Original sin? Adam and Eve never met, scientist says SIAN GRIFFITHS From: The Times April 07, 2013 10:46AM
FOUR centuries after the King James Bible was first published, one of Britain's best known scientists has produced an alternative for a secular age.
In The Serpent's Promise: The Bible as Science, geneticist Steve Jones retells key biblical episodes, including the story of Adam and Eve and the Great Flood, from a scientific point of view.
Modern science, he says, shows that we cannot all be descended from a single couple, that the plagues which were supposedly supernatural punishments were probably contagious diseases, and that the virgin birth is a biological impossibility.
"Most religions like Christianity are attempts to explain the world around us," says Jones, professor of genetics at University College London.
"A number of the questions asked in Genesis are very modern questions, such as the origin of life and the beginning of good and evil. Are we born with original sin? What is the point of sex? Why do we age? The questions have not changed, but the answers have."
The study of genetics proves we cannot all be descended from a real-life Adam and Eve, according to Jones. "The male tree reaches its root in central Africa around 100,000 years ago," he writes.
"The birthday of Eve can be tracked in the same way. She lived rather less than 200,000 years ago, well before Adam. The two can never have met, let alone committed the first and perhaps least original of all sins."
The plagues were most likely to have been contagious diseases caused by changes in people's way of life as they moved from living in villages to cities, he writes.
The Great Flood was not caused by divine anger at man but was a consequence of climatic events, possibly the end of the Ice Age.
Jones says he wrote the book, which is published by Little, Brown, on May 2, partly to counter a new "age of endarkenment".
"Why, when a student begins to learn the simple and credible facts, rather than fantasies, about how life emerged, should he swallow anything else that his pastor, his rabbi or his imam has told him?" writes Jones.
He has long opposed the spread of faith schools in Britain and has also clashed with Muslim students.
"Recently I was at the University of Lincoln giving a talk about the difference between humans and chimpanzees, and afterwards three Islamic students pushed me into a corner and started shouting at me," he said. "At a school in Islington [north London] a group of kids just walked out of one of my talks."