A discussion meandered past TOF's optics the other day and put him in mind of a post of his from way back in 2011. This proved at the time to be a favorite among TOFian followers and racked up large numbers of eyeballs. So, TOF bethought himself to tweak the writing a bit and repost it.John Farrel has written a column at his Forbes site entitled "Can Theology Evolve," quoting from an epistle of Jerry Coyne:
"I’ve always maintained that this piece of the Old Testament, which is easily falsified by modern genetics (modern humans descended from a group of no fewer than 10,000 individuals), shows more than anything else the incompatibility between science and faith. For if you reject the Adam and Eve tale as literal truth, you reject two central tenets of Christianity: the Fall of Man and human specialness."
Adam and Eve discover
they are naked.
Human race follows.
Now, by "literal truth" Coyne undoubtedly intended "literal fact," since a thing may be true without being fact, and a fact has no truth value in itself. I do not know Dr. Coyne's bona fides for drawing doctrinal conclusions or for interpreting scriptures, although he seems to lean toward the fundamentalist persuasion of naive Biblical literakism. Nor am I sure how Dr. Coyne's assertion necessarily entails a falsification of human specialness (whatever he means by that). I never heard of such a doctrine in my Storied Youth(^1) though it is pretty obvious from a scientific-empirical point of view. You are not reading this on an Internet produced by kangaroos or in a language devised by petunias, so there just might be something a weensie-bit special about humans.
It is not even clear what his claim means regarding the Fall. Neither
the Eastern Orthodox nor the Roman Catholic churches ever insisted on a
naive-literal reading of their scriptures, and yet both asserted as
dogma the Fall of Man.(^2)
Now modern genetics does not falsify the Adam and Eve tale for the excellent reason that it does not address the same matter as the Adam and Eve tale. One is about the origin of species; the other is about the origin of sin. One may as well say that a painting of a meal falsifies haute cuisine.
Still, there are some interesting points about the myth of Adam and Eve
and the Fall. Not least is the common Late Modern usage of "myth" to
mean "something false" rather than "an organizing story by which a
culture explains itself to itself." Consider, for example, the "myth of
progress" that was so important during the Modern Ages. Or the equally
famous "myth of Galileo" which was a sort of Genesis myth for the
Modern Ages. With the fading of the Modern Ages, these myths have lost
their power and have been exploded by post-modernism or by historians of
science. Before we consider the Fall, let us consider the Summer.
No. Wait. I mean the Summary.
(^1) storied youth. Literally. My brother and I wrote stories when we were kids.
(^2) Makes you wonder what their actual reasoning was, if it was not some backwoods 19th century American reading an archaic English translation of some Greek texts.