@AJRoberts gives her summary of the Human Origins Workshop With Reasons to Believe (January 2020).
Swamidass rightly emphasized the importance of defining terms, especially when important terms have multiple definitions. He asked that we at RTB be especially careful in defining “human” in regard to Adam and Eve, their descendants, the image of God, and the possibility of others outside the garden. In the RTB model, human is well-aligned with the scientific classification of Homo sapiens but is more fundamentally an essentialist (rather than a taxonomical) category, entailing theological truths relevant to human uniqueness and the image of God (which, by the way, is the proposed topic for the next RTB creation model workshop). Swamidass reminded all engaged parties to recognize that when making scientific claims, we should not employ theological terms (e.g., human) that have multiple meanings or disputed meanings when doing so. He also asked scholars to stop making illegitimate claims while equivocating over words. For example, he deems it inappropriate to say that science rules out recent sole progenitorship because it’s forcing a scientific meaning (or popular definition) into a theological term. In no uncertain terms, he says, scientists do not have the right to tell theologians how to define theological terms.
We were, and still are, encouraged by the dialogue and the questions that came from Dr. Swamidass and others in attendance. The impetus for launching these creation model workshops is to retain and build on RTB’s reputation of openly addressing the data (scientific and biblical) and asking where the issues of tension with mainstream science exist and how best to address them in regard to the explanatory scope and power of our scientific model of creation.
Championing this objective, Dr. Fazale Rana presented the RTB human origins model (See Who Was Adam? or view Dr. Rana’s presentation here) following the Swamidass presentation and panel discussion. Rana’s presentation was also followed by a rigorous panel discussion, including questions from scientists Nathan Lents and Stephen Schaffner and philosopher William Lane Craig.3 The questions from the floor added much to the dialogue. Rana handled the questions skillfully. I thoroughly enjoyed my role as both facilitator and panelist, moderating and participating in Rana and Swamidass’s panels.
One thought Dr. Swamidass left us with is this: If genealogical descent is all that orthodoxy entails, Scripture makes room for evolution. He also left us with a question, “Is there room in RTB’s scholar community for those who hold a recent-creation view (circa 6,000–15,000 years ago) of Adam and Eve, one that embraces universal genealogical descent and a human population outside the garden?”
See the videos here: