The creation of Adam

Cue Michelangelo and the usual sound effects.

The third sentence in yesterday’s Idlepost was to be taken as droll. In it, I projected that from sheer vexation with pseudo-scientific “narratives” of human origins, I would present my own. Stepping into our imagined primaeval swamp, gentle reader and I then immediately disappear. That is to say, there is no account, or, no account that can pretend to be labcoat scientific, including any I might supply, that will fit the extraordinary facts. The notion of long, gradual, incremental, random, piecemeal, scattered, indiscriminate, fractional and fragmentary development — getting to a specific destination without direction or even having set out — assuredly pleased a certain class of bush-faced Victorian gentlemen, and their evolutionist descendants down to the present day. But it will not save the appearances, let alone men.

We are confronted by something which, on the time scale of geological ages, cannot make sense. We have a world without man, and then a world with him, and whether one “believes in God” or no, we find our ancestors intending conversation with Him. (Unlike all those other animals.) For that is the unmistakable archaeological appearance, and appearances should count, even in science.

James Ussher, the venerable Anglican archbishop, on the basis of explicit Biblical chronogenealogies, placed the creation of the world, by the Julian calendar, on Saturday the 23rd of October, 4004 BC, at six o’clock in the evening. (Sunset announcing the autumnal equinox.) This would place the creation of man sometime on the following Friday. This, to my mind, was almost certainly too late.

But those preenfully holy progressives who mock the “young earth creationists,” and make poor Ussher a figure for fun, should be aware that the earnest archbishop was following a method long accepted, which had yielded dates ranging from the old Judaic calculation of 3760 BCE, to the official Byzantine Orthodox Anno Mundi corresponding to 5509 before the Nativity of Our Lord. An old Roman subtraction makes that 5199. The Bible itself seems to be biblically literalist in this way, and the smart “older earth” types who propose some vague poetical interpretation of the numbers in the Mosaic canon, might wish to bear in mind, that they are flying even more solo.

Alternatively, the smug who rely on radiometric dating could remember that when the techniques are tested, against verifiable historical dates such as those for volcanic eruptions, they yield ages that are often way out of line. And, radiocarbon rates of decay need not be the issue. One must start with assumptions about the original material, and the farther one goes back in time the more reckless these assumptions become. Those who cite dates with confidence from such methods commit the same fallacy of misplaced precision of which they accuse the Biblical literalists; both swim in a sea of ignoratio elenchi. And both are in urgent need of our prayers.

For what happened, happened when it happened, regardless of their schemes. We only know that it did happen, at a time that seems distant to us, but in cosmic terms was sometime last night.

At some moment, Adam was created. We can know that because we can demonstrate there was a time before, and we are living in a time after. Changing Adam’s name will not undo his creation; and our speculations as to how he was created will remain so much piffle, unless or until God tells us.

I hope that makes everything clear.