April 28, 2017

Adam and the Genome 5: Chapter 3- Adam’s Last Stand? (Part 1)

Adam and the Genome 5: Chapter 3- Adam’s Last Stand? (Part 1)

We continue our review of the book, Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science, by Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight. Today, Chapter 3- Part 1

And now we get to main event.  What does genetics say about the human race descending from one and only one pair?  Dennis recounts the controversy following the June 3, 2011 Christianity Today article, “The Search for the Historical Adam”, and the resulting NPR interview in which he was quoted saying:

“But now some conservative scholars are saying publicly that they can no longer believe the Genesis account.  Asked how likely it is that we all descended from Adam and Eve, Dennis Venema, a biologist at Trinity Western University, replies: ‘That would be against all the genomic evidence that we’ve assembled over the last 20 years, so not likely at all.’”

Did I say controversy? — raging furor would be more like it.  Trinity Western administrators fielding angry calls.  It is a wonder Dennis didn’t lose his job for no longer believing the Genesis account (and I imagine that a few of you reading this blog post think he should have).  We will delve into what it means to “believe the Genesis account” when we get to Scot’s section of the book.  For right now, let’s try to stay focused on the science.  Dennis was naïve to assume that people understood that evolution was a population-level phenomenon.  If humans evolved, then they evolved as a population; he thought everyone knew that.  But he was to learn that saying the population genetics data indicates we descend from a group of about 10,000 individuals was more controversial than the data supporting common ancestry that we covered in the last chapter.

The brilliant analogy of Anglo-Saxon changing over time to Modern English shows how speciation occurs.  It is the incremental change of average population characteristics after two populations separate.  No one expects a new language to start with two speakers suddenly speaking in ways radically different than the population it arose from.  Yet many people think this how speciation occurs.  They assume all species are founded by an ancestral breeding pair that is suddenly markedly different from the population it arose from.  He says:

“Thus, I’ve encountered many folks who, upon understanding the evidence that humans and other apes share common ancestors, assume that humans—like all other species in their thinking—got their start when a founding couple “mutated away” in tandem from their ape-like ancestors.  These folks then wonder if the Genesis narratives may be portraying this radical shift, with perhaps God intervening to create the necessary, large-scale mutations that made us a biologically distinct species.”

But that is not how speciation works.  The populations are genetically separated in some way, usually physical isolation (although not always) and no longer breed together.  When mutations occur they are no longer shared across the divide.  Now the two populations begin to drift apart in their average characteristics.  Trying to draw a sharp dividing line on this biological gradient is as useless as deciding what day Anglo-Saxon became Modern English.  Dennis uses an example from his teaching.  He will ask the class to spell “lose”.  Usually, a number of students will spell it as “loose” which is becoming more common, especially on social media.  So the ability of a language to hold variant spellings or grammatical variants is dependent on the number of speakers in the language.  Dying languages have no variation at all since they have so few speakers (like some Native American languages).  Modern English, as it has become a world-wide language can support a large number of variants.  The same occurs with species; a large population size allows for maintaining a large number of variants, since each member of the species is able to hold up to two distinct variants (alleles) of any given DNA sequence in its genome.  Therefore, there is a connection between the number of variants in a population and the size of that population.  Scientists can use that connection to estimate the size of the population from the number of variants.  And since the rate of change over time is slow, it is straightforward to extrapolate backward from the present to the past.

It is technically possible that a species could be founded by a single breeding pair, just as it is technically possible a new language could be founded by two speakers.  However, that would be highly unusual and, with respect to the genetics anyway, there would be a tell-tale mark on the genome that would persist for hundreds of thousands of years—a severe reduction in genetic variability for the species as a whole.

For an example of a species with a lack of genetic variability, Dennis cites the case of the Tasmanian devils.

The carnivorous marsupial once roamed over all of Australia, but now only exists on the island of Tasmania.  Tasmanian devils have so little genetic variability that for the last hundred or so years they have exactly the same alleles with only rare differences.  This indicates a “bottleneck” event occurring in which there was a severe reduction in the population with the resulting loss of genetic variability.  The problem for the devils is that there is a form of cancer transmitted by bites that is threatening their complete extinction.  Normally, a recipient animal could fight off the cancerous cells but the devils are all so genetically similar that the cancer cells do not trigger an immune response.

In humans, by contrast, there is much genetic variability.  That is why there can be such a problem with donor organs; a close match has to be found.  For the Tasmanian devils any one could be an organ donor for another (or, sadly, a tumor donor).  This example also illustrates how long it takes a population to rebuild its genetic diversity—many thousands of generations.  The implications are clear; Tasmanian devils experienced a severe bottleneck in the distant past, humans did not.

There have been some theories that have proposed bottleneck events for humans.  The controversial Toba catastrophe theory, presented in the late 1990s to early 2000s, suggested that a bottleneck of the human population occurred about 70,000 years ago, proposing that the human population was reduced to perhaps 10,000–30,000 individuals when the Toba supervolcano in Indonesia erupted and triggered a major environmental change. Parallel bottlenecks were proposed to exist among chimpanzees, gorillas, rhesus macaques, orangutans and tigers. The hypothesis was based on geological evidence of sudden climate change and on coalescence evidence of some genes (including mitochondrial DNA, Y-chromosome DNA and some nuclear genes).  However, subsequent research, especially in the 2010s, appeared to refute both the climate argument and the genetic argument. Recent research shows the extent of climate change was much smaller than believed by proponents of the theory. In addition, coalescence times for Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA have been revised to well above 100,000 years since 2011.

Since the question of estimating population size from genetic diversity is the key question that determines the geneticist’s claim humans could not originate from just two people, Dennis takes some time to sketch out the methods used that support that conclusion.  One simple way is to select a few genes and see how many alleles of that gene are in the present day population.  Taking into account the mutation rate and the mathematical probability of new mutations spreading in a population or being lost, computer calculations indicate an ancestral population of right around 10,000.  In fact, to generate the number of alleles we see in the present day from a starting point of just two individuals, the mutation rate would have to be far in excess of what we observe for any animal.

The astute skeptic could point out the assumption is that the mutation rate has remained constant; but what if it was higher in the distant past?  However, we have other ways to measure ancestral population sizes that do not depend on mutation frequency.  These methods provide an independent check on results using allele diversity.  One such method is known as “linkage disequilibrium”.  The basic idea is that if two genes are located close to each other on the same chromosome, the alleles present at both locations tend to be inherited together. 

(Note: the following discussion is taken pretty much straight from the book– I just couldn’t figure out how to condense it.  But I’m not going to block quote it for readability.)  In Figure 3-1, the long line represents a chromosome, and the hash marks across it show us where the two genes in question are located.  Geneticists even us the Latin word for location (locus, pronounced “low-cuss”) as a synonym for ‘gene’.  (Latin makes us sound smarter, I guess).  If we could zoom in on the diagram, we would see a long DNA molecule with two regions that are translated into proteins (the two genes).  The different alleles at either locus would have slight sequence differences, giving us four possible combinations for these two loci (plural for locus, pronounce “low-sigh”).  The four possible combinations are “AB”, “Ab”, “aB”, and “ab”.

During cell divisions that make gametes (i.e. eggs or sperm), there is a process of mixing and matching of alleles to make new combinations.  For example, suppose an individual had one chromosome with the A and B alleles and another with the a and b.  During gamete formation, it is possible to produce gametes that are “recombinant”—in this case, ones that have either and “Ab” or “aB” combination.  Recombination requires a process of precise chromosome breakage and rejoining called “crossing over”—something you might recall from high school biology (Figure 3-2)

The key point to understand is that the closer together two loci are on a chromosome, the less likely it is that a crossover event will happen between them.  The further apart two are loci are, the more likely it is that a crossover will recombine them.  What this means is that alleles of loci close together tend to be inherited as sets.

Let’s work through an example of how this plays out in practice.  Consider an extended family represented by a pedigree.   This is the type of diagram geneticists use to trace alleles through large families.  Females are represented by circles and males by squares.  Connecting horizontal lines indicate parents, vertical lines are offspring. Generations are labeled with Roman numerals and individual are labeled with Arabic numerals.  In this way we can refer to any individual in the pedigree (Figure 3-3).

Now consider a large pedigree where we know the allele combinations of everyone represented (Figure 3-4).  For example, individual I-4 has one chromosome with the “AB” alleles linked together, and one chromosome with the “ab” as a set.  We can represent her chromosome set, then, as “AB/ab” – the shorthand geneticists’ use.  We can then use this convention or other individuals in the pedigree.  For example, the daughter of I-1 and I-2 might have an “AB/ab” combination.  If these two loci are very closely linked together, it is highly unlikely that crossing over will occur.  Thus she would have inherited her “aB” set from her mother, and “AB” set from her father.

Likewise, her husband, II-3, would have inherited “Ab” from his dad, and “ab” from his mom.  Their children (generation III) similarly would inherit these sets without crossing over.  Looking at the combinations carried by these children then allows us to infer things about their ancestors.  If these two loci are very close to each other, we might not expect them to recombine over hundreds of generations or more.  Thus it’s reasonable to infer that these four combinations come from four distant ancestors.

The trick is that we can now do this for tens of thousands of loci across the whole human genome.  As we have sequenced the DNA of more and more individuals in different people groups around the globe, we’ve simply been asking the questions: Based on the number of allele combinations that we observe in this population, how many ancestors do we need to invoke in order to explain what we observe?  In this case, rather than estimating mutation frequency, the calculations require knowing how often crossing over happens between two loci.  This is also something we can measure directly in humans and other animals, and there is a well-characterized relationship between chromosome distance between two loci and crossing over frequency.  We’ve now done this sort of analysis for millions of pairs of loci (you read that right—millions) for each chromosome pair in our genome (all 23 pairs).  And what is the final tally after crunching all that data and counting up ancestors.  The results indicate that we come from an ancestral population of about 10,000 individuals—the same result we obtained when using allele diversity alone.

• • •

Other posts in the series:

Comments

  1. senecagriggs says:

    Real people or allegorical?

    Cain and Abel
    4 Adam[a] made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.[b] She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth[c] a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.

    Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

    6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

    8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.”[d] While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Real people or allegorical?

      Allegory: is a metaphor whose vehicle may be a character, place or event, *** representing real-world issues and occurrences. ***

      It is not the existential crisis you believe that it is.

      Although, personally, I would use the more straight-forward term that they are “representational” [*1]. It is not a problem as I do not believe *they* are ***the point*** of the text.

      [*1] It is an immensely helpful rule to use the most direct / straight-forward terminology in all cases at all times. “Allegory” carries a lot of, almost Narnian, baggage for many people. Avoid terms that have baggage – language does not provide redcaps to deal with people’s extra luggage.

      • Mike the Geologist says:

        Good comment, Adam, “representational” is a good way to put it. Chaplain MIke and I have had long coversations about this and we both think Adam is proto-Israel. But I’d like to hold my fire until the book gets to this subject.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Hmm…+1 (I think). “Representational” seems like a good term, but I guess while I’m not sure Adam and Eve were “real people,” I’ve always read the Cain and Abel account as “real.” I’ll have to mull this over for a bit, see how it tastes.

          Ultimately, though, does it matter if they’re real or “representational”? I don’t think Christ dies on the cross and rose from the dead for arguments such as these. Plus…do their NAMES even matter? The point is that there was a “first time” a person killed another person, and this seems to be an account of how that transpired.

          (BTW…I was thinking about the book “Pilgrim’s Progress” the other day and how the names of the characters are so allegorically “obvious.”)

          • Interestingly enough, Rick, their names are “representational” as well. In Hebrew, Cain’s name is “kayin”. The context suggests, that the name derives from the word kanah, which means “acquire”. Cain the farmer works the earth. And Cain the “acquirer” seeks to ground himself in possessions. For both, land — ground — is indispensable. In Hebrew, Abel is pronounced hevel, which means, of all things, “breath”, or more precisely, the steam that escapes one’s mouth on a cold winter’s day. Hevel is a word that appears elsewhere in the Bible. Its most common string of occurrences is in the Book of Ecclesiastes. The word hevel is, in fact, the first word in that book: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity”, says Solomon in Ecclesiastes. Except what he’s really saying is “hevel havalim..”. Everything is hevel, everything is “breath”.

    • Not literal, possible allegorical, more likely mythological. And they’ve always been such, especially if you believe in the telephone game of oral tradition at it’s core.

  2. senecagriggs says:

    Real People or allegorical?

    From Adam to Noah
    5 This is the written account of Adam’s family line.

    When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. 2 He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind”[a] when they were created.

    3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. 4 After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 5 Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died.

    6 When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father[b] of Enosh. 7 After he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. 8 Altogether, Seth lived a total of 912 years, and then he died.

    9 When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan. 10 After he became the father of Kenan, Enosh lived 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11 Altogether, Enosh lived a total of 905 years, and then he died.

    12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he became the father of Mahalalel. 13 After he became the father of Mahalalel, Kenan lived 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14 Altogether, Kenan lived a total of 910 years, and then he died.

    • Allegorical: constituting or containing allegory. Synonyms: symbolic, metaphorical, figurative, representative, emblematic. So I am going with allegorical. Do you think Adam and these others lived 800-900 years? That is not to say they didn’t represent acutal people, but their stories, for the ancient Hebrews, passed into legend. But as I said in the post, I don’t want to get into that yet; lets wait for Scot’s chapters and we can then hash this out. You got anything to say about the acutal science?

      • See, here’s the thing about interpreting the Bible in respect to science; the Bible says the sky is a firmament, a solid dome, and the sun, moon, and stars, are fixed on that dome. But you don’t believe that anymore and have no problem taking it figuratively. It says the stars are lesser lights; but some stars are a 1000 times bigger than our sun. The moon gives its own light, but in fact it doesn’t. The earth is a flat disk resting on pillars covered by the dome of the sky and the sun, moon, and stars revolve around it. None of these things you believe “literally” anymore, you take them figuratively BECAUSE OF THE SCIENCE. So lets talk about the science right now and we will, I promise you, talk about literal, figurative, literary, and symbolic interpretations when we get to those chapters. Is that too much to ask?

        • +1

        • An excellent point. I have heard it said that the argument here is not between science and religion but between the science of 2000 AD and the science of 2000 BC. Walk outside. You’re standing on a circular disk covered by a luminous dome. A perfectly common sense view for the Bronze Age. What would be inexcusable is for someone to think that way now. Same thing with Adam.

          Personally I’m looking forward to the discussion about Paul. That’s the nub of the issue I think. In the Jewish traditions Adam & Eve just aren’t that big of a deal. With his argument about the First & Second Adam, Paul started the whole shebang.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            I’m pretty sure Paul is rolling over in his grave about the theologies that have sprouted because of his letters/epistles.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > here is not between science and religion

            I believe this is true – it is not a conflict – because [again] the describing of the sky and earth and the starts are **not the point**. People speak of these things – today in the modern scientific world – figuratively / metaphorically / allegorically ALL THE TIME, as in EVERY SINGLE DAY.

            Nobody responds to “when the sun rose this morning” with “you do know that it was the earth rotating towards the sun, right?”. [if they do they are likely just being a jerk]

            I strongly doubt the authors of the earliest texts thought about these things the way we do – it wasn’t their point – and, honestly, at their technological level, there wouldn’t have been much point in approaching things the way we do. Technology+Power+Perception are an intrinsic feedback loop; technology provides new powers that motivate changes in perception that can in turn create new technologies….

        • None of these things you believe “literally” anymore, you take them figuratively BECAUSE OF THE SCIENCE.

          So whenever someone points out that they read a verse “literally” they need to answer why they read *that* verse “literally” and not *these othere verses*, and what their criteria for separating them are.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > So whenever someone points out that they read a verse “literally”

            … or one can just assume they are wrong. Reading is, after all, essentially symbolic.

    • Do you think a wall of Scripture can convince us of something as if it’s an absolute authority when read literally through 21st century eyes?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “YOU DOUBT THE WORD OF GAWD?????????????”
        (Barrage of single-verse Bible Bullets follows, all batteries Fire For Effect, Time on Target.)

    • Are you pasting the Bible to add to the discussion or to refute what was posted? I’m confused. Here’s the thing. If you were raised on an isolated island where your parents homeschooled you, so you were literate, but, perhaps they were lighthouse keepers or luddites or something, and not religious isolationists, and you finally got ahold of a Bible and read it by yourself, free of any 20th century input, you would never come to the conclusion Adam and Eve were alone on the whole earth.

      Cain is afraid of others, who he tells God will harm him, God doesn’t say; “now Cain, you know there are no other people on this earth yet, so stop worrying, you are eating your just desserts”, no, he goes and puts a mark on Cain to protect him from others. Then Cain goes off and finds himself a wife (since he is forced to leave his family, this woman can’t be his sister, as adult women stayed with their families in those days). Then, him and his wife go an build a city. A city is not just a collection of buildings in the ancient world, but a City State, or the earliest form of Nations known. So, Cain is now the founder of a nation, a father a husband and yet no one every tried to rework the translations to obscure this fact. No one cared that the earth was full of extra people in the Genesis accounts until the 19th Century. Even if they all die later in a big flood, the ancients don’t consider Adam and Eve the only ones on earth, just the ancient Hebrew Ancestors, perhaps it is better to look at Adam and Eve as the first Hebrews, not the first Humans, although they don’t gain a distinct National identity until Abraham.

      I won’t get into Ancient Near Eastern literary Chaisis and how it is likely that Noah is actually consider to be before Adam chronologically to ancient world listeners….since later, post Babylonian Jews no longer understood ANE literary formulas , and had largely “Grecian” views on literary chronology – they even switched their ancestor lists to match the Egyptian calendar(septuagint) of the age of the earth from the Babylonian calendar(Masoretic), making the two translations have up to 100 years differences in genealogical time lines between Adam and Abraham.

  3. Christiane says:

    I’ve always liked the idea that we are made of elements forged in the explosions of stars, and the atoms of these elements are still found on Earth in the soil. It doesn’t bother me at all that there was a long, aeons, ages-long evolution of life from the sea to the land to the time of mammals and to the time of those who walked upon the Earth with two legs and were warm-blooded. It doesn’t bother me at all that at some point, God breathed His life into the nostrils of a living being and gifted this creature with a God-given soul: the first ‘man’ destined to live with God forever. This first man’s body was formed over aeons of time through evolution after evolution to the point when God decided it was ‘time’ to incarnate a soul into this body, breathing His life into it and ‘Adamus’, the first man, came to be.
    🙂
    As I have said before, is the miracle any less because God works it out in His own time and His own way; and reveals it to mankind in the allegorical form that they were able to comprehend?

    If anything, the way I look at the formation of ‘Adam’ increases my faith.
    Is a song from the sixties: ‘we are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden’ 🙂

    And that song comes mind when I read this in sacred Scripture in Job:38:

    ” ““Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
    5
    Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
    6
    On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
    7
    while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?”

    Not only that, I smile when I think of the epiphany shown to Thomas Merton at a street corner in St. Louis, this:
    ” …… now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.””

    Stardust, atoms of the soil, a creature, a creature with a soul named ‘the first Man’ Adamus, walking around, shining like the Sun …… miracle? 🙂 Credo

    • >> we are stardust, we are golden . . .

      Absolutely, Christiane. In these intense arguments, whether someone is promoting a young earth, evolution, uniformitarianism, a flat earth, on and on, I usually find the arguments themselves to be anywhere from of mild interest to flat out boring. What does interest me is first, why would someone believe this particular set of internal logic, and secondly, and more importantly, why is it so important to these people that I believe along with them that their little piece of the pie is the whole shebang?

      Stardust isn’t very logical on the surface, tho there are surely internally rational explanations available. Rationality and logic only takes you so far, you need poetry and heart resonance to take you the rest of the way. Most folks seem to want to stop halfway on the journey, especially “educated” folks. As I look out the window on my own voyage these days, it looks much like what people tell me the Star Wars movies portray. I’ve never seen one of those movies myself, tho I’ve seen clips. I have seen a few of the Lord of the Rings movies and also a few Harry Potters, and they show you the rest of the story you don’t see in Star Wars. But I figure why go to a movie when you can look out the window? Or even go for a walk?

  4. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Did I say controversy? — raging furor would be more like it.

    The word is “Jihad”.

  5. Richard Hershberger says:

    “It is technically possible that a species could be founded by a single breeding pair, just as it is technically possible a new language could be founded by two speakers. However, that would be highly unusual and, with respect to the genetics anyway, there would be a tell-tale mark on the genome that would persist for hundreds of thousands of years—a severe reduction in genetic variability for the species as a whole.”

    Actually, for languages it is entirely possible that this has happened repeatedly and recently. This is where the analogy breaks down. Kids’ brains are language sponges. Any parent knows this. Usually kids absorb language from the people around them. But what if there is no language around them? It would be grossly unethical to run an experiment to test what would happen, but natural experiments have occurred: kids who are deaf. Society eventually worked its way to the point of establishing special schools for the deaf. As soon as they put deaf kids together, they invented sign language. The kids, that is: not the school. Sign languages are distinct languages, both from spoken language and from one another. That is, American Sign Language is not merely English converted into signs. It is a different language with its own vocabulary and grammar. Different sign languages are different languages, no more (and no less) similar to one another than any random pair of spoken languages.

    A recent example of this is Nicaraguan Sign Language. Nicaragua first set up a school for the deaf in 1977. Prior to that there was no deaf community in Nicaragua. Deaf persons stayed with their families in isolation from other deaf persons. In the 1980s the people running the school realized that the kids were talking to one another. They called in a linguist specializing in American Sign Language to figure out what was going on. One of the more interesting findings was that the younger kids were developing a full grammar, while the for the older kids it was more of a pidgin.

    Could literally two people do this, and spread the new language to others? My guess is that as used by just the two people it would be pretty rudimentary: more of a pidgin than a full language. That’s how I communicate with my wife: “kids. bath.” communicates a full concept without the need for grammar or extensive vocabulary. But two people could establish the basic form of a language, to be elaborated upon by others.

    The analogy with the genome breaks down because the method of transferal from one generation to the next is different. The capacity and proclivity for language is inherent in humans, but actual languages are cultural artifacts.

  6. But he was to learn that saying the population genetics data indicates we descend from a group of about 10,000 individuals was more controversial than the data supporting common ancestry that we covered in the last chapter.

    Proto-Jews, back when everyone spoke the original heavenly angelic language that was Proto-Hebrew, of which tongues is the resurgence of.

    What, that’s what I was taught in church. No lie.

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      Wow.

      And they had the stomes to say that Aranofsky”s Noah was strange?

      • Stephen says:

        Am I the only one who kinda liked A’s Noah? Let’s just say I appreciated it’s wackiness. When the Rock Angels got to go back to Heaven it made my eyes get a little moist.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I believe it.
      Which church was this?

      (And when someone says “original heavenly angelic language”, I can’t help but think of John Dee’s “Enochian”.)

      • I’d say but I know for a fact that they have triggers set up for their keywords. Not joking at all, I saw the emails and account. Not that I’m afraid of revealing them, but it would have repercussions. Suffice to say they were a nationally recognized as a cult denomination of campus ministry focused groups in the 70s and 80s that have since splintered into further and further side heresies.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          My college days were the mid-to-late Seventies.”Campus Ministry Focused Groups” then usually meant Campus Crusade (or whatever they’ve rebadged as these days) and Navigators (who had a rep for X-treme on-fire burnouts & flunkouts). And then there were these one or two independent local “Fellowships” that out-Naved the Navs…

          • Campus Crusade (or whatever they’ve rebadged as these days)

            …Cru. I kid. You. Not.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              I know. Eagle was the first to report the rebadging.

              “I’m so TRENDY,
              Oh so TRENDY…”

            • Christiane says:

              well if someone asks what you did at school and you say ‘Cru’, they are going to think that you rowed crew

          • StuartB says:

            Worse than both. Also those are still around.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              Yeah, and I don’t remember either being Holy Rollers with a dash of the Occult.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Heh, I remember that discussion with my Sunday School teacher. The Tower of Babel story, even as a parable, even to a child, has some hard to overlook problems.

  7. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    (Note: the following discussion is taken pretty much straight from the book– I just couldn’t figure out how to condense it.  But I’m not going to block quote it for readability.)

    Problem is, “the following discussion” is glaze-the-eyes-over technical. And while you’re reading it (and your eyes are glazing over), the YECs are throwing another barrage of Bible Bullets your way to refute (“WERE YOU THERE? HUH? HUH? HUH? SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE!”)

    • Sigh! I know, HUG, I know 🙁 I read it 5-6 times before I understood it, and still couldn’t put it any more simply without screwing it up. I’ve still got the rest of the Chapter (it’s going to end up a 3-parter) and Y-Chromosome Adam and Mitochondrial Eve to explain. Sheesh! Props go out to Dennis for putting it in as much a layman’s language as possible; he really is a talented teacher. And the nuance of reading Genesis as the ancient Hebrews would have heard it and how it would have spoke to them as “the Old Stories” is also beyond your average Bible layman. To them it is just CNN-flat, Jack Webb-Dragnet-Just-the-Facts-Maam, straight reporting, I-just-read-MY-BIBLE-I-don’t-interpret-it, for GAWD-sakes just pick up your Bible and read it simple. Sheesh!!!!!!!!

      • “I don’t know how you can interpret it any other way. Quit perverting the Word of God.”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Sigh! I know, HUG, I know I read it 5-6 times before I understood it, and still couldn’t put it any more simply without screwing it up.

        I know. There are some things in the real world that are just intrinsically complex.

        And both Ken Ham and Donald Trump have gotten where they are by replacing those complex things with simple sound bites repeated over and over.

        “Why are you using such big words, preacher? We don’t want to learn any big words. You’re just here to Keep Us Comfortable!”
        — actually said to the face of my burned-out preacher writing partner

        And the nuance of reading Genesis as the ancient Hebrews would have heard it and how it would have spoke to them as “the Old Stories” is also beyond your average Bible layman. To them it is just CNN-flat, Jack Webb-Dragnet-Just-the-Facts-Maam, straight reporting, I-just-read-MY-BIBLE-I-don’t-interpret-it, for GAWD-sakes just pick up your Bible and read it simple.

        Every time I hear “Plain Reading of SCRIPTURE(TM)”, I keep thinking about such “plain readings” as the demon locusts of Revelation “obviously” meaning helicopter gunships (the locusts) armed with chemical weapons (the stings) and piloted by long-haired bearded hippies. And all the plagues of Revelation “obviously” describing Global Thermonuclear War.

    • Problem is, “the following discussion” is glaze-the-eyes-over technical. And while you’re reading it (and your eyes are glazing over), the YECs are throwing another barrage of Bible Bullets your way to refute…

      That is another root problem (besides differences in hermeneutics and epistemology) that needs to be addressed – the erosion of trust in expertise. Unfortunately, the full article is hidden behind a paywall, but if you can get ahold of it I would recommend reading “How America Lost Faith in Expertise” from the latest issue of Foreign Affairs.

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        There is always a problem in using logic to change the hippocampus. I don’t know when we’ll learn this.

        You need to tell a better story. There is a better story. Christiane showed the way forward a couple of posts above, but you need the help of theologians, poets, and ascetics to tell it along with the scientists.

        This biggest problem I have is the whole SCIENCE == TRVTH and MYTH == wish fulfillment paradigm. I have always viewed the truth extracted from the scientific method as kind of a “lowest common denominator” truth, which even the most ratbastard suspicious positivist HAD to accept if he wanted to continue thinking of herself a rational person. Kind of like asking someone what color a house was, and he responds “Well, it’s blue on this side”. You know the kind of prick I’m talking about.

        It is the myths that are all-important to the hippocampus. Myths are made out of the “facts”.

        Which is why I see the YEC crowd and the neoatheists as two sides of the same coin. Same epistemological cul-de-sac.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Kind of like asking someone what color a house was, and he responds “Well, it’s blue on this side”. You know the kind of prick I’m talking about.

          All too often.
          They’re called “Brights” or “Rational and Reasonable INTELLECTUALS”.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > the erosion of trust in expertise

        Yeah; that is a part of my daily life. It is very difficult not to give into despair on some days.

        The knee-jerk suspicion of everyone and everything [well sort of – Americans will instinctively trust anyone who tells them not to trust someone else, clearly they must have ‘the goods’].