Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dr. Dennis Bonnette Debunks the Argument Against Adam and Eve from Molecular Biologists

 Dr. Dennis Bonnette, retired at the end of 2003 as a Full Professor of Philosophy at Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. His website is called Origin of the Human Species. I have posted on my site, his extensive defense of a literal Adam and Eve and articles about "creation" (as an argument for God) and naturalistic Darwinian evolution.

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It is widely claimed that Adam and Eve were "impossible" in light of recent findings in molecular biology, especially regarding the Human Genome Project. Many succumb to the modernistic tendency to "adjust" Church teaching to fit the latest findings of science -- thus scandalizing Catholics into thinking that fundamental revealed truths are not well founded.

The fact remains that a literal Adam and Eve are part of unchanging Catholic doctrine. Central to St. Paul's teaching is the fact that through one man, Adam, sin entered the world, and through the God-man, Jesus Christ, redemption came (Rom 5:12-21). The Catechism cites St. Paul, and speaks of Adam and Eve as of a single mating pair who "committed a personal sin" (CCC, 399-404).

We must be careful not to confuse the technical concept of average effective population size estimates, which vary from as high as 14,000 (Blum 2011) to as low as 2,000 (Tenesa 2007) depending on the methods used, with an actual "bottleneck" ( a temporarily reduced population) which may be much smaller. We must also realize that these calculations depend on many assumptions about mutation rate, recombination rate, and other factors, that are now known to vary widely, and that all depend on retrospective calculations about events in the far distant past, for which we have almost no information.

A famed study by Ayala (1995) led many to believe that a bottleneck of two was impossible at any time in the human lineage after the Homo/Pan (human/chimp) split some five million years ago. However, Ayala's claim of thirty-two ancient HLA-DRB1 lineages (prior to the Homo/Pan split) was wrong because of methodological errors. The number of lineages was subsequently adjusted by Bergström (1998) to just seven at the time of the split, with most of the genetic diversity appearing in the last 250,000 years.

Since the Class II region where HLA-DRB1 resides recombines only rarely, the region behaves as a unit during reproduction. It is inherited as a block, referred to as a haplotype. It is now known that there are only five basic haplotypes (Andersson 1998), and their particular identity is specified by which HLA-DRB1 allele they carry. Depending on the accuracy of the dating and tree drawing, there may have been between three and five haplotypes at the time of the Homo/Pan split. We share four of them with chimps. Since a single mating pair could pass on a maximum of four haplotypes, the most recent studies appear potentially compatible with a literal Adam and Eve. [I am indebted to molecular biologist Dr. Ann Gauger for the above line of reasoning pertinent to the genetic arguments.]

The point of all this is to show that the science which is so dogmatically employed to undermine Catholic doctrine regarding Adam and Eve is itself not definitive. Catholic doctrine trumps in any event, but even more so when the science itself is far from settled.

What is most important for purposes of this thread is the realization that, since the same God is Author of both human reason and authentic revelation, legitimate science will never contradict Catholic doctrine -- and Catholic doctrine firmly teaches a literal Adam and Eve.

In my book, Origin of the Human Species (Sapientia Press, second edition, 2003), I offer extensive analysis of the interface between evolutionary theory, philosophy, and theology -- including a most detailed explanation of how the existence of a literal Adam and Eve remains rationally credible, even to well educated Christians at the beginning of the twenty-first century.



Nissa Annakindt said...

I am so glad to see this! I am a scientifically-minded person who has never bought in to the evolution scenario (since it will take a few million years for the research to be completed) and I feared that when I became a Catholic I was somehow obliged to accept evolution and all its works and ways in order to be distinct from those darn Evangelicals.

The Ubiquitous said...

Addressed to the writer, if he's reading this: What's your take on Mike Flynn's take?

Steve "scotju" Dalton said...

Dave, if you believe in a literal Adam and Eve, you can't believe in theistic or any other kind of evolution.

Dave Armstrong said...

Church sez we can. Go argue with them, like a good radtrad.

Steve "scotju" Dalton said...

God must be a radtrad, he leaves no room in Genesis for evolution. Besides, evolution and creation are two radically opposed concepts. Look the words up in the dictionary. it's one or the other.

Dave Armstrong said...

You know better than the Church. What else is new? It's a mystery why you aren't a Protestant. This was precisely Luther's attitude.

Steve "scotju" Dalton said...

Dave, the church always held to strict creationism until the 1960's when liberalism came in. Which church is right, the church that existed from 33 AD to 1962 or the church that developed out of the so-called "Spirit of Vatican II"?

Stephen Korsman said...

After today's bad news, I nearly forgot to comment on this. Found it in a search for bottlenecks in viruses. Nearly a year old, I know.

Just because all humans are descended from Adam and Eve doesn't necessarily make them our earliest common male or female ancestor, or even the earliest common couple. If Adam and Eve's kids married outside of their own sibling set, then we can have a scenario like this:

Cain's wife's son and Abel's wife's son meet up. Their most recent common male ancestor is Adam. Their most recent common male ancestor up the paternal line is Adam. Their most recent common female ancestor up the maternal line (their personal Mitochondrial Eve) is NOT Adam's wife, Eve, but someone else, an ancestor shared by their mothers, a lineage that does not contain either Adam or Eve.

So, today, while Adam and Eve, together, are possibly our most recent common ancestor couple, our most recent common male ancestor may predate Adam, and our most recent common female ancestor may predate Eve. Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosome Adam are almost certainly not these two humans the Bible calls Adam and Eve. Mt-Eve and Yc-Adam predate them by millennia. However, there is good reason to believe that our identical ancestor point was between 5000 and 15000 years ago, and our individual (gender not taken into account) most recent common ancestor lived about 2000 - 5000 years ago. The existence of a couple called Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden from which we all descend in no way requires that these various common ancestors (male / female / couple) be Adam and Eve, or that they came before or after Adam and Eve.

Adam and Eve transmitting the widest range possible of HLA-DRB1 haplotypes (1 each to each offspring, with a total of 4 maximum between them) doesn't really mean that other haplotypes could not enter the human gene pool from Cain and Abel's wives. So in order to have Adam and Eve exist as a couple from whom all modern humans descend is not limited by the number of available haplotypes present in the current human population. More haplotypes could exist, with 2 from Adam, 2 from Eve, and several from their kids' spouses.

What is far more interesting to speculate on is where our human aggression came from. It's there in apes; it must have been there the pre-Homo sapiens hominids. Before Adam and Eve, lions still killed antelope, and cats still ate mice. Dinosaurs still died from whatever they died from.

Possibly Adam and Eve were zapped by God from their different locations (different locations maximise genetic variability) into a special garden somewhere in Iraq or Kenya, revealed himself to them, and Moses records the rest. How, then, original sin relates to the death of antelope and mice and dinosaurs is a mystery. How it relates to pre-Adamic hominid aggression is a bigger mystery.

newenglandsun said...

Hi, it was my understanding that it ultimately depends what Papal encyclical one is more influenced by that is the factor of believing in a literal Adam and Eve. From my own look-in, it doesn't seem like Fr. Robert Barron holds to a literal Adam and Eve as I've seen him compare them to Shakespeare's MacBeth.

I would have to take efforts to prove a literal Adam and Eve as fruitless and futile. Also, a bit of a "God of the gaps" argument which Kenneth Miller would no doubt criticize. I would have to side with this link and assert Catholics are not obliged to adhere to a literal Adam and Eve.

Chuck Armstrong said...

I suspect Adam and Eve is US and the Garden is our human existence. In our Garden there are many delights; ice cold beer, chocolate, pizza, Texas Barbecue, sex, opera, the NFL, walks on the beach and the list goes on. Because one of Gods demands for his physical creation is that every force has an equal opposing force I think a dark force shares dominion over the world(s). Our human nature places the apple in each of our hands (Original Sin) and we just can't resist a small nibble or a big bite from time to time. Don't know if this makes sense but it is the only way I can reconcile the obvious problems in the Genesis story.

Dave Armstrong said...

Beats me.