Studying the human genome has disproven the possibility that we sprang from two people:
Karl Giberson – who taught physics at Eastern Nazarene College until his views became too uncomfortable in Christian academia – says Protestants who question Adam and Eve are akin to Galileo in the 1600s, who defied Catholic Church doctrine by stating that the earth revolved around the sun and not vice versa. Galileo was condemned by the church, and it took more than three centuries for the Vatican to express regret at its error.
"When you ignore science, you end up with egg on your face," Giberson says. "The Catholic Church has had an awful lot of egg on its face for centuries because of Galileo. And Protestants would do very well to look at that and to learn from it."
The backlash from the literalists has been intense:
Harlow, who like Schneider has tenure and considers himself a committed Christian, said that the backlash reflects the views of fundamentalists within the Reformed denomination, not what most people think. "I work in the mainstream of Biblical scholarship, and we believe that the early chapters of Genesis are divinely inspired stories which imagine the human condition and creation of the world. Their intent is to make theological statements. They weren't written to provide geological or biological information," Harlow said. "My college freshmen seem to be able to handle this, but fundamentalists get all bent out of shape over this."
But the evangelicals are not the only ones hoisted by, er, truth. John Farrell notes a particularly tough Catholic problem:
The Catholic Church indeed of all the Christian churches faces a particular quandary. The Council of Trent is quite explicit on the topic. Catholics are required to believe not only that Adam is the single father of the human race, but that Original Sin is passed on by physical generation from him to the entire human race. It’s not something symbolic or allegorical (although it is regarded as ultimately mysterious). The First Vatican Council reiterated the doctrine, as did Pope Pius XII in his 1950 encyclical Humani Generis.
For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.
Catholic apologists who point to Pope John Paul II’s 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences as evidence of the Church’s acceptance of evolution often fail to notice that the late Pope completely passed over the question of monogenism, and indeed never did discuss the problem that genetics poses to the doctrine.
So much innovative and imaginative and faithful responses to modern science's revelations are required by the Church. Now more than ever. And yet the fundamental response by today's reactionary Vatican is mere silence or denial. In my view, that is a fundamental abdication of responsibility.