Saturday, 19 December 2015

The Christadelphian magazine and evolution. Part 6f - Andrew Bramhill

6. Our theology is not contingent on monogenism

The implication of this is that there was no physical change in Adam after his sin, and therefore no altered nature that had to be genetically transmitted to the entire human race. This, as I've said elsewhere is the fundamental reason behind opposition to evolution as it rules out monogenism, the belief that the entire human race descended exclusively from Adam.
On this point, it is worth noting that bro. L.G. Sargent, writing in 1941 pointed out that:
The difficulty arises not from any lack of essential clarity in Dr. Thomas’s thought, but from an ambiguity in the term “mortal”. The word “immortal” is taken to mean “incapable of death”; and “mortal” might be expected to mean its simple opposite, “capable of death”: whereas in fact it is used in the sense of “subject to death, destined to die”—a more restricted meaning which has the support of dictionaries.

It was owing to this ambiguity that Dr. Thomas could write: “But, if they were not mortal in their novitiate, it is also true that they were not immortal. To say that immortals were expelled from the garden of Eden, that they might not live for ever by eating of the tree, is absurd”. It is indeed. He then continues cogently: “The truth is in few words, man was created with a nature endued with certain susceptibilities. He was capable of death; and capable of endless life; but, whether he should merge into mortality; or, by a physical change be clothed with immortality, was predicated on his choosing to do good or evil. Capacity must not be confounded with impletion”.

The bare terms, stripped of the qualifying and amplifying phrases with which Dr. Thomas defines his meaning, have sometimes been thrown into the bald proposition that “Adam before the fall was neither mortal nor immortal”; which (to quote Euclid and Dr. Thomas) is absurd. A thing is either X or not-X: there can be no “neutral” position between.
 A man cannot be neither mortal nor not-mortal; and he cannot be neither not-mortal nor not-not-mortal. A thing is either black or not black, white or not white; it is either in the class of objects which have in common the quality of blackness, or it is in the class “not-black” which includes every other kind of colour, shade or tone. But it must come in one class or the other: there can be no neutral position between those two classes.
If, then, we take “immortal” to mean “incapable of dying” (as Dr. Thomas does in the passage quoted), we must say that Adam in his novitiate was not incapable of dying, therefore capable of dying, and therefore “mortal” as a simple antithesis to immortal, and using the widest sense of an ambiguous term.

There is a class, “incapable of dying”; all not included in it must be included in the class “capable of dying”; but the latter class may be divided into two sections: (A) those in whom death is only a capacity—a latent capacity, as we might say; and (B) those in whom it is an active condition. Both are included in one wide classification, “not-immortal”: but it is the sub-class in whom death is an active principle who are, on a stricter definition of terms, called “mortal”, because they are “subject to death, destined to die”.

Adam was always within the class, “capable of death”, but on the sentence of God he passed from the sub-class in whom it is a latent capacity to the sub-class who are actively subject to corruption as a law of their being; and in that class all his posterity have remained—all save One, who has been “made perfect” [1]
(Emphasis mine)
Bro. L.G. Sargent was hardly writing to defend evolutionary creationism, but his dismissal of any 'half-way' state that was neither mortal nor immortal (the 'very good' state constantly hypothesised by those who believe in a physical change in Adam's nature inherited by all) not only is logical, but reminds us that if there was no physical change in Adam, there was no changed nature for us to inherit, and therefore the theological imperative for every physical human to descend from Adam (something that has been falsified comprehensively by the scientific evidence) vanishes. This is why evolution has no impact on our theology. It is therefore deeply concerning to see anti-evolutionists in our community such as bro. Bramhill adopt this patently unscriptural belief in an inherited change in nature which is contingent on every single human being descending exclusively from Adam, as it recklessly places our faith directly in the path of considerable evidence that comprehensively falsifies this belief:
Studies based on SNP/LD approaches have now estimated ancestral population dynamics for various human groups over time in more detail than is possible with mutation-based estimates. African groups have a higher effective population size (~7,000) than do non-African groups (~3,000) over the last 200,000 years. This approach, though based on methods and assumptions independent of previous work, nonetheless continues to support the conclusion that humans, as a species, are descended from an ancestral population of at least several thousand individuals. More importantly, the scalability of this approach reveals that there was no significant change in human population size at the time modern humans appeared in the fossil record (~200,000 years ago), or at the time of significant cultural and religious development at ~50,000 years ago.

Taken individually and collectively, population genomics studies strongly suggest that our lineage has not experienced an extreme population bottleneck in the last nine million years or more (and thus not in any hominid, nor even an australopithecine species), and that any bottlenecks our lineage did experience were a reduction only to a population of several thousand breeding individuals. As such, the hypothesis that humans are genetically derived from a single ancestral pair in the recent past has no support from a genomics perspective, and, indeed, is counter to a large body of evidence. [2] (Emphasis mine)
 The tragedy of placing our community into conflict with these facts, a battle that it cannot win, is that as Bro. L.G. Sargent notes, it is a completely unnecessary one.


1. Sargent L.G. "Adam in Innocence" The Christadelphian (1941) 78:14

2. Venema D.R. “Genesis and the Genome: Genomics Evidence for Human-Ape Common Ancestry and Ancestral Hominid Population Sizes” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (2010) 62:166-178