intellectual currency or respectability they have."

    "If so, that's simply the price we'll have to pay," says Southern Baptist seminary's Albert Mohler. "The moment you say 'We have to abandon this theology in order to have the respect of the world,' you end up with neither biblical orthodoxy nor the respect of the world."

    Mohler and others say if other Protestants want to accommodate science, fine. But they shouldn't be surprised if their faith unravels.

    (read the entire article here)

    So what do you think?
     
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  3. Tamorph Registered Member

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    It seems to me that everyone has 'faith' in something that can't be proven. Even scientists have 'faith' in their hypothesis. It's that faith that causes them to devise experiments to see if their hypothesis is valid or not.

    It also seems to me that many people believe in well proven scientific facts. This group of people still have faith in unproven hypothesis at the same time as believing the proven ones.

    It also seems to me that there are a third group of people. Those who put their faith in a hypothesis which has already evidentially been proven as incorrect. This third group are never going to believe the scientific facts as they believe they 'know' better.
     
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  5. Balerion Banned Banned

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    I'd suggest that the "faith" in action here is not the same as religious faith.

    Again, this seems like a misuse of the term "faith," at least in the sense that it's not the same kind of faith that makes up religious belief. For example, if a scientist (or a layperson) believes in String Theory, it's likely because there is some foundation for that belief. And they will adjust that belief in light of any evidence for or against, something which religious folks tend not to do. Some of them go to great lengths to avoid doing so. See some of our members' ridiculous arguments about the very nature of evidence. It's an Olympic-level exercise in mental gymnastics, all to avoid an uncomfortable truth.

    But that's not faith. That's the belief that they have enough evidence to accept this alternative hypothesis instead of the mainstream one. There are countless threads here written by kooks who think they have all the answers. For them, it's not a matter of faith at all, but a matter of hard science. In their minds, anyway.
     
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  7. Tamorph Registered Member

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    There are of course many definitions of faith in a good comprehensive dictionary. Whilst the first definition is almost always related to religion, the word 'faith' is not exclusively a religious word. The third definition in my dictionary is "belief that is not based on proof" and it is in that way that I've used it in my first post.

    Faith is something we act upon, and our actions then tend to prove or disprove the faith we held. If our actions (experiments or experience) prove that our faith was justified then they become certainties (facts) that can be built upon. If the actions prove our faith was misjudged then we should lose our faith in that particular belief and move on.

    Religious faith is the type of faith that some people retain whatever the evidence. There is no evidence for a historical Adam.
     
  8. Balerion Banned Banned

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    In any event, I'm not at all sure what point you're getting at, or how it relates to the OP.
     
  9. Saturnine Pariah Hell is other people Valued Senior Member

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    Thanks for bringing this in Balerion, That was a very interesting article. Hopefully this thread doesn’t grab the attention of any apologist (LG) I thought this video was related and figured that I’d bring in to share. The video takes a look at the morality of the adam and eve story.
    [video=youtube;cQBDGMj2h-c]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQBDGMj2h-c[/video]
     
  10. Balerion Banned Banned

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    Glad you liked it. Sadly, the usual suspects on that side of the debate are nothing like capable of having this discussion. At least, I've never seen any of them rise to the level of integrity required, so I'd be pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong. Anyway, I didn't really expect any great debate. Just thought it was interesting and wanted to share.

    Very nice! That's the quilasoup guy, isn't it? I love his/their videos. As for his take on Adam and Eve, how can I disagree?
     
  11. Saturnine Pariah Hell is other people Valued Senior Member

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    Had a feeling you would like it, glad to see that you enjoyed it. What he argues has been most interesting for me as an atheist. Coupled with the article you brought in I can see no reason to even fancy the notion of fundamentalist’s interpretation on a book written during the same age when making a telephone call would be considered magic, your average lifespan was around thirty years of age and let’s not forget the iron age treatment of women like animals. On an added note...The authors cannot even be properly verified or credited to any of the works. Elvis Presley was alive, and yet in modern times we cannot even discern which fried chicken recipe was really his or when it was written! So what could any apologist possibly construe or interpret as legitimate archeological evidence or just allegorical BS that dates from the millennia ago?[video=youtube;ZaLaTMaKjdY]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZaLaTMaKjdY[/video]
     
  12. Balerion Banned Banned

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    Not to mention that this god picked the worst place in the world to deliver its message. The Chinese could write by this time, yet he chooses illiterate desert-dwellers?
     
  13. Saturnine Pariah Hell is other people Valued Senior Member

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    Yeah! Let's give my infallible word to ill-literate desert people instead of those crafty fellas over in the Far East who are actually competent in accurate record keeping! I guess the good lord works in delusional ways.

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  14. Rav Valued Senior Member

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    For whatever reason I often think about the form that religious debates of the future will take. For the most part, there will be no credible squabbles about evolution anymore, or about the supremacy of any single religious doctrine (since the literal truth value of so many is significantly compromised by it). Theists will essentially all be deists, or pantheists/panentheists, or to do away with pesky labels, simply be people who believe in some mysterious force or animating principle. In fact I'd even go so far as to say that the apparent divide between theism and atheism will become significantly smaller as most atheists are somewhat more agnostic when it comes to the idea of god as "whatever it is that might finally explain what the fuck we're all doing here, if that is anything at all". You know, god as synonymous with the great unknown, the mystery of existence.

    It sounds so enlightened to me, so much closer to truth, simply by virtue of not being poisoned by an array of conflicting anthropomorphic and metaphysical attributes. And what does it set the stage for?



    Exactly. Something that everyone, regardless of their speculative metaphysical leanings, can engage in together.

    One can dream, huh?
     
  15. Balerion Banned Banned

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    I couldn't have put it better myself. I've always said that agnosticism is inherent in atheism, as no atheist claims to have knowledge of the ultimate answer. Once Islam gets over its teething stage--and it will, just as Christianity did--then all of the Abrahamic religions will become quite more benign.

    Agreed. I don't know if being agnostic to a potential deity is being closer to the truth, but it certainly makes relations between groups easier to manage. In other words, so long as atheists don't become fundamentalists, then we should be okay.
     
  16. gmilam Valued Senior Member

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    Evangelical and Fundamentalist are not exactly interchangable terms. But the OP is correct in:

    Which is why I find it odd that "evangelicals" who accept evolution will still call themselves Christian. It strikes me as a major disconnect in their reasoning.

    Then again, the "fundamentalist" would just claim that person has been deceived by Satan.
     
  17. Balerion Banned Banned

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    They certainly seem to be, as Evangelical Christians hold what most would consider a fundamentalist view of the bible. Could you expand upon that a bit?

    It is odd, and Evangelicals who hold such beliefs are considered heretics by other Evangelicals. It's like calling yourself a Christian without believing in Jesus. You can call yourself one, but...

    This seems like a non-sequitur.
     
  18. gmilam Valued Senior Member

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    From my observations, an evangelical is one who feels the need to evangelize. (aka - preach the gospel, convert others to Christianity.) While a fundamentalist would be a person who believes the bible is the inerrant word of God.

    So, while most fundmentalist are evangelical, not all evangelicals are fundamentalist.

    In what way? You just said yourself that Evangelicals who hold such beliefs are considered heretics by other Evangelicals...
     
  19. Balerion Banned Banned

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    I think maybe you're talking about the practice of evangelizing, while I'm talking about Evangelicalism. It's probably my fault, since I haven't used the term "Evangelicalism" yet, but I assumed it was implied, as it refers specifically to Evangelical Christians, which is a branch of the Protestant Church.


    It just didn't seem to follow from your previous point, is all. I agree with it, I just didn't see where it came from. No biggie.
     
  20. Rav Valued Senior Member

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    I meant that the more general philosophical conception of god as whatever might contextualize/explain our existence (whatever that could turn out to be) seems much closer to a truth than the absurd mess of inconsistency and contradiction that religion has collectively produced. Agnosticism with respect to the existence of such a mysterious metaphysical reality seems to me to be the most enlightened, most tenable position to take. Even those who formulate such an idea in theistic terms (such as some deists/pantheists etc) are on the same page with respect to possessing the freedom to approach an exploration of the natural order with an open mind.

    Indeed

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  21. Balerion Banned Banned

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    Well, that remains to be seen, doesn't it? lol. It's certainly less explicitly wrong than standard theism is. But then, so too is "2+2=3" less explicitly wrong than "2+2=3 except on Sundays when it = 5 and then only when you pray hard enough."

    Absolutely. Though it really is just a form of deism, so the people who still consider themselves theists upon adopting that position are kind of misnaming themselves.
     
  22. jayleew Who Cares Valued Senior Member

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    Right, they should be calling themselves apologeticists.
     
  23. gmilam Valued Senior Member

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    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evangelicalism
    Not to mention that there are even evangelical Catholics. (Mel Gibson comes to mind.)

    As such, I would still maintain that they are not synonymous, not that it's really important to the discussion.

    No problem. I can be guilty of making intuitive jumps that seem obvious to me, but may not be so obvious to others.
     

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