Were Adam and Eve Real People?

by   |     |   gmatzko@bju.edu   |  

This is not a topic that fundamental Christians gave much thought to in the past. Of course, the first couple existed—the Bible is clear about that. But now even those describing themselves as evangelical believers challenge the existence of Adam and Eve, not just atheists.

According to Christianity Today, “Secularist brows furrowed in 2009 when President Obama chose prominent atheist-turned-Christian Francis S. Collins to be the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).” They needn’t have worried since Collins, one of the most eminent scientists ever to identify as an evangelical Christian, staunchly defends Darwinian evolution even as he insists on God as the Creator.

The Argument

In the pro-evolution book The Language of Science and Faith, Collins and his co-author announced that “unfortunately” the concepts of Adam and Eve as the literal first couple and the ancestors of all humans simply “do not fit the evidence.”

In late 2007, Collins launched the BioLogos Foundation to promote theistic evolution, especially among evangelicals. Dennis Venema, a senior fellow of BioLogos and a biologist at Trinity Western University, firmly states that there is no way we can be traced back to a single couple. He says with the mapping of the human genome, it’s clear that modern humans emerged from other primates as a large population—long before the Genesis time frame of a few thousand years ago.1

Despite what these evangelicals say, the Bible refers to an unmistakably literal Adam and Eve often. Genesis presents Adam and Eve as actual persons who had real children. In the NT, Adam stands at the beginning of Jesus’ genealogy of historical figures (Luke 3:38). Jesus referred to Adam and Eve as the first literal male and female united by God as the basis for a literal marriage (Matt. 19:4–5). “The first man Adam was made a living soul” (1 Cor. 15:45), whom Scripture compares to another literal human being, Christ, “the last Adam” (in 1 Cor. 15:22). The apostle Paul declared that literal death came upon all men because of Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:12–14).

The Answer

Those of us who believe in the infallibility of God’s Book, the Bible, know all of this. But how can we answer the scientific evidence published by Francis Collins and BioLogos? Their views are gaining acceptance among Christians as belief in a literal Adam and Eve declines among evangelical Christians worldwide.

Thanks to geneticist Dr. John Sanford and his colleagues in the creationist community, we now have the scientific evidence we need to affirm creationism’s validity. The problem is that Dr. Sanford’s writings are not readily accessible to most. In this article I would like to explain that evidence to you as clearly as possible so that you can explain it to others.

Genetics is the science of heredity. You don’t have to study genetics to know that children inherit traits from their parents. The units of inheritance are called “genes.” The information in the genes determining whether a person will have blue or brown eyes, etc., is written into a molecule called DNA. Genetics is the study of the rules that determine how the information coded into the DNA of the parents is scrambled, sorted and coded into the DNA of the children.

Genetic Uniqueness

The evolutionary belief regarding origins is that the human race and chimpanzees had a common ancestor. One famous bit of falsehood that is often repeated is that human genes are 98 percent identical to chimpanzee genes. The true figure is closer to 70 percent. So how did the 98 percent figure make it into the media? The scientist involved chose to consider only those portions of genes that were nearly identical and excluded those that were different. Using that same method, I could prove that I am 98 percent identical to a cockroach. The reason why evolutionists were so strongly committed to only a 2 percent difference is that larger differences would demolish the evolutionary explanation for human origins. However, the evidence tells a different story. Man is genetically unique.

Genetic Degeneration

It would be nice if the genetic information passed down to us from our parents and grandparents remained intact from one generation to another, but the sad fact is that the human race is degenerating. Every time a cell divides, a few mutations or errors in the genetic material arise. These are literally copying errors, and they’re consistently destructive. According to Dr. Sanford’s research, over 90 percent of these bad mutations are neither fixed nor removed. Individually they may be subtle, but they are accumulating at an alarming rate.

I asked Dr. Sanford how long the human race had before going extinct, and he said that it is hard to calculate, but he is pretty sure that we don’t have another 6,000 years. Evidence for this degeneration comes directly from the Old Testament, which records the age of death of individuals from Adam to King David. When we plot these lifespans against a timeline, a clear exponential decay curve emerges. We can safely rule out any kind of ancient fabrication since the ancients would not have had a very clear idea of either genetics or exponential decay curves.

Necessity of “Junk DNA”

This is not to say that there are not a number of important points of agreement between modern secular geneticists and Bible believers. For example, in the 1950s, secular scientists boldly proclaimed that 98 percent of the human genome is merely “junk DNA.” (The human genome is the complete set of genetic information for humans.) “Junk DNA” was supposed to be genetic material that doesn’t serve any purpose and is just something left over from our evolution from animals. But Christians at the time rejected that idea because they knew that the Creator God is a God of purpose. Happily, now in the 21st century, because of the human genome project, we all agree that so-called “junk DNA” is essential for life.

Genetic Diversity

We also can agree that there is a lot less diversity in the human genome than 6 million years of chimp-like ancestors’ evolving into people can account for. The secular geneticists explain this by adding a “population bottleneck” (a near-extinction event) to the human story. Bible-believing Christians actually see two “population bottlenecks” in the genetic data. The first one was just two people (Adam and Eve), and the second one was eight people on a large boat 10 generations later. The bottlenecks the evolutionist community proposes usually involve supervolcanos or an asteroid impact—rarely a worldwide flood.

The evolutionary story is that humans originated in Africa and then spread out to colonize the rest of the world. This is true; on a global scale the Middle East is in the same geographical region as Africa. In fact, the genetic evidence is best understood in terms of the Babylonian dispersal, when each group separated at the Tower of Babel carried parts of the human genome with them as they rapidly dispersed. This is why people originally living in different parts of the earth look different from each other.

Mitochondrial Eve

Evolutionists have coined the term “Mitochondrial Eve” for the mother of us all. Mitochondria are often referred to as the “powerhouses of the cells.” They generate the energy that our cells need to do their jobs. The information for the mitochondria is inherited only from mothers, and creationists and evolutionists all agree—based on the genetic data—that there was only one woman from whom the whole human race descended.

Dr. Sanford has analyzed 800 human mitochondrial sequences and has been able to reconstruct and publish Eve’s mitochondrial sequence. The interesting thing is that the average human being is only about 22 mutations removed from the Eve sequence (a mutation is a random mistake in the genetic material), although some individuals are as many as 100 mutations removed. Since the most recent estimate of the mutation rate in human mitochondria is about 0.5 per generation, it would require only 200 generations (less than 6,000 years) to account for all the changes that have accumulated.

Y Chromosome Adam

Evolutionists have also coined the term “Y Chromosome Adam” but regret having done so. The Y Chromosome is inherited only from the father. Again, we all agree that the whole human race descended from one man. The Y Chromosome mutates about twice as fast as the mitochondria, so we need to have enough time to get 300 mutations. Working out the math it appears that Mitochondrial Eve and Y Chromosome Adam lived during roughly the same time period less than 10,000 years ago. However, what if the evolutionists were right and Y Chromosome Adam lived 100,000 years ago? There would be 333 times more mutations than we actually see in the human genome!

That brings us back to our one big difference with Francis Collins and company. Collins has claimed that Adam and Eve are genetically impossible because there is too much variation in the human race to have come from one or two ancestors. This is ironic. Evolutionists claim that there was a recent and extreme genetic bottleneck to explain why there is so little diversity among humans, while at the same time claiming that there is too much diversity to allow for a biblical Adam and Eve!

Conclusion

What is the solution to this conundrum? Adam and Eve were not like us. They didn’t have parents. We do. There are only four genetic letters (A, T, C and G) that make up DNA, and there are fewer than 15 million common single-letter variants within the current human race. Even today a single person carries 4 million variations, and therefore, a married couple could almost account for half of all the diversity we see. But there is really no limit to how much diversity God could have designed into Adam and Eve. He could have even created different genomes in each of Adam’s and Eve’s reproductive cells if He had chosen to!

Genesis 3 records several effects of the fall on Adam and Eve. They felt guilt and shame (v. 7), they tried to change these conditions by their own efforts (v. 7), they fled from God’s presence out of fear of Him (vv. 8, 10), and they tried to blame their sin on another rather than confessing personal responsibility (vv. 12–13).

Things certainly haven’t changed much, have they? Because we act the same way, we know for sure that Adam and Eve were real people just like us. It is only by the sacrifice of the “second Adam” Jesus Christ and the grace He gives to those who ask that we can have any hope of overcoming their legacy.

 

1 http://www.npr.org/2011/08/09/138957812/evangelicals-question-the-existence-of-adam-and-eve

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Dr. George Matzko has been a faculty member in the Division of Natural Science for 39 years. In the 2018–19 school year, he and his wife, Darlene, will travel as science ambassadors for BJU.