I’ve expressed my appreciation before (here, here and here for example) of population geneticist David L Wilcox in his thoroughly orthodox integration of standard evolutionary theory with historic faith. Most recently I noted that James Stump at BioLogos flatly contradicted his statement that theistic evolution, by definition, meant guidance by God.
Well, now I’ve stumbled upon the notes he made for a talk for ASA this year called Updating our Genetic Prehistory which has given me some ideas for a useful new series on Adam.
It would have been a good session to get to for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a great update on the state of knowledge about our genetic ancestry. Unfortunately that aspect of it is also quite technical and complex for the non-biologist, but that’s the nature of the beast. He covers, though, the recent discoveries about hybridisation between modern humans and Neanderthals and the lowdown on the so-called Denisovian remains. Up-to-date calculations regarding “Y-Adam” and “Mitochondrial Eve” and so on are quite instructive. But download and read the notes yourself – you can always skip any bits where your eyes glaze over.
A few scattered points that I found interesting. One is that he dealt respectfully and objectively with the Young Earth Creationist position of baraminology. He concluded that the data didn’t fit this pattern well – but he didn’t crow about it any more than he did over other hypotheses that proved mistaken. That’s refreshing.
Another plus was his understanding and embracing of the findings of ENCODE and the other new kids on the biological block. One might have been reading James Shapiro in the emphasis on “Alu sequences” not as irrelevant and undesigned parasites (as Ayala on BioLogos in 2011), but as some of the key elements involved in human evolution. Rather than parroting the old mantra of the similarity between the human and chimp genome, he dealt with the vast difference in the non-coding sequences, recognising their huge importance as genes involved with complex control networks – with at least one more entire level of organisation in humans than in apes.
Admittedly, the recent advances in science account for this emphasis – but in some quarters they seem to have gone almost unnoticed.
The notes seem to drop slight hints about the degree of randomness of these massive and rapid changes, and I would love to know if he said more at the session. He believes that God controls every stage in evolution, and that “chance is, in fact, the hand of God.” I’d love to know how he discusses such issues in the very detailed, and orthodox, population genetics he is covering.
Well, to the issue that I’d like to build into a series. Towards the end, Wilcox has a slide of the various positions that have been suggested in relation to a historic Adam and Eve. My impression is that he has none of the angst about accepting a historical basis than some other TEs, but doesn’t seem to have opted firmly for one model (though I could be wrong there). Yet it would be good for us to examine – with the range of academic and theological backgrounds available to us – the strengths and weaknesses of each model. So to end this, I’ll list them as described in Wilcox’s notes, and do a piece on each one for comment over the next little while. Please – no comments yet on the relative merits of these, until they are fleshed out. The next article will give the biblical background.
Models of Adam and the sin problem (and links to posts)
- Generic Head – Sin originated with Adam, and has been passed along to all his descendents (which is everybody) like a genetic inheritance. (? Does this mean Adam was the only ancestor for the race –or just a particular man who is in all our genealogies? – AKA, Y chromosome Adam).
- Federal Head – Sin originated with Adam. He was not the only man living, but God appointed him as representative and put him to the test. When he sinned, sin passed on to all men everywhere (and when) by divine fiat. I.E., there was a sudden transformation of human life.
- Tribal Head – Adam was the “head man” of a small tribe put in the garden. The tribe was put to the test, and they all followed Adam’s lead into sin. We are all descended from that tribe (alone?) and have inherited their sinful nature.
- Cultural Head – Adam was the appointed race representative in the garden. He sinned. Sin passed on from Adam to all other people then (and now) alive by communication between people – especially in families. Human society suffered a gradual transformation as sin spread like an infectious disease.
- Experimental Head – Sin was already there, but we don’t know how – that’s why the garden was needed, the perfect environment. Adam was the experimental proof of the human condition – he showed we humans are all sinners by nature – that it is not environmental.
- Symbolic Head – Adam was a character in a story told to illustrate the human dilemma – we are sinners for some reason or other. But the story does not represent the origin of that state, only its nature as rebellion against God.