Review: The Genetics of Adam and Eve


Dr. Georgia Purdom is a research scientist and speaker for Answers in Genesis. In this presentation, Dr. Purdom, who has her PhD in molecular genetics from Ohio State University, addresses the importance of the existence of a literal Adam and Eve. She then goes on to explain that the science of genetics is consistent with the existence of a literal Adam and Eve, who were the first two human beings, directly created by God.

Purdom begins by citing the views of several well-known Christian scientists who don’t believe that the traditional understanding of Genesis 1 lines up with scientific evidence. Francis Collins and Karl W. Giberson, for example, state that “literalist readings of Genesis imply that God specially created Adam and Eve, and that all humans are descended from these original parents. Such readings, unfortunately, do not fit the evidence, for several reasons.” They go on to assert that, “it is simply not reasonable to try to turn the brief comments in Genesis into a biologically accurate description of how humans originated.” It is impossible for Adam to have been created from “dust and God’s breath,” they state; nor is it feasible that Eve was actually created from Adam’s rib: “Human beings are mainly water, not dust, and there is no process by which an adult person can be made quickly from a rib” (The Language of Science and Faith, 2011).

Purdom also quotes Denis Alexander, who argues that “the disciplines of both science and theology should be accorded their own integrity. The Genesis texts should be allowed to speak within their own contexts and thought-forms, which are clearly very distant from those of modern science. We can all agree that the early chapters of Genesis exist to convey theology and not science.” According to Alexander, “the data are overwhelmingly supportive of certain scientific truths, for example that we share a common genetic inheritance with the apes.” What Christian scientists must do, Alexander claims, is “to treat both theological and scientific truths seriously and see how they might ‘speak’ to each other.”

Finally, Purdom quotes Peter Enns, in his 2012 book The Evolution of Adam, who argues that “the evidence points us clearly in the following direction: the early chapters of Genesis are not a literal or scientific description of historical events but a theological statement in an ancient idiom, a statement about Israel’s God and Israel’s place in the world as God’s people.” Enns goes on to write that it is not necessary for Christians to hold to the existence of a literal Adam and Eve, asserting that, “attributing the cause of universal sin and death to a historical Adam is not necessary for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be a fully historical solution to that problem.”

Purdom disagrees strongly with these conclusions, and spends the first half of this video dealing not with the interpreting the evidence of science, but with the teaching of Scripture. This is the great strength of her presentation – the fact that, despite her scientific specialization in the field of genetics, she begins with God’s Word, and draws her conclusions from that starting point.

Unlike Collins, Alexander, and Enns, Purdom understands the devastating results that denying Adam and Eve’s existence as actual human beings will ultimately have on the Christian faith. As Frank Zindler, editor of American Atheist Magazine, stated in a debate with William Lane Craig, “Now that we know that Adam and Eve never were real people the central myth of Christianity is destroyed. If there never was an Adam and Eve, there never was an original sin…” And if there never was an original sin, there is no need for a Saviour. If there is no First Adam, what are we to think of the Last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45)?

Only after discussing the necessity of Adam and Eve’s existence to the message of the gospel does Purdom move on to discussing the genetic evidence. It is to her credit that she does not draw unwarranted conclusions from the available data. She does not argue that genetic evidence proves the existence of a literal Adam and Eve. Rather, her thesis is that the evidence of genetics, far from disproving their existence, is actually consistent with their existence as the first humans.

I won’t go into the details of Purdom’s discussion of the evidence in this presentation. However, her conclusions show that many of the “assured results” of scientific inquiry are not nearly as assured as they sometimes claim to be. Peter Enns has made the claim that “The Human Genome Project, completed in 2003, has shown beyond any reasonable scientific doubt that humans and primates share common ancestry.” For those of us who aren’t “in the know,” who have little knowledge of the intricacies of genetics, let alone the findings of the Human Genome Project, statements like this can be troubling. But Purdom shows that “beyond any reasonable scientific doubt” is, to say the least, an overstatement.

I highly recommend this video without reservation, especially to high school level science students, or those who may be struggling with how to interpret and understand the claims that are being made about the current scholarly consensus, and how those claims affect the Christian faith and the reliability of Scripture. Dr. Purdom’s methodology is sound, and she shows a clear understanding of the importance of our presuppositions, the foundations of our thinking, in leading us to draw conclusions from the evidence in creation. Her concluding statement is a radical rephrasing of a statement made by Dr. Bruce Waltke, and it’s a good one:

“We have to go with Scripture. We can’t ignore it. I have full confidence in Scripture, not in man’s ideas about the past. Only when we begin with the Bible’s authority can we rightly understand the science of the past and it is consistent with the existence of a literal Adam and Eve.”

The Genetics of Adam and Eve is available as a DVD ($12.99) or for download ($7.99) on the Answers in Genesis website. The presentation is 62 minutes long.