Review: Did Adam Exist?

Did Adam Exist?Did Adam Exist? by Vern S Poythress

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Classic polymathic Poythress. He takes a consistent presuppositionalist approach to the issue at hand and yet doesn’t use his faith as an excuse to avoid the science relevant to his topic. The book is so brief (I read it in one sitting) that he raises just one scientific issue, correspondence between ape and human DNA. But he adroitly explains both the facts of the matter and the unavoidable role one’s presuppositions play in his interpretation and arrangement of the “facts.”

My only complaint is that I, who am not a polymath, didn’t come away with as full an understanding as I expected of the DNA-correspondence issue. But I did get good theological answers as to why there might be so much overlap. And I got this fantastic quote Poythress unearthed from a presumably non-Christian scientist:

Much of present-day biological knowledge is ideological. A key symptom of ideological thinking is the explanation that has no implications and cannot be tested. I call such logical dead ends antitheories because they have exactly the opposite effect of real theories: they stop thinking rather than stimulate it. Evolution by natural selection, for instance, which Charles Darwin originally conceived as a great theory, has lately come to function more as an antitheory, called upon to cover up embarrassing experimental shortcomings and legitimize findings that are at best questionable and at worst not even wrong. Your protein defies the laws of mass action? Evolution did it! Your complicated mess of chemical reactions turns into a chicken? Evolution! The human brain works on logical principles no computer can emulate? Evolution is the cause! Sometimes one hears it argued that the issue is moot because biochemistry is a fact-based discipline for which theories are neither helpful nor wanted. The argument is false, for theories are needed for formulating experiments. Biology has plenty of theories. They are just not discussed—or scrutinized—in public. The ostensibly noble repudiation of theoretical prejudice is, in fact, a cleverly disguised antitheory, whose actual function is to evade the requirement for logical consistency as a means of eliminating falsehood.

Poythress was also admirably brief, with cogent critical thinking questions spaced frequently throughout the text.

One more note: Poythress did argue for the possibility of gaps in the Genesis genealogy (based on the demonstrable, purposeful gaps in Matthew’s genealogy), and he did not raise the problem of death before sin. I’d be a little unclear, based on this short book alone, what he has concluded about the age of the earth.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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