This Week’s Question: If not Adam and Eve, who were the first humans to conceive?
This question doesn’t really seem relevant to our readership, as I doubt most of the people interested are bible-literalists, so for that, I apologize. Additionally, I do not feel qualified to give a true answer to this question, as I do not know enough about history or biology to give a real response. Further, there isn’t a very solid answer that CAN be given, because in the course of evolution, the line between “human” and whatever preceded it is extremely blurred; virtually non-existent. So in lieu of that, I’ll at least comment on the story itself.
I personally love the story of Adam and Eve, for its relevance today and the irony of how oft-quoted it is by Christians and the like. I see a parallel to modern dogma, in that the garden offered eternal paradise and perfection — a slice of heaven for man. Man could only not partake in one thing, the tree of knowledge. Knowledge and understanding were forbidden. Man was to be kept ignorant. Man could not live without it though — even a perfect world was incomplete without knowledge. He learned too much and was no longer able to live in a garden, entertaining the notion of centrality. Mankind became lost wanderers of the world, mentally fending for ourselves in a harsh and unforgiving world without the watchful eye of a father figure. An uncomfortable position perhaps, but preferable to ignorance.
Cameron Moody is a third-year computational biology major.
Take a moment to consider your personal family tree. You have your parents, your uncles and aunts, your cousins and at the top (or bottom, however you’re envisioning it) your grandparents. But, of course, that’s not all your relatives. There’s great-grandparents, great-uncles and aunts, great-great-grandparents and so on and so forth. But when do we stop counting? After how many hundreds of years do we say the tree stops? When do our “relatives” cease being relatives? At this point you might ask yourself, what does it even mean for someone to be related to me?
Excellent question. But first, let’s talk sex. When two people fuck, and happen to conceive, a sperm infiltrates an egg and a twisting dance of DNA occurs. Genes from the mother and father swap and combine, then sure enough, an embryo forms which splits and multiplies into a developing fetus. You aren’t your genes, but you are built from them, and it’s your parents from whence they came. Put simply, the people on your family tree are there because of the genes you share, and the farther up (or down) the tree you go, the less alike your genes to others become.
Now, try to imagine the look of your tree back to a thousand years. Now try a million. If it’s genes that relate people, your tree must then have members that aren’t even human. So who were the first man and woman? Since it’s impossible for a mother to birth a child of a different species than her own, the answer must be that there were no first humans.
Brian Gallagher is a fourth-year philosophy major.
The scientific answer to this chicken-or-egg question is that no one knows. We can get awfully specific, though; we have a (geologically) narrow timeframe of about 250 to 400 thousand years in a pretty specific geographic region in which we can be reasonably certain that there first arose an apelike hominid that we can call Homo sapiens.
But, as usual, the scientific answer is not the one we are being begged to answer. The question is a “god of the gaps” argument that points to any gap in humanity’s collective knowledge and claims it as proof of a deity.
Religion’s most seductive attribute is that it will always claim to have the answer, no matter the question. Moral quandary? Got that covered. Geological or anthropological question? We’ll just add up the ages of everyone in the Bible and irrefutably know the earth has existed for 6,000 years. Economic question? Well, Jesus said… uh… well, let’s ignore that, he was kind of a communist. Every family has a black sheep though, right?
The truth is, Homo sapiens are uncomfortable not knowing the absolute truth all the time. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way, and there are very real constraints on, in this case, archaeological evidence. So no one knows who the first humans were. Just remember this: Whoever that first human truly was, he or she had to have done the nasty with a monkey to beget us all. But I guess bestiality would have been a gross note on which to start Genesis.
Connor Oakes is a fourth-year political science major.