Another early adopter of the Genealogical Adam

I never said that I have a model. Indeed, the vast majority of my post was describing traditional interpretations and the positions of some commentators.

I note that you have gone from “the traditional interpretation” to “one of the traditional interpretations” and from “standard textbook description” to “any university-level textbook”. Progress.

In the main, I doubt that anyone else who posts here agrees with this interpretation, and I most strongly doubt that @swamidass does. Most specifically, I doubt that anyone here believes that mating with the population outside the garden would be considered sinful or unintended from the start. Note also that the nephilim only appear long after Cain has a wife, Seth has a wife, and so on. Unless you are proposing that incest was the intended mode from the beginning, intermarriage must have been intended.

I didn’t claim that “only true humans” are capable of reason.(Of course, that is a reasonable position to take–but it was relevant to my commentary.) Moreover, in such an ancient era and culture, how can we be certain that marriage considerations were based upon capabilities in regard to reason instead of just general survival objectives? As to consent, even in our day there are forced marriages (as well as outright rape) which have nothing to do with mutual consent. So I’m not clear on why you are raising these additional topics.

POSTSCRIPT: I’m awaiting a telephone call and then an appointment which may silence me on this forum until late evening. So I may be diverted at any time.

Would you prefer I speak of “the traditional major interpretation” or recognize the various nuances of that traditional interpretation and speak of “sub-interpretations”?

I added “university-level” textbook as a courtesy to any reader of this thread who might wonder if I was speaking solely of textbooks used in Christian high schools or Bible institutes. I wanted to make clear that I was referring primarily to what one would find in textbooks used in the Dept of Religious Studies at most any university—although one would find very similar commentary in a traditional Christian reference book (e.g., Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown’s Bible Commentary) or a dispensationalist Schofield Study Bible. I call all of that further clarification for the benefit of non-academic visitors to this thread. If you want to call that “progress”, I suppose that’s fine too. (Careful wording and clarification is certainly progress in my book.)

Considering that I’m simply summarizing traditional Bible commentary, I’d be quite surprised that many PS participants would quibble with my descriptions of the Nephilim pericope of Genesis 6. But I will certainly allow Dr. Swamidass to speak for himself.

Perhaps you simply mean that the word nephilim doesn’t appear in the Hebrew text until Genesis 6. Are you claiming that that renders impossible their existence prior to that mention in the text? Seriously?

Lots of Christian fundamentals, evangelicals, and even many Roman Catholics consider such a thought shocking and certainly “sinful and unintended from the start.” (How many of them frequent these forums, I cannot necessarily quantify.)

Welcome to Peaceful Science, David Kwon! I have added your website article to my read list. Thanks so much for joining this thread!

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I’m not sure what @AllenWitmerMiller and @John_Harshman are disagreeing on specifically. It seems that there are three distinct issues involved:

  1. Whether interbreeding with humans outside of the garden would be considered sinful.
  2. Whether the Nephilim described in Genesis 6 were the humans outside of the garden, or a completely different class of beings.
  3. Whether the Bible describes interbreeding with the Nephilim as a sin.

I think that @AllenWitmerMiller is definitely right about point 3, but it seems that @John_Harshman is probably referring to points 1 or 2 when he disagrees?

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@naclhv, glad you joined the forum! I am intrigued by your proposal that the image of God is primarily transmitted not through biological relationships, but by human relationships.

(Just as an interesting fact, I think Josh has also brought up the possibility of the transmission of spiritual qualities through human interaction, but more for the transmission of original sin - the “opposite” of the image of God! In one of Josh’s models, one of the ways original sin is propagated is through the spread of civilization, which brought economic and social benefits but also the greater possibility of large-scale violence.)

You write:

And with this understanding, we can even tackle potential modern difficulties. Say that we discover an isolated people who are not descended from Adam and Eve. Say that we somehow knew for certain that they were merely biological humans. This is all pretty much impossible, but let’s pretend that it’s true for a moment. Could we then oppress or exploit them, since they are not fully human? Absolutely not. Instead we are to love them as our neighbor, as we love ourselves. We are to teach, guide, and empower them, thereby enabling their incorporation into the rest of humanity. We are to preach the Gospel to them. We are to do this with all due respect for their culture and their right to self-determination. We will thus impart the image of God onto them, making them fully our equals.

What I don’t understand is, on your view, if I decide to treat my dog, or a smart chimpanzee, as “my neighbor”, does that also impart the image of God to them and make them fully our equals? Why or why not?

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I don’t think your scenarios are very clear, possibly not even to you. Maybe you should think about how this is supposed to work and get back to me.

I would prefer that you be clear about what you’re claiming and then stick to it.

What are you claiming, then? Was Cain’s wife non-human? Seth’s wife?

Sure. Most of them don’t even believe there were people outside the garden. But how many of them are interested in GA?

Well, this is slightly out of order, but I guess I should introduce myself.

Hello everyone! I’m the author of the blog posts in question. Thank you all for your interest, especially to Daniel who found and posted my blog articles!

I’m currently working as a data scientist at a major tech company. My background is in physics, but graduate school was troublesome in a lot of ways and I dropped out of my PhD program. In church-related matters, I’m just a layman who’s serious about studying the Bible. And yes, I’ve just now read the post you linked, and the article linked from that. It’s amazing how similar our thoughts are! The fact that we came to much of the same conclusions independently gives me greater confidence in my (our) thesis. But then again, once one gets the idea of a recent common ancestor, I think the rest of the thoughts follow pretty naturally. And yes, I would certainly be interested in a citation in your book - let me know about what the context is and what’s involved.


But would they have made the proper response? After all, they were sinful. This does not seem to be a reliable form of transmission.

This is a non-issue, given that any number of people may have made the proper response over any number of generations. And you obviously don’t need a 100% transmission rate for a condition to spread throughout a population.

Well, this is going to be full of speculative theology, but here goes.

I think that there’s good Biblical evidence for the position that ALL significant spiritual conditions are transmitted via relationships rather than parentage. Obviously the parent-child relationship is one of the most important, so functionally, tracing this is a good substitute. If you think of “original sin” as a kind of corruption of the “image of God”, it makes sense that it’d be transmitted the same way.

And it terms of a imparting the “image of God” to a dog or a chimpanzee, I don’t think this can be done because they’re not structurally capable of fully receiving it. But, we still have the obligation to impart it to them to the extent that they’re able to receive it. And I think it’s pretty clear that we can be quite successful in this endeavor: our dogs can be really good, or really bad. The same mandate which requires us to emit the image of God to other humans demands that we do the same to our dogs, that we should try to make our dogs “good boys” or “good girls”.

Perhaps more interesting still is how this requirement plays out with AI. If we do eventually make a “true AI”, whatever that means, my line of thinking would require us to impart the image of God to them as well.


I see. So your relational view of the image of God presupposes some kind of structure - some combination of biological, mental, and/or spiritual features which are necessary but not sufficient to obtain the image of God.

I think this is a novel idea. I think you still have to allow for the possibility that sometimes, spiritual conditions originate not by being transmitted from other preexisting conditions, but de novo, such as through free will. Otherwise how did original sin start? I suppose you could argue that Eve chose to have a relationship with the sinful serpent. But that just pushes back the problem to how the serpent became sinful.

I think this would be a robust Christian solution to “can robots be human” question.

A side comment here (@swamidass) - just like this relational view, it seems to me that even the vocational view of the image of God that also presupposes some human form or structure in place which makes it possible for the creature to fulfill that vocation. Thus almost all understandings of the Imago Dei are structuralist to some extent.



But it is not necessary to make sense of it.

Genealogical Adam scenarios work with OR WITHOUT Original Sin.

Original Sin, however, is the preferred premise for many Creationists in our target audience. So you don’t have to understand or agree with them… just understand why it works for them.

Sometimes constantly asking “why?, why?, why?, why?” is counter-productive.

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Do they? Without original sin, what’s the point of being descended from Adam?

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This is an interesting insight that matches recent work of my own (FYI I’m the guy writing the other, other book on Genealogical Adam, Joshua’s being due out towards the end of the year, mine at the beginning of next, and Andrew Loke’s I’m not sure).

My approach on this was looking in detail at the biblical treatment of genealogy, in which there is a strong element of adoption at various points. That seems to match your “orphan child” concept.

The other relevant factor is the indispensibility of social interaction to the development of all human behaviour, from language development to worldviews. As more than one wise man said, rational men do not create societies, but societies produce rational men. To which must be added that corrupt societies produce corrupt men.

Agreeable to your model, the major human socialisation comes through parenting, but not exclusively, for the obvious reason that parents do not live in isolation. And of course, not all children are raise by their parents.

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@John_Harshman Whole denominations have been built on saying there is no difference… or there is all the difference in the world.

It’s not up to @swamidass to tell a denomination (or a member of one) that his views are not correctly interpreted from this or that section of the Bible.

The purpose is to provide a way for a Creationist to tone down the part of his beliefs where he throws out all of science… so that he can safely embrace and accept science… just by providing him or her 2 little miracles in addition to the ones that virtually all Christians already accept:

ALREADY: Miracle of the birth of Jesus and the miracle of the Resurrection of Jesus.

2 MIRACLES EASY TO INCLUDE: Adam made from dust; Eve made from rib.

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No difference between what?

Hmmm… @John_Harshman, I think I went off on a tangent.

Let me try again:

For those who insist we are descended from Adam, it is almost always because of Romans 5, and the Western interpretation of Original Sin.

We don’t have to agree with Original Sin. But Genealogical Adam doesn’t say Genesis 1 should be interpreted in a new way because of Original Sin.

It says, Genesis 1 should be interpreted in a new way based on the inconsistencies of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 - - AND OH BY THE WAY … this also helps support those who look at Romans 5 and see Original Sin.

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I’m not clear on what you’re saying. Do you repeat or repudiate your original statement that GA works with or without original sin?

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I repeat it.

I DO say that G.A. is particularly effective or useful for Creationists who DO adhere to Original Sin… but it also makes sense if you do not.

If I were betting, I would be that at least 95% of Ameican Creationists believe in Original Sin.

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In that case, your claim is self-contradictory. If the goal is to reach creationists, 95% of whom believe in original sin, you can’t jettison original sin. We can agree that GA “makes sense” without original sin, if by that you mean it’s a coherent claim. But it has to be more than a coherent claim to achieve its purpose. It has to accommodate the needs of those it’s trying to reach.

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