Ever since evolution became a significant scientific theory, some Christians have embraced it as generally factual or at least possible. However, not all Christian evolutionists view the Genesis creation accounts the same way. Some understand them as unhistorical and others try to harmonize the accounts with evolution.
Some who attempt to harmonize Genesis and evolution suggest that, though evolution did occur and humans did evolve from lower animals, perhaps somewhere along the evolutionary chain was a couple that can be identified as Adam and Eve—the first humans.
This imagined male individual in the evolutionary chain is evolutionary Adam, and this Adam and his wife Eve are seen as the parents of all humanity. Much of the idea of this theory is to salvage some of the significance lost from the Genesis accounts if Adam were not a historical person.
Genesis states that God made humans in his image. In the evolutionary Adam theory, God selected a pair of pre-human primates and made them human by instilling his image in them. In this way, the image of God is preserved and an original couple is available for the fall, which preserves the doctrine of original sin in all humanity.
There is no consensus on what Genesis means by ‘God’s image’. It might refer to the soul or our ability to think about and relate to God.
Other ideas are that it means that we are God’s representatives on earth, or that we are able to use tools and control our environment in ways that animals cannot, or that it refers to our advanced abilities in reasoning, understanding math and history, having developed languages, and creativity. Certainly all these things set us apart from other animals.
However, if we evolved from lower animals the big question is: when did we receive God’s image? Was there an individual, or a couple, or even a selected population group that received God’s image? Certainly, somewhere along the way these things occurred.
What Does Genetics Say about our First Parents?
Research in genetics does indicate that all living humans descend from one woman and all living males descend from one man, but the two never met. The woman is sometimes called Mitochondrial Eve and we all descend though our direct line of female ancestors from this person; she is our most recent common ancestor and she lived about 200,000 years ago.
In a similar way, all men descend through their direct line of male ancestors from a common individual, sometimes called Y-Chromosome Adam, who lived about 300,000 years ago, so he and Mitochondrial Eve did not live at the same time.
Does Evolutionary Adam Work as a Harmony of Creation and Evolution?
I cannot say that there was no original historical pair of humans along the evolutionary chain from whom we all descend, but what reason would there be to identify them with Adam and Eve?
Such identification would not reconcile evolution with the Genesis creation account because the account does not describe a pair who BECAME human but a man created directly from the ground and a woman created from his rib. Identifying Adam and Eve with the first primates provided with a spiritual or intellectual capacity would not validate the Genesis account.
My second issue is: how would we even know details of such a pair from so many thousands of years ago? Obviously, a first pair would be illiterate and incapable of writing down what happened, and the story could not have survived through the many generations before the invention of writing. Perhaps one could argue that God revealed the story, but the biggest problem is that this scenario doesn’t even match what Genesis says.
Next time we will look at Intelligent Design.