The Problem Stated
The question of where Cain got his wife is an age old question. On the one hand, one could posit that Cain married one of his sisters ; however, invoking incest to solve this problem is an uncomfortable option for many people, especially given the prohibition on incest in the Book of Leviticus. On the other hand, one could posit that Cain married a woman outside of his family; however, this entails that Adam and Eve are not the sole biological progenitors of the entire human race. In a cursory investigation, it appears that the majority of Christians think the biological primacy of Adam and Eve is too high a price to pay to resolve this issue and accept the first option: that Cain married his sister. In response, there have been efforts to resolve the tension generated by the incest problem. One popular solution, often promulgated by Neo-Ussherians, is what I will call the “pure genetics defense”. This solution posits that incest was originally acceptable because Adam and Eve had pure genes and no substantial mutations occurred as a result of incest. As time went on, the mutations accumulated, so, God put a restriction on incest in Leviticus as a result. As an example, check out this explanation by Neo-Ussherian apologist Ken Ham. I think that this argument fails on two counts.
This objection applies primarily to old earth creationists who hold that a sole-biological-progenitor lived about 150,000 – 200,000 years ago. It seems that if God imposed the incest restriction to curb genetic mutations, He would’ve done it much earlier on this view. In other words, it seems rather unlikely that these mutations only became a problem in the last 3500 years and not the preceding 146,000. I suppose one could posit that God providentially preserved genetic integrity for the first 98% of human history and then let decay take over; it just seems rather ad hoc. This defense simply does not seem to be simultaneously available if the OEC and YEC are defending mutation rates that vary by several orders of magnitude. Thus, the plausibility of the pure genetics defense appears to be inversely proportional to how old one thinks humanity is.
Why care about something written about a debate that hasn’t happened yet? Well frankly, because you need to be prepared for whatever happens afterwards, and the best way to do so is to reflect upon the issue at hand. I decided to do a little research, and I put together this post to help frame the upcoming debate. I also have a few comments on it throughout.
Fellow Christians, we need to be prepared for this debate. We need to be posting on it beforehand, during, and afterwards. Why? A simple look at Google Trends shows that the search traffic for Ken Ham has spiked hugely since the debate was announced. Side-by-side comparison of Bill Nye and Ken Ham shows both have seen an increase of search traffic from it. To put it simply: people are talking and thinking about this. We need to have a response…
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In case you haven’t heard, famed TV host Bill Nye will be debating well know Neo-Ussherian (aka young Earth creationist) Ken Ham on the question “Is creation a viable model of origins?” on February 4 of this year. I have mixed reactions to this but ultimately, I think it’s a lose-lose-lose scenario.
Ham will have to defend two theses: first, the universe is young and second, evolution isn’t ‘viable’. Ham is in an interesting position here because if he can defend the first theses, the second follows pretty easily just because of the time scale. This leads to the first problem; Ham is in the position to simply make the case for a young Earth and completely pass over the evolution question. Moreover, the topic is rather ambiguous as ‘viability’ can carry a multitude of meanings. In all probability, Nye and Ham will have totally different definitions of viability and the debate will devolve into Nye saying ‘Look! Fossils!’ and Ham saying ‘Were you there?!’ every other sentence.
Nevertheless, any honest look at the evidence will demonstrate that the best case Ham can make is to define ‘viable’ as ‘internally consistent’ and then punt to apparent age. In this instance, Ham can contend the universe is 8,000 years old and any piece of contrary evidence can be explained by ‘God made it look that way’ (in all fairness, Ham is somewhat open to evidence as he used to think the earth was closer to 6,000 years but has changed his mind; it’s a 0.000015% improvement but, hey, progress is progress). Still, while Ham’s possible position could help him evade scientific evidence and retain internal consistency, it doesn’t really explain anything. Moreover, Ham runs into theological problems if he takes this line (‘Why did God lie to us?’, etc). In summary, Ham loses on the evidence, the persuasiveness, and the theology.
Last time, I presented a deductive argument which demonstrated that including “Animals died in Adam” in the theological premise set generated a troubling dilemma: either animals are included in the plan of salvation or Christ is not victorious over death. I suggested replacing this controversial premise with “Animal death is incidental” to escape the dilemma. For convention, this premise will be referred to as the ‘incidental hypothesis’. The gist of this second part is pretty simple. Essentially, if the authors of Scripture had a certain view of animal death, then we would expect particular passages.
First, let’s consider the common view held by Neo-Ussherians (aka young-Earth creationists). Suppose that animal death is indeed an effect of sin and one of the bleak realities of this fallen, cursed world. Take a moment to get into the mindset of an inspired author of Scripture. The Holy Spirit has come upon him as he reflects upon the natural order. His thoughts turn to the ecosystem, the circle of life, and animal predation. We would expect him to be overcome with sorrow at the dreadful system in place. He would pick up his pen and lament the death of antelope, zebras, and the like.
Next, let’s consider the incidental hypothesis. All of the conditions are the same except, the author doesn’t view animal death as something wrong with the world. Instead, animal death is something incidental, much like the Sun rising in the East instead of the West. If this is the case, as he reflects upon the circle of life, we would not expect him to be overcome with sorrow. He would mention animal predation as a neutral component of the world. These two statements can be summarized as follows: