I and others had some dialogue with Dennis Venema on the Biologos blog about his presuppositions in approaching the question of whether there could ever have been a single human couple. It seems clear from the comments that Venema has a strong presupposition that God did not intervene supernaturally in the creation of Adam and Eve and did not intervene supernaturally in any significant way in the history of humanity from its origin until the Bible makes reference to miracles such as the virgin birth of Jesus. I know of no theological basis for such a presupposition. I have called this kind of position “Theistic Materialism” and discuss in more detail here.
Notice the questions that Venema avoids, and how he avoids any discussion of historical contingency in his comments. Stephen Jay Gould did not dismiss such considerations, and observed the importance of distinguishing the methodology of the historical sciences from the methodology of experimental sciences. An extended quotation of Gould on this topic is here.
pds – #8686
April 5th 2010
In another thread, I asked you:
Bruce Waltke has stated that God “by direct creation made ADAM a spiritual being, an image of divine beings, for fellowship with himself by faith.” It also seems possible that God intervened in human history to specially create or affect other human beings.
If God did what Waltke and others believe he did, how would this have affected the genetic evidence? How would this affect the certainty of the historical conclusions we could draw from the genetic evidence?
You suggested that this was just like the YEC position that God created things with an appearance of age (with the implication drawn out by others that that would suggest that God was deceiving us). I disagree, and here is why:
Does God heal? What if a man prays that God will heal his wife’s breast cancer, and God responds by tweaking her BRCA genes? What if the first humans lived 200,000 years ago, and God tweaked human genes once every 200 years to heal in answer to prayer? That would mean 1000 changes to the human genes. How would that affect our current calculations? What if God intervened 5 times each year? Now we are at a million changes.
If God does things out of his love, and there are SIDE EFFECTS that affect the human gene pool, God is not deceiving us. We are deceiving ourselves by having too small an understanding of God and his work in history. Job 38 is instructive as to the epistemology we should adopt.
You said in that, “we do take a firm position on the scientific fact that two people could not have been the genetic progenitors of all humankind.”
Your claim that it is a “scientific fact” shows a clear error in your scientific methodology or your scientific reasoning or both. It is quite simply bad science. It also seems to involve bad history, bad theology or bad logic, or all of the above. Your claim may be a perfectly reasonable inference to draw depending on the assumptions that are behind it, but it is not a “scientific fact.” Christians would do well not to make such errors in evaluating the evidence and in evaluating the certainty that we can have based on the evidence.
The methodology for the historical sciences must be different than the methodology for the sciences that involve repeatable, observable data. I have never seen anyone at Biologos articulate the proper methodology for the historical sciences as well as Stephen Meyer (or even Stephen Jay Gould) has.
Dennis Venema – #8714
April 5th 2010
Are you suggesting that God would heal the germline version of the genes in question, or merely the somatic ones? A tumor in the body would be somatic tissue. If divine genetic intervention is to be heritable it would need to be “healed” in the cells that make sperm or eggs (the germline). Often, the genetic state in the tumor is different from the germline (since it was mutations in non-germline cells that started the cancer). In that case, there would be nothing to heal in the germline – only in the soma (body). So, I don’t think your ideas really fit the biology of the situation.
pds – #8723
April 5th 2010
Thanks for your reply. You should not get too hung up on my specific example. Based on your comment, a better example would be a prayer of a dying woman to protect her daughter and her children from the breast cancer that had killed her mother, her aunt, and now her. I think my basic point is clear: God might intervene in history to do something that might have a side effect of affecting the gene pool. There would be no intent to deceive us.
But let me ask you: Are you absolutely convinced that God has never touched the human gene pool in all of human history? If so, how?
I am not discounting your evidence. I am only saying it leads to inferences that must be tentative. Those inferences must then be weighed against other inferences from theology and philosophy.
Apart from theology, there are scientific reasons to be cautious of genetic evidence. Molecular phylogenies do not line up neatly with each other and do not line up neatly with morphological phylogenies.
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