AskScience: Invitation to a panel on Universal Ancestry?

A while back, either @davecarlson or @evograd suggested we do an AMA (as me anything) on the GAE on Reddit. Looks like AskScience, a channel with 12 million subscribers, likes the idea. This was my inquiry, which I will expand into a larger topic:

I am a computational biologist, and Associate Professor at Washington University in St Louis. I recently published a peer reviewed book on recent universal ancestry, The Genealogical Adam and Eve , that explains the evidence for recent common ancestry in science, and then uses this scientific knowledge to show how the origin myth of Adam and Eve could be consistent with evolutionary science. We expect people as recently as just 6,000 years ago to be ancestors of everyone alive since AD 1. Key to understanding this fact is the distinction between genetic and genealogical ancestry, a distinction that is not well appreciated by many. This book was well received by many secular scientists, such as atheist biologist Nathan Lents (Upcoming science book reveals that 'Adam and Eve' could have existed.); see his endorsement:

“As a secular scientist, I was seriously skeptical of this book. Nevertheless, Swamidass has ably shown that the current evidence in genetics and ancestry is compatible with a recently de novo–created couple as among our universal common ancestors who then interbred with the rest of humanity that descended through the established evolutionary processes. In doing so, Swamidass aims to bridge a centuries-old divide between faith and science. In a world at war with itself, the need for such common ground is most urgent.” Nathan H. Lents, professor of biology, John Jay College, CUNY, and author of Human Errors

Several other secular scientists, such as Alan Templeton, endorsed the book. Certainly any discussion of Adam and Eve extends beyond science, that is important to keep clear. The focus of this AMA would be on recent ancestry, not Adam and Eve. The discussion of universal ancestry is based on several peer review studies, such as: and Spread of pedigree versus genetic ancestry in spatially distributed populations - ScienceDirect and

So, if you are a scientist who has been following this for a while, would you join the official team of respondents for this AMA?

Our goal would be to answers on the scientific questions surrounding recent ancestry. Genetic ghosts, genetic vs. genealogical ancestry, distinction from Mt-Eve and Y-Adam, ancient DNA, and possibly questions of race and biology.

The focus here will be on the science. I like how @John_Harshman puts it:

We are going to focus on the scientific components of the hypothesis, and be clear that the discussion of Adam and Eve specifically extends beyond science. Perhaps we might offer links for further follow up, but not for extended debate about theology or Scripture.

The way AMAs work, we would be giving expert answers, and not debating back and forth with people. Professionalism needs to be high.

Timing wise, we will pick a day in the next month or so, and be available to answer for a day or two in the afternoon. We may also set up a private zoom call at a point through the event to discuss any challenging questions. We will pick a date that works for everyone that joins the team here.

If you are interested, let me know publicly or in a PM. Ask your questions here too. I’m hoping to get a team of at least 3 or 4 of us to do this together.

1 Like

@NLENTS, @John_Harshman, @Art, @davecarlson, @evograd, @dga471, @Zachary_Ardern, @sfmatheson, let me know if you’d be interested.

Sure, I’m game.


Why not? Of course this is largely peripheral to my specialty, phylogenetics.

1 Like

I would put a few key phrases in bold to help head of the usual misunderstandings of GAE.


Actually, there is something else relevant to science, now I think on it. The scientific necessity of people outside the garden, i.e. ordinary Homo sapiens, evolved in the usual way, related to chimpanzees, other apes, and all the rest of life is also a component of the theory. It’s not theologically necessary, but if anyone is attempting to reconcile theology with science it can’t be ignored.


That is correct.

Thanks for tagging me, will be interesting to watch but unfortunately a little too far outside my expertise currently.

1 Like