Imagining Adam or Imagining Hominids? Origins, Lesson 5
by Jack Hoehn
These comments are on the current Sabbath School lessons on Origins, Lesson 5 and attempt to open the conversation to a broader Adventist understanding of Creation. Both Creationists and Evolutionists seem to be exercising a lot of imagination in their debates:
Sunday January 27 “The text does not say, but one can imagine…”
Where do we imagine Creation from? How do Adventists all see God kneeling and modeling in the clay?
Perhaps we start with a painting, something from Harry Anderson, or Clyde Provonsha in The Bible Stories, Volume 1, so kindly imagined by Uncle Arthur Maxwell? Perhaps from the felt board cutouts in children’s Sabbath School?
Do you too see the planted garden with mowed lawns and flower beds, and all the leaves raked clean where the wandering peacocks (with no droppings), share the background with a grizzly bear or lion (vegetarian of course), some gentle deer (are they keeping an eye on the bear and lion?), a rabbit and chimpanzee standing about while Jesus kneels in a patch of clay working on man, while all the creatures watch with casual interest?
And of course it is all fresh because all the animals were freshly made a few minutes ago, the garden was planted and matured in a few seconds, and now as the first Friday rushes on toward the first Sabbath, we have to get man slowly and lovingly made, vitalized, introduced to God first and then to all the animals enough to name them, to observe the genders and the companionship of the genders and feel lonely for some helper of his own, go back to sleep for a little unfallen surgery (are the animals all watching this too?) creation of woman, awakening of Adam who exclaims, “at long last, someone for me,” (come on, guy, it has only been an hour or two at most, Adam!). Then God explains dominion to the two of them, the trees of life and choice (choice of good and “gooder” in a perfect world, or choice of good and evil in a mixed creation and was was there time left to explain what exactly death was in a deathless world, the benefits of a plant-based diet, and understand that a man should cleave to his spouse, naked but not ashamed…..in time for the Sabbath at sundown on those busy 12 sunlit hours of the first preparation day?…
How much of the traditional Adventist concept of Creation is truly biblical, truly rational, truly possible with a real God and a real world, and how much has been rather simplistically imagined?
Do we really wish to cement in place by a vote of the General Conference a new, narrow fundamental belief statement that Day 6 and all the other days were ordinary 24-hour days, of which 12 were available for work? To be a real Adventist, must you imagine for yourself a Creation story that only makes sense when you say, "Well, God could do anything, couldn’t he?" Just what does our Church think God was making that Creation week—an unrealistic myth or a real world?
Well, as lesson author James Gibson writes, “The text does not say, but one can imagine…”
Friday February 1: “Recognizing Adam as the first human also refutes the possibility that any fossils were ancestral to Adam or other humans.”
From where, then, did these fossils come? The lesson author and editor appear to be fairly matter-of-fact about humanoid fossils. While denying that they are ancestors to Adam, the fact that there are humanoid fossils is not disputed. Several possible interpretations are offered (and a figure of 500 million years is mentioned by the authors in a sarcastic illustration, although the actual time span for Hominids is 4 to 1 million years ago, entirely within the 6th Day of creation era events. And the creation of Adam is estimated by Old Earth Creationists as happening somewhere between 30,000 to 170,000 years ago.)
The SS lesson lists several speculations about these human-like fossils:
1.) They were humans in fact, but physically deformed with human mental abilities.
2.) They were humans, but physically and mentally defective.
3.) They were created by God and looked like humans (humanoid) but were not. (Why God might create humanoids on the 6th 24-hour-day before creating Adam a few minutes or hours later, is not elaborated on.)
4.) They were Satan’s attempts to make apes human.
Other Creationists who believe in a progressive creation over eras might also suggest the following:
5.) God in preparing the world for Adam created human-like animals to prepare an ecological niche for Homo sapiens, before he made Adam.
6.) Or God directed the evolution of animals to man. Adam’s creation occurred when God endowed him with consciousness and morality, when humans became God-like, in the ability to think and do, conscious of self and able to worship.
However the whole subject of “Human evolution” is also a hotbed of evolutionary imagination! The 2012 book, “Science & Human Origins” by Ann Gauger PhD a developmental biologist et.al., reminds us that the so called neo-Darwinian path from chimps to us is as imaginary, scientifically speaking, as our felt board Kindergarten ideas of creation may be!
The fossils of animals that appear similar to humans (ancient and modern apes) are few and far between. And what little there is, is often exceedingly fragmentary. As evolutionary icon Stephen Jay Gould has admitted, “Hominid fossils, even though they serve as a basis for endless speculation and elaborate storytelling, are fragments of jaws and scraps of skulls.” So here we go again, “endless speculation and elaborate storytelling,” the place of imagination in the creation/evolution debate goes on and on.
So when National Geographic artists portray ape-like Australopithecines with gleams of human-like intelligence and emotion in its eyes, remember the sober facts as stated by Harvard anthropologist Earnest A. Hooton, “alleged restorations of ancient types of man have very little, if any scientific value and are likely only to mislead the public.”
But even more imaginary is the transition from the Southern Apes (Australopithecines) to the Genus Homo! As Ernst Mayer famously acknowledged, “The earliest fossils of Homo…are separated from the Australopithecus by a large, unbridged gap.”
Rather than the smooth fossil record pictured in evolutionary textbooks, the science of humanoid fossils suggests a “humanoid explosion” ( similar to the “Cambrian explosion” for Creation Day 3 sea creatures). Both Australopithecines and Homo species suddenly appear, fully developed without evidence of precursors. Three to four million years ago ape-like australopithecines appear suddenly. Two million years ago the genus Homo appears also in an abrupt fashion without evidence of a transition from previous ape-like hominines. Subsequent members of the genus Homo (like Neanderthals) are our brothers, not our ancestors except in cartoons, certainly not in any scientist’s opinion. Any differences from modern humans are small-scale microevolutionary changes, and most likely “the sons of God and the daughters of men” did in fact interbreed and you have some of both in you!
Imagination has its place, but we need to realize when we are using imagination, and differentiate this from fact. Scientists and Creationists both need to use caution, humility, and restraint when discussing our speculations on human origins. Bible believers know that man was a special creation. Evolutionists agree that humans are unique. How and when this uniqueness was accomplished remains a speculation.
And by no means has the speculation of human descent by neo-Darwinian methods from apes or chimpanzees been shown to have actually happened, except in imagination, with any of the available evidence of fossils or DNA.
Adventists can accept that God made Adam as a unique creation, and all the scientific evidence supports human uniqueness. How and when this happened still requires quite a bit of both religious and scientific imagination.