Proponents of young-earth creationism, like Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research, teach some pretty crazy things. They teach that God once created a fabulous tree, which could miraculously grant immortality to anyone who ate from it … in a world where every living thing was already immortal anyway.
They teach that the gospel message is not dependent on young-earth creationism, it’s just based on young-earth creationism (which is different, I guess).
They teach that the only way we can do science at all is because God created a law-governed, rational universe, but we can’t trust the evidence of the past, because God could have ignored the laws that govern the universe when he was designing and creating the universe. And besides, these laws may have been operating completely at random before we started paying attention to them — at which point, they settled down and became rational and predictable.
They teach that the scientific process has been hijacked by a global atheist conspiracy to disprove the existence of God by propping up a scientific theory that — if true — does not do anything to disprove the existence of God.
I could probably go on all day. But out of all the bizarre, ludicrous, irrational and frankly, just plain crazy, things that the good folks at AiG and ICR have submitted in support of young-earth creationism, there is one that clearly takes the cake.
You see, there’s a question that has long plagued those who read the first few chapters of Genesis as literal history: Where did Cain, Adam and Eve’s firstborn, get his wife? The Bible says he married, and bore children, but it doesn’t say where the lucky lady came from. And if you read Genesis the way AiG does, you have to believe the earth, at the time, was not exactly a bustling Saturday-night singles bar. It was a lonely, almost-entirely empty place.
So, what’s the craziest thing about young-earth creationism proponents? Their answer to this quandry. You want to know where Cain got his wife? Incest. Yeah, you read that right: Incest, and they’re not ashamed to admit it. That’s the craziest part of all: the straight-faced, unapologetic way they present this information.
Apparently, it’s not enough for them to teach that Cain and his sister did the horizontal monster mash; they have to insist that it was done with the full blessing of God Almighty. They, in fact, try and argue that it’s somehow not weird and disgusting and super-creepy that — in their way of seeing things — God’s original design required the earliest humans to do the hippity-dippity with their siblings and other blood relations.
I can see you don’t believe me, so just listen to it from the horse’s mouth:
Doesn’t the Bible forbid marriage between close relations? It does, but the laws against marrying family members were initially given as part of the Mosaic covenant, approximately 2,500 years after God created Adam and Eve. Due in part to genetic mistakes, these laws were necessary to help protect offspring from mutations shared by both parents.
But that’s incest! In today’s world, this would be incest. But originally there would have been no problem with it. Looking back through history, the closer we get to Adam and Eve, the fewer genetic mistakes people would have, so it would have been safer for close relatives to marry and have children.
“Move it along, folks,” AiG president Ken Ham says. “Just a dude with the hots for his sister. It was before God said not to, so there’s no problem. Nothing to see here.” Ham goes on to point out the rich tradition of such unions for the biblical patriarchs:
Christians who have a problem with this answer need to remember that Noah’s grandchildren must have married brothers, sisters, or first cousins — there were no other people (1 Peter 3:20; Genesis 7:7). Abraham married his half-sister (Genesis 20:2, 12); Isaac married Rebekah, the daughter of his cousin Bethuel (Genesis 24:15, 67); and Jacob married his cousins Leah and Rachel. Clearly, the Bible does not forbid the marriage of close relatives until the time of Moses.
Just incredible, isn’t it? Seriously, click over and read the whole thing — or even the longer version, if you think you can stomach it (there are cartoons!) — and tell me it doesn’t feel like you’re reading the otherworldly manifesto of a raving lunatic.
While you’re there, take note of the same arrogant, self-assured tone that Ham brings to everything he does. His view is the Christian view — the only one that matters. The possibility that there might be other, perfectly reasonable and faithful interpretations of Genesis 1-3 — interpretations that, for example, don’t make God look like a clueless pervert — is never considered.
But hey, just for fun: Can you imagine how the conversation between Cain and his dear old dad would have gone?
CAIN: Hey, Dad, can we talk?
ADAM: Sure thing, son. What’s up?
CAIN: Well, it’s just that, you know, I’ve found someone…
ADAM: Really? That’s wonderful news! Your mother and I have been wondering about that. Is it serious?
CAIN: Yes, sir. (Hesitates.) Actually, I wanted to ask for your permission to marry her.
ADAM: (Whistles.) That’s my boy! Good for you, son! Your mother will be thrilled. Say, when do we get to meet her, anyway?
CAIN: (Hesitates again.) Well, that’s the thing, Pops. You sort of already have.
ADAM: What’s that, now?
CAIN: You’ve met her. She’s my sister.
ADAM: (Shocked) Your sister?! What’s the heck is wrong with you? Cain, you can’t marry your sister. That’s totally screwed up.
CAIN: (Angry) Well, what did you expect, Dad? I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m not exactly swamped by eligible bachelorettes around here — not genetically distinct ones, anyway. (Raises voice over the sound of ADAM vomiting violently) It’s pretty slim pickings out there! It’s basically Li’l Sis or Bessie the water buffalo.
ADAM: Take the buffalo, for crying out loud! God offered her to me for a wife before.
CAIN: Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, Bessie’s helpful and all; I just think I’d really prefer to marry a human. (Sighs) Look, Pops, I know it’s weird; I’m kind of a little grossed out myself, but what choice do I have? This is the way God set it up. It’s how he gets his kicks, I guess.
ADAM: (Shaking his head in disappointment) Man, oh man. We thought you hit rock bottom when you offed your brother over that whole sacrifice deal — major overreaction, by the way — but this is a new low. What are the neighbors going to say?
CAIN: Dad, we don’t have neighbors. That’s why we’re in this mess in the first place, remember?
ADAM: Oh, yeah.
Something like that, anyway. But you have to feel for poor Cain — bless his murder-y little heart. All he was trying to do was fulfill the first order God gave humanity: “Be fruitful and multiply.” It’s not his fault the good Lord gave him no one to — er — multiply with other than the cuties he grew up fighting over bathroom time with.
So, what do you think? Is the belief that incest was A-OK in God’s original design the craziest thing about the teachings of young-earth creationist groups? Or do you agree with them that there’s nothing weird about the real First Commandment: Thou Shalt Get Busy with Thy Sister?
Editor’s note: Some readers have pointed out that this post misses an opportunity by failing to confront the biblical and theological problems with AiG’s argument. I think they’re right. So, in the interest of rectifying this, I include the quick and dirty version of my response.
Cosanguineous incest was thoroughly repudiated by God in the Mosaic law, just as Ken Ham says. His claim is that the Mosaic law came thousands of years after the necessary acts of incest by Adam and Eve’s kids, so it didn’t apply. However, Cain’s murder also predated the Ten Commandments’ prohibition on killing, and that still seemed to be wrong. Fact is, the Bible instructs us that the law of God is written on our hearts. Some people may have lived before the Mosaic law was laid down, but no person has ever lived before God existed, wrote his law on our hearts and held us morally accountable to it.
Ham claims the reason incest was prohibited later was because of the risk of birth defects. This argument can be tested with a simple thought experiment. Take a brother and sister in modern-day society, who are in love and wish to get married. Now, presume they are both infertile, completely incapable of procreation. Would their union be sinful? In this case, there would be no danger of producing offspring with a higher risk of genetic defects, and Ham can’t say incest is inherently wrong, because if it is, then it would have been wrong for Cain and his sisters.
In the end, there is just no way to rescue this convoluted train of thought into coherence. Either cosanguineous incest is an abomination in God’s eyes (like he said it is), in which case he would not have established the human race in such a way that our survival required it, or it’s not, and there’s nothing wrong with it at all as long as we can mitigate the risk of genetic problems. Ham can’t have it both ways.