Six to ten-thousand years ago, some Christian apologists assert, the human species began with a single man and woman pair: Adam and Eve. And we are told that they had several children:
Cain… Abel… Seth…
Wait, that’s only three children and… they’re… all… boys.
“The human race is the product of Eve having sex with her sons!” “Adam and Eve only had three male children; think about that carefully!”
The family of Adam and Eve is often held up as a “gotcha” by unbelievers: an obvious flaw in the story which calls into question everything else about it. It is implied that not only was the human race initially increased by way of incest but that it was (at least initially) incest between mother and sons.
A Family That Just Won’t Quit
While it is true that Adam and Eve only had three named children, the “Adam, Eve, and their three kids alone” atheist argument falls apart just a few chapters into the Bible, chapter five specifically.
Chapter five pulls back a little bit to give a broader view of Adam’s lengthy life and progeny. Abel had been killed, and for all intents, Cain was living in exile, no longer a part of Adam’s “generations” or family so far as the author of Genesis is concerned. So with that in mind, chapter five tells us of the birth of Adam’s third named son: Seth.
The chapter quickly moves forward with Seth’s family, their children, and so on until the narrative gets to the next big event, the Deluge, or great flood. However, before it does so, it caps off Adam’s life thus:
The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. Genesis 5:4
In case you missed it, here is the critical bit:
and he had other sons and daughters.
Every single meme or objection you’ve ever seen which mentions that Adam and Eve had only three sons is false. “Fake news!” as they say.
Atheists often make the claim that they are atheists because they have “read the Bible.” Fair enough; reading the Bible is what killed my faith in its god and savior as well. However, if we’re going to proclaim some sort of enlightened state brought about by reading a book, we do ourselves a disservice and call into question the intellectual rigor of our movement if we’re missing a simple detail from early in the book for the sake of a “gotcha” argument or meme.
Because Adam and Eve had “sons and daughters” over the course of several centuries, there were plenty of pairings possible to get the human race off to a good start.
In Response to a Comment I Couldn’t Publish
An anonymous commenter on this post accused me of playing “gotcha” games because while I’m pointing out that Eve wouldn’t have had to procreate with her sons, her sons and daughters would have had to procreate with each other. I pointed that out in the previous paragraph, so let’s address it more explicitly. Unfortunately, I couldn’t publish their comment due to its violating the comment policy, so I’m addressing the point of it here.
Yes, there would have been incest in the early days of humanity, according to the Bible. Actually, it’s been practiced in a variety of cultures across all of human history. Our society has come to deem the practice as taboo at best and morally repugnant and illegal at worst, and for good reasons.
However, we cannot expect the earliest humans — whether evolutionary or biblical — to procreate according to our sexual mores.
If the biblical account is true, then the earliest humans would have been far more genetically pure than we are today, with no time for genetic defects to build up over time, the kind of genetic defects which today cause things like congenital diseases or deformities. Today, inbreeding allows defects to compound over time among small populations, causing an increase in congenital conditions. Back then, though? There would be no, or substantially reduced, risk of any such conditions.
Oh, and whether you like it or not, you can’t escape inbreeding: either it occurred among the children of Adam and Eve in the biblical account or it occurred in ways which shaped the course of human evolution.