Problems with a literal Adam and Eve

Christians who take the bible literally often have a hard time explaining something to non-believers, and it has to do with these two people:

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As any good Christian will tell you, these are the first two humans that ever existed. Most people in this country–religious or not–are familiar with the basic premise of this story: god creates man, men gets lonely so god creates woman from man’s rib, talking snake tricks the two into eating forbidden fruit representing knowledge, and the two are cast from paradise. You know, typical love story.

What this story leaves out if you read the actual text is one minor detail: If every human that has ever existed originated from these two, why are we not all genetically fucked up mutant cousins? Some people might be tempted to say that there must have been other people, other tribes, that their offspring mated with. The problem with this explanation for people who read the bible literally is that there’s no room for this idea. It’s abundantly clear in the bible that Adam and Eve are the first people God creates. Eve is even referred to as “the mother of mankind.” Entire passages in Genesis are dedicated to “so and so begat so and so.” The only explanation for this with a literal interpretation is that Adam and Eve had kids, grandchildren, etc and it was just one giant familial orgy with brothers and sisters screwing grandchildren and mothers and what have you.

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Obviously, modern science has a lot of problems with this. That much inbreeding will yield crippling genetic anomalies in a relatively short period of time–certainly faster than the 6,000 years creationists think we’ve been on the planet. Just look at various royal families and how hemophilia and other genetic disorders run or ran rampant within them. That’s because royals were only allowed to breed with other royals, and this resulted in some, uh, double dipping into the gene pool. And that gene pool was even larger than the one we’re presented with in the bible–just two people.

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Hell, even before modern science, people realized that inbreeding–especially to as large an extent as apparently takes place in the bible–is a really bad idea. Do you ever wonder why incest is an almost universal taboo among cultures worldwide? It’s because even before people understood the biology of reproduction and genetics, they could plainly see that sexing up your son or brother resulted in some pretty fucked up babies. You don’t even need a scientific background to understand that this is a bad idea and that it’s extremely unlikely that such severe inbreeding over thousands of years could result in viable human beings.

So, as usual, creationists have to deny science by totally making something up. In this case, it’s the argument that Adam and Eve were perfect genetic specimens and therefore had no genetic abnormalities to pass on to their children. This is wrong for a variety of reasons, naturally. But one question we’re left with is where then did genetic abnormalities come from under this model? Well sin, of course! It’s all here at this Christian site, christiananswers.net. This site even starts with the assumption that incest on a massive level took place. They also acknowledge that in the present day it’s a bad idea for such incest to take place because of the inevitable genetic consequences. Their explanation?

Adam and Eve did not have accumulated genetic mistakes. When the first two people were created, they were physically perfect. Everything God made was “very good” (Genesis 1:31), so their genes were perfect—no mistakes! But, when sin entered the world (because of Adam—Genesis 3:6, Romans 5:12), God cursed the world so that the perfect creation then began to degenerate, that is, suffer death and decay (Romans 8:22). Over thousands of years, this degeneration has produced all sorts of genetic mistakes in living things.

This is such a terrible explanation for a variety of reasons (aside the the implication that the “curse” resulting from our sin is the “punishment” that we’re no longer allowed to sleep with our family members). First and foremost, Adam and Eve were not perfect. Just on the whole, I would say that two people who were dumb enough to be tricked by a talking snake–unless talking animals were a common thing back then–are far from perfect specimens. But moreover, “perfect” is an invention here to circumvent science.

Nowhere in Genesis does it say that Adam and Eve were perfect in any capacity. The site even quotes the literal words: “very good.” I’m sorry, but very good and perfect are not the same thing. They do not convey even remotely similar ideas. Perfect would indicate that something is flawless, while very good leaves a lot of room for flaws. Getting 100% on an exam is perfect-no errors! Getting a 95% on the same exam is a very good score, but still means that there are errors. The bible’s own text doesn’t support this explanation of perfection. It’s purely wishful thinking on the part of the creationist.

The second part about degradation over time leading to genetic mistakes is at least partially accurate. Yes, genes degrade over time and that causes lots of problems. But it’s not due to sin. I almost don’t know how people could be this ignorant. Sin does not cause genetic degradation. We know what causes genetic degradation and we know what causes errors. Science has shown conclusively that the quality and condition of our genes are affected by several factors: telomeres, damage from solar radiation, transcription and translation errors, free radicals, and epigenetics. None of these things has anything to do with moral behavior or a creator. And by the way, these are all things you can test and observe with your own eyes, in case there are any creationists reading this. In fact, let me launch into a little explanation or lesson here in case there are people who doubt the validity of science and embrace the biblical story.

Every chromosome–those things where your genetic information is stored–has telomeres. Think of a telomere as that little plastic thing on the end of your shoelace. Without the plastic cap thingy, the end of your shoelace becomes frayed and damaged and eventually the whole thing unravels. That’s exactly how telomeres protect your DNA. Unfortunately, lots of things and natural aging damage telomeres over time until eventually they can’t do as good a job protecting the integrity of your DNA and you get errors. It has nothing to do with sin.

I think we all know, even creationists, that radiation causes genetic abnormality. And you know what the biggest source of radiation is? THE SUN. That’s why skin cancer is such a big problem–because there’s no escaping the freakin’ sun. And guess what? Radiation damage is cumulative–all the damage adds up over time. The more you’re exposed, the more genetic damage. Now ask yourself: is the sun the result of sin? No, of course not. This just a natural consequence of living in this universe, and it is undoubtedly something that Adam and Eve and all their messed up mutant children would have experienced.

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Transcription and translation errors occur when your body attempts to read the information in your DNA and make use of it, but screws up somewhere along the way. Your body uses your DNA to make proteins, and proteins are responsible for you being you: you’re comprised of proteins, proteins do a lot of chemical work in your body, etc. But just like sometimes our minds transpose words or letters when writing or reading, so too does the body. And this results in a different blueprint, if you will, for the body to operate on. And voila, a mutation has occurred. But this isn’t because of sin, and it isn’t a punishment. In fact, without these errors, genetic variety wouldn’t be possible, and genetic variety (as even the Christian site acknowledges) is what keeps us all from being retarded cousins. So how could the very thing that ultimately ends up saving our genetic bacon be a punishment for sin?

Free radicals. You probably hear that you should eat more anti-oxidants. Well, that’s sound advice, because anti-oxidants help neutralize the activity of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are atoms or molecules that have an open covalent bond, and essentially go around stealing electrons from other atoms and molecules. So if a free radical steals the electron from some structure your body needs, you have now experienced what scientists call oxidative damage. Electrons are part of the building blocks of matter, and you can’t go around willy-nilly removing the very things the matter you’re composed of is made of without incurring damage. But again, this is not the result of sin. Free radicals are produced in lots of ways, and not even necessarily by the human body. Moreover, the processes that result free radicals within your body are metabolic processes–the ones that give your the energy and raw materials to live. Again, you biologically need this process…so how could it be a punishment for sin?

Epigenetics. This last one is the newest idea here, and basically boils down to the fact that things in the environment affect which genes are or aren’t expressed within your body. How much sleep you get, famine, water and air quality, even how much physical touch you got as a baby, all affect which genes in your body get turned on and off. And then guess what? Those genes are passed on to your kids in the inactivated or activated form! Again, the things that cause this are not the result of sin. The amount of sleep you get each night has nothing to do with morality or what someone did thousands of years ago.

I think it’s also important to note that as long as Adam and Eve and all their descendants lived on the same planet we do, there is no way that they could have avoided experiencing these things. This means that the moment Adam and Eve began to exist, they were no longer “perfect” genetically speaking, because they would have been subject to all of these things. There was no “perfect” DNA in the first place as long as they were hit by the rays of the sun, slept, ate, and their cells divided. Otherwise known as being “alive.” This necessitates repeating: anyone alive experiences genetic abnormality simply by being alive and subject to the natural world. And even if you do believe that Adam and Eve were perfect, you’d have to then believe that once they fell from grace or were expelled from paradise they were no longer protected from the natural processes of the world, so they still would have experienced genetic abnormality before, during, and after having kids. Which means they would have passed all their imperfect DNA on to their children, and so on down the line. So you see, there is no scenario where perfect DNA existed, and this model means that we should all look roughly like this now:

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Probably even worse, actually. You see, the longer someone is alive, the more of these natural processes they will experience. That’s why you’re much more likely to get cancer as an 80 year old than as a 5 year old. And given the fact that according to the bible all of these inbreeding people lived for like 900 years, they would have been accumulating about 12x the amount of genetic anomalies and damage that someone today would have.

Nothing about this creationist explanation makes sense. There is no biblical evidence that Adam and Eve had perfect genes. Sin is a poor explanation of our current genetic state because a lot of the processes that damage us are perfectly natural and occur everywhere in the universe and some are even beneficial to us. In fact, life couldn’t exist without a lot of those “errors” or “curses.” Life needs genetic diversity, and the way we get that is through a genetic error. Sometimes genetic traits that seem like a curse can even be beneficial. Did you know that people with sickle cell disease are more resistant to malaria because of it? The bible is a terrible place to get explanations for the natural world, and I think that this whole theory behind Adam and Eve is pretty clear evidence of that.

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23 thoughts on “Problems with a literal Adam and Eve

  1. Very funny post but there’s something I must say about this. The bible was also written by several different people and much of this was written for people to understand it …back then….So, it’s no surprise the writers and “ahem” editors may have completely omitted the possibility of any fallacy. No matter how ridiculous it is. Not saying I disagree with you, per se, but simply wanted to point that out. The Bible was meant to understood by people a very long time ago. The bible also doesn’t discuss several topics…

    1. I totally agree with you in that respect. Most religious scholars and authorites, dating all the way back to St. Augustine, agree that the bible should be read as an allegory, that it’s more of a guidebook than a literal historical or scientific document. I agree with that. The Creation story in genesis is clearly metaphorical, not literal. But there are people who do take it litetally. But that doesn’t exactly jive with the world we see around us.

  2. Got to love how science keeps the religion “editors” busy. “All that damnable science! “Coming along and shooting our bullshit out of the water, so that we have to add more bullshit to the bullshit!”

    Then the rubes suck it up, nod their heads as if they knew that already, and darn grateful someone made up the big fat lie to suit them. Such a fucked up world we live in.

  3. Adam and Eve were not only perfect but were also in a perfect environment. Obviously the processes which cause genetic damage didn’t exist before they sinned. One consequence of sin was that God cursed the ground. Perhaps he also cursed the sun so that it began to emit harmful radiation. Or they could have been immune and lost their immunity. Your arguments rest on the assumption that all the natural processes we see today have always been going on. God created the laws of nature and he has the power to change them.

    1. Of course my argument rests on the idea that these processes occurred back then–I have no reason to assume they did not and plenty of physical evidence to assume that they did.

      There is zero evidence in scripture that the sun is cursed or that god changed the laws of nature at any point after creation. That’s also an assumption, but one that is not based on evidence. The universe we see today can only exist as it does if the laws as we see them now existed back then as they do now.

      Plus, in genesis, when God creates light he looks at it and says that “it is good.” Would that not support the notion that light behaves exactly as god intended it to?

      1. The Bible tells us that sin affected nature as well as people. Romans 8:20-22 says, “the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” The Bible plainly says God cursed the earth after Adam sinned. Why couldn’t he have cursed the sun too?

        He did say that light was very good but that was before sin entered his creation.

      2. With all due respect, I think one had to insert a lot of personal interpretation and bias into that passage to get to the sum being cursed and sin leading specifically to genetic degrading and disease.

    2. More to the point, where is the evidence that Adam and Eve were perfect? Or that that eden was perfect?

      If there is no disease or no genetic degradation, people would essentially be immortal. Those are why people die of “old age.” If those things didn’t affect Adam and eve, then God would essentially be making them immortal, which does not seem to jive with the basic philosophy of god and Christianity.

      1. Without disease and genetic degradation people would be immortal and Adam and Eve were immortal before they sinned.

        The last part of Revelation tells us that God will create a new Heaven and a new earth. This will require drastic changes in the laws of nature. If he will do so in the future, why couldn’t he have done so in the past?

  4. Romans 5:12 says, “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin.” Death is a consequence of sin. God didn’t want Adam and Eve to sin; therefore he wanted them to be immortal.

    1. Okay, I still don’t see anything about “perfection.” The burden of proof is to show that Adam and Eve and eden were literally perfect, not how ancient people thought death and disease came to be before they knew what germs and genes were.

  5. What problems? I don’t see a problem here.

    Unless you read the Bible this way: http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/bible.htm

    There are about 31,000 verses, 31,101 verses, 31,102 verses, 31,170 verses and 31,175 verses in the Bible.

    Now, I can show you from the Bible that there is no problem in a literal Adam and Eve.

    Do you know why incest is a sin? It is because God’s law says so. And when was this law introduced?

    And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. (Galatians 3:17)

    Adam had only one wife. Eve had only one husband. Adam didn’t marry one of his daughters or their descendant . Eve did not marry one of her sons or their descendant.

    1. Thank you for you comment.

      People like myself have several problems with your argument, the first of which is that using the bible to justify what’s in the bible is circular reasoning. There’s absolutely zero proof that the Bible is the literal word of god; any such assertion rests squarely upon the faith of the believer.

      Second, what’s in the bible does not jive with what we know about astronomy, geology, biology, or reproduction and development.

      You also seem to be implying that incest can only occur if there is marriage involved, which is patently untrue. Am I interpreting your statement correctly?

      And lastly, “if you read the bible this way” is the biggest red flag of all. For a “perfect” and “divine” document it sure seems to have a lot of different iterations and interpretations. Even Christians can’t agree how it should be interpreted and read. That takes away a lot of credibility. It’s incredibly suspect that any god would wrap his message in convoluted and subjective poetry. The bible doesn’t come with instructions or some sort of system that tells the reader, “This part is literal, this part is metaphor.” How individual readers and sects of Christianity choose which parts are literal and which are metaphors is entirely subjective.

      1. Hi! I see what you mean. You want a book that is complete by itself. The Bible is such a book. As I mentioned before, there are about 31,000 verses, 31,101 verses, 31,102 verses, 31,170 verses and 31,175 verses in the Bible. So, when I quote a verse, this verse must not contradict the rest.

        The Bible is about saving of the Soul. You need God’s help to understand the Bible (as it is written). No man is perfect. The Bible itself cannot save us. It is God who gives us everything, including the wisdom to understand Him.

        All this is written in the Bible.

        Tell me something. When we have Millions of Books on every subject, why do we still have teachers, schools and etc.?

        Likewise, you need God and His Holy Spirit to understand the mind of God. I am not making this up. It is in the Bible. We can discuss further or leave it (as you will).

        Incest is incest! But only when there is a law. God’s law.

      2. I understand your point of view. Unfortunately, I don’t subscribe to the belief that there is anything divine about the Bible other than the fact that people claim it is. Such claims are without evidence and predicated completely upon belief. While that’s clearly enough for some people, it is not enough for me.

        We agree at least, that incest is bad. Although I would maintain that it would still be bad independent of any biblical law for a multitude of scientific reasons.

        A lot has been written and researched but the point of teachers, schools, etc is to teach one how to think, not what to think.

      3. Quote: A lot has been written and researched but the point of teachers, schools, etc is to teach one how to think, not what to think.

        This is also true when it comes to the Bible. One can only teach how to think, not what to think. We come to our own conclusion. But some don’t.

        If we all come from Adam and Eve, we are still committing incest, aren’t we?

        Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (Romans 5:12)

        (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

        (Romans 5:13) Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. (Romans 5:14)

    1. “And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters: 5And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.”

      That version is from the King James Bible. Genesis 5, for our other readers, is the “so and so begat so and so” part of the bible.

      But what exactly is this supposed to solve? If we start with the original premise–that God made one human being first (Adam) and then a single female (Eve), who exactly are all of these sons and daughters begat-ing with?

      I ask this in earnest, because nobody has been able to provide a good answer to how this sort of thing could occur without incest, and how that much incest could occur without substantial biological problems.

      If the problem is that the original premise is wrong–that God made multiple pairs of males and females first and not a single pair–I would appreciate it if you could point out to me the literary evidence for that in the bible.

  6. Ryan I’m just another Christian here, but I want to thank you for keeping your responses so objective and respectful. It’s a post that (as a Christian) I can read and actually think seriously about because you’re not flat-out insulting every aspect of the Bible, which I don’t think I’ve ever encountered in such in-depth analyses and responses.

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