Oldest modern humans and Eve


#1

In several threads on this board, about the Church’s teaching on monogeny and the descent of modern humans from a literal Adam and Eve, I have pointed out the scientific difficulties with holding to the teaching as set out in Humani Generis. Several scientific lines of evidence show that modern humanity did not have a single pair of ancestors, at least in the 6 million years since the lineages leading to modern humans diverged from the lineage leading to chimpanzees. The Church’s teaching on monogeny is untenable.

  However, in putting forward those arguments, a couple of people discussing the subject with me raised the question of Mitochondrial Eve (or the Most Recent Common Ancestor in the maternal line).  There are many reasons why it does not make sense to identify the maternal MRCA with the biblical Eve.  One of those arguments that I used was that the date of Mitochondrial Eve (approximately 175,000 years BP) pre-dated the emergence of anatomically modern humans at about 130,000 to 140,000 years BP.  It is difficult to identify biblical Eve with a being who pre-dated the emergence of modern humans in the archaeological record.

 As of Thursday, I can no longer make that argument – a paper by McDougall et al that puts a new date on the OMO I and OMO II specimens (which are considered to represent anatomically modern humans and to belong to the species Homo sapiens) from the Kibish formation in Ethiopia.  For many years the accepted date for those specimens was 130,000 years BP. Well, on Thursday, in Nature 433, 733 - 736 (2005), McDougall et al get a new age for these specimens by analysis of the sapropels (organically loaded muds) in the deposits and Ar40/Ar39 dating of feldspars from tuffs in the formation.  The new age is 195kyr +/- 5kyr which is much earlier than previously thought and before the estimated date of Mitochondrial Eve.  It pushes back the emergence of anatomically modern humans by at least 40,000 years.

  There are still many and totally compelling reasons for not identifying Mitochondrial Eve with biblical Eve and indeed for rejecting the concept of a biblical Eve at all, but I can no longer use the argument that Mitochondrial Eve pre-dates the emergence of anatomically modern humans, and so I must retract that particular argument, noting that that doesd not invalidate my overall position.

  Alec

evolutionpages.com


#2

I am definitely no expert on these matters, but I did learn about the Mitochondrial thing in a college course. I’m not sure if any of this really matters though. First, there’s nothing to say Adam and Eve weren’t created from previous biological matter. Second, there’s nothing to say that human beings haven’t changed physically from the time of Adam and Eve. Finally, Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, meaning the rational mind, and they were distinguished from animals by their spirit. So maybe two ancient creatures were given their spirit and rational-ness by God. Science obviously could never disprove this as the soul is something outside the physical realm. I’m just not sure if this would be in line with Church teaching though. Any help here?


#3

Neither Archeology nor any other science of human beginnings has a way to test for the presence of a human soul.


#4

[quote=JimG]Neither Archeology nor any other science of human beginnings has a way to test for the presence of a human soul.
[/quote]

Well, my post was about palaeontology and geology, not archaeology, but we’ll set that aside.

What you say is true, but science (molecular biology as it happens) is competent to determine, as it has, that the human population is not descended genetically from a single woman (or a single man), and that stands in direct conflict with Humani Generis and the concept of the biblical Eve.

Alec
evolutionpages.com


#5

[quote=hecd2]Well, my post was about palaeontology and geology, not archaeology, but we’ll set that aside.

What you say is true, but science (molecular biology as it happens) is competent to determine, as it has, that the human population is not descended genetically from a single woman (or a single man), and that stands in direct conflict with Humani Generis and the concept of the biblical Eve.

Alec
evolutionpages.com
[/quote]

I think you have to understand what a human being is first. It is not just the body, but also the spirit. Just a body is not a human being, even if it is alive, and just a spirit is not a human being. A human being is body and spirit. So there could have been spirit-less human-like creatures before God created Adam and Eve as complete human beings. Make sense?


#6

[quote=Genesis315]I think you have to understand what a human being is first. It is not just the body, but also the spirit. Just a body is not a human being, even if it is alive, and just a spirit is not a human being. A human being is body and spirit. So there could have been spirit-less human-like creatures before God created Adam and Eve as complete human beings. Make sense?
[/quote]

I think I understand what a human being is, with a depth and complexity that might surprise you.

Of course your hypothesis makes sense, but it fails to address the issue which is this: Catholic doctrine, as confirmed by Pius XII is that all people are descended solely from an original pair of humans, Adam and Eve. See, for example, this article on this very site:
catholic.com/library/Adam_Eve_and_Evolution.asp

To quote: *"It is equally impermissible to dismiss the story of Adam and Eve and the fall (Gen. 2–3) as a fiction. A question often raised in this context is whether the human race descended from an original pair of two human beings (a teaching known as monogenism) or a pool of early human couples (a teaching known as polygenism).

In this regard, Pope Pius XII stated: “When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents”

*However the molecular evidence shows that the lineage of humans has not fallen below about 10,000 individuals since we diverged from the chimpanzee lineage. Your hypothesis also leads to all sorts of spiritual difficulties, such as the miscagenation of the fully human with the non-human, and the existence of the human and the non-human in the same family group. The Church avoids these difficulties by standing by the teaching that humans descend solely from two original humans (mongenism), and it is this teaching that is refuted by the molecular evidence.

Alec
evolutionpages.com


#7

[quote=hecd2]I think I understand what a human being is, with a depth and complexity that might surprise you.

Of course your hypothesis makes sense, but it fails to address the issue which is this: Catholic doctrine, as confirmed by Pius XII is that all people are descended solely from an original pair of humans, Adam and Eve. See, for example, this article on this very site:
catholic.com/library/Adam_Eve_and_Evolution.asp

To quote: *"It is equally impermissible to dismiss the story of Adam and Eve and the fall (Gen. 2–3) as a fiction. A question often raised in this context is whether the human race descended from an original pair of two human beings (a teaching known as monogenism) or a pool of early human couples (a teaching known as polygenism). *

In this regard, Pope Pius XII stated: “When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents”

However the molecular evidence shows that the lineage of humans has not fallen below about 10,000 individuals since we diverged from the chimpanzee lineage. Your hypothesis also leads to all sorts of spiritual difficulties, such as the miscagenation of the fully human with the non-human, and the existence of the human and the non-human in the same family group. The Church avoids these difficulties by standing by the teaching that humans descend solely from two original humans (mongenism), and it is this teaching that is refuted by the molecular evidence.

Alec
evolutionpages.com
[/quote]

Those are good points. Now I’m no scientist (as you can probably tell:o ), but you say that the human population hasn’t gotten below 10,000. Now does that mean that at some point 10,000 chimpanzee mothers gave birth to 10,000 humans? I mean, how do we differentiate when non-humans ended and humans began? At some point you have to draw the line, no? (Your article says that at no point since we split from chimpanzees the number of humans has dipped below 10,000 so I assume that “humans” includes pre-homo sapien species). There had to have been a point when a chimpamzee gave birth to a non-chimpanzee, right (or many chimps gave birth to many non-chimps)? Also, if one says that Adam and Eve, by the grace of God, lived extremely long lives (as the Bible says early people did), could they have had so many offspring to make it hit 10,000 within only a couple generations?

Kind of unrelated, but for the sake of argument, if there were all these spiritless human types and then two original full humans, could it be possible for their to be no mixed breeding (although highly improbable) and your theory to still hold true? (given Adam and Eve were the first two complete humans and they never mixed with spiritless human types)


#8

hecd2: If you are indeed familiar with the Church’s teaching on what a human is, then you’ll see there’s no conflict between what you’re asserting and what the Pope stated as Church doctrine, i.e. we are not descended from a group of creatures with human souls. Biological hominids are not necessarily true men.

While I appreciate you informing us about this new scientific discovery, I don’t see how this is an opportunity to beat a dead horse that has already been addressed time and time again. Indeed, it was even answered adequately by Genesis315. The Church does not avoid the spiritual difficulties raised by this issue in the manner you claim, but merely regards them as irrelevant. There are absolutely no spiritual difficulties in human-looking animals living side by side with humans, or even lending their genetic material to humans. Such issues have absolutely no relevance in the history of Scripture and Salvation. Apparently it is an issue to you, and it causes some spiritual difficulties, but it’s clearly not for the Church. The teachings and history of Salvation would be identical in either case.


#9

My challenge to you, hecd2, is to demonstrate that the Church teaches that mixing between true humans and human-shaped animals (biological humans with an animal soul) is an impossibility. Until then you’ve not caught the Church in any kind of contridiction with science.


#10

[quote=Ghosty]My challenge to you, hecd2, is to demonstrate that the Church teaches that mixing between true humans and human-shaped animals (biological humans with an animal soul) is an impossibility. Until then you’ve not caught the Church in any kind of contridiction with science.
[/quote]

Good point, I didn’t even think about that being ok:o .


#11

It seems to me that any proposed intermixing / intermarriage of ensouled humans and equivalent body-type hominids *would * be problematic theologically, (not biologically) specifically with regard to the doctrine of origiinal sin.

One could perhaps postulate an original pair (Adam & Eve) plucked out of that 10,000 or so population, to be ensouled, and isolated (garden of Eden?). But it’s all speculation to me.


#12

[quote=hecd2I]… There are still many and totally compelling reasons for not identifying Mitochondrial Eve with biblical Eve and indeed for rejecting the concept of a biblical Eve at all, but I can no longer use the argument that Mitochondrial Eve pre-dates the emergence of anatomically modern humans, and so I must retract that particular argument, noting that that doesd not invalidate my overall position.

 Alec

[/quote]

or course the most compelling would be

The Mitochondrial Eve of 200,000 years ago (ME for short henceforth) is NOT our common ancestor, or even common genetic ancestor. She is the most-recent common ancestor of all humans alive on Earth today with respect to matrilineal descent. That may seem like a mouthful, but without even a single one of those qualifying phrases, any description or discussion of the ME reduces to a lot of nonsense.

While each of us necessarily has two parents, we get our mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA from the ovum (and hence from our mothers). Our mothers got their mitochondrial DNA from their mothers and so on. Thus, while our nuclear DNA is a mish-mash of the DNA of our four grandparents, our mitochondrial DNA is an almost exact copy of the DNA of our maternal grandmother (the match may not be exact due to mutations. In fact, the mutations in the mitochondrial DNA provide the molecular clock that allows us to determine how much time has elapsed since the ME lived).
The ME represents that woman whose mitochondrial DNA (with mutations) exists in all the humans now living on Earth. That does not mean that she is our lone woman ancestor. We have ancestors who are not via matrilineal descent. For example, our father’s mother (who did pass on her mitochondrial DNA to her daughters) is an example of an ancestor who is not matrilineal to us. However, she did exist at one time and was probably of the same age as our mother’s mother, who is a matrilineal ancestor of ours and from whom we got our mitochondrial DNA.

The term Mitochondrial Eve itself is a title given retroactively to a woman. Often (and as is certainly the case with the ME that we are discussing) the conferring of the title occurs many hundreds of thousands of years after the death of the woman in question.

ME lived with many other humans (men and women); she was certainly not alone. When she was alive, she was most certainly NOT the Mitochondrial Eve. The title at that time was held by a distant ancestor of hers (and of the many humans who were her contemporaries).

The existence of the Mitochondrial Eve is NOT a theory; it is a mathematical fact (unless something like a multiple-origins theory of human evolution i.e. the human species arose independently in different geographically separated populations, and that the present-day ease of interbreeding is the result of a remarkable convergent evolution, is true. Few people subscribe to the multiple-origins theory, and the Mitochondrial Eve observation is a refutation of multiple-origins)


#13

[quote=Genesis315]I think you have to understand what a human being is first. It is not just the body, but also the spirit. Just a body is not a human being, even if it is alive, and just a spirit is not a human being. A human being is body and spirit. So there could have been spirit-less human-like creatures before God created Adam and Eve as complete human beings. Make sense?
[/quote]


Yes, it makes sence. Genesis315, I had been thinking just that 25 years ago. Don’t you agree that the time of the appearance of Eve is not as important as the fact that she did appear.


#14

Steve Anderson,

You wrote,". Thus, while our nuclear DNA is a mish-mash of the DNA of our four grandparents, our mitochondrial DNA is an almost exact copy of the DNA of our maternal grandmother (the match may not be exact due to mutations. In fact, the mutations in the mitochondrial DNA provide the molecular clock that allows us to determine how much time has elapsed since the ME lived)."

Would you please comment on the last sentance? What’s the relationship between the molecular clock and mitochondrial DNA. If you are saying that MDNA is a clock, what is the standard to which you compare it? Thanks.


#15

Pope Pius XII’s Encyclical Humani Generis

Pope Pius XII states: “When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents.** Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled** that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own” (Humani Generis 37).

Alec, Pius XII is leaving polygenism open for discussion. It seems to me that Pius XII was very careful in the way he worded the document.


#16

It seems to me that any proposed intermixing / intermarriage of ensouled humans and equivalent body-type hominids *would *be problematic theologically, (not biologically) specifically with regard to the doctrine of origiinal sin.

One could perhaps postulate an original pair (Adam & Eve) plucked out of that 10,000 or so population, to be ensouled, and isolated (garden of Eden?). But it’s all speculation to me.

If every true human child had at least one true human parent, then how could it cause problems for the transmission of Original Sin? Every single human child would be descended from the First Parents, after all.

As for your second postulation, it would be impossible to reconcile with the facts we know about genetic diversity. What hecd2 is saying is that every human alive today is descended from a pool of 10,000 genetic donors at the smallest. You are still proposing that we are descended from just 2 genetic donors.

Would you please comment on the last sentance? What’s the relationship between the molecular clock and mitochondrial DNA. If you are saying that MDNA is a clock, what is the standard to which you compare it? Thanks.

Mitocondrial DNA has a very set rate of mutation, and this mutation isn’t complicated by the kind of recombining that goes on in nucleic DNA because the mDNA is passed down only from the mother. Since the rate of mutation is fairly constant, you can tell how far back two people share a female ancestor by measuring the amount of difference in their mDNA. If mDNA varies 2% per generation, and two people have a 10% difference, then you can determine that they are five maternal generations removed from eachother.


#17

Perhaps these articles are simply out of date now…but they suggest otherwise. (That molecular studies do not require a population pool of at least 10 000 at all times during the history of humanity).

answersingenesis.org/tj/v9/i2/y_chromosome.asp (Y Chromosome Adam)
answersingenesis.org/tj/v17/i1/events.asp (Genetics and Biblical demongraphic events)
answersingenesis.org/tj/v8/i2/lifespans.asp (actually regarding the long ages, also mentioned on this thread) and answersingenesis.org/creation/v20/i4/years.asp on the same topic.


#18

Hey is this really you Alec?

I’ve never seen you start an evolution thread before. Impossible! I can’t wait for PhilVaz to start complaining about another evolution thead with links just like the good ol’ days!


#19

hecd2: if you’re worried that the scientific evidence is refuting infallible Church doctrine and undermining fundamental Christian dogmas… you can relax.

I’m not certain that Pius XII infallibly defined monogenism as dogma, he stated how at that time (1950) it was not apparent how polygenism and traditionally held views could be reconciled. He also did not see how evolution could fit into Christian faith. Pope John Paul II in 1996 has stated the probability of evolution, and solved the problem by stating that though our bodies have evolved, our souls are immediately created at conception by God. The first human beings were given spirits by God, which would set them apart as “true men” from any other bipedal hominid animals.

Here is the critical question: Are all human beings alive today related? Don’t “mitochondrial Eve” and “Y-chromosome Adam” prove that all human beings today share a common ancestor? If we are all related, then the doctrine of Original Sin stands.

The interpretation of the opening of Genesis has also not been infallibly defined. There is a literal-historical Adam, yes, and he lived about 10 000 years ago, however, it is also probable that the early chapters of Genesis refer to a figurative-symbolic Adam and Eve, who represent the first modern humans (possibly as a group). As long as all human beings alive today have a common ancestor (doesn’t matter when he/she lived, or whether the male ancestor lived simultaneously with the female) then there is no disruption in the doctrine of Original Sin, which is all that is at stake here.


#20

The Church definately states that all humans today must have come from a very real Adam and Eve, and not any “figurative” group. We inherit Original Sin from two people, and two people only.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.