Monday, December 05, 2005

Question

I have a question that I hope someone can help me with. It is concerning the Bible… No, wait, hear me out. This is a sensible question from a non-Christian.

Here goes:

Premise 1
Current Christian thinking places the creation of the world at about 4000BC with humans being created on the 6th day with creation of Adam and Eve. All humans thereafter were the direct descendants of those two people. About 1656 years later the population of the world was whittled down to eight – Noah and his wife, their three sons and their wives – during the great flood, when everyone else was wiped out. Therefore, everyone alive today is descended from those eight people.

Premise 2
In articles concerning the animal kingdom, when discussing endangered species, “loss of genetic variability” is often talked about. In elephants for instance, 500 individuals is often quoted as being the minimum number needed for the survival of the species, but one school of thought suggests that even then, minimal genetic manipulation would be needed in order to maintain the gene pool. 2,000 individuals appears to be the consensus for the number of individuals required for a species to survive with no genetic intervention.

Question
My question (and though it has probably been asked many times before, I have never heard a convincing answer) is this: Even if you assume that perhaps the first few generations after Adam and Eve were somehow exempt from this fundamental principle, how can the human race have survived after the Flood with the gene pool provided by eight individuals? It just doesn’t make any sense. Also, in order to continue the human race after the flood, a certain amount of incest must have taken place. My understanding of the Bible’s stance on sex is that “no man shall lie with anyone other than his wife”.

If there is anyone out there with the time to spare who can answer this, I would be most grateful.

10 Comments:

Blogger Matt said...

You may be wanting to cast your net a little further than me but I can offer an explanation. Even though I don't believe in any of this stuff, as I understand it Adam and Eve were not the only people that god made. I seem to remember something about the Tower of Babel.

10:15 pm  
Blogger Goatboy said...

I'm not an expert either, but I don't think there was anyone else created in the beginning except Adam and Eve. I think that everyone was supposed to be descended from them alone. Anyway, as I understand it the tower of Babel came much later on, after the flood in fact. It was when all the peoples of the world had a common language and therefore, could easily communicate with each other. This in turn meant that they could organise themselves and pull together to make a huge tower that would reach heaven. God apparently wasn't too fond of this idea and put a stop to it by scattering everyone all over the Earth and confusing their language.

It all sounds to me like rather a crow-barred explanation for the human diaspora and origin of multiple language groups. However, it doesn't explain the lack of a sufficient gene pool.

11:17 pm  
Blogger drebro said...

Stuart,
I would say that it is a pretty small group of Christian interpreters of the Old Testament that take the early parts of Genesis and the dates in the genealogies so literally. I actually did my master's thesis on this section (Genesis 1-11), but I was not asking the question you are. I am not really sure how to answer your question; I don't really know anything about genetics and biology. I guess those who view these texts literally (I am not sure if I do or not; I guess I see parts of them as literal, but other parts I don't know) would say one of a few things.
First, is it possible, if we allow for an omnipotent God, as the Bible presupposes, to suspend natural laws in order to "fill the earth" as Genesis says? If we take the dates literally, the great ages of the figures in the genealogies suggest that the physical conditions were different then--people lived multiple centuries regularly.
From the other side, doesn't an evolutionary perspective (I am speaking in ignorance) hold that somewhere back there all life is connected, that it all came from a single life form, and developed in different directions resulting in the great variety we see today? Wouldn't that demand that somewhere along the line these laws for the survival of species were broken, or do evolutionary scientists believe that multiple organisms made evolutionary "leaps" (not sure if that is clear) simultaneously?
I guess the other main option is to allow for mythological interpretation, which would say that the stories are not necessarily fiction, but they are not newspaper style reporting either. They are not meant to give us all the details of what happened, but include much figurative and symbolic language. Just some thoughts. I don't really know too much about these things. I am sure that creation scientists have some answer for this, but you suggest that maybe you have already been disappointed with those. I would say to ask them, and tell them their answers are not satisfying.

11:40 pm  
Blogger Goatboy said...

Thanks mate

8:43 am  
Blogger J.L. said...

I like where you are going with this, but you have overlooked a fundamental component:

Anyone who believes this complete load of nonsensical horseshit probably doesn't believe in genetics, science, or a spherical earth.

"If it wasn't for you kids, and your meddling dog..."

2:21 pm  
Blogger Goatboy said...

Right..ok..great.

Simplistic certainly, but I think I like it.

4:52 pm  
Blogger J.L. said...

I was referring to christian thought when I mentioned it being a 'complete load of...', not your premises, which to me seem both reasonable and sound. There are so much of these illogical statements and narratives in christianity (such as that the earth is only 4000 years old and that fossils were put in the ground by god as a test of faith) that just don't stand up under scrutiny.

Apologies for any confusion.

P.S. Didn't you ever watch the original cartoon version of 'Scooby Doo' as a kid? When the bad guy got caught, as was inevitably the case, they always explained their entire plan, and then said "I'd have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for you kids and your meddling dog..." before being taken away. Or something like that anyway.

8:14 am  
Blogger Goatboy said...

No problem j.l, no confusion, no offence taken.

I just think that to dismiss any religion so easily is a tad simplistic.
Your comment about Christians rejecting science, if only that were true.

One of my big bug bears is that a lot of them do the opposite. They embrace it and try to use it to bolster their beliefs. The problem is that often they have only a rudimentary undestanding of the science they are quoting, the second law of thermodynamics springs to mind, and so their arguments are fundamentally flawed.

If you haven't done so already, you might try looking at Life, The Universe and Everything. It is a blog (see link on my main blog) who's author questions religion far better than I ever could.

By the way, do you mind if I add your blog to my blogroll?

Re your other comment, I did watch Scooby Doo as a kid, but I lost interest when they introduced Scrappy Doo. I always felt that was a mistake. He was such an annooying little shit and he ruined the whole Scooby Doo experience for me. Kind of like Jar Jar Binks in StarWars.
When will these people learn, when something is perfect, don't mess with it. But no, they had to fuck around with it until it was broken.

11:32 am  
Blogger J.L. said...

Funnily enough, I found 'Ramblings' via 'Strange Land' via 'Life, The Universe and Everything'.

Yeah, I was being a bit facetious. As a student, I get really sick of christians on campus trying to convert me.

I have fallen out with extended family members, gotten into arguments with christian colleagues on campus and at work, and lost otherwise good friends over their insistance that I am 'a sinner' and need to be 'saved'. I have witnessed firsthand (and on occasion caused) the hysterical and frantic defensive ranting of christians trying to justify their beliefs when questioned.

Why anyone today would base their set of moral standards and beliefs around a book cobbled together over hundreds of years, translated, revised and perverted, about a guy who apparently did some truly fantastic things which continue to defy scientific explanation, I don't know. Certainly it makes some good and worthwhile points (such as encouraging people to live a modest life, and not kill each other willy-nilly, etc), but they don't mitigate the rest of it. And then they try and fill in the blanks with all sorts of crazy stuff like the Ark and whatnot. OK, so they didn't know much about the universe back then, but we sure know a whole lot more about it now. Yet many people still believe the ridiculous and absurd, even when presented with verifiable - or at least *highly* probable- evidence to the contrary.

Anyway, I'm ranting myself now - better stop there.

I'd be quite happy for you to link to my blog from yours, much appreciated, and I will do the same.

8:26 am  
Blogger Goatboy said...

Cheers

11:03 am  

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