18 Million Years Ago Means...500,000?

There was a new round of deletions and edits at BioLogos. No retractions. That’s how they roll it seems. So be it.

The good news it that this quietly vindicates a lot of people, including William Lane Craig, Fazale Rana, and Vern Poythress.

The bad news is that BioLogos also is claiming vindication, with what seems to be a rewrite of history. According to them, though they overstated they evidence, their conclusions are entirely unchanged. Quite a magic trick.

The Original Conclusions

In one of the original articles from 2014, the conclusion is clearly stated:

The smallest population our lineage was reduced to in the last 15 million years or more, then, was to the bottleneck of 10,000 individuals once our lineage parted ways with the chimpanzee lineage.

The next article in the series states the conclusion a different way:

In the previous article in this series, we’ve examined several of the converging lines of evidence that support the conclusion that our lineage became human as a population – one that has not numbered below about 10,000 individuals over the last 18 million years or more.

Perhaps the 15 million was a typo, because the 18 million comes up in several other places. Fair enough. Either way, these are totally indefensible conclusions that you will not find any where in the peer-reviewed literature.

The Edited Conclusions

Now look at what the note on the edited article (at a different web address) states:

The conclusion of the article is unchanged: all the genetic evidence to date says that the average breeding population of our ancestors has been larger than a single couple for at least the last 200,000 years, and there is no plausible model affirming a single, unique pair of progenitors less than 500,000 years ago that also accounts for the data we see in the genes of people alive today.

This set of conclusions is still wrong. There certainly are models consistent with the evidence that affirm a single, unique pair of progenitors less than 500,000 years ago (see for example the GAE and RTB’s revised model). Perhaps BioLogos thinks the GAE and RTB’s model are theologically/hermeneutically implausible. Perhaps they want to define sole-genetic progenitorship differently than RTB, and progenitors differently than the GAE. Whatever the case, any sense of “implausibility” has nothing to do with the scientific evidence.

Moving beyond that point of fact, I cannot find any text in the conclusions of the original article that remotely resembles these conclusions.

Of course the text I quoted from the original article is now deleted.

18 million = 500,000?

And some how this is supposed to be true…

The conclusion of the article is unchanged

This seems to be a claim that 18 million years = 500,000 years. What am I missing? Is their any legitimate explanation for this?

This honestly makes no sense to me. Why hide the original conclusion like this? Why not just transparently admit that they were wrong here and explain why they were wrong? It seems like so much more effort to play a shell game like this.


I simple statement to the effect, “Hey, we were wrong and are fixing it. Sorry Y’All.” would seem to fall into the category of Doing the Right Thing.


…if we ignore cross-species polymorphisms.

No because RTBs model doesn’t require a bottleneck through 4 alleles. That’s a different discussion though.

Of course a GAE doesn’t require a bottleneck in any sense.

1 Like

6 posts were split to a new topic: Is RTBs Model Sole Progenitor?

5 posts were split to a new topic: The “Unique” Ancestors of Everyone?

To give some more information.

The new article is by the “BioLogos Editorial Team.” As far as I know, there are no scientists on this team. But note mentions that they relied on my expertise.

The reference to me is one reason I needed to make this statement. As the details of this come to light, I need to protect my scientific reputation here. I need to be on the record now that I did not advise this, nor did I agree with this. To me it looks like a cover up.

My Involvement

I should clarify my involvement in this. A very similar note was posted on this article in January 2020 on an unmodified version of the article. The note acknowledged some errors and claimed the conclusions were unchanged. This was transparently false. I did not mention it publicly because its best to give people time to address these matters privately. I quickly contacted BioLogos to inform them of this error. I substantiated this with a quote.

About half a year later, in October 2020, BioLogos responded. Their response:

Your claims are not substantiated.

Okay. That’s not true. So be it. Life goes on.

Now, in June 11, 2020, about 1.5 years later after I first point this out, the original article is deleted. A new article at a new web address comes up as a “revised” version of the article. The false claim about the conclusions of the article being unchanged is still there. It appears that the primary way my expertise was used was to identify the key quote of the conclusions of the article to delete.

I cannot state strongly enough how much I disagree with this. It is good (and required) that BioLogos acknowledged me in the note, but I need to be 100% clear that this is not at all what I recommended.

Did I Misread Something?

Of course, I also might be misreading something. I also want to know if I missed something. So far, it seems, that no one has been able to give a justification for the claim:

The conclusion of the article is unchanged

What Does @glipsnort Think?

At this point I should state the obvious. The article also claims to rely on expertise from @glipsnort . He also must be concerned about how this might blow back on his reputation.

@glipsnort, how were you involved with this? Do you have any information to add that show me how I’m misreading this? Or do you also think this is a mistake that should be corrected?

By asking those questions, I am not accusing @glipsnort of anything to be clear. Most likely he has a perfectly benign explanation very similar to mine own. Just like me, his name is attached to the article. When people wonder about this, they are going to come to the scientists named in the article’s note. I am sure he will be fielding many questions about this. These are my questions to him now.

Looking forward to hearing from you on this @glipsnort, and I am glad you are in our community!

I think the comment on the new version could have been worded better. The original piece came to multiple conclusions. One, that genetics rules out a single, unique ancestral couple within the last 18 millions years, was incorrect. Another, that genetics rules out such a couple within the last 200,000 years, was correct.


Thanks for the answer @glipsnort. This not about the detailed wording of the new version. That’s a minor point.

Of course some conclusions are the same too. Both versions conclude there is evidence for common descent. But the focus of the article (and the 2011 CT article it was addressing) was on ancestral population sizes.

On that matter, population sizes, they claim that the conclusions are “unchanged.” Do you agree with this or not?

This is the original conclusion…

Is it the same as this conclusion?:

If they are different, do you think it is correct to say the conclusions are “unchanged”? It seems you think one conclusion was unchanged, and the other was changed?

I’ve already responded with what I think would be an accurate statement. I see no other issues worth pursuing here.

1 Like

Okay. Fair enough. You think the note should say this:

It seems pretty clear you do agree that one of the conclusions was changed.

(Of course, we’ve had the back and forth about “unique” but it’s just a definitional issue. So that isn’t worth quibbling about)

Thanks for clarifying I appreciate this.