Nothing brings out the howls of derision among scientists like the subject of Adam and Eve in the garden, and the related subject of the age of mankind. This derision is not without foundation as the evidence that some form of human habitation has walked this earth for far more than the traditional 6,000 years or so that theologians claim is pretty strong. This is one area that seems pretty strongly in the scientists corner. Is the Bible wrong? Is the creation story and the account of Adam and Eve pure fantasy? Must people of faith take a bloody nose on this one? Maybe, maybe not. Even here I’ll bet we can find a plausible compromise that, at least, might be true. It could be true. If in fact we believe that there is a common source for all Homo- sapiens, which, by the way, anthropologists are constantly looking for and many believe they have found, then there Must be a story that satisfies both the evidence and the revealed truth.
Several obstacles stand in our way as we explore this story. Chief among them are the arguments that;
1. Adam and Eve were the first people on the earth.
2. Adam and Eve were immortal before the fall.
3. The Earth is only about 6,000 years ago.
These seem to be daunting obstacles that cannot find common ground with well established scientific theory. Fair enough, I love a good challenge. Let’s start by discussing the firstness of Adam and Eve.
Scientists love to classify things. They classify anything and everything from rocks to butterflies to bacteria to hominids – the general class of primates that includes Monkeys, Apes and Humans. Humans fall into a sub-classification of Homo which includes several extinct species including Kenyanthropus, Paranthropus and Australopithecus. Homo Neanderthalensis, (or Neanderthals) is considered to be the last ancestor of modern man. Homo-Sapiens (Us) are different from these ancestors; not in the way Africans are different from Asians who are different from Caucasians, but different as in the way Chimpanzees are different from Baboons who are different from Gorillas. To say that Australopithecus is human is incorrect on several levels. To say that Australopithecus is similar to human is correct. But similar is not the same as SAME. To disregard the claim that Adam and Eve (Admittedly just Anglicized names for whatever their real common names were) were the first humans because we have found bones from the Olduvai Gorge in Kenya, Africa that are dated at over a million years old is just not right. You see, none of those bones were from Homosapiens. In fact, anthropologists argued over what class they were from. The Leakeys, discoverers of those great finds, classified them one way and other researchers saw them differently. In no case, however, were they classified as Homosapiens. By the way, Dr. Louis Leakey was also a Christian missionary who believed in the theories of Darwin. He said “Nothing I’ve ever found has contradicted the Bible. It’s people with their finite minds who misread the Bible.”
So what is it that makes a human a human? I’m sure philosophers could debate this issue forever. We’ll forgo that and offer our own hypothesis. I believe that the single most defining trait of humans is that they have an innate sense of right and wrong. They have a conscience. While it is true that some people have pretty effectively erased those traits from their own lives, isn’t it also true that we accuse those same people of being ‘inhuman’? It is this innate sense of right and wrong that is variously called “the Light of Christ” or “the Divine Spark” that also makes us accountable for our ‘sins’ or misdeeds. When animals do something bad we say they are just following their instincts but when people do those same things we accuse them of wrong doing and say “you know better than that!” This accountability allows us to work righteousness and commit sin. This accountability is the only thing that allows us to be Judged of God (or however you view it) and allows us to be classified (I guess we all do it) as good or evil.
Could it be that when the Bible says that Adam and Eve were the first people on Earth what it was really saying is that Adam and Eve were the first Hominids to have a conscience and to be accountable for their actions? In this way, the disobedience that Adam and Eve displayed in the Garden of Eden would truly have been the “original sin”. Interestingly, the Bible says that God directed the creation and organization of all life on earth yet it is only mankind that is referred to as “the children of God” and it is only to humans that God calls himself our “Heavenly Father”. In this broader view could we not say that Adam and Eve are appropriate tags for the first of the species that we belong to, even though precursor species might have paved the way for our development?
The scriptures say that there was no death before the fall of Adam and Eve; that in fact death was introduced by the commission of the original disobedience in the garden. Hum? On the face of it, this just doesn’t make sense. After all, what about the food they, and all the animals, ate? Let’s say they ate fruit, a plum or a peach. Didn’t that fruit have to develop from the blossom of the tree from which it came? Didn’t that blossom have to flower to attract the bees that pollinated it? Isn’t it true that once a flower is pollinated the job of the flower is done and the petals wilt and die and fall away, leaving an ever swelling bud that turns into the fruit. Isn’t the death of a flower a death just the same? What about the fruit itself? If Adam and Eve ate anything didn’t that mean that whatever they ate died when it was plucked or at very least when it was eaten? Well, you get the point. This immortality claim is one that seems hard to accept. However, as we have discussed before (See previous blog “The 900 year old man”) age and aging is a very relative thing and it certainly is possible for a living being to have a much longer lifespan than is commonly thought.
But what is Death? The word is used in many different ways. When a living organism ceases to live we say it is dead. But we also use that word to signify the end of lots of other things. We all, for instance just witnessed the ‘death of Lehman Brothers’ a Wall St. firm that had lived for 150 years. When two lovers break up we say it was the death of a Romance. A fundamental societal shift can mark the death of an age as in “the death of innocence”. Indeed, the word death can denote many things, most of them bad.
There is one other form of death which all spiritual people fear; that is “Spiritual death”. Let’s say that spiritual death means the separation – or permanent separation if you like – of man from the presence of God. If the scriptures say that eternal life is being with God then eternal death would be the eternal separation from God. It must be something like this because the scriptures say that we can overcome spiritual death and that we can be born again; all words that indicate not an actual physical death or birth but a symbolic or spiritual death or birth. The bible states that the wages of sin is death so it is reasonable to say that we separate ourselves from God and Godliness when we sin – that is, when we disobey a principle that we know is true, something that animals don’t and can’t so.
It is plausible that the biblical account of the creation and of our first parents was referring to this death when it said that prior to the establishment of a life form that resembled and had the spark of God within; there was no death on the earth. The account in Genesis says that Adam and Eve’s death would come about if they disobeyed one of the Father’s edicts; that is, if they broke a rule, which was a sin. Sin separates us from righteousness and the spirit of God so it would have been true for Adam and Eve that in the day they ‘broke the rules’ they would surely die (spiritually die that is). We know that they did not die the very day they sinned (there’s that word die again) because as a punishment they were cast out of the garden into the ‘dark and dreary world’ where they had to toil for their food and shelter. In fact, Adam lived for over 900 years after he left the garden and we have no idea how long he and Eve were in the garden before the fall. Obviously God did not lie so obviously he meant something more esoteric when he said that “in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die!” If God can speak in metaphoric or symbolic terms then why can’t we take a more metaphoric or symbolic interpretation of his words? It is not a far stretch to say that Adam and Eve enjoyed the presence of God while they were in the garden. This was tantamount to eternal life. By sinning and being thrust out of the garden, and more importantly, being thrust out of the presence of God they were separated from Him and thus suffered a spiritual death. Again, I am not trying to preach any type of theology here; rather I am trying to see if it is possible to satisfy both Scientists and theologians; or, if there is any common ground from which to start the process of reconciliation.
The third claim (Well, actually it is an inference) of Genesis is best displayed by Matt Damon’s recent ‘call out’ of Sarah Palin over whether she actually believed that the earth was only 6,000 years old. It is true that the genealogies of the Bible indicate that about 6,000 years have elapsed from the days of Adam to the present. This is actually pretty well documented as the Biblical writers all seemed obsessed with genealogies. The truth is that all cultures up until the last hundred years or so have been obsessed with genealogies. Much of the social order was maintained by rights of survivorship and the traditions of the firstborn and so on. In modern times we don’t seem to care much about this anymore but it was an issue of vital importance throughout human history.
If we accept the ideas presented in the discussion of death just a few paragraphs ago we can cover this argument quickly. The Biblical account of the 6 creative periods indicates that the creation of the earth was a process of steps. The Haggadah says that the creation was actually many more steps but I guess it all boils down to how narrowly you define one individual step. The point is, the creation, even by biblical accounts didn’t occur in one giant ‘poof’ moment. It was an orderly process where one event followed another. Whenever anything follows a process I believe science can explain it. I personally believe God believes in order and all things were and are done in an orderly process. The scriptures imply that God is a god of order so it would follow that He used processes to organize and prepare the world for the eventual human habitation that it is today. The fact that Moses recounts this process in only 3 pages does not in any way imply that it occurred overnight. I have blogged before that the word day has many meanings and could easily, and surly, referred to a creative period much longer than a 24 hour period. How long each creative period was we can only speculate but the tectonic processes that could have caused the ‘Waters be gathered together and let the dry land to appear” could easily have taken many thousands or millions of years. The introduction of plants should have taken many eons as ecosystems were developed and stabilized. Likewise the animal kingdom must have gone through many iterations (as it continues to do even to this day) before becoming what we know today. Researchers say that twice in pre-Cambrian times more than 95% of the animal kingdom went extinct only to be followed by what they call the pre-Cambrian explosion when the majority of animal life appeared all at once (relatively speaking). The point is, the Earth could have been many millions, or thousands of millions of earth years old before we see the introduction of Adam and Eve in the Garden. The Bible, concerning itself with man and his relationship to God, would concern itself, except for a 3 page recap of the creation, only with the dealings between God and Man and that could well have been for only about the last 6,000 years.
I don’t know, I could be wrong.