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Sunday, June 06, 2010

ASA members tackle Adam and Eve

One interesting result of the ASA survey noted below was the great division of the membership on Adam and Eve. There are small minorities offering every view from "Adam and Eve had no contemporaries, and were the biological ancestors of all humans, living in Mesopotamia around 10,000 years ago." (5.8%)

through to

"There were no historical individuals corresponding to Adam and Eve." (11%)

The really interesting thing is that 31.9% of respondents (the only large minority) said, "The Bible is consistent with several of the above options and the issue is not of great importance."

Actually, the issue is of great importance, even though it may never be settled or settlable as a matter of factual certainty. For one thing, Adam and Eve underwrite the unity of the human race, if they are the ancestors of all humans. So far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the alternative, polygeny, cannot be held in good faith. Also, if Adam and Eve can be considered non-historical, many questions, including that one, become cloudy — for example, the question of how and why other humans should be implicated in their sin or benefit from their salvation. So it was disturbing to see that nearly a third of the membership responding felt the question was "not of great importance."

No doubt, some people think I have been rather hard on ASA over the years, and I don't deny it. The trouble is that a Christian organization can easily be co-opted by fashionable atheism at the precise points where intellectual capital matters. Then it may take refuge in asserting that "We are all Christians here because we pray together." This survey seems to suggest a trend in that direction.

As to the greying membership, I suggest that the real action now is with groups like Biologos, aimed explicitly at persuading Christians that they can maintain an intellectually respectable faith without believing that the universe (?) or life forms show evidence of design. This could be due to the growing size and strength of the design community. If more people know what is at issue, many old arguments aimed at confusing or shutting down discussion just will not wash any more., such as "God of the gaps" will just not wash any more.

(The comments to the survey are also worth reading. See also "The American Scientific Affiliation: Whatever happened to its mission?)

Look on the bright side: At least, it is Adam and Eve they arre thinking about, not Adam and Steve or, in the words of the old children's game, Adam and Eve and Pinch Me.

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