Paul and Courtney discuss the question of human origin and consider our past. Which story makes the best sense of human history?
A Brief Tour of Human History (from Harari):
According to evolutionary science, humans share a common ancestor with the great apes. The next great transition on the journey occurred roughly two and a half million years ago as the first creatures of the Homo genus split from an earlier genus of apes called Australopithecus. Over the last two million years, distinct species within the Homo lineage have existed, often together, including Homo habilis (the earliest Homo fossils discovered to date), Homo erectus (the longest surviving Homo line, existing roughly from 1.8 million to 200,000 years ago), Neaderthals, and Denisovans. Homo sapiens began to migrate and eventually colonize the planet. The first great revolution of human history that shapes our story occurred about 70,000 years ago.
Then something special happened—perhaps the result of a fortuitous genetic mutation in the inner wirings of the brain—and the first revolution—the Cognitive Revolution—took place, opening a “fast lane of cultural evolution bypassing the traffic jams of genetic evolution.” Art, religion, technology, and group cooperation began to inform human life and culture.
For most of our history, until 12,000 years ago, we were hunter-gatherers. Beginning with the Agricultural Revolution, Homo sapiens “began to devote almost all of their time and effort to manipulating the lives of a few animal and plant species.” The domestication of certain plants and animals did result in one significant benefit: as a species, the Homo sapiens populations exploded. As history unfolds, human life and culture becomes increasingly more familiar to us: settlements become cities, cities kingdoms, kingdoms empires. Written language develops, law codes codify, economies establish, technology advances, philosophies are birthed, and human populations rise.
The next great revolution occurred roughly 500 years ago. Around AD 1500, history made its most momentous choice, changing not only the fate of humankind, but arguably the fate of all life on earth. We call it the Scientific Revolution. With increasing confidence in the power of reason and faith in the ideal of progress, philosophers advanced new theories of knowledge and scientist began to crack many of nature’s mysteries.
Our brief tour of human history is complete.
Models of Human Origin
- No Historical Adam View: there is no first human couple from which all modern humans descend.
- Theological Worries: The Inspiration of Scripture (Genealogies in Genesis 1-11; NT Witness to the Historical Adam), Jesus and Paul believed in an historical Adam, and the NT links our atonement in Christ to Adam’s sin.
- Historical Adam View: There was a first human couple from which all modern humans descend.
- The Recent Genealogical Adam View without sole progenitorship (Swamidass) = Adam and Eve were specially created in the garden, as recent as ten thousand years ago, and are the genealogical ancestor of all humans alive at the time of Jesus (and today).
- The Recent Genealogical Adam View with sole progenitorship (Andrew Loke) = Adam and Eve were specially created by God as recent as ten thousand years and thus image God. Those hominids that existed prior to Adam and Eve, while anatomically and cognitively indistinguishable from humans, are not genuine humans, since they are not created in the image of God.
- The Ancient Genealogical Adam View (William Lane Craig) = Adam and Eve are the founding pair of every human that ever existed and existed over 750,000 years ago. Since there is evidence that Neanderthals, in addition to Homo Sapiens, were also modern humans, possessing the same cognitive abilities as modern humans, we need to locate Adam and Eve before the fork occurred in human evolution that led to Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens. Thus, we need to go to their common ancestor, the human species homo heidelbergensis who lived between 750,000 and one million years ago.
- Ancient Special Creationism (Hugh Ross, Reasons to Believe, OEC) = Affirms an ancient universe but denies evolutionary science as the mechanism for bringing about humans. Rather, God creates humans specially.
- Recent Special Creationism (Answers in Genesis, Ken Hamm, YEC) = Denies an ancient universe and denies evolutionary science as the mechanism for bringing about humans. Rather, God creates humans specially 6-10K years ago.
- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
- Robert C. Bishop, Larry L. Funck, Raymond J. Lewis, Stephen O. Mishier, and John H. Walton, Understanding Scientific Theories of Origins: Cosmology, Geology, and Biology in Christian Perspective
- William Lane Craig, In Quest of the Historical Adam
- Johan De Smedt and Helen De Cruz, The Challenge of Evolution to Religion
- Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
- Denis Lamoureux, Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution
- Joshua Swamidass, The Genealogical Adam and Eve
- Alan R. Templeton, “Biological Races in Humans,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (2013): 262–271.
- Alan R. Templeton, “Human Races: A Genetic and Evolutionary Perspective,” American Anthropologist3 (1998): 632–650.