For a few weeks now, I have been teaching in my church on the topic of belief and doubt, so I have been on a personal journey to understand the mind of the atheist so I can better understand the mind of the serious person who cannot cross the line of faith and possibly understand the mind of the person who wants to believe but is having difficulty taking the final step of commitment.
In the process, I have been learning things about the Theory of Evolution that have really interested me. I’ll get to a couple of those things in a moment, but first, let me tell you my perspective on the whole evolution and creation issue.
My Baseline Perspective on Biblical Creation
Two things inform my understanding of the teaching of the Bible regarding the Creation event.
- Genesis never claims to give us the mechanism of God’s creative process, but there is insight in the grammatical structure of God’s creative commands. They are mostly structured in the passive voice. God commands that something should be done, but doesn’t directly declare the mechanism by which they should be done except in a few cases. In one case, God says, “Let the land produce vegetation” (Ge 1:11). In one case, he says, “Let the land produce living creatures” (Ge 1:24). Finally, in the climax of the scene, God says, “Let us make man” (Ge 1:26). Therefore, it is biblically supported that God gives the power to produce life to the earth itself, but he himself presides over the creation of the first human beings.
- The days of creation may be literal days or metaphorical days or something in between. For example, they could be put into a framework where the author of the creation story is writing a first-hand account of what he saw during 6 consecutive days of visionary revelation. It’s possible that Moses, on Mount Sinai was given as it were a timelapse video vision of the history of the earth from the perspective of an observer hovering just above the surface of the earth. Nevertheless, the mathematical calculations of the age of the earth and the age of the universe are based on our understanding of the timeline of current-day natural processes (i.e. Carbon 14 decay). It is entirely plausible to me that the creator of the universe could have made everything as it is in six days and on the seventh day “rested” by slowing down the natural processes of the universe to the speed at which we observe them today. Was the universe actually created 13.7 billion years ago? Possibly. I accept that number as a mathematical reality expressing the consistency of scientific discovery even though I also accept that God could have started his creative work 6000 years ago. I am not threatened by the math indicating the earth is 5 billion years old.
So, about evolution
With these two things in mind, I have generally been able to reconcile my belief 100% with the theories of modern evolutionary science. I am not threatened by the claims of Darwinists that natural selection is capable of producing all the biodiversity that we see, and I am not scared by the theory that natural selection is capable of producing the appearance of design and even rudimentary social morality.
However, I have always maintained that human beings were a categorically different thing than all other animals. The account of Genesis 1, the account of Genesis 2, and Jesus’ later confirmation of the historicity of Adam and Eve have led me to believe that humans were specially created by God to be a completely new thing on the planet.
How do I deal with all the “hominid” claims in science like Neanderthal, Homo Erectus, and others? Well, I have always maintained that those animals were highly skilled primates, but categorically different from Adam and Eve and the species we call Homo Sapiens. Humans were formed from the dust of the ground.
Recently, though, I have learned some things that have challenged my thinking regarding the potential link between homo sapiens and other hominid species. Here are a couple of the things I have learned:
- The laryngeal nerve in humans is exactly like that in other mammals and is an example of a confusing design element. The nerve goes from the spine to the larynx (voice box) by traveling all the way down to the heart, looping through the aorta and back up to the larynx. It seems to be an incredibly inefficient design, but a look at the evolutionary “tree of life” gives a clear demonstration of animals where that pathway makes sense (in fish for example). Therefore, humans maintain a characteristic of other animals that in our case (and in the case of all mammals) doesn’t make sense.
- During the development of a human baby in the womb, there is a yolk sack present in the first few weeks of gestation. That sack is empty in human development, but it is exactly the same in many respects as the yolk sack in a reptile’s egg. Finally, humans have the same yolk-producing genes in our DNA as reptiles and birds do, but in our case, they are non-functional.
- Also during fetal development, at roughly the six month mark, human babies develop a thick coat of hair, that later falls off before birth. (I wonder if that’s why Esau was born so hairy?) This development of hair exactly mirrors the development of hair in primates like chimpanzees.
These three things indicate that God did not design Adam and Eve from scratch but that he reused a huge amount of the DNA of existing animals.
That in and of itself is not totally disturbing to me, but it shows me how there is a clear sequential set of developmental steps that connect us to other species on earth.
Reconciling Evolution with Adam and Eve
So how can I reconcile the evidence of human evolution with the teaching that Adam and Eve were both specially created and also the first human beings?
Here’s my thinking on that:
- God created Adam by taking the best DNA available (hominid DNA) and shaping a being from the material of earth. He may have had a biological parent (and therefore a bellybutton); although, I tend to believe he did not.
- God breathed into Adam the breath of life (Ge 2:7). If he were the biological child of a hominid, this was the transformative moment that changed him from “hominid” to “human.” If he were a completely new biological entity, this was the moment that started his life as a human.
- Anthropology indicates that the first humans began in Africa, but the Bible prefers Mesopotamia as the origin of humanity. It is a conflict unless we recognize that (1) we don’t know where Eden actually was, and (2) Genesis 2:8 tells us that God placed Adam in the garden after he was formed. God did not make Adam in the Garden of Eden.
- After the fall, Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden and would likely have encountered other hominids. This could explain where Cain got his wife, and this could also explain why God chose to have such similar DNA between humans and other hominids. Finally, it could also explain the strange account in Genesis 6 when “the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them.”
Therefore, I find it still plausible that God could have made Adam and Eve from completely new biological material choosing to reuse a huge percentage of existing DNA code, but I am also open to the possibility that Adam at least was the biological child of a soulless hominid but became a “living soul” when God breathed on him the “breath of life.”
What do you think?