Adam's Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human by David N. Livingstone

By David N. Livingstone

Although the concept all people are descended from Adam is a long-standing conviction within the West, one other model of this narrative exists: people inhabited the Earth earlier than, or along, Adam, and their descendants nonetheless occupy the planet.

In this attractive and provocative paintings, David N. Livingstone strains the background of the assumption of non-adamic humanity, and the debates surrounding it, from the center a long time to the current day. From a multidisciplinary viewpoint, Livingstone examines how this replacement thought has been used for cultural, non secular, and political reasons. He finds how what all started as biblical feedback turned a theological apologetic to reconcile faith with science—evolution in particular—and was once later used to aid arguments for white supremacy and segregation.

From heresy to orthodoxy, from radicalism to conservatism, from humanitarianism to racism, Adam's Ancestors tells an exciting story of twists and turns within the cultural politics surrounding the age-old query, "Where did we come from?"

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Additional info for Adam's Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins

Sample text

Such encounters cast doubt on Old World assumptions and began to subvert the authority hitherto resident in those ancient texts that had long been the blueprint for Europe’s moral architecture. 5 And yet, for all these hints at alternative European readings of human origins, they remain largely just that: mere hints, fleeting glimpses, prevenient traces of a monumental heresy still to find full voice. The idea that Adam might not be the progenitor of the entire human race and that there might be non-adamic peoples in existence found expression in print by only a handful of writers.

26 Heresy: Isaac La Peyrère and the Pre-Adamite Scandal 33 By this neat piece of exegetical reshuffling—a “fresh if rather naïve excursion into biblical exegesis,” as Anthony Grafton puts it27—a range of irritating inconsistencies in the Genesis record could be conjured out of existence. Here was a ready-made explanation for Cain’s fear, after his banishment from the Garden of Eden, that he would encounter hostile individuals seeking to kill him; it delivered a population to inhabit the city he built; it provided a possible answer to the question about where his wife came from.

Thus, for all the heroic efforts to encompass the reality of America within the compass of biblical traditionalism, the New World’s anthropological and geographical threats to conventional history were sufficiently powerful to encourage some to modify the standard chronicles of creation and, in particular, to speculate that world history predated the adamic narrative. Later, in the mid-seventeenth century, Matthew Hale would concede that the central issue around which debates about human origins rotated was the American Indian.

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