Once upon a time, I asked my dad if he thought Adam and Eve were real or if it was just a story. I probably asked because I went to a Catholic school and my teachers up to that point always taught Bible stories as though they had literally happened. No one talks about Bible stories as a possible metaphor until high school. But I knew that inbreeding caused birth defects and I might have heard someone saying that the Adam and Eve story was impossible. Anyway, I somehow figured that it didn’t quite make sense for Adam and Eve to have been the first human beings and for the entire human race to have come from the same parents because there would’ve been a lot of inbreeding going on, and come to think of it, there’s and interesting take on evolution …
Anyway, this question came up for me when I was in junior high, i.e. old enough to be fully aware of where babies came from.
My dad, being a doctor and a bit of an intellectual, decided to answer the question in terms of genetics. Knowing what I know now about my dad, I think he didn’t want to say outright that the story probably wasn’t true. It was important to him that his kids learn all the Church had to offer but still be able to think for ourselves. So, he started to explain why he believed that all human beings were related. He was probably making a pretty solid argument for evolution while trying not to cause me to reject the Catholic church entirely.
He started by explaining things about chromosomes. XX and XY. I remember the number 16. And he said that despite all the variation among human beings, there is one thing we all have in common. All of us. Something really great and incontrovertible, I’m sure.
But of course, I don’t remember it.
It happened that as my dad was getting to the important part of his explanation, he mentioned something about sperm and eggs, and at that very instant, my older brother and two of his friends (on whom I had crushes in keeping with the policy of pre-teen girls) walked through the living room and began to snicker at the word “sperm” before heading up the stairs to my brother’s room where they were probably going to play their guitars or do some other heart-wrenchingly cool stuff.
I don’t remember the rest of what my dad said because I spent the next few minutes feeling 100% awkward. I wanted to yell at him for not properly answering my question (Were Adam and Eve real or just a dumb story? It mattered, and I needed to know!) or run upstairs to reassure my brother’s awesome friends that I was not learning about how babies were made but having a very mature intellectual conversation about the origins of humanity.
I didn’t, though. And as I went up to my room to be alone with my mortification, I passed my brother who taunted, “What did you learn about today?”\
To this day, I wonder what trait it is that all humans have in common.