Does an Evolutionary Adam Provide a Compromise between Evolution and Creation?

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.

Graphic for the evolution of man

image credit: wpclipart

Evolutionary Adam

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.

Your observations and comments are welcome below.
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15 Responses to Does an Evolutionary Adam Provide a Compromise between Evolution and Creation?

  1. Pingback: Does an Evolutionary Adam Provide a Compromise between Evolution and Creation? |

  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Thank you for this clear explanation of the issues.


  3. I agree with you, I find little reason to try and find a middle ground between evolution and creationism, either by invoking divine directed evolution of an evolutionary Adam. However, IMHO, it seems much easier to believe the Genesis story than to try and make since how we all could have descended from one man and one woman who never met. I have four kids and “meeting” is essential for decedents.All kidding aside, it seems more probable that what is recorded is closer to the truth than what is imagined.


    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thanks David,

      We agree on this issue that the middle way does not work. But of course I think the Genesis story is not meant to be an historical account of creation.

      Regarding the ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ of geneticists, they are not saying that these two are, together, our parents and they do not identify them with the Adam and Eve of Genesis.

      Instead these unknown individuals are our most recent common ancestors: this ‘Eve’ is the most recent ancestor of all of us, while ‘Adam’ is the most recent common ancestor of all men.


      • Drew says:

        If mitochondrial Adam is the most recent common ancestor of all “men” (males?), I guess this means that there are women alive today who do not have Adam as a father. So, it could turn out that there is an earlier more universally inclusive father, or perhaps not a single father for all of humanity existing today. But as for mitochondrial Eve, there is no woman before her with a surviving lineage. Is my logic right here? But why would it be only women who are the survivors of the other father’s lineage? (Of course, maybe you didn’t mean “males”.)


        • Drew, you are correct that I meant ‘males’ and not ‘all humans’. I have read in this area, but I am certainly not an expert.

          I could guess, since the Y-chromosome male is much further back in time than the Mitochondrial female, that she might be a descendant of the Y-chromosome male; but I’m not sure we can determine whether this is so or whether she was a descendant of another male line because the Y-chromosome and Mitochondrial indicators operate quite differently and cannot clarify that question. Further reading in expert sources might provide you a better answer.

          I think you are right that there are earlier males whose descendants are more inclusive in that they would include lines of direct descent that no longer exist.


  4. Marc says:

    Hi Tim,

    Although the weight of the scientific evidence indicates that homo sapiens have existed for over 100k years, this revelation only concerns the physical and not the spiritual.

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Scriptures should always be understood as a revelation of Jesus Christ. Adam and Eve are indeed the real historical ancestors of the Virgin Mary and God Incarnate, Jesus Christ. The genealogies of Genesis understood as ages of patriarchs places the creation of Adam and Eve and the event of Eden at about 12,000 BC. The local flood that refined the lineage for the Incarnation, took place about 6,000 BC and corresponded to a rapid rise in sea level brought about by the melting of the ice from the last ice age.

    I believe that the spiritual seed given to Adam and Eve was also given to all homo sapiens at about the same time. Adam and Eve were not only special because of the Incarnation that would come from their family, but had the fall not taken place, they would have led the rest of mankind in developing the spiritual seed that they were all blessed with. So as the first completed human beings, Adam and Eve are also the father and mother of all humanity.

    The Incarnation was always part of God’s plan concerning mankind, because we were created in His image with the capacity to be like Him. We are creatures created with the capacity to enter into God’s family if we cooperate in the process of our own development..


  5. sheila0405 says:

    I studied physical anthropology in college, and it was a pretty confusing class. I took it, not knowing that it was the study of evolution. The professor concentrated much of the class time on survival of the fittest. While the fossil records indicate changes in species over time, the so-called “missing link” was never explained to my satisfaction. It is in this “middle” section of early primates to homo sapiens development where we still do not have definitive answers. I believe the Genesis account to be allegorical in nature, but–here we are, homo sapiens, and we got here somehow. My main objection to taking Genesis literally is the question of Cain’s wife. There had to be homo sapiens elsewhere in order for him to find a wife. But that leaves me with how did we come about?


    • Yes, Sheila, here we are! We got here somehow. Your question about Cain’s wife is a good one in my opinion. Creationists often brush it off as unimportant, but I think it is a signifcant problem for the creationist view.


  6. Herman Cummings says:

    Stop grasping for straws. The correct opposing view to evolution is the “Observations of Moses”. It is the ONLY correct literal rendition of Genesis chapter one. Everything else is false doctrine.

    Herman Cummings


  7. Pingback: Why is Creation so Important to Creationists? | Jesus Without Baggage

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