Dear Father Spitzer:
This is a very important question. My son who is VERY DEVOUT (prays more than one rosary daily) is also very much into science. He has been asking me when did Adam and Eve live. I know that the Church teaches that they are real and that from them we inherent original sin, but my son raises a very good point. He knows all about Neanderthal and the history of the creation of the earth.
Please help me.
The Adam and Eve story refer to the first man and first woman who had self-reflective and transcendental souls - giving them the capacity for moral reflection, authentic love, and spiritual life. The bible teaches that these first parents went against the law of God and violated the moral law which they knew - giving rise to original sin.
There is nothing in science that contradicts the Church's teaching on the above matters. Science has determined that all human beings come from one female progenitor and one male progenitor. The female progenitor is called "mitochondrial eve" - because everyone in the human race carries her mitochondrial genetic material - down to this very day - in every part of the world. She is thought to have lived approximately 100,000 - 200,000 years ago. There are various reasons for thinking that the higher estimate (200,000 years ago) is more accurate.
Our common male ancestor - from which all men derive their "Y" chromosome is called "Y Chromosomal Adam." He was thought to have lived about 200,000 years ago as well. Science cannot say much more about these two first common ancestors. Catholics have no problem with reconciling science with faith, because all of us come from the common genetic heritage of a male and female.
I hope this helps.
Fr. Bob Spitzer