Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Would You Adam and Eve It?!?

"Would you Adam and Eve it!" is supposedly the Cockney rhyming slang for "Would you believe it!" A question I am frequently asked is, do I believe in Adam and Eve? As I've said before I am a Darwinist and supporter of the findings of evolutionary psychology, so some explanation of how this squares with Genesis 2 is probably in order.

I take the view that all of Genesis up until the start of the Abraham story is mythical. I think Abraham was real enough although I accept that with my historian's hat on, there's not a lot we can say about him. But the creation, the flood and the tower of Babel strike me as myths intended to explain certain facts about the world. The story of the Fall is intended to explain a fact too - that we humans are fallen from God's original conception of us. I take sin and indeed, original sin, to be real enough. Evolutionary psychology has shown us that Saint Augustine was right. Our propensity to sin is heritable, unavoidable and human efforts to wipe it out are worse than useless. Sin is 'of the world' or, in other words, natural.

So when did the Fall happen and what caused it? I don't think it happened at any particular moment. As man evolved into the being he is today, his propensity to sin increased. This came about partly through choice (our freedom to choose reinforced in-built prejudices from nature) and partly through interaction with the world (the environment allowed sinfulness to prosper). You can blame evolution if you like, but I think something went wrong with the world to make evolution function the way it does. It was not inevitable but once started was almost impossible to stop.

I'm only speculating of course and trying to make sense of facts as I understand them. However, I do think theology needs to keep a close eye on science and not hold hostages to fortune. Thus, I fear, the Adam and Eve story cannot be literally maintained.

Comments or questions? Post them at Bede's dedicated yahoo group.

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