People often ask me why I remain a Roman Catholic – given all the scandals over homosexual pedophiles in the Church, the Peter, Paul and Mary liturgies, and so on.
They’re not asking me for the party line reason but my own, very personal reason.
And this is what I usually say: Whenever I really look into a question – an ethical, political, scientific, religious, Biblical, historical question – whatever it is – whenever I really dig deep and wrestle with all the issues involved, from abortion to Biblical studies – I find myself inevitably concluding that the “official,” even papal position ends up being correct.
I mean that very sincerely.
Over a lifetime, such independent investigations develop a certain amount of trust – the same kind of trust you might feel toward, say, your father, despite his annoying idiosyncrasies.
Evolution, Creation and Adam and Eve is just another example of this.
Whenever I am goaded by my Protestant friends or in-laws to, once again, really look into the controversies over evolution and creation, I find that, as usual, the Catholic position ends up not only making the most sense exegetically (in terms of the Biblical texts) but is also, amazingly enough, supported by strong scientific evidence.
And that brings us back to Adam and Eve.
For years, I believed that the world was basically covered by overgrown chimpanzees… and that, maybe 50,000 years ago, Cro-Magnon Man suddenly appeared to chase down Woolly Mammoths and drag their wives by their hair into the cave.
But we now know that isn’t the case.
Human-like (hominid) species flourished on earth up to a million years ago – and they looked a lot more like Raquel Welch in the film “One Million Years BC” (a big favorite with my classmates when I was in fourth grade) than they did like Cheetah.
Anthropologists now keep pushing the dates for proto-human groups back hundreds of thousands of years – as far back, in fact, as 800,000 years ago. The scientific evidence for these groups is overwhelming (which isn’t, by the way, the same thing as evidence for Darwinian natural selection).
Nearby is an artist reconstruction of some hominid forebears of ours, Homo heidelbergensis (“Heidelberg Man”), an extinct species of human that may have lived around 600,000 years ago. This is not the knuckle-walking semi-semian many people assume, but a genuine cave man who stood about six feet tall, walked upright and had a brain as big as that of modern humans. There is evidence that Heidelberg Man used primitive tools, buried his dead and may have possessed a language.
An even earlier species, so-called Homo antecessor, fossils of which were discovered in the 1990s in Sierra de Atapuerca region of northern Spain, may have lived as long ago as 1.2 million years ago. This early human species also stood about six feet tall with the males weighing about 200 pounds but had a 20% smaller brain.
There weren’t a lot of these creatures roaming the world back then – as few as a few thousand, perhaps. Our genuine cave man ancestor, Homo heidelbergensis, is considered by anthropologists to be the ancestor of both the extinct species of Neanderthals and modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens). Neanderthals lived in the period from 600,000 years ago until around 30,000 years ago, when they mysteriously became extinct. DNA evidence suggests that there was some, although very limited, inter-breeding between Neanderthals and modern humans.
Anatomically modern humans, known as homo sapiens sapiens, first appeared around 200,000 years ago in Africa. In Europe, they are called Cro-Magnon Man
Now, with all of these various proto-human groups running around the world between 1 million and 30,000 years ago, how likely is it that we are all descended from a single historical human couple, an Adam and Eve?
After all, doesn’t it make more sense that there were many ancestors of the human race?
Well, here’s what fascinating… and what makes any effort to reconcile the Biblical account of creation with what passes for scientific anthropology even more difficult.
The DNA evidence actually does show that all human beings alive today do descend from a single mother – so-called Mitochondrial Eve. Different DNA evidence also suggests we are all descended from a single male – Y-chromosomal Adam.
What isn’t clear is whether the genetic Adam and Eve lived at the same time. It’s possible that they could have literally founded the current human race… but it’s also possible that Eve was an older woman (by tens of thousands of years!).
The bottom line is that the scientific evidence tends to support monogenism, the unity of the human family, which is what Pope Pius XII insisted upon as a key point of Catholic doctrine vis a vis any scientific theory of evolution in his encyclical humani generis.
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