Adam and Eve and Then Some?

[Discussion with an reader on mono- vs. polygenism] + [Adam & Eve] + [facebook queries] + [helpful friends] leads me to a fascinating post by Michael Flynn on the whole question. Excerpt:

…[They] appear to hold that the statement:

A: “There is one man from whom all humans are descended”

is equivalent to the statement:

B: “All humans are descended from [only] one man.”

But this logical fallacy hinges on an equivocation of “one,” failing to distinguish “one [out of many]” from “[only] one.” Traditional doctrine requires only A, not B: That all humans share a common ancestor, not that they have no other ancestors.

Read the whole thing here!

7 Comments on “Adam and Eve and Then Some?”

  1. Perhaps he is correct. However, the account given above does not take into account the unique causal relationship that Adam has to the rest of humanity. If it is necessary that Adam is a cause of human nature because of this peculiar relationship then it would also mean that ‘B’ must be true. ‘B’ is, in fact, the understanding generally given by the Fathers and later Theologians such as Aquinas. ‘B’ cannot be simply side-stepped, it must be engaged on its own philosophical grounds.

    1. Br. Gabriel,

      I’m not sure why ‘B’ can’t be sidestepped, if it isn’t dogma, and if science has shown that it can’t be true. As for Adam being a cause of human nature, I don’t think polygenism precludes that, so long as each of us can trace his lineage back to Adam.

      That being said, the phrase “science has shown” gets tossed around an awful lot these days. I haven’t read enough about the pertinent discoveries to be able to say, but I doubt even the scientists involved would claim anything like certitude on the matter.

  2. Joe says:

    Edward Feser, a Thomist philosopher, over on his blog is doing some posts on this topic. They may be of interest to you. Also, his blog is very good in general; I recommend it. Here are the links:

    Part 1:

    A follow up to some of the comments on part 1:

    Part 2 is coming soon, I imagine; he updates pretty regularly. Anyway, you may be interested if this is on your mind. Hope all is well; congratulations on that interview you did. I’m sure it’ll be great.

    1. Joe, thanks for pointing me in this direction! I’m learning a lot, and am now following this guy.

  3. Joe says:

    No problem! He actually had a lot to do with my return to Catholicism. His books are also very good if you are interested in more pure philosophy, but his blog does a nice job of integrating philosophy with cultural critique, etc.

    I recommend his book The Last Superstition the most, though. I really think that book is something else.

  4. Zach says:

    I’m actually super surprised. I started reading that edwardfeser post and once I saw it say Jerry Coyne is an ignoramus I couldn’t keep going.

    There are a lot of atheistic thinkers out there, and few engage sophisticated theology as thoroughly and rigorously as Coyne.

    Lastly, I understand the distinction of A and B, but I still find them both to be false. All humans share a common ancestor but it is not necessarily one man. It’s almost certainly absolutely not.

    Lastly, this seems to be a lot of work-up over quite a simple concept. I mean, more generally, don’t you feel that when you read theology, it’s like they’re weaving a web to reach a conclusion they had before they started.

  5. Don’t know much about Coyne, but Feser claims that he’s an ignoramus on the subject of theology, not in general.

    Happy to talk with you about this, Zach, if you’re willing to read past the second paragraph. Happy to let it drop if you’re not.

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