Barry Newman's Blog

June 23, 2011

Science and Genesis 3: 1 – 24 (part XXVII)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 11:13 pm

A possible compromise with a modern understanding of the antiquity of mankind?

As one continues reading Genesis it becomes reasonably clear that the account of things given in Gen 2 and 3 is consistent with their occurring somewhere between 4, 000 and 10, 000 B.C.  How does this gel with a modern understanding that homo sapiens has been around for well over 100, 000 years.  And then what are we to make of the evidence that species before homo sapiens made tools, observed religious rites and attacked one another?

In an attempt to find some conformity between the Genesis account and a belief that homo sapiens has been around for say 200,000 years, we could assume that there were human beings outside of the garden when the man and the woman were there.  We might further assume that these other human beings were only considered by God to be related to him, in the same way that the man and the woman were related to him, when the man and the woman were driven out of the garden into the world beyond the garden.  That is, the man and the woman in some sense stood as representative of man and woman. When the man and the woman disobeyed and came under the judgment of God, so all mankind were considered as disobedient and under God’s judgement.

This idea may have some appeal especially from a theological point of view. But Gen 2 and 3 give no hint of the existence of human beings other than the man and the woman.  To begin with, there was no rain and no plants cultivated or wild.  Then the one man was fashioned and came into existence outside of the garden.  He was then placed in the garden.  The woman was then formed and she came into existence inside of the garden.  The man sees a role for the woman as a bearer of children and calls her “Eve”.  They are later both driven out of the garden into the world outside of the garden.  The narrative has only one man and one woman in view and at the beginning of things they constitute humanity.  The attempted compromise may be very valuable from a theological point of view and well worth considering. However it cannot be supported from Gen 2 and 3 alone.

A scientific perspective

From a modern scientific perspective and with its assumptions about uniformity: serpents do not talk and do not understand what a human being might say and never have talked or understood the speech of humans; there is no such thing as a tree of life or a tree of the knowledge of good and evil and there never has been; there is no evidence that human beings discovered themselves to be naked after they had eaten a certain type of fruit.  And what does the scientific enterprise know of cherubim?  And what of human being-like species that behaved very much like human beings well before homo sapiens? With this perspective, responses to the question, “What really happened?” might be, “I do not know.” or “Whatever happened it did not happen like that.”  or “Nothing happened like that.” or even “To ask the question is unfortunately to miss the point.” Yet still we might ask, “But how did the account come to be?  What beliefs did the writer or editor have?  What are we meant to learn from it?”


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