Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Theory of Evolution – The Genesis Account
“Rejecting or trivializing the Genesis account about Adam and Eve creates a domino effect that undermines nearly every major teaching in the Bible! Such a way of thinking leads to a host of unanswered questions and a faith with nothing to stand on.—Hebrews 11:1.”
– Watchtower magazine, November 1st, 1994
“Let’s say that the consensus is that our species, being the higher primates, Homo Sapiens, has been on the planet for at least 100,000 years, maybe more. Francis Collins says maybe 100,000. Richard Dawkins thinks maybe a quarter-of-a-million. I’ll take 100,000. In order to be a Christian, you have to believe that for 98,000 years, our species suffered and died, most of its children dying in childbirth, most other people having a life expectancy of about 25 years, dying of their teeth. Famine, struggle, bitterness, war, suffering, misery, all of that for 98,000 years. Heaven watches this with complete indifference. And then 2000 years ago, thinks ‘That’s enough of that. It’s time to intervene.’”
- Christopher Hitchens
Now, for those of the belief stated above, Hitchens exposes a great flaw, and many have tried their hand at refuting it and gotten relatively far from the argument in doing so – however, this isn’t a problem for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Despite Darwin’s work having taken hold across the scientific world by the time that ‘Judge’ Rutherford took the reins of the Watchtower Society in the 1920s, many religions were in the process of a great reactionary opposition movement. Biblical literalism was having life breathed into it, after centuries of believers viewing stories such as the Adam and Eve account as mere metaphor (Armstrong, 2007:3), for fear that Christianity, and faith in general, was being stamped out by the scientists (and therefore, by Satan). It’s no surprise then that Russell’s creation, later resculpted and repackaged by Rutherford, was always going to be staunchly anti-evolution. It was a threat and allegedly one that a correct interpretation of the scriptures would fix.
For a little more history into this time, Armstrong’s “The Bible: The Biography,” pages 195-201, is a pretty decent overview and completely readable. Of course, the entire book is totally readable, so just buy it (secondhand, it saves trees).
As early as 1898, the Watchtower Society published a conversation between an Evolution-supporting Presbyterian minister and a Bible Student minister, in which the Watchtower’s advocate posits:
“I incline … to the opinion that the majority of the advocates of evolutionary theories are not aware of the violent and irreconcilable difference between these theories and the Bible. It appears to me that if it were generally known that if evolutionary theories are true, the Bible doctrines are false, and that if the Bible is of God, his inspired Word, evolutionary theories are absolutely false, many Evolutionists would give the subject deeper study before accepting and advocating a theory which gives the lie to the words of our Lord and of his Apostles and all the holy Prophets.”
In over a hundred years, the Watchtower’s position seems not to have changed. They view that Evolutionary Theory only spells disaster for their tightly held beliefs, not only from the view that this mutational, naturally occurring selective change is not mentioned in the Bible, but as partial Biblical-literalists (remember, they believe the 6 days of creation are metaphorical) it also voids the Adam and Eve/Garden of Eden story.
So, before we go into the science of Evolution itself in my next post, discussing the background of the Garden of Eden account is imperative. After all, if this tale is disingenuous, and more importantly not unique, surely Evolutionary Theory is just the cherry on top to void the Jehovah’s Witness faith? They have positioned themselves dangerously, balancing, and just a small nudge can bring their doctrine tumbling down.
Some time ago I was studying some mythology and came across the Holy Grail of myth. No, not a carpenter’s cup from Indiana Jones, nor, unfortunately enough, was it a pretty French girl in a film adaptation of Dan Brown’s pseudo-academic Da Vinci Code (for the record, I enjoyed that book – forgive me). Instead it was the Epic of Gilgamesh. The oldest parts of this poem date as far back as the 18th century B.C.E. and first saw themselves compiled as an epic – as far as we know – between 1300 and 1000 B.C.E. Consider then that ancient texts, much like the Hebrew Scriptures, are based on verbal tales, and we arrive at the understandable position that whatever is contained within these stone tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh dates back even further than we can prove with scientific evidence. However, this simply doesn’t matter (and conjecture feels uncomfortable). What matters is that the writers of Genesis weren’t writing in 1000 B.C.E, they were actually writing around four hundred years later, using mythical characters and scenes from their culture and others’. Now, folklore carried by word-of-mouth can evolve a lot over time, but when things become written down, they become reliable sources (the Da Vinci Code, after all, convinced stupid people that it wasn’t a novel) of inspiration and instil long-lasting ideas in the reader. We are, after all, still reading Shakespeare and Beowulf. So it’s no surprise that the Epic of Gilgamesh and Genesis share stories, in fact, they both have the Garden of Eden account.
Well, Satan obviously did this to confuse modern scholars, archaeologists, scientists and mythologists so they wouldn’t find the “Truth”! Nothing else can explain it! Unless, of course, we consider that any evidence that contradicts a set of beliefs into the supernatural is more likely to be of sound reasoning, rather than a belief in a talking serpent or a spare rib becoming a woman instead of a Chinese Take-away. Logic: Satan’s creation – clearly.
In the Epic, Gilgamesh has immortality stolen by a snake and Enkidu loses nature’s respect after having a prolonged sex-session with the first female he has met (she’s a harlot); in Genesis, Adam has immortality stolen by a serpent tricking his wife (oh and the serpent is a phallic symbol but let’s not go into that academic theory, it gets a bit naughty). Not to mention another Mesopotamian tale in which a character named Adapa also unknowingly excludes himself from immortality in similar circumstances.
“There are three main parallels between the tales of Adapa and Adam. Both men undergo a test before a god based upon something they were to eat; both fail the test and thus forgo immortality; their failure has consequences for mankind. The god Enki/Ea tells Adapa to go to heaven and apologize to the god Anu, but warns him that he will die if he eats the food in heaven. When Adapa declines Anu’s food, Anu tells him that it was not the food of death but of immortality, and sends Adapa back to Earth. Likewise, in Genesis, Yahweh tells Adam that he will die if he eats from the Tree of Knowledge. When Adam eats from the tree he is cast out of Eden lest he also eat from the Tree of Life and gain immortality.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panbabylonism)
To say there are similarities is a severe understatement (and there are many more folklores and myths that incorporate elements to these stories too). There is simply no room for real originality here and we see a picture, instead, of plagiarism. Plagiarism that only becomes the pejorative when applied with the thick brush of the Watchtower Society. So, while the Liberalist movement has flourished – with the Catholic advocation especially giving it strength in modern decades - publicly accepting Evolution, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have flourished likewise in counter ideologies. It’s not hard, after all, to eventually find people behind the door you knock at desperate for a conspiracy theory. I know too many JWs that believe in the Moon Landing Hoax theories (we really did land there though, just saying) or the 9/11 conspiracies.
Desperate for some plot twist? They really are, because now only a dramatic twist of the story can possibly make their theories fit. The scientific method is being continually finely tuned and improved, and they are being left progressively in the dark with a very sad and evident denial of expanding knowledge.
“The Truth,” in reality, is one of the biggest lies told.