Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Reader Asks About Polygenesis

A reader recently emailed me with a question. She wrote:

When the bible says he created them male and female and called them Adam it occurred to me that we assumed only Adam and Eve but what if more than one of each was created and all were given the name Adam but of the lineage of Christ we specifically get the story of the first Adam and Eve and they are the first but not the only. Hopefully that makes sense.

Here is my response:


It is great to hear from you and your question is very thoughtful.

That view is called "polygenesis" - that God created multiple original couples. This is opposite to the idea of monogenism, which posits a single origin of humanity.The Roman Catholic Church rejects polygenism. Genesis does not eliminate that possibility, but it does indicate that God created human beings fully human from the beginning, and suggests that the Adam and Eve must be placed in Africa, which is where Abraham's Nilo-Saharan ancestors originated.

Some people hold the polygenesis view. They use it to explain different races and languages. Many African oral traditions feature polygenesis in their creation stories. In Bambuti mythology the Creator made three different races out of three kinds of clay: one black, one white, and one red. We find this idea in Genesis 2:7 where we are told that the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the earth. Abraham's ancestors lived where red soil washed down from the Ethiopian Highlands. These soils have a cambic B horizon. Chromic Cambisols have a strong brown or red color.

From the beginning these skin tones were known to be indigenous to Africa. 

Red and Black Nubians
Detail from a Ippolito Rosellini painting
from the Franco-Italian Expedition to Egypt, 1828

Ha-dam (Adam) was of "the blood" suggesting a red skin tone, as with Abraham's Ainu ancestors. Adam is claimed as the ancestor of the people who gave us the Genesis creation stories.

The evidence today goes against polygenism. Genetics and linguistics have demonstrated a point of origin in Africa for modern humans and modern languages.

You might find these articles interesting:

Phoneme Study Pinpoints Origins of Modern Languages
Migrations Out of Africa
Genetic Evidence of Long-Standing African Presence in Britain
Adam and Eve: The "Blood" and the "Birther"

Best wishes,
Alice C. Linsley


DDeden said...

Monogenism is surely the result of monoculture agriculture practice and its attendant rituals. Same with not mixing cotton with wool in a garment, or pairing an ass and ox to the plow, or the Mongols' red/meat & white/dairy seasons.

I like the Maya method, one maize/jagung biji + 1 bean/kacang biji in same hole, the fast-growing cornstalk becomes the trellis/support pole for the bean to cling to, and the beans' roots combine with symbiotic soil fungi to provide vital Nitrogen to the soil for the corn to produce the kernels, wonderful synergy... I find God in that

Alice Linsley said...

That is the definition in genetics, but in conversations about human origins, mongenism has a different meaning.

Certainly God can be seen in the "wonderful synergy" observed in nature, ing the binary features which signal greater complexity, and in what some call the "intelligent design" of the material world. This is half of the answer. The other half has to do with God finding us.

DDeden said...

Regarding soil erosion of Ethiopian highlands, this might be of interest:

Possibly malaria and other diseases were an initial cause for Horite priests having 2 distant wives/households, or perhaps trade/gift exchange between distant posts (especially during local famines) was advantageous once travel (boats, donkeys, oxen, camels) became safer and easier.

I'm most satisfied with natural explanations and supernatural meditations.