Darwin Was Right…of Course

Charles Darwin was one of the first to propose that all of mankind had a common ancestor who originated in Africa.  In his book the Descent of Man he writes:

“In each great region of the world the living mammals are closely related to the extinct species of the same region. It is, therefore, probable that Africa was formerly inhabited by extinct apes closely allied to the gorilla and chimpanzee; and as these two species are now man’s nearest allies, it is somewhat more probable that our early progenitors lived on the African continent than elsewhere.”

The prediction was prophetic, because at the time, in 1871, there were very few human fossils of ancient hominids available. About fifty years later Darwin was vindicated, as anthropologists began finding numerous fossils of ancient hominids all over Africa.

Nowadays we know about many dead end semi-human models that didn’t make the cut.  They have names such as Homo ergaster, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Homo Neanderthal, etc., and they are precursors to fully modern Homo sapiens…or us.  Unlike the apes and chimps and Bonobos we see today these early precursors walked upright and made and used tools. Their time on earth ranged from a little over 2 million (some say 3 million) years ago to about 25,000 years ago for Neanderthals.

Modern humans like us have been roaming around the earth for about 200,000 years, so we overlapped some of the old species and possibly interacted somewhat with the Neanderthals. With the advent of modern DNA science we now have the ability to trace bloodlines back in time many tens of thousands of years and we can determine times-lines and histories of migrations of our human ancestors.

Wikipedia says:
“Because DNA collects mutations over time, which are then inherited, it contains historical information and by comparing DNA sequences, geneticists can infer the evolutionary history of organisms, their phylogeny. This field of phylogenetics is a powerful tool in evolutionary biology. If DNA sequences within a species are compared, population geneticists can learn the history of particular populations. This can be used in studies ranging from ecological genetics to anthropology; for example, DNA evidence is being used to try to identify the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.”  Go Here

Using DNA studies scientists have been able to trace our male and female blood lines back to the last common ancestors in our remote past.

From Wikipedia:
Mitochondrial Eve (mt-mrca) is the name given by researchers to the woman who is defined as the matrilineal most recent common ancestor (MRCA) for all currently living humans. Passed down from mother to offspring, her mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is now found in all living humans: every mtDNA in every living person is derived from hers. Mitochondrial Eve is the female counterpart of Y-chromosomal Adam, the patrilineal most recent common ancestor, although they lived at different times.  Mitochondrial Eve is believed to have lived about 170,000 years ago, or roughly 8,000 generations ago…” Go Here

Y-chromosomal Adam In human genetics, Y-chromosomal Adam (Y-MRCA) is the patrilineal human most recent common ancestor (MRCA) from whom all Y chromosomes in living men are descended. Y-chromosomal Adam is thus the male counterpart of Mitochondrial Eve, although they lived at different times, approximately 100,000 years apart.

By analyzing the Y-chromosome DNA from males in all regions of the world, geneticist Spencer Wells has concluded that all humans alive today are patrilinealy descended from a single man who lived in Africa around 60,000 years ago.  Go Here

Both the genetic (DNA) and fossil evidence merge and tell us that ancient Homo sapiens evolved into modern humans in Africa only, about 200,000 years ago.  It is thought that one branch left Africa about 60,000 years ago and replaced earlier humanoid populations such as the Neanderthals and Homo erectus, etc. ( this is disputed by a small faction of scientists who feel that there was an earlier Diaspora).

From Wikipedia:
“In paleoanthropology, the recent African origin of modern humans is the mainstream model describing the origin and early dispersal of anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens. The theory is known popularly as the (Recent) Out-of-Africa model, and academically also as the recent single-origin hypothesis (RSOH), Replacement Hypothesis or Recent African Origin (RAO) model. The hypothesis originated in the 19th century, with Darwin’s Descent of Man, but remained speculative until the 1980s when it was corroborated based on a study of present-day mitochondrial DNA, combined with evidence based on physical anthropology of archaic specimens.”  Go Here

So here we are with very strong circumstantial evidence from DNA, archaeology, paleoanthropology and other earth sciences telling us that the earth wasn’t formed 6,000 or 10,000 years ago and there was no Adam and Eve as described in the Bible.  Our habitation of this earth and history of our growing to adulthood is nowhere near to what the Bible says happened.  This science quoted above is mainstream and excepted by most all scientists working today.  It holds up to scrutiny and is testable and repeatable.

If Adam and Eve are not true…Think about it…Christianity just falls apart.

“…Darwin is confirmed, triumphantly, by genetic research. That’s a fact. Species, even the praying variety, evolve. Secondly, by implication and inference, there is no God. The non-fact is exhausted whenever someone takes a peek at the human genome…”  On the Origin of Ignorance, by Ian Bell, The Sunday Herald, July 14, (Scotland) Here

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About the word of me
Interested in family and friends,grandchildren, photography, darkrooms, history, archaeology, scuba diving, computers, software, fast cars, journalism, writing, travel, ecology, news, science, and probably most other subjects you could think of. Did I mention family and friends?? I require iced tea or cold brewed coffee and a internet connection to be fully functional. Sometimes there are just so many words in my head they spill out.

4 Responses to Darwin Was Right…of Course

  1. mennoking says:

    Why is the Adam and Eve story not true? As a scientific and factual account of how everything came into being you are right, the primeval history is wrong and of little use in describing how things came into being, but that does not mean that there is not truth there. Your claim that the story is not true is based on the conservative and Fundamentalist reading of the text. Every culture is filled with stories that are not factual but contain truth. Take, for example, Br’er Rabbit. Br’er Rabbit is the central figure in a number of stories that originate in the slave culture of the southern US. He is constantly outwitting Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear, who are bigger and stronger that Br’er Rabbit. In the stories, the characters talk to each other. If we were to use the hermeneutics pushed by conservatives and Fundamentalists we would get bogged down in trying to describe how these animals could actually talk to one another and how Br’er Rabbit pulled the antics he did. However, that is not the point. The real meaning rests in understanding that Br’er Rabbit is a representation of the slaves, while Br’er Fox and Bear represent white slave holders.

    So then the next question is “Why is Christianity dependent upon a literalist interpretation of Adam and Eve?”

  2. thewordofme says:

    Hi mennoking, thanks for your reply.

    So are you saying that Adam and Eve did not exist and the story is simply allegory or parable and is not factual at all? Or do you think its true?

    The fundamentalist thinks the whole Bible is literal truth…I think the whole thing is just Hebrew myth and although there are some connections to reality such as people and places mentioned, it reason for being, i.e. there is a sky god floating around somewhere in space directing things here on earth is ridiculous. The whole shebang is so obviously written by man and egocentric and contains no hint of a God being behind it.

    However if you follow what the New Testament (mostly Paul) is implying, you will of course see that our problems with God are caused by Adam and Eves downfall in the garden, thereby causing sin to enter the human bloodline and passing it down to all humans born thereafter–Original Sin.

    God somehow thinks that by sending himself down disguised as a human and getting killed on the cross will extirpate this original sin, but only if we believe in Jesus who He is disguised as. That seems to be the line of thought as I interpret it from the Bible and many sermons I sat through as a child.

    Remove Adam and Eve from this equation and there is no one to eat the fruit and fall from grace—there is no Original Sin. Then there is no need for God/Jesus to die on the cross to extirpate this Sin of ours, actually then there is no need at all for Jesus. Taken together with the other things that we now know are just myths from the Bible and you get a real feeling that this is all just a fantasy made up by sheep/goat herders in Old Testament times, and opportunists in New Testament times.

    We now have so much circumstantial evidence that contradict the old stories and beliefs it’s a wonder that anybody follows it anymore.


  3. mennoking says:

    I am saying that there is a difference between truth and fact. Yes, facts are true, but truth does not necessarily have to be factual, hence the Br’er Rabbit example. Another way to look at it is as science fiction. Good sci-fi has a deeper message (usually a social critique) but is put in a non-factual universe (unless it is “hard sci-fi”). Or one can think of it in terms of “The News from Lake Woebegone.” The stories Garrison Kellior tells are all fictional even down to the very town itself, but that does not mean that there is not truth in them.

    There is a Mennonite theologian who is calling into question the supposed necessity of an atoning sacrifice which somehow satisfies a debt or Jesus serves as a substitution for humanity (the two major theological assumptions concerning the death of Jesus). Rather, the death of Jesus, claims J. Denny Weaver, was the result of a nonviolent life lived in clear opposition to evil. Evil has one tool for dealing with such a person, violence. We can see this in the way that folks in the south, like Sherriff “Bull” Connor, reacted to the nonviolent protests lead by folks like MLK or in the way that the British responded to Gandhi. If we follow Weaver’s line of thinking than there is no atonement in the death of Jesus which removes the necessity for the theology of original sin. Weaver’s text on his theological position, which he calls narrative Christus Victor (NCV), is “The Nonviolent Atonement” (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co., 2001). I am a follower of Denny’s, and even though his theology remains on the fringes of the Mennonite church it is gaining more and more sympathy and support among Mennonites, and in the wider church as well (though you would never hear a Southern Baptist claim NCV).

    I would disagree that just because something is not historically factual makes it a meaningless story pushed by a bunch of “simple” folk in antiquity and propagated by opportunists in the early centuries of the common era. There are many things in the Bible that cannot be understood without God. Take for example the critiques of the prophets. Their critiques of society only work in the context of a believing community who had an eschatological expectation about the consequences of abandoning the marginalized and those in society who have no voice. This tradition is continued in the NT. For example, the ethics that Jesus lays out in the Sermon on the Mount work only in a community which believed in the reality of a theophonic event depending on how they acted towards their neighbors. The same thing goes for Revelation. Denny Weaver has a good summary of this reading of Revelation in The Nonviolent Atonement. The same can be said of the Psalms, many of which cannot be understood egocentrically.

    The authors of the NT era, both those whose work made it into the Bible and those whose work did not, were more than opportunists. They were attempting to interpret their current situation from the world view which they inherited. They were believers without a doubt. The differences of the Bible do not make it lies, rather it reflects the very real human condition. People at different times have different philosophical assumptions and contexts out of which they operate. Take for example how conservative US citizens understood the installation of General Pinochet in Chile in the 1970s when the CIA ousted the democratically elected socialist president. They see that as a move protecting South America from communism and thus ensuring freedom in that country. A Chilean would disagree while she/he was being tortured by Pinochet’s oppressive fascist government.

    Just because there is evidence that contradicts the old stories (I would say there is plenty of evidence that is more than circumstantial) does not make them false. Take for example 1&2 Chronicles. There was a recent study done (Steven James Schweitzer, “Reading Utopia in Chronicles” [New York, NY: T&T Clark, 2007]) which states that the point of Chronicles is that it is a critique of the “Chronicler’s” present situation, which means the historical inaccuracies were intentional as a social critique showing what Schweitzer calls a “better alternative reality.”

    One cannot apply modern understandings of truth, factuality, history, and science to the Bible because those concerns are relatively recent developments in philosophy. Take history, for example. The discipline of history as scientific inquiry into the past done with some measure of objectivity has only been around for about 300 years, 400 at the most. It is a product of the Enlightenment, which was a western European movement, not an ancient Palestinian one. The Bible, on the other hand, is not interested in history for the sake of history (which is truly egocentric). Those texts in the Bible which are closest to our concept of history (Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Joshua, Judges) are interpreting history theologically. This theological interpretation of history is very present in the prophets. For example, this is what Ezekiel does when he attempts to explain the Babylonian Exile in 586 BCE.

    With all of that said, I want to thank you for calling folks to task on literal interpretations of the Bible and for ignoring science. Though it is not the Christian thing to do, I really want to kick Kirk Cameron in the crotch for all the demonizing things that he says about science and scientists. I mean it’s not like science has given us anything, execpt for electricity…and modern medicine…and a deeper understanding of the human genome…………….

  4. mennoking says:

    I should also say that I too think Darwin started us down the right road.

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