Tuesday, March 17, 2020

BioLogos: Approaching Adam

BioLogos has a post on how to approach the teaching of the historical Adam aimed specifically at parents as they talk to their kids. Christy Hemphill writes:
If your kids are hearing a young earth creationist perspective at church or a Christian school, they may find those ideas very appealing and convincing for a time. Depending on your situation and personality, you may have to be careful not to put your kids in the middle of your own power struggles or debates with other adults in your lives. Kids need space and time to build their worldviews and figure stuff out for themselves. If you consistently model openness to questions and how to seek out reliable information to answer them, that will pay off. But at the end of the day, it will be your honesty and unconditional acceptance that will make you trustworthy to your kids, not the strength of your answers and arguments.

The other issue she discusses is something that rears its ugly head in my household regularly:
Most parents in the American context have to decide how to handle Santa Claus in their family. If you are one of the families that introduces the idea of Santa Claus to your children as make believe from the beginning, you probably still don’t want your kids to make themselves a persona non grata by ensuring every other kid in preschool is clued in. The analogy breaks down, of course, especially if you believe that Adam and Eve are historical figures, but most parents don’t want their kids to alienate others or be ostracized in some way for having different insights into Genesis than their peer group. What do you do when all your kids’ cousins, or friends from Sunday School, or classmates at the homeschool co-op are being taught something very different about Adam and Eve and the origins of humans?
I have been open with my kids about the fact that I am an evolutionary creationist and accept not just an old universe but evolution as it pertains to all life, including humans. We have not had a really good conversation about Adam and Eve because my thoughts are not concrete on this issue. While it is possible they were real people, it is clear from the account in Genesis that the entire episode is stylized, geographically truncated (what was happening on the rest of the planet at that time?) and reads like myth.  John Walton argues that the story is presenting theological truths at the expense of literal facts and that it mirrors other accounts of creation at that time period.

Dennis Venema presents some strong genetic evidence that the human population could never have been below the effective size of 10,000 and was likely much larger.  The other issue is the source for the original Mitochondrial Eve and Male Y chromosome.  As he puts it:
Current estimates place mitochondrial Eve just after the dawn of Homo sapiens as recorded in the fossil record, at about 180 KYA. This places her within our species. Until recently, Y-chromosome Adam was dated later, at about 50 KYA, the time of significant human migration out of Africa. Recently, however, a rare Y-chromosome variant has been found in modern humans that pushes back the last common ancestor of all human Y-chromosome DNA to approximately 210 KYA – which, interestingly enough, is right at the cusp of our own species as recorded in the fossil record. Since our species arose as a continuous population that gradually diverged from other hominins, there is no reason to expect that all of our DNA variation will come back to a common ancestor (or coalesce, to use the technical term) within our species. Indeed, some of our regular chromosomal variation does not coalesce within our species or even as far back as our common ancestral population with chimpanzees.
The problems for the literal Adam begin to mount very quickly and it becomes hard to make sure that you don't kill a child's faith with these nagging bits of evidence.

This is a thorny topic because it cuts to the beginning of the Bible and how we understand the notion of original sin.  As far as the historical Adam and Eve being the first people, the science since is unclear.

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