African Genesis Perspectives On Hominin Evolution Essay


Human Evolution and The Bible:

    Science & Theology,

    Genetics & Genesis,

Science (Fossils & Genetics, Age of the Earth) and

Theology (Adam & Eve, Death & Sin, Image & Soul).

This page contains:
Science and Theology ,
Appropriate Humility ,
4 Scenarios for Adam & Eve ,
Educational Resources

        Science-and-Theology:  This page combines science & theology — from our studies of nature & scripture, in our efforts to better understand physical reality & spiritual reality — because our questions about human origins (as when we ask "what was the historical context of Adam and Eve?") should be examined in a TWO BOOKS OF GOD approach (*) and because most authors include both types of knowledge when they write.  Also, most readers will ask both types of questions and will wonder how to harmonize these perspectives.
        * God has graciously provided us with two valuable sources of information, in scripture and nature.  For the most important things in life — for learning about God and how He wants us to live and love — the Bible is much more important.  But for other questions we don't have to make an either-or choice;  instead we can learn from both nature and scripture, and our understanding of total reality (physical plus spiritual) will be more complete and accurate.

        Putting the Puzzle Together:  In a paper describing some of what we know about the science and theology of human origins, David Wilcox is confident that "since all truth is one and all truth is God’s truth, all the puzzle pieces can fit together."  He encourages readers to "dump the box for yourself, but don’t lose any of the pieces!"  Why?  When we assemble a jigsaw puzzle, the goal is to use all pieces — without discarding any, or distorting their shape to "make them fit" — so we'll get the correct picture.  Similarly, in this page our goal is to use all of the pieces (everything we know about the relevant theology and science) in an effort to get an accurate picture of what really happened in the early history of humans.  Let's look at some of the puzzle pieces.


based on a study of nature:

        Age of the Earth:  Almost all scientists think there is overwhelming scientific evidence from a wide range of fields — including studies of sedimentary rocks, coral reefs, fossil patterns in geological context, seafloor spreading & magnetic reversals, radioactive dating, development of stars, starlight from faraway galaxies, plus genetic molecular clocks and more — providing multiple independent confirmations strongly showing (beyond any reasonable doubt) that the earth and universe are very old, with ages of 4.5 and 13.7 billion years, respectively.
       What do proponents of a young earth-and-universe say about this scientific evidence?  They typically respond in one or more of these four ways:  A) claim their own analysis of the evidence is better than conventional analysis (you can examine the evidence-and-logic in AGE OF THE EARTH - SCIENCE) so the logic of science should lead to conclusions that the earth is young and so are humans (*), and/or they   B) challenge the credibility of HISTORICAL SCIENCES;   C) acknowledge the weakness in current young-universe science, but hope it will improve in the future;   D) claim the universe is young even though it appears to be old when we carefully examine the scientific evidence, because the universe was created in a mature state with a false APPEARANCE OF OLD AGE.   {note: If a link is CAPITALIZED it's an introductory LINKS-PAGE like the one you're now reading.}

The scientific evidence also leads to specific old-earth claims about humans:

        Fossil Progression:  Scientists have discovered hundreds of human-like fossils.  When an age is assigned to each fossil, based on radiometric dating plus geological dating of the rock formation where the fossil is found, we observe that fossil anatomy and brain size gradually change from primitive hominids (5 million years ago) to anatomically modern humans (beginning around 100-200 thousand years ago) who moved into Europe and East Asia about 40,000 years ago.
        * Young-earth creationists claim that dating of hominid fossils is wrong, and that the fossils are not from hominids but are from modern humans who were immature (to explain their smaller brains) or deformed (to explain why their anatomy differs from that of current healthy humans) or that the observed differences are within the wide range of genetic diversity in humans.  They also claim that the human genetic characteristics explained below — the genetic similarities (including nonfunctional genes) between humans and other species, and genetic diversities within the human population (in our immune system and in other genes) — were miraculously created by God, rather than naturally developing.

• Evolution — What does it mean? Did it happen?  You can learn about evolution definitions (the word "evolution" has many possible meanings) and principles (mutations, natural selection, genetic drift,...) and questions (re: intelligent design with or without evolution) in BIOLOGICAL EVOLUTION — PRINCIPLES and EVALUATIONS.

        Genetic Similarities:  A comparison of genomes for humans and chimpanzees shows a 98% similarity in genes, including both functional genes and non-functional pseudogenes.*  Perhaps functional genes are similar in humans and chimps because these genes were independently created in each species to perform similar common functions;  but for similarities in non-functional pseudogenes the better explanation seems to be common ancestry, with a common descent in which both species evolved from a shared ancestor whose originally functional gene had become a non-functional pseudogene.   {* the percent difference between genes in humans and chimps will vary, depending on the comparison criteria used for defining and calculating the differences in genomes;  when using any criteria, genetic similarities decrease when humans are compared with apes instead of chimps, and even more in comparisons with other mammals, and birds, reptiles,...}
        Genetic Diversities:  In the human immune system, one gene has more than 150 alleles (variations of the gene) in the current human population.  But one couple, such as Adam and Eve, can have a maximum of only 4 alleles, and natural mutation rates would not produce 146 new alleles in 10 thousand years, or even 150 thousand years.  By analyzing the diversity in these genes and others, using mathematical models for population genetics, scientists calculate that the current human population has descended from a population bottleneck (the smallest group of ancestors in our history, estimated at 10,000) that occurred about 150,000 years ago;  and some of the 150 alleles in our immune systems go back to 5 million years or more.

        Unresolved Scientific Questions:  Although most scientists — based on their careful examination of evidence from a wide range of fields, including fossils and genetics — agree in most ways, and they have reached a confident consensus about their major questions, some scientists disagree in some ways about some details.  Later in this page you can learn why scientists have vigorous debates, within the broader areas of general agreement, about three unresolved scientific questions.


based on a study of scripture:

        Age of the Earth:  Later, you'll see four scenarios for Adam & Eve and the history of human origins.  In one of these proposals the earth is young, and there are two main Bible-based claims for a young earth:
        • Does the Bible say "the earth is young" in the six days of Genesis 1?  Or are old-earth interpretations possible or preferable, with the days forming a non-chronological framework for history, or being long ages instead of 24-hour days?  In different CREATIONIST INTERPRETATIONS OF GENESIS 1 the days can be non-chronological (forming a logical historical framework) or chronological (being long ages, 24-hour days, post-gap days, or proclamation days), maybe using concepts from ancient near-eastern science and certainly emphasizing the important theology in Genesis 1.
        • Is an old earth theologically impossible because it would require death before sin?  Does this young-earth claim have any theological support when we carefully study what the Bible says about ANIMAL DEATH AND HUMAN SIN?   In the Garden of Eden we see a supernatural protection from death — provided by God for Adam & Eve, symbolized by "the tree of life" (available in Genesis 3 and again in Revelation 2 & 22) — being removed by God (in Genesis 3:22) due to sin, so Adam & Eve would begin to perish, with natural processes temporarily allowing life while gradually leading to death.  Later, the sinless life and sacrificial death of Jesus — providing substitutionary atonement for our sins, thus allowing a divine pardon for the death penalty earned by our sins, and the gift of everlasting life in Jesus — converted sin and death into grace and life.

        Genesis 2-4  (where, when, and how many?)
        What was the historical and cultural context of Adam & Eve in Genesis 2-4?
        Where was the Garden of Eden located, as described in Genesis 2:8-10?
        When did the descendants of Adam & Eve live?  Two pieces of biblical evidence are:  1) the agricultural and technological context of Genesis 4, with farming (by Cain) and domesticated livestock (by Abel), and a few generations later later making tools from bronze and iron, plus sophisticated musical instruments;  2) adding the time intervals from Adam to Jesus gives a date of approximately 4000 B.C. for Adam, 6000 years ago;  but the word ‘begot’ (yalad in Hebrew) means ancestor, which is not necessarily father, so the text does not state that the initial creation was in 4004 B.C., as in the calculations of Bishop Ussher in 1658.
        How many were alive?  If no humans (or pre-human hominids) existed before Adam & Eve, then why were there so many people in Genesis 4?  (why was Cain worried that "whoever finds me will kill me"?  and how, as the first child of Adam & Eve, could he build a city?)

        Ancient Near-East Science (and culture) in Genesis?  When we look at the concepts used in Genesis to describe our world, here is one possibility:  Maybe the descriptions of nature in Genesis 1 (and also the culture in Genesis 2-4?) were written specifically for the original readers in their cultural context, by using the "scientific concepts" of familiar theories about physical reality (in their ancient near-eastern cosmology) for the purpose of more effectively challenging false theories about spiritual reality (in the polytheistic "nature religions" of surrounding cultures).  As with other parts of the Bible, Genesis was written FOR us but was not written TO us;  instead, Genesis was written to its original readers.  Genesis 1-11 can teach true spiritual principles, whether or not the natural science (or cultural history) is literally true.  These ideas are examined in CONCORDISM OR ACCOMMODATION — ANCIENT NEAR-EASTERN SCIENCE IN GENESIS?

        Type of Creation:  Does the creation of Adam & Eve, from dust & a rib in Genesis 2:7 & 2:22 — "God formed the man from the dust of the ground" and "God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man" — indicate an independent new creation rather than a modification (with physical, mental, and/or spiritual changes) of already-existing hominids?  Or does creation "from dust" refer to the chemical elements that form our bodies, reminding us about our natural mortality and thus (as in the "dust to dust" of Genesis 3:19) a reason to be humble in our relationship with God?  And does creation "from a rib" symbolize an intimate "side by side" relationship between man and woman?
        How are the dust-and-rib passages interpreted in FOUR VIEWS OF CREATION that propose creation by miracles and/or natural process?  Two types of creation (young-earth, and old-earth progressive by independent creations) could be literally from dust and a rib, while in the other two creations (progressive by genetic modifications, and evolutionary) the dust & rib refer to elements & relationship.
        If Adam & Eve were instantly created from dust & rib, so they began life as adults with no memories of previous personal or interpersonal experiences, their situation would be very different than our situation.  Therefore we can ask, "In what ways would their initial sin be similar to, and different than, our own recurring sins?  Could they be accurate representatives for us if they began life as adults?"  But if the dust & rib refer to elements & relationships, the human process of personal development, with its associated experiences and memories, could be similar for them and for us.

        Human Evolution:  When we're thinking about the question, "DID God use a process of all-natural evolution to create humans?", we can ask sub-questions:
        Are there scriptural reasons, as in the dust-and-rib passages, to think that God created humans instantly and therefore DID NOT use a long process of creation?
        Are there theological reasons, as in a claim that God would avoid a "survival of the fittest" process requiring many deaths, to think that God WOULD NOT use a process of evolutionary creation?
        Are there scientific reasons to think that a natural process (with mutation, selection,...) COULD NOT convert a primate ancestor into a modern human in 6 million years?  Of course, if a process of evolutionary creation was planned by God — so it would produce humans with all of the characteristics (physical, mental, emotional, social, moral, spiritual) that God wanted us to have — this process could include natural-appearing divine guidance to produce desired natural results instead of other natural results.  This bold claim, declaring that "Of course...", is supported by traditional Christian theology (as in our essential Bible-based faith that God responds to our prayers) strongly affirming our belief that God can guide natural-appearing events, so asking "does natural mean without God?" is one of the CREATION QUESTIONS WITH EASY ANSWERS.

        Hominids and Humans:  In three of four proposed scenarios for Genesis 2-4, Adam and Eve were preceded by human-like hominids.  How should we define hominid and human?  Maybe hominids became humans when God decided they would become human, when God established a personal relationship and spiritual connection with Adam & Eve in Genesis 2, and gave them stewardship responsibilities, holding them accountable (in a covenant relationship) for obeying His commands and obeying their consciences that were now guided by His spirit.  In this way, God defines what it means to be human, and God decided when this would happen because He made it happen.   /   Another approach, which can be viewed as a supplement or (with less humility) an alternative, is for us to define human by using our observations about anatomy (including brain size) as in defining anatomically modern humans, and abilities (mental, emotional, social, physical), technology (indicating ability to make tools, or develop farming & ranching with plants & animals), and art (making paintings or musical instruments).  Or we can look at religious behaviors, such as performing burials or making ceremonial altars;  but maybe these were just human attempts to "reach out to God" and fill the God-shaped void (created by God) in our hearts & minds, which differs from the biblical process of covenant relationship (beginning with Genesis 2) in which God "reached out to us" in the history of Israel and the incarnation of Christ.
        Humans and Sin:  In the hominid-to-human scenario described above, the first biblical human was created when God established a personal spiritual connection with Adam;  this act of spiritual creation could occur whether the physical creation of Adam was an independent ‘special creation’ with no parents, or if Adam had a hereditary history with hominid ancestors.  This spiritual action by God made Adam fully human — not just physically alive, but also spiritually alive due to the spiritual connection — with the free will to continually choose whether his conscience (and his thoughts and attitudes, decisions and actions) would be guided by the Holy Spirit.  But, in contrast with Jesus — who during His life on earth "remained in perfect communion with the Father and in subjection to him, so the Father could guide him continuously (Peter Rüst)" — Adam rebelled against the guiding of his conscience by God (thus disobeying God's command that "you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil") and in doing this Adam sinned.   /   If pre-human hominids were not biblical humans because they were not spiritually accountable to God, their immoralities would be non-sinful (like the actions of cats, dogs, and other non-human animals who don't have a spiritual connection and accountability) and their deaths would be like the deaths of other non-human animals.  They had no opportunity for personal salvation or everlasting life, so their immoralities had no permanent spiritual consequences for them.   /   Is there any direct scientific evidence for God creating a spiritual connection with humans at a particular point in time?  No.  But an absence of evidence, either for or against this act of creation, doesn't mean that it didn't occur.
        Image of God:  What does it mean for humans to be created “in the image of God” in Genesis 1:26-28?  Does this refer to our abilities (physical, mental, moral, emotional, social) compared with other animals, the personal spiritual relationship established by God with each of us, and/or the stewardship responsibilities given to us (with accountability demanded from us) by God?  Similar questions are above, in Hominids and Humans:  Should we define "human" spiritually, and/or by observable criteria such as anatomy, technology, art, or religious behavior?  also: What is the role of human relationships with God and with other people, as in The Two Great Commandments?  (And we can wonder about relationships within a God who is triune, who is three persons — Father, Son, Holy Spirit — in one God, in perfect relationship.)   /   Consider these two possibilities for timings:  Maybe the "image of God" developed gradually during evolution, during a time period when biological capabilities (physical & mental) were increasing, and God was giving his creatures increased spiritual & ethical responsibilities.  Or maybe all of this happened in an instant when God miraculously provided "the image" for a newly created human, or for a human who already had a physical body, as described by Roy Clouser for one aspect of the image: "while Adam's formation out of ‘the dust of the ground’ could have been a long process, God’s gracious word (breath) in making Adam his covenant partner was not."   { Are these timing questions analogous to asking, for each of us, whether "the image of God" emerges gradually during the development of a human embryo (or in a child after birth) or whether the entire image suddenly appears at a particular instant? }   /   What parts of “the image” are given by God to all humans when we are born into biological life?  and what parts are given only to those humans who have been re-born into a fuller spiritual life by accepting the grace offered by God through Jesus Christ?   /   If pre-human hominids existed, maybe the first humans created with the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28) were pre-Adamic anatomically modern humans with physical & mental abilities similar to those of Adam, if God created humans (in Genesis 1) and then a special human in a special garden (in Genesis 2).  Or maybe Adam was the first human with God's image, if this image included the spiritual connection that God first made with Adam, or if there were no hominids before Adam.
        Human Soul:  How does a soul differ from the image of God ?  The text of Genesis seems to indicate that we are souls — with a soul being the essential core of who-and-what we are, mentally and spiritually, in our relationship with God — not that we have souls.  But the characteristics of a soul (what it is and isn't, and the connection of soul with body) are not clearly defined in the Bible, so speculations abound.  But in the New Testament we do see clear promises that, by the power and grace of God, some souls (those who have been redeemed by God) will be given new bodies in heaven, in the new creation of God.
        Human Immortality?  When we're thinking about the question of intrinsic immortality, a key verse is Genesis 3:22, "And the LORD God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.  He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’"  This potential immortality was lost, and at the end of Genesis 3 a cherubim "guards the way to the tree of life" but this gift of eternal life was won back for us by Jesus so the tree (symbolizing eternal life supplied by God) is again available, for believers, in Revelation 2 and 22.

        Traditional Theology and Bible-Based Theology:  If a doctrine has been common in church history, this should be "credited to its account" during evaluation;  but this doesn't mean that it's necessarily based on a correct interpretation of the Bible.  Before you conclude that a particular theology is the only possible theology that can be based on the Bible, you should examine the scriptural texts closely, think deeply (about what we can learn from both scripture and nature) and evaluate carefully with an attitude of appropriate humility.  For example, we can ask whether the development of a particular traditional doctrine was influenced by an assumption of young-earth history, instead of being based only on what is clearly taught in the Bible.

        An Attitude of Appropriate Humility
        In theology and science, our humility should be appropriate — not too little, not too much.  We can make some claims, but not others, with justifiable confidence.  Currently, when each of us considers everything we know about human origins, from theology and science, it seems unwise to boldly conclude that "my view certainly has all of the correct answers, so (in every place we differ) your view must be wrong."
        Deborah Haarsma & Loren Haarsma urge us to "remember that proponents of each view [as in the four scenarios below] can be working in good faith to reconcile God's revelations in Scripture and in nature and to maintain certain central theological beliefs.  The Bible teaches ‘as much as we need in this life’ for God's glory and for our salvation (Belgic Confession, Art.2).  The Bible does not answer every question we could ask or imagine.  That means we are left with ambiguity about the details.  This ambiguity leads to disagreements among Christians about what Scripture is really teaching."
        Six members of ASA describe their own humility about human origins:
        Above, Deborah & Loren explain how scriptural ambiguity can lead to disagreements among Bible-believing Christians.
        John Bloom thinks "no obvious resolution of the tension between the models [for human origins] seems possible at present," David Wilcox is "willing to wait with unresolved questions," and Terry Gray is "content to remain in a state of cognitive dissonance on this issue until further clarity comes my way."  (the full concluding statements by Bloom, Wilcox, and Gray)
        And from an FAQ about Origins by Craig Rusbult, editor for this page:  "Even when Christians disagree about the when-and-how details of creation, we are brothers and sisters in Christ, and we can join together in our praise of the creator, as in Revelation 4:11. ...  You and I should say in public, and believe in our hearts and minds, that ‘if God created using another method (differing from the way I think He created, regarding either age or evolution), then I will still declare that God is worthy of our praise.’  But this humility (if... then...) is compatible with humbly explaining, using arguments from theology and science, why we think a particular view is most likely to be true."

Four Scenarios for Adam and Eve

In an effort to see how "all of the puzzle pieces [re: what we know about theology and science] can fit together" we'll look at four possibilities for human origins, with Adam and Eve as Recent Ancestors, Recent Representatives, Ancient Ancestors, or Ancient Symbols.  Each scenario offers different advantages in explaining the information we see in the two books of God, in scripture and nature, as studied by theology and science.

• For each scenario, a summary of the view is followed by questions raised by critics of the view, and responses by its defenders.  These responses are not intended to be statements of fact.  Instead, each response is written as it might be expressed by a defender who is assuming the view is true.  For example, when you read that "on the 6th day of creation, the Garden of Eden had mature ecosystems," this is the claim being made in a Recent Ancestors view, and this claim may or may not be a true description of human origins.   /   There are "variations on the basic themes" for each of these four views, which are examined more deeply — with claims, responses, and counter-responses, plus more information about theology and science — in the educational resources. 

• The introductory summary in VIEWS OF CREATION provides a foundation that will help you understand these four views of Adam & Eve in Eden:

1. Recent Ancestors —
Adam & Eve on a Young Earth

In this view, Adam & Eve were the first humans;  they were miraculously created from dust & rib, were not preceded by any pre-human hominids, and are the ancestors of all humans.  They were instantly created in a universe that was less than 6 days old, about 6000 years ago.

        The many scientific problems with this view, and four young-earth responses, are summarized earlier. 
        We can ask a related theological question about one young-earth response to scientific evidence, in a claim that God created a young world with an appearance of old age:  if the universe, earth, and humans really are young, and if the first humans were recently created "from dust" with no ancestors, why would God create nature with so much evidence (in astronomy, radiometric dating, geology, fossils, and genetics) indicating that origins of the universe, earth, and humans were not recent, and that humans had primitive "hominid" ancestors who shared a common ancestry with other primates?   /   two responses:  First, scientists are misinterpreting the evidence, which (when correctly analyzed) does not provide scientific support for an old earth, ancient hominids, or common ancestry.  Second, some appearance of old age is necessary in a recently created world that is mature so it can be immediately functional.  With apparent age, on the 6th day of creation the Garden of Eden could have mature ecosystems to provide a suitable environment for Adam and Eve, who were instantly created as mature humans instead of helpless infants or embryos.
        Also, why were so many people already alive in Genesis 4, causing Cain (the first son of Adam and Eve, the third person on earth) to worry about murder, and letting him build a city?   /   response:  It would not require a large number of people for Cain to be concerned about his own safety or to build a small "city".  Genesis 4 describes two sons of Adam & Eve, but they also had many other sons & daughters, who had their own children, thus populating the early earth with their extended family.  Marrying within the family was not a problem because God had not yet declared this to be a sin, and because genetic defects (that could cause genetic diseases due to inbreeding) were not yet present in the recently created non-defective genomes of early humans.

        As explained earlier, we should ask whether traditional theology is Bible-based theology:  Is a particular doctrine taught with certainty in the Bible, or did some theologians assume a young earth and then speculate by using logic (by thinking "the earth is young, so we can conclude that ____") to go beyond what the Bible clearly teaches?

        a variation:  A view that is similar in some ways, but not others, is the Gap Theory, which proposes that there was an initial creation (in Genesis 1:1) lasting billions of years, followed by a catastrophe (in 1:2) and a re-creation on the earth (beginning in 1:3).  The re-creation, which included a special creation of Adam and Eve, happened in six 24-hour days.  This view is much less popular now than it was a century ago, and is criticized by most proponents of both a young earth and old earth.

2. Recent Representatives —
Adam & Eve and Others

In this view, God first created anatomically modern humans by natural-appearing guidance of evolution and/or miraculous-appearing genetic modification, or miraculous-appearing independent creation.  Then, approximately 6000 years ago (which is relatively recent compared with the long history of modern humans) God selected two of them, Adam and Eve, to be the spiritual representatives of all anatomically modern humans, to be the first biblical humans. 

        Doesn't the Bible say that Adam was the first human?   /   a response:  As explained earlier,"if the first biblical human was created when God established a spiritual connection with Adam," then Adam was the first human, as defined by God in terms of spiritual relationship and responsibilities.  Even though in Genesis 2:7 when God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being" it could refer to Adam becoming fully alive (and fully human) through a connection with the Holy Spirit, we do not have — and probably could not have — any direct scientific evidence for God making a spiritual connection with a particular human;  but a lack of observable evidence does not mean that this connection did not occur.
        But doesn't the Bible state that Adam & Eve were the ancestors of all humans?  For example, "Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living (Genesis 3:20)" and "from one man [Adam] he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth. (Acts 17:26)"   /   response:  When we're trying to understand what these passages mean, we should also consider Genesis 4:21, "he [Jubal] was the father of all who play the harp and flute."  Does this passage teach that anyone who was not a direct descendant of Jubal (born in the 7th generation after Adam, so his descendants were a small fraction of the total population) never played the harp and flute?  Or does it have a non-literal meaning?  Similarly, could passages about Eve & Adam (in Genesis & Acts) also have non-literal meanings, with Adam & Eve being our religious ancestors in a covenant relationship with God, who — by using the descendants of Adam & Eve in the covenant history running through Abraham and Moses to Jesus — provided a way for us to be forgiven and accepted despite our sin, so He could make us "living" as spiritually alive humans?
        If Adam & Eve were not the ancestors of all humans, how could their sin be passed on to all humans in future generations?   /   response:  A judicial analogy is summarized in Romans 5:12-21, "The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. … For just as through the disobedience of the one man [Adam] the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of one man [Jesus Christ] the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:16b,19)"  Jesus is our spiritual representative for justification even though none of us is a biological descendant of Jesus.  In a similar way, Adam can be our spiritual representative for condemnation even though some humans are not biological descendants of Adam.  /  When we're thinking about the concept of original sin, we should distinguish between the FACT of sin, and the HOW of sin:  A central claim of Christian theology is that each of us is a sinner — we cannot establish proper relationships with God and with people, because we cannot love God using our whole heart, soul, and mind, and we cannot love our neighbor in the same way we love ourselves (these are the "two great commandments" in Matthew 22:36-40) — so we need help from God.  The FACT of sin is empirically verifiable by observations of our "many trespasses," and the Bible clearly teaches that each of us is a sinner who needs a savior.  But the Bible does not clearly explain the HOW of sin's history — how the sin of Adam is related to our own sins, and in what ways it may (or may not) be biologically inherited or, at a deeper level, whether it's "fair" that we should receive condemnation for the sin of Adam, or justification from the grace of Jesus — so theological theories about the "how" are speculative.
        If some people are descendants of Adam, and some are not, are there two types of people now, and are some of us second-class humans?   /   a response:  No, there is only one type of human.  The anatomically modern "humans" (Homo sapiens) who lived at the same time as Adam (and before Adam) were non-human hominids, because God — not anatomy — decided when hominids became human.  God decided to make Adam and Eve fully human through relationship and responsibility;  later He also transformed their contemporaries from anatomically modern humans to fully spiritual biblical humans, through relationship and responsibility, thus making all of that generation's ancestors (the children of both Adam & Eve and the others) fully human, and this continues to the present.  The salvation history of humans began with Adam (the first biblical human) and continued with Abraham, Israel and David, Jesus and His disciples, into our present and future.  By contrast, before Adam the hominids — who were anatomically modern but were not spiritually connected with God — were part of the formative history of nature.

        There are variations within the framework of this scenario, and outside it:
        Two responses above are labeled "a response" because there are several ways to view the relationship between Adam (our representative) and the other anatomically modern humans who lived in his lifetime, and also before and after him.  You can read about these variations, which occur within the framework of this scenario (#2, Recent Representatives), in the educational resources.
        And within the framework of other scenarios, some variations propose that Adam and Eve — either as a pair (in #3) or a group (in #4) — are Ancient Representatives.

3. Ancient
Ancestors — Adam & Eve a Long Time Ago

In this old-earth view, God created Adam and Eve miraculously — either by independent creation (so there was no hereditary relationship with previously existing hominids) or by miraculous-appearing genetic modification of previous hominids (so there was a genetic relationship with them through hereditary descent) — sometime in the moderately distant past (roughly 10,000 to 150,000 years ago) and placed them in the Garden of Eden.  Non-human hominids existed prior to the creation of Adam and Eve but these hominids became extinct, so all modern humans are descendants of Adam and Eve, who are thus our only ancestors.
    an "extremely ancient ancestors" variation:  maybe Adam and Eve were extremely ancient ancestors, living about 5 millions years ago, early in the evolutionary history leading to modern humans;  they were not modern humans (Homo sapiens) but they might have been semi-modern humans (Homo erectus or Homo habilus) who lived much earlier than the fossils that have been found for these species, or perhaps they were early Australopithecus or Ardipithecus, before the first Homo species.
    an evolutionary "founder couple" variation:  maybe Adam & Eve were an extremely narrow 2-person bottleneck in a naturally evolving population of anatomically modern humans;  they were specially chosen by God, who gave them a soul with spiritual relationship and accountability (thus making them the first biblical humans) and placed them in the Garden of Eden;  due to natural selection in which the descendants of their hominid contemporaries became extinct, they are the only ancestors of all current humans.
    an evolutionary "bottleneck group" variation:  maybe Adam & Eve were part of a small bottleneck population with more than one couple, and due to interbreeding within this group (which survived although all other groups became extinct) every human in later generations had Adam & Eve as their ancestors (so each of them inherited some genes from Adam & Eve, and so do we) but not as their only ancestors.  /  Or, in a bottleneck group larger than 2 people it's possible to have 2 people be the only people who are the ancient ancestors of every human in the succeeding generations (*).   God could have transformed these two people into the first biblical humans by giving them a soul, relationship, and accountability, thus making them ancient representatives from their group.    * Each later descendant would also have some other ancestors, in addition to Adam & Eve, but these other ancestors would vary from one descendant to another, with only Adam & Eve being shared by all descendants.

        This view proposes old-earth creation, so young-earth creationists ask questions (about the six days of Genesis 1, death before sin, and more) and old-earth creationists respond, as described earlier.
        Here is a Bible-based question about timing:  By simply adding ages of patriarchs in the genealogy lists of Genesis, we estimate that Adam and Eve lived about 6,000 years ago;  and evidence from archaeology indicates that the cultural context of Genesis 4 (its agriculture and technology) did not occur until about 8,000-11,000 years ago, which is more recent than proposed in scenarios with Ancient Ancestors.   /   responses:  In the Bible, genealogy lists often are not complete (instead only the most prominent ancestors are listed) so the actual time from Adam to the present could be much longer than 6000 years.   Maybe the agriculture and technology of Genesis 4 occurred much earlier than 9,000 BC, but (especially if it was localized on a small scale) it didn't produce a large amount of evidence, and it hasn't been discovered by archaeologists;  due to this possibility, an absence of evidence (for the culture and technology existing in their ancient culture) isn't a clear evidence of absence.   Or perhaps Genesis 4 describes the familiar culture that was known by the author of Genesis 4 and its first readers, rather than the actual culture in the ancient time of Adam & Eve and their ancestors.   //   These questions also apply for a view proposing extremely ancient ancestors, but with a much longer time gap;  and we can ask whether these early humans would have sufficient "image of God" capabilities.   /   response:  The explanations for 6,000 years becoming 50,000 years (due to genealogy gaps, missing cultural evidence, or a reader-familiar culture) can also explain 5 million years.  And maybe early humans had capabilities (intelligence,...) exceeding the current estimates of most scientists, who are misinterpreting some available evidence and haven't yet found other evidence;  or perhaps our standards differ from the standards of God, regarding how much intelligence is necessary for Him to declare that an early Adam & Eve were created in the image of God.
        Here is a science-and-theology question:  The current scientific consensus, based on mathematical analysis of genetic diversity in the human population, is that modern humans originated about 150,000 years ago in a group (of about 10,000 people) instead of a pair, as with Adam and Eve.  If modern humans began with only two people, who could have a maximum of 4 alleles, and if this creation was only moderately ancient (about 150,000 years ago, not millions of years as with extremely ancient ancestors) then God would have to miraculously increase the genetic diversity of later generations in order to produce the genetic diversity we now observe.  This leads to a theological question, asking why God would provide a false apparent history with scientific evidence making it appear that the ancestors of modern humans were a group, rather than the actual single pair.   /   a response:  Yes, God did cause the human race to develop more new alleles than would be expected by only natural process, in the time since Adam and Eve, so there is an appearance of miracles that produced a false apparent age.  But there were practical reasons for God to do this.  For example, we see an especially high diversity (with more than 150 variations) in a gene that is part of the human immune system, because God miraculously created these variations so the human race, as a whole, would thus have more adaptive flexibility in our responses to diseases.   { This argument is weakened if we can ask similar questions for other genes with high diversity but with less of a "practical functionality" reason for apparent age. }   /   another response:  If Adam and Eve were extremely ancient, living millions of years ago, there would be more time for the human race to naturally develop the number of alleles we now observe.   /   Or perhaps Adam & Eve were part of an evolutionary bottleneck group that was large enough to include the 150 alleles, which could occur with only 75 carefully selected people.   { But scientific evidence for genetic diversity is a major motivation for some evolutionary creationists to propose that, instead of Adam & Eve being the first pair of humans, Genesis 2-3 describes what happened to a group of early humans, as in Scenario 4. }

• Methods of Creation — How and When
Scenarios 2 & 3 (above) and 4 (below) are consistent with a variety of possibilities for the how-and-when of creation.  In most proposals for old-earth creation, anatomically modern humans (AMH) were preceded by hominids whose physical appearance and mental abilities changed during a process lasting millions of years.  This process of creation could have been all-natural, planned and guided by God, or it could have included some miraculous-appearing genetic modification or independent creation.  During this process the image of God developed in us naturally and/or was miraculously given to us by God, and we became fully human.
        variations:  In this brief summary you can see the many possibilities for old-earth creation, with human "image of God" capabilities — physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual — developing naturally and/or miraculously (re: the how of creation) and with a wide range of possible timings (re: the when of creation).  Due to the plausibility of many alternative proposals, differing in major and minor details, humility seems appropriate when we make claims about the methods and timings of creation, about how various aspects of human development happened and when these happened.

4. Ancient
Symbols — Adam & Eve as Symbols of Humanity

In this view, Adam and Eve were not individuals who lived in history, because Genesis 2-3 is not literal history;  instead it is an allegory that accurately describes the collective development of sinful attitudes and behaviors in humans.  This scenario claims support from the fact that in the Bible the Hebrew word adam is used in two ways, to mean all humans (mankind, adam) and also one human (a man, Adam).  Here are two variations:
    1) In one version of this view, Genesis 2-3 explains what happened to a specific group of humans (who are symbolized by Adam & Eve) rather than a pair of humans (who were a literal Adam & Eve).  This group was a population bottleneck for the entire species, so they became the ancient ancestors of all current humans;  and maybe God transformed everyone in this group into the first biblical humans, so in addition to being our Ancient Symbolic Ancestors (similar to #3) they were also our Ancient Symbolic Representatives (similar to #2).
    2) Or maybe both the creation and fall of humans happened concurrently (not independently-and-sequentially) over a period of time, in many different groups.  During a formative period when the mental and moral capabilities of humans were increasing, and God was giving them additional moral responsibilities and spiritual revelations, the humans repeatedly made sinful choices (in their thoughts & actions) by disobeying God and their own moral consciences.

        What is an allegory?  According to Haarsma & Haarsma who accurately describe each major view of human origins, from young earth to symbolic, "In an allegory, the characters and plot are references to real people and real historical events, but the historical details are not recorded or are replaced with a more familiar context," and (describing the claims of an "ancient symbols" scenario) in Genesis 2-3 "the story tells us the essential information about what happened regarding God's revelation to humanity, humanity's temptation, and their choice to disobey God's will, but the story is not intended to give the details of how it actually occurred."
        But if Genesis 2-3 isn't historical, even though it seems to describe actual history — and New Testament writers refer to Adam, who is included in the genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:23-38) — how can we be confident about historical claims in other parts of the Bible?    /   response:  The Bible includes many types of literature, and each type should be correctly interpreted in terms of what it is.  Some aspects of Genesis 2-3, such as the talking snake and the two symbolic trees, seem to be allegorical.  And even though allegorical symbolic history is not literal history (it "is not intended to give the details") it is actual history because "the characters and plot are references to real people and real historical events."   By contrast, the two books written by Luke — when he describes the life of Jesus and the apostolic church — certainly claim to be accurate literal history, with most details (but not in part of the genealogy of Jesus) based on eyewitness testimony.  Even if Genesis 2-4 is symbolic history rather than literal history, it can illustrate true spiritual principles, and teach us these principles.  Genesis can also teach true spiritual principles even if it uses outdated concepts about nature and culture from the ancient near-eastern context of its readers.
        In the second variation, with a concurrent creation and fall, humans were never both fully human and totally righteous, contrary to traditional Christian doctrine.  Also, Romans 5:12 says that "sin entered the world through one man," not through a group.   /   response:  The doctrine of original righteousness is not taught in the Bible, but instead is based on assuming that Adam was the first human and he was created in a state of perfection.  And in Romans 1-5 the main goal is to explain, through contrast and analogy, how "grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:21)"
        Both variations assume human evolution, but the Bible says that God — not a random process of natural evolution — created humans.   /   a response:  If God decided to create humans through a process of divinely guided natural evolution we should humbly accept this instead of telling God that "you should have done it another way, by independent special creation."

• Other Views
In addition to the views above (the four scenarios with variations) some Christians have proposed, or could propose, other views.


Educational Resources about Human Origins:

This section assumes you have read the introductory summary for Science & Theology of Human Originswhich includes seven LINK-PAGES about general science and theology.  The educational resources below are more specialized, with a focus on the science and theology of human origins.

resource areas:  Science-and-Theology    Science    Theology    Four Scenarios for Adam & Eve



• Human Origins: Issues (Scientific & Theological) and Scenarios by Deborah Haarsma & Loren Haarsma, is an outline of issues and scenarios (*) quoted with permission from two chapters of their excellent book, Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design, & Evolution.  /  I.O.U. on June 28 — They wrote a 2nd Edition in 2012, so the links below don't work;  I will find their new pages, and will change the links that follow, but until I do this the links won't work.  /  In their chapters about human origins, the authors explain how important questions are answered in five major views, ranging from young-earth literalism to symbolic allegory;  and the "issues" section includes links to their book-supplementing pages about SCIENCE(principles of Genomic Organization, Introns, Pseudogenes and Genetic Similarities in Humans & Chimps plus Genetic Diversity Within Species and Genetic Adam & Mitochondrial Eve which explains "why scientists don't believe that all humans descended from these two individuals") and THEOLOGY (in Three Interpretations of The Tree of Life).   (9 k total, for my introduction plus their summaries & scenarios)
    * These issues-and-scenarios are also covered earlier in this page (the one you're now reading) and the correlation is not an accident, because my detailed investigation of human origins began by reading the Haarsmas' book, and I like the way they organized their chapters.  But I've modified their ideas — by interpreting and customizing, condensing and supplementing, and re-writing everything — so the content of this page is my own.

• In a similar way, John Bloom has tried to write a neutral overview of our scientific knowledge and its theological implications.
• The Antiquity and the Unity of the Human Race Revisited by Davis Young (in 1995) describes scientific data about human origins, and three theological scenarios for Adam & Eve, and humbly acknowledges that "my aim here has been not to solve the problem but simply to encourage Christian theologians, anthropologists, archaeologists, and paleontologists to collaborate in honest, forthright assessment of the available evidence and to develop a viable position that preserves the biblical doctrines of man, sin, and salvation."  (45 k + 9k)

I.O.U. — Most of the work on this page was finished by mid-2009, so web-resources that have appeared since then are under-represented in what you'll see below.  Eventually, I hope to continue working on this page with a comprehensive re-searching for useful resources.  Until then you can your own web-searching, to supplement what I've found.

Science and Theology
Even though these two ways of knowing are in separate sections below (Science Resources and Theology Resources), many authors — in these sections and also in the four scenarios — include both types of knowledge when they think and write.

SCIENCE RESOURCES about Human Origins — are in these 8 sections:
Unresolved Scientific Questions and Common Descent in Human Evolution? plus scientific views by
Evolutionary Creationists & Young-Earth Creationists & Progressive Creationists & Intelligent Design
and Secular Science-Resources about Human Evolution and Evolutionary Psychology and Sociobiology

Unresolved Scientific Questions (within the mainstream community of scientists)
Earlier, the overview of scienceconcludes by acknowledging that "although most scientists... have reached a confident consensus about their major questions, some scientists disagree in some ways about some details."  For example, questions about the shape of an evolutionary "hominid family tree" lead to lively debates about these three topics:
    • Regarding the biological development and migration patterns of modern humans, there are two main scientific theories: Single Origin (Out of Africa, Population Replacement) and Multiregional.   Single Origin proposes that all ancestors of modern humans originated in Africa, then they migrated outward and displaced other hominid populations throughout the world.  Multiregional claims that our ancestors evolved in separate groups in different regions of the world, but interbreeding between groups produced a unity of the human species across all regions and races.  Single Origin is currently dominant among scientists, although Multiregional has some support.  An overview (18 k) is Origins of Modern Humans: Multiregional or Out of Africa? by Donald Johanson, who says "the current best explanation for the beginning of modern humans is the Out of Africa Model."  For more information, HUMAN EVOLUTION: SINGLE ORIGIN (Out of Africa) VERSUS MULTIREGIONAL.
    • What is the genetic relationship between Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens?  Most scientists agree that Neanderthals were not the ancestors of modern humans, that they were a separate species or a subspecies, with Neaderthals and modern humans branching off from a common ancestor about 400,000 years ago.  But when their living areas overlapped for about 10,000 years, beginning 40,000 years ago, did Neanderthal genes contribute to the human genome?  Although "no" is the most common answer among scientists, currently the data seems insufficient to answer this question with a high degree of confidence.  And young-earth scientists dispute all of these dates and relationships because, as in many other areas, the known data seems inconsistent with a young-earth scenario of Recent Ancestors.  For more information, NEANDERTHALS AND HUMANS: Genome-DNA and Fossils.
    • In 2003 on the Indonesian island of Flores, scientists discovered a small hominid skeleton (3 feet tall, or 1 meter) with an unusually small brain (400 cc, smaller than most chimpanzees) but (similar to larger-brained hominids) using tools, with physical characteristics — an "archaic head shape, archaic shoulder and wrist structure, and very long arms and very long feet on a very short body" (Debbie Argue) — that differ from Homo sapiens, and it was declared to be part of a new species, Homo floresiensis.  But other scientists disagreed, wondering whether it was just a modern human whose small size and unusual anatomy were due to genetics (like a dwarf or pygmy) or disease (microcephaly).  Since 2003 other skeletons have been discovered, with ages ranging from approximately 95,000 to 15,000 years ago.  If this is a new species, where does it fit into the family tree of modern humans?  For more information, HOMO FLORESIENSIS (hobbits?) AND HUMAN EVOLUTION.

    Common Descent in Human Evolution? 
    What happened in the history of human origins?  Most scientists who carefully examine the evidence agree with the following general outline:  There was a branching of our evolutionary family tree (with apes evolving one way, and our ancestors another way) about 8 million years ago;  during the next 2 million years the distance between these branches increased, as their differing sets of genes (and the associated physical & mental characteristics) continued to diverge;  in our branch of the tree about 6 million years ago, humans and chimpanzees still had the same common ancestor;  then humans and chimps evolved in different directions, with humans developing bipedalism (walking on two feet instead of four) plus opposable thumbs, larger brains, speech capabilities, and other distinctly human characteristics.
    Deborah Haarsma & Loren Haarsma — in Genomic Organization, Introns, Pseudogenes & Genetic Similarities in Humans & Chimps — describe the evidence-and-logic that leads most scientists to accept human common ancestry: "The amount of similarity in genomic organization among humans, chimps, and apes goes beyond what would be expected from common function alone and is generally seen as evidence for common ancestry."
    This theory of human evolution with common descent (or common ancestry) is accepted by most scientists, both Christian and non-Christian, although there is debate about some details (like the unresolved questions above) in the timings and shape of our family tree.  But common descent is theologically controversial in the Christian community, and is disputed by some scientists who are Christians.  This fascinating topic is examined in many of the pages below, and (with more detail) in HUMAN EVOLUTION WITH COMMON DESCENT?

Educational Resources:  Below you'll find views from old-earth evolutionary creationists, young-earth creationists, old-earth progressive creationists, and advocates of intelligent design, plus secular web-resources:

Scientific Views from Old-Earth Evolutionary Creationists
Scientifically, evolutionary creationists agree with the majority of scientists who study human origins.  Theologically, in their interpretation of the science, they believe that human evolution was "planned and [perhaps] guided by God."
• The Biologos Foundation (Darrel Falk and other Team Members) has a links-page about Scientific Evidence with summary-responses ("in a nutshell") for 5 questions — How are the ages of the Earth and universe calculated?  What is evolution?  What does the fossil record show?  What is the genetic evidence for evolution?  Did God create everything recently but make it appear old? — and you can "read more" about 3 of the questions.   Similarly, Responses to Arguments Against the Science of Evolution briefly responds to 4 questions — Does thermodynamics disprove evolution?  Isn’t the origin of life highly improbable?  How can evolution account for the complexity of life on earth today?  Does the Cambrian Explosion pose a challenge to evolution? — and links to "more" for each.
• In the past decade, scientific knowledge about the genomes of humans and other mammals has increased, and Graeme Finlay explains how "shared genetic markers establish the fact that we and other creatures share common ancestry."  This genetic evidence is consistent with several theological views about Divine Guidance of Natural Process, and Finlay argues for one of these views.
• When the human genome and genomes of other species are compared (re: homology, redundancy, synteny, and pseudogeny) the simplest conclusion is common descent, says Dennis Venema, in his talk (audio and slides) at the 2009 Meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation.
• Researching God's Creation by David Wilcox — who thinks "God is free to act in the natural order as He chooses (suddenly or gradually, intrusively or immediately) but never occasionally" because God is continuously active in our world — explains how scientific evidence-and-logic supports a common ancestry between humans and other animals;  and in Establishing Adam: Recent Evidences for a Late-Date Adam (AMH @100,000 BP) he describes how the first modern human may have been created by a combining of two chromosomes.   {more from Wilcox, in this page and elsewhere}

Scientific Views from Young-Earth Creationists
• Genome Sequence is very different in Chimps and Humans by David DeWitt (5 k), plus a more thorough version (if you click the link in his Reference 1) that explains why some evolutionists place the similarity at 95% instead of more than 98% (7 k)  /  commentary about human genetics by David Dewitt, criticizing an article (How We Became Human) in Time magazine (9 k)
• Are pseudogenes “shared mistakes” between primate genomes? by John Woodmorappe, analyzes the data and explains why he thinks "the belief that ‘pseudogenes are unequivocal support for evolution’ is invalid."  (55 k + 5k glossary)
• Also, see the Recent Ancestor Scenario.

Scientific Views from Old-Earth Progressive Creationists
• Why I accept Common Ancestry by Stephen Jones explains why — due to strong scientific evidence, especially the pseudogene for Vitamin C — he changed his position from opposing human common ancestry to accepting it, although he still rejects a fully naturalistic biological evolution.  Instead he thinks God created us, and other creatures, by using a combination of natural-appearing and miraculous-appearing divine actions.   { His views, and those of Rich Deem, are basically intelligent design, but they self-label themselves old-earth creationists. }
• Descent of Mankind Theory: Disproved by Molecular Biology by Rich Deem (25 k);  also,
  Man, Created in the Image of God describes "How Mankind is Unique Among All Other Creatures on Earth" (14 k), and
  Origin of Mankind and the Races (PowerPoint slides with comments below) concludes that "naturalistic explanations fail to explain the origin of modern man."
  Despite his own views, Deem writes a favorable review of a book that defends the theological acceptability of theistic evolution as a way for God to create humans.
• And later in this page, views from Hugh Ross & Fazale Rana.

Scientific Views from proponents of Intelligent Design
Michael Behe proposes intelligent design for irreducibly complex structures and he thinks pseudogenes provide strong scientific support for the common descent of humans: "Both humans and chimps have a broken [non-functional] copy of a gene that in other mammals helps make vitamin C. ... It's hard to imagine how there could be stronger evidence for common ancestry of chimps and humans. ...  [additional evidence comes from] a broken hemoglobin gene. ...  If a common ancestor [of humans and other primates] first sustained the mutational mistakes and subsequently gave rise to those two modern species, that would very readily account for why both species have them now." (quoted from The Edge of Evolution, published in 2007, pages 71-72)
• Human Origins and Intelligent Design by Casey Luskin, concludes that "our genus Homo appears to have been intelligently designed and is not connected to the australopithecine apes or any other apes through ancestry:  The alleged australopithecine ancestors are very different from the earliest members of Homo;  Homo appears suddenly and distinct, without transitions in the fossil record from any earlier forms;  subsequent forms of Homo are variants of and very similar to the initial forms of Homo."  (20 k, and a more technical version is 42 k)
• Reflections on Human Origins by William Dembski, "argues that an evolutionary process unguided by intelligence cannot adequately account for the remarkable intellectual and moral qualities exhibited among humans."  (53 k)

Secular Web-Resources about the science of Human Evolution
• The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History recently (March 2010) launched a comprehensive new exhibit, the Hall of Human Origins, along with its website asking What does it mean to be human?  This exhibit is described in an ASA blog entry by Randy Isaac.
• Timeline of Human Evolution by New Scientist, with history from 8 mya (at hominid-chimp split) to 4000 BC  (4 k)
Rediscovering Biology has an Online Textbook with a chapter on Human Evolution.  (35 k total for 11-part HTML or 1-part PDF)
• PBS has two link-pages about the evolution of humans (12) with links to The Origin of Humankind and the PBS 8-hour series on Evolution in 2001, which included The Mind's Big Bang — "Fifty thousand years ago, something happened -- the modern human mind emerged, triggering a creative, technological, and social explosion.  What forces contributed to that breakthrough?  Where might our power of mind ultimately lead us?"
• And in November 2009, PBS showed a 3-part series (First Steps, Birth of Humanity, Last Human Standing) about Becoming Human by Nova.
• Earlier, a website about Becoming Human — which includes a comprehensive glossary (in its Resources) and a video documentary with 13 parts (about 2 minutes each) plus written commentary with links — was produced by the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University.
• Fossil Hominids: The Evidence for Human Evolution (a links-page) and Hominid Species (20 k) by Jim Foley for Talk Origins
• Also, websites from Minnesota State University & Talk Origins.

Evolutionary Psychology and Sociobiology

• Nature in Belief: Evolutionary Explanation, Biological Function, and Religious Purpose was a seminar led by Alvin Plantinga and Jeffrey Schloss for the Calvin Summer Seminar Series;  eventually (but not before at least 2012) we'll have related link-pages about evolutionary psychology & sociobiology.

• I.O.U. — Later, there will be more links, both above and below.


THEOLOGY RESOURCES about Human Origins

• In a review (by Rich Deem, 2k) of Origin of the Human Species (by Dennis Bonnette, 3k), Deem says "the book shows that no matter what major approach to life's origins is taken, the historicity of Adam and Eve can still be defended." {more from Deem and Bonnette}

• Soteriology: Adam and the Fall by Gavin Basil McGrath, who (re: theology of salvation) thinks Adam and Eve were created with perfect sinless natures, and "for the world inside Eden and its environs, in accordance with the classic Christian picture, there was no death, misery, thorns, or thistles;  but outside Eden and its environs, in accordance with the classic scientific picture, there was.  It was God's plan to expand Eden and its environs to cover the planet, but the Fall got in the way."  (38 k)

Human Evolution and Christian Theology
• Human Evolution and the Image of God by Robert J. Schneider, "surveys briefly the empirical evidence for human evolution from the primate lineage, based upon physical anthropology, genetics, and radioactive dating" and, by comparing a wide range of views about human origins, "reflects upon the implications of these scientific discoveries for theology and biblical interpretation" to explain why an evolving humanity can bear the image of God.

• The Biologos Foundation (Darrel Falk and other Team Members) has a links-page about The First Humans with summary-responses ("in a nutshell") for 5 questions — At what point in the evolutionary process did humans attain the “Image of God”?  Did death occur before the Fall?  How does original sin fit with evolutionary history?  Were Adam and Eve historical figures?  Did evolution have to result in human beings? — along with links to pages that examine 4 of these questions in more depth.  For example, Did evolution have to result in human beings? says, "If the Creator chooses to interact with creation, he could very well influence the evolutionary process to ensure the arrival of his intended result.  Furthermore, an omniscient creator could easily create the universe in such a way that physical and natural laws would result in human evolution." (9 k)
• Also from Biologos, other questions include link-pages (with nutshell-summaries and links to "more") for The Biologos View (How is BioLogos different from Evolutionism, Intelligent Design, and Creationism? Why does this issue matter? Why should Christians consider evolution? What is the proper relationship between science and religion? Can science and scripture be reconciled?) and Scripture Interpretation (What factors should be considered in determining how to approach a passage of scripture? How was the Genesis account of creation interpreted before Darwin? What were the initial Christian responses to Darwin? What do Biblical scholars today say about Genesis 1-2? How should we interpret the Genesis flood account?) and God's Action in the Natural World (Is there room in evolutionary creation to believe in miracles? Are gaps in scientific knowledge evidence for God? What role could God have in evolution? What is the “fine-tuning” of the universe, and how does it serve as a “pointer to God”?) and Responses to Arguments against God and Christianity (If God created the universe, what created God? On what grounds can one claim that the Christian God is the creator? How does the evil and suffering in the world align with the idea of a loving God? How do randomness and chance align with belief in God’s sovereignty and purpose?).

• Evolution and the Image of God by Keith Miller, describes "one way to understand the Image of God in an evolutionary context."  He concludes by asking why God created us with characteristics that motivate us to sin: "It has been suggested by some that our physical desires and drives, which were part of God's good creation enabling us to survive and flourish as a species, became aspects of our humanity that God called us to overcome as His image bearers.  In other words, God desires that His character be developed in us through our encounter with and overcoming of temptation and trial (Gen 2:15-17; Gen 4:6-7).  And He has not left us in that process without providing us with His gracious power -- if we choose to accept it.  This provides, I believe, a useful basis for working out a theodicy of pain and suffering."  (8 k)
• Would unguided evolution be "theologically sufficient" to achieve the goals of God? by Craig Rusbult, who thinks "some guidance (and maybe lots of guidance) would be necessary to achieve the goals of God, unless these goals were very flexible and imprecise."  (1 k for this section, and 38k for the whole page, which asks "Is theistic evolution theologically acceptable?")
• Other descriptions of theology that is compatible with human evolution (either partially natural or totally natural, with each involving active creation by God) are in scenarios proposing Recent Representatives and Ancient Ancestors and Ancient Symbols.
• Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution, a book by Denis Lamoureux, is part of a comprehensive essay review, by Bethany Sollereder, of four books about God and Evolution (29 k);  she summarizes Lamoureux's description of three views about the origin of sin: "punctiliar monogenism would imagine an historical individual Adam, who in one moment was endowed with spiritual life, and who alone sinned;  punctiliar polygenism is a similar approach, but says that God directly created his image in all existing humans simultaneously, and that all people subsequently fell into sin. ... Instead, he [Lamoureux] advocates a gradual polygenism, a method which says the image of God — that which makes us unique amongst the creation — manifested itself gradually in all humans.  Sin also entered the world [and the Bible clearly teaches "the reality of the sinful state of humanity"] but its entrance cannot be pinned down to any one time."
• Must Human Evolution Contradict Genesis? by Dennis Bonnette, says NO and explains why: "Adam and Eve’s historical reality remains an essential preamble to Christian faith.  The preceding philosophical analysis of current human evolutionary theory’s interface with legitimate scriptural interpretation demonstrates that intelligent, well-educated, reasonable Christians even today have good cause to believe those fundamental truths revealed by God in the first three chapters of Genesis."  (22 k)   /   Dennis Bonnette wrote Origin of the Human Species, and a review by Rich Deem ends with a link to a philosophical analysis by Bonnette, who concludes that humans "possess intellectual faculties which utterly transcend the world of brutes."
• Evolution and Original Sin by Robin Collins, explains "how God has worked [through evolution] and continues to work incarnationally in the world."  (76 k)
• I.O.U. — Eventually, but not soon, we may offer excerpts or summaries from chapters about human evolution — written by James Hurd (Hominids in the Garden?), David Wilcox (Finding Adam: The Genetics of Human Origins), Robin Collins (Evolution and Original Sin), and Warren Brown (Evolution, Cognitive Neuroscience, and the Soul) — in Perspectives on An Evolving Creation (2003);  currently (from 7-27-2009 through 7-7-2010) the full chapters by Hurd and Wilcox are available online from Google Books;  but we recommend buying the book (in fact, for awhile it was the featured book on the homepage of ASA) so you can read all of the chapters.  A summary of ideas from Hurd are in Adam, Eve, and the Hominid Fossil Record.

Protestant Churches

Analysis of Two Competing Theories on the Origin of Homo sapiens sapiens: Multiregional Theory vs. the Out of Africa 2 Model

There are many competing theories regarding the origins of Homo sapiens sapiens. The multi-regional hypothesis and the Out of Africa 2 model are two such competing theories that are most controversial among those who are concerned with how anatomically modern humans evolved to out-compete all other hominids. This essay seeks to analyse these two highly contentious theories in order for the reader to gain insight into this debate and to make an informed decision as to which theory seems most comprehensible.  The conclusion made at the end of this paper shows how, through molecular evolutionary theories, fossil records and palaeoanthropology, the Out of Africa 2 model provides a more convincing argument to such a debate regarding the origins of Homo sapiens sapiens.


The most intriguing and perplexing question human kind has asked begins with ‘where have we come from?’ This subsequently highlights numerous other questions in need of answering before a concrete conclusion can be made; ‘who did we evolve from and what in our evolution led us to out-compete all other hominid species?’

Naturally, many theories have been postulated in an attempt to answer such questions, two of which stand out predominately – the multi-regional model and the Out of Africa 2 model. Each hypothesis demonstrates a different origin of Homo sapiens sapiens deduced from evidence found in fossil records, DNA sequences and archaeological sites. In examining the evidence of these theories, it should become clear which hypothesis is the lead contender in explaining where modern humans originated.

The Multi-regional Hypothesis

The multi-regional hypothesis argues that our early hominid ancestors, including Homo ergaster and Homo heidelbergensis, migrated out of Africa and thus the evolution of modern humans took place in different parts of the world – a process termed regional continuity (Pettitt, P 2009a: 125-173) . This theory places great emphasis on the notion of steady evolutionary alterations or changes that happen in different regions and produce diverse variations of the species. Evolution of this kind is kept at a regular rate due to an amalgamation of cultural progress and ‘gene flow’ or interbreeding, thus keeping all lineages evolving at the same time (EP 2006a:70). This process is characterized as parallel evolution, which suggests a subtle morphological resemblance between populations of species who are geographically separated (EBO 2011).

This idea was first postulated in 1940 by Franz Weidenreich (1873-1948), who noticed considerable similarities between the archaic Peking man fossils and modern humans from China. However, Weidenreich did not refer to his evolutionary hypothesis as the ‘multi-regional model’ -  instead, he used the term ‘Polycentric’ (Wikipedia 2011).

Milford Wolpoff, American Paleoanthropologist and advocate of the multi-regional hypothesis, developed Weidenriech’s theory along with Alan Thorne, allegorically suggesting that gene flow can be likened to that of individuals swimming in a pool – although they maintain their individuality, they are often influenced by the spreading ripples made by the activity of other people in the water. This, they suggest, is the ‘equivalent of genes flowing between populations’ (Wolpoff, M and Thorne, A 1992).

This theory is now highly discredited by many scholars due to the lack of supporting evidence. It was once thought that the fossil records from Australia and Asia could be understood as showing evidence for such regional continuity. The facial structure of the Dali cranium from China, for example, appears to be modern in its proportions. The cheek bones are highly delicate. For a proponent of the multi-regionalist theory, this indicates an intermediate stage between earlier archaic hominids (i.e. Homo erectus found at sites such as Lantian, China) and later Holocene populations living after 10,000 BC. However, the conditions of these fossil materials were poorly preserved and, in the case of the Dali cranium, highly mutilated through post-depositional weight loading. There are also no fossil materials dating from between 100,000 and 30,000 BC – this gap undermines the multi-regional hypothesis as it indicates a lack of any modern Chinese anatomical features from before 100,000 years ago (Pettitt, P 2009b:130).

The strong anatomical basis of the multi-regional hypothesis is a weakness of the theory. Chris Stringer highlights this, suggesting that the physical features used to support the regional continuity (i.e. flatness of the frontal bone and the constriction of the skull behind the orbital area) are not only found in specific regions such as Asia, but all around the world. This suggests that these physical features are in fact general Homo characteristics and cannot therefore be used in support of the multi-regionalist view (Stringer, C 1984, cited by Pettitt, P 2009:131).

The most highly damaging critique of this hypothesis stems from recent genetic research. The multi-regional model proposes a shared genetic lineage between archaic Neanderthals and modern humans. Geneticists have proved this idea to be purely imaginative. Work on the Neander Valley skeleton and others have demonstrated that such a link in descent does not exist.  It has been widely credited that Neanderthals did not contribute, in any case, to the human genome and therefore the evolution of modern humans (EP 2006b:71).

On the basis that there is little supporting evidence to suggest the validity of the multi-regionalist view, it would seem that its competitor, the Out of Africa 2 model or population replacement model, has the upper hand. The Out of Africa 2 model is a strong contender in accounting for the spread and development of anatomically modern Homo sapiens sapiens (EP 2006c: 69).

The Out of Africa 2 Model

It is widely recognized among both archaeological and anthropological academics that archaic Homo populations did leave Africa in an initial phase of globalisation, called the Out of Africa 1 model. Following this, the population replacement hypothesis maintains that modern humans evolved in Africa from the ancestral hominids that did not travel out of this continent in the first stage of global colonisation. It is then argued in this model that once evolved as anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens travelled out of Africa to explore, colonise and rapidly replace the archaic Homo population. This movement suggests a second wave of hominid species emerging from Africa, thus the title: the Out of Africa 2 model (EP 2006d: 69).

There are numerous assumptions that are endorsed by the Out of Africa 2 model, the first of which predicts that the earliest fossils of Homo sapiens sapiens will only be found in Africa along with any transitional fossils, marking the evolutionary process of these modern humans. Such fossils will not be found outside this area. Secondly, this model suggests that modern-day human populations may not necessarily share lineages or links with the earlier populations that inhabited the same region. This idea stems from the notion that the new populations of modern humans that inhabit an area will replace any archaic Homo species that occupy this region, thus establishing a new lineage of descent (Pettitt, P 2009c:128-129). Evidence in support of these ideas exists through multiple sources, showing the clear superiority of this theory in contrast with the multi-regionalist model.

Such evidence can be found in the striking research of molecular geneticists; research which supports the idea of modern humans arising in one place and subsequently spreading elsewhere.

Molecular Evolutionary Theories

The DNA studied as reflected in Rebecca Cann and Allan Wilson’s research resides in mitochondria (mtDNA­). This cellular organelle converts food into energy that the entire cell can then use. It is also passed on only through females thus preserving a family record, altered singularly through mutations. Cann and Wilson believe that mtDNA mutates at a steady rate so that molecular geneticists can calculate dates of movement (Renfrew, C and Bahn, P 2008: 464). This process evolved from the works of Vincent Sarich who, by calculating the mutation rate of different species that could be reliably dated by fossils, managed to create a way of calibrating the ‘molecular clock’ (Cann, R and Wilson, A. 1992a: 68).

Through genetic comparisons of dates of mutations, Rebecca Cann and Allan Wilson have reason to believe that all maternal lineages can be traced back to one individual woman who came from one region (most likely Africa) and lived 200,000 years ago – this female individual has been nicknamed ‘mitochondrial Eve’.  In their paper, The Recent African Genesis of Humans (1992), Cann and Wilson stress that ‘Eve’, whilst not being the only woman to procreate, is definitely a woman whose lineage survived throughout the ages. This paper highlights that other maternal lineages apart from ‘Eve’s’ must have died out because these women where giving birth to males instead of females and thus, mtDNA could not be passed on to offspring (Cann, R and Wilson, A.  1992b).

In the same line of research, a theoretical most common recent ancestor (MCRA) has been found to be a male, also living in Africa, from as early as 142,000 BC. This individual is thought to be the man from whom all modern people are descended, tracing back only from paternal lines of a family tree – he has been nicknamed ‘Y-chromosomal Adam’. Y-chromosomes can only be passed on paternally, from father to son. Like the study of mtDNA, mutations of Y-chromosomes can also be calibrated and dated to reveal a reconstruction of ancestral Y-chromosomal DNA sequences (Cruciani, F 2011, cited by Wikipedia 2011).

Through applying molecular evolutionary theories such as that of ‘mitochondrial Eve’ and ‘Y-chromosomal Adam’, the Out of Africa 2 model is strengthened as a hypothesis. The research of Sarich, Cann and Wilson provide firm evidence to suggest that modern humans descended from archaic Homo populations living in Africa. This can be shown in the lineages of descent and the mutations that had occurred genetically from 200,000 years ago to the present modern day. Moreover, the diversity seen in mitochondrial DNA in African populations is unparalleled in its diversity. This is powerful evidence in support of the Out of Africa 2 model as it supports the theory that there are lineages in Africa tracing back more than 100,000 years (Anderson-Mann, S 2005/2006).

The Out of Africa 2 model seems convincing as a hypothesis for the origins of Homo sapiens sapiens, not just because it is strongly supported by evidence in genetics, but because of the research involved in palaeoanthropology.  Fossil hominid evidence is crucial in determining how and from whom a species might have evolved. The multi-regional model, whose fossil records rested on the finds of evolutionary physical features of archaic hominids in Australia and Asia, seems weak in comparison with the fossil evidence supporting the Out of Africa 2 model.

The Anatomy of Homo sapiens sapiens and the use of Fossil Records

Homo sapiens sapiens must clearly be defined anatomically. This is critical because it allows for the recognition of modern humans in the fossil record. Also, features of modern humans may be found in some hominid fossils that we know not to be Homo sapiens sapiens, suggesting a transitional being or a different Homo species entirely (Pettitt, P 2009d: 130).

For this reason, the characteristics of the cranial features of anatomically modern humans have been defined precisely. The cranial capacity of Homo sapiens sapiens is found usually to be in excess of 1350 cc, although this can vary. The frontal bone or forehead is relatively vertical in comparison with other hominids. Homo habilis, for example, carries a frontal bone that slopes backwards quite sharply. The cranial vault of the anatomically modern human is described by Paul Pettitt as high with paralleled walls. Homo sapiens sapiens can be characterized by their rounded occipital region (back of the head) which lacks a prominent horizontal bulge called the occipital torus; a vast contrast with the protuberant occipital torus of Homo neanderthalensis (Pettitt, P 2009e: 132).

Recognising these characteristics of the modern human are essential to answering the question of where the modern human originated. Excavations at various sites in Africa have unearthed many hominid fossils, in particular, skulls.  Such finds have been used to identify transitional specimens who display primitive yet modern cranial features. This evidence suggests that modern humans were evolving in Africa from as early as 250,000 years ago (Pettit, P 2009f: 132)

In 1976, a cranium was recovered from deposits in Bodo, Africa, which also contained Acheulean tools. These tools were studied using the argon-argon method which dated the finds to between 670,000 and 600,000 years ago. This is consistent with some of the Bodo cranium’s features as it possesses numerous characteristics of Homo ergaster i.e. a robust facial skeleton, thick bones and a forehead that bulges from the centre.  However, this specimen bears an overall resemblance to crania dated to after 300,000 BC which is shown in the endocranial capacity, estimated at close to 1300 cc. Homo ergaster supported a cranial capacity of 900 cc, on average. Therefore, the Bodo cranium suggests that encephalization (gradual enlargement of the brain) was occurring among archaic Homo species in Africa around 600,000 years ago. This supports the theory of evolutionary change, specific to regions in Africa, of Homo populations (Pettitt, P 2009g: 133).

Transitional fossils found in Herto, Ethiopia, also offer significant support for the Out of Africa 2 model. Two adult and one child crania were discovered in deposits that, through argon-argon methods, were dated to 160,000 and 154,000 BC (late/middle/ early Upper Pleistocene era). The crania, like the Bodo cranium, sustain clear features characteristic of Homo ergaster but also bear modern human features (Pettit, P 2009h: 135). Scientists have classified this species as Homo sapiens idaltu, in order to emphasize their transitional nature presumably between Homo rhodesiensis to anatomically modern Homo sapiens (Foley, J 2003).

By the early Upper Pleistocene era (125,000 – 70,000 BC), fossils relating to Homo populations appear modern and are regarded as such. The African fossil record is littered with fragments of what are presumed to be anatomically modern human crania. Equus Cave in South Africa revealed a fragmentary mandible whose proportions and morphology of teeth relate closely to those of modern humans. Similarly, a jaw was discovered from the Cave of Hearths at Makapansgat in South Africa that bears subtle hints of a chin not unlike that of Homo sapiens sapiens (Stringer and Gamble 1993, cited by Pettitt, P 2009: 137).

Behavioural Patterns of Anatomically Modern Homo sapiens sapiens

The archaeology of Africa dating from the Middle Stone Age (100,000 years ago) strongly suggests an emergence of new behavioural patterns that differ greatly from those of archaic hominids. These new behavioural traits are seen to be modern in form. They develop at the same time as the biological emergence of anatomically modern Homo sapiens so it is suggestive of a leap in cognitive and intellectual evolution. Such behavioural modifications include clear organization of space, shown in dwelling structures; high frequencies in transport over long distances, of lithic raw materials; symbolic and non-figurative art; jewellery being made from shells and the growth in population density (Thames and Hudson 2008).

A shift in diet is also evidence of behavioural modernity as it suggests the growth of a broader-spectrum in economy.  Seafood is rich in the diet of behaviourally modern Homo sapiens sapiens. Fresh water fish and brackish or salt water fish remains have been found at many sites in Africa including White Paintings Shelter in Botswana and shell middens at Klasies River. At the site of Bombos Cave in South Africa, three Middle Stone Age phases were excavated providing more evidence in the evolution of behavioural patterns. Subsistence strategies found in all three phases were extensive and far-reaching; marine mammals, shellfish, fish and reptiles were all consumed at this site. The use of fire is also evident at Bombos Cave as Wood ash is scattered throughout all three phases, indicative of hearths. This shows that sites on which modern humans lived were becoming modified to sustain living (Pettit, P 2009h: 142).

The overlap in chronologies between archaeological evidence of behaviour and the fossil record of modern humans supports the Out of Africa 2 model, strengthening the view that Homo sapiens sapiens where evolving, anatomically and intellectually, in Africa.


On balance it seems that the Out of Africa 2 model holds more weight as a hypothesis as opposed to the multi-regional model. The multi-regional model simply lacks substantial evidence. The fossil records used to support this theory are weak and do not provide any significant evidence to suggest that Homo sapiens sapiens evolved outside of Africa.

Agreement for the Out of Africa 2 model seems highly logical in answering the question of where modern humans originated. This is because of the vast amounts of evidence that can be used in support of the theory. The molecular genetic research of Sarich, Cann and Wilson provide a firm basis in explaining that our direct ancestral lineage begins in Africa. The African fossil records also shows that modern humans where evolving in Africa. This can be seen from transitional fossils like the Homo sapiens idaltu cranium. Also, archaeological evidence explains how behavioural patterns evolved, as well as modern human morphology, in order to sustain a way of living suited to this advanced intellectual being. Subsistence strategies progressed and expanded along with more complex dwellings, evident in many sites throughout Africa.

The evidentiary support of the Out of Africa 2 model proves to be highly convincing and fascinating. The ground-breaking research of molecular geneticists, in particular, validates the legitimacy of this hypothesis, making it the strongest contender in answering where Homo sapiens sapiens originated. As Paul Pettitt suggests, ‘we are, it would appear, African in the main’ (Pettitt, P 2009i: 131).


Cover Photo, Top Left: Skull of the fossil Homo sapiens sapiens from the Epipaleolithic of Combe Capelle. Gunter Bechly, Wikimedia Commons.



Anderson-Mann, S. (2005/2006). Phylogenetic and phylogeographic analysis ofAfrican mitochondrial DNA variation. Available: , Last accessed: 10th Dec 2011.

Cruciani, F (2011). A revised root for the human Y chromosomal phylogenetic tree: the origin of patrilineal diversity in Africa. In: Wikipedia (2011).Y-chromosomal Adam. Available: , last accessed 10th Dec 2011.

EBO (2011). Parallel Evolution. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online.  Available:  Last accessed 6th Dec 2011.

EP (2006 a-d):  Webster, J and Young, R (2006). Level 1 Module 2 –Early Prehistory. School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester: 67-82

Foley, J (2003). Herto skulls (Homo sapiens idaltu).  Available:, last accessed 11th Dec 2011.

Pettitt, P (2009 a-i). The rise of modern humans. In: Scaare, C. The Human Past. 2nd ed.  London: Thames and Hudson 124-173

Renfrew, C and Bahn, P (2008). Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice. 4th ed. London: Thames and Hudson:  464

Thames and Hudson (2008). Chapter 4:The Rise of Modern Humans. Available:, last accessed 12th Dec 2011.

Wikipedia (2011). Multiregional origin of modern humans. Available:, Last accessed 5th Dec 2011.

Wolpoff, M and Thorne, A (1992). ‘The Multi-Regional Evolution of Humans’ Scientific American, 28-33

By Sophie Edwards

Sophie Edwards is a student of archaeology with the Univeristy of Leicester. She also volunteers with an archaeology team, currently excavating a site thought to be medieval in origin. She is most passionate about Classical civilisations, although Early prehistory is also an interest.  

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