Hypothesis vs Evidence

Recently, I participated in a thread on the ‘Christadelphian Origins Discussion’ Facebook page. Like most debates there is the usual back and forth, until someone made this comment that made me think more deeply about his point, which has led to this post.

“Because in this context the Bible is not evidence. It is a hypothesis. The evidence that this claim of the Bible is correct – or more particularly that the way you are reading it is correct – is yet to be found.”

The Bible is a collection writings that help us explore how to have a more beneficial relationship with God. It contains the prayers, praise, thoughts, and perspectives of faithful people, and it contains God’s responses to – and expectations for – the faithful. In it he also outlines his plan for the future. We can use it to trace some of the history of these faithful followers (but not all of their history).  We can’t use it to trace the history of all nations, nor can we use it to teach algebra or trigonometry. Or Physics. Or Chemistry. That doesn’t mean it has limitations, it just means those topics are “out of scope” when it comes to building a meaningful relationship with our creator. (Not to mention, our knowledge in these fields has come a long away in the 2,000 years since the Bible was written).

Included in those out of scope topics would be biological themes related the crucial building blocks and processes of life, such as DNA, RNA, transcription, gene expression, and so on.

So, when we make an assertion that (for example) “ALL humans are descended from Adam and Eve”, it is a hypothesis based on how we interpret the Bible (which as I have already pointed out, does not address the history of all nations, nor biological matters).   

There is nothing wrong with formulating this statement as a hypothesis, but now we need a way to test the validity of that hypothesis, because that’s what sound science is all about.  Once a hypothesis has been defined, one needs to gather data to find evidence to explain/support the hypothesis.

So, if our hypothesis is “ALL humans are descended from Adam and Eve”, what data can we use to prove this?

Some might insist the Bible is sufficient for this, but as we have seen above, it is not. It was never written to deal with the history of all nations, nor was it written to deal with the biological or anthropological aspects of this question. Therefore, it doesn’t offer a complete enough set of data to investigate. So if that’s the case, why should we limit our data set when we have the whole of God’s creation at our disposal?

Admittedly some may be thinking about Acts 17:26 which says something along the lines of “From one he every nation of the human race”. I’m being intentionally vague in the way I quote this verse because depending on which Bible version one uses, this verse is translated many different ways.

Irrespective of which translation was correct, if it did literally mean “every human on earth was descended from one man” then we should easily find evidence of this either in archeological or biological domains. After all, “Archaeology Proves the Bible True” is a common enough study title.

Well, in this case no – the archaeological evidence suggests that there were other human societies all around the globe at the same time as Adam, so they certainly didn’t descend from him. (There is more information on this here). Of course the Bible is silent about the existence of these other societies because, as we have already noted, it doesn’t cover the history of ALL nations.

What about the biological evidence that might prove “ALL humans are descended from Adam and Eve”. Well, the genetic evidence certainly doesn’t support that conclusion (see here for more detail).

At this point, I could take a somewhat sarcastic tone, and suggest that those who assert “ALL humans are descended from Adam and Eve” should be able to find either archaeological or genetic/biological proof to support their claim. To some extent, that is a true thing to say, they should, but the reality is that no data exists that will support that claim. If there were, rest assured it would have been used extensively by groups such as Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research.

What this really comes down to is Trevor’s statement that prompted this post. “…in this context the Bible is not evidence. It is a hypothesis. The evidence that this claim of the Bible is correct – or more particularly that the way you are reading it is correct – is yet to be found.”

To be clear, this does NOT mean the Bible is wrong. No one is saying that. It DOES mean that God’s physical creation does not support that hypothesis. Fortunately, correctly understanding this is not an important or fundamental requirement to build a meaningful relationship with our creator, or else he would have included it in the scope of his written word.

This being the case, let’s stop making senseless burdens out of unprovable hypotheses, and work together to find more meaningful ways to edify one another.