Comments on The BioLogos Statement on Adam and Eve

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

Continuing the discussion from The BioLogos Statement on Adam and Eve:

This is the comment thread.

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #2

@jongarvey what do you make of these changes?

(John Harshman) #3

Does it answer those questions? Don’t see it unless you define “human” as “descendants of Adam and Eve”, and a much smaller entity than Homo sapiens until fairly recently. It seems to me that the GAE is quite compatible with the origins of H. sapiens by natural processes, that A&E are not at the headwaters of the human race, at least not in the way the author means it, and that the fall occurred very long after the origin of H. sapiens.

So what’s going on? Was there a substantial population of non-human Homo sapiens up until 2000 years ago? This all ties into the definition of “human”, which you have resisted discussing.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #4

That is exactly what I do. Wait till you see the copy edited version of the book. :smile:

It is.

Well, the author is @kkeathley, and he reeferences @jack.collins, and we know how he means it. Ken was part of the workshop, and Collins commented on this at the Dabar Conferencee:

I hope this gives us a better way forward. The theologian C. John Collins writes in response,

Sometimes, if we wait, new light will come in the scientific thinking. And sometimes, as well, someone with enough imagination will propose a workable scenario that helps us past the apparent hump. I still want to do some more thinking…[b]ut it looks like Dr. Swamidass has indeed provided an imaginative and serviceable tool for our toolkits, to promote “peaceful science.”

Some of us think evolution is a myth. Some of us think that Adam and Eve are a myth. Whatever our personal beliefs, many societal questions converge at this starting point, an exchange at a crossroad.

(John Harshman) #5

That seems a pernicious definition of “human”, that until recently there were people who look just like you, act just like you, feel just like you, but should not be considered human, just because they don’t count a certain couple among their ancestors.

(John Harshman) #6

Do we? Please illuminate.

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(George) #7


In your summation posting, you wrote: "That is their right, but I have come to understand them as a theological advocacy group, not a science advocacy group."

This phrasing is akin to saying “Atheists, who oppose theology, embrace the theology of Atheism.”

What BioLogos was doing, and what appears to continue to hold them back, was fixating on a figurative interpretation of the Old Testament. While I suppose there is a measure of truth to say that such a fixation can be called “theological advocacy”, it’s not the description we usually read when referring to a group that wants to “minimize” the theology of Creation.

What if you developed a category label that focuses on their actual bias: “theology lite” … or “Reduced Theology” … or some such descriptor along those lines?

Do you agree that they have been advocating a “lite” side of Theology and that is what is keeping them from embracing your scenarios as fulsomely as one might have expected they should?

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #8

It could have been ancient, 200 thousand years ago. If recent, it is not necessarily pernicious depending on what precise distinctions we are making.

I gave a theological model for how to think through this that is being received well by precisely the same people who rejected the Biologos approach. The details are in the book, including the quote I just provided.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #9

I think they have been intent on using Evolution as a wedge against traditional theology, and still are hopeful this Gambit could work. Hopefully that will change in the future.

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(John Harshman) #10

What precise distinctions are we making?

I don’t quite understand, as GAE contradicts all three of those numbered points, as far as I can see.

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #11

I think you might just have a hard time following what they mean. The GAE is precisely targeted on these concerns, without running afoul of evolutionary science. A bit part of the gap may be that they are speaking from theological concerns, not speaking in scientific language.

The GAE doesn’t challenge the scientific account, but it makes space for their theology.


They have acknowledged the genealogic model, which is a big step forward. Venema put a lot of work into the human population bottleneck models, and there is always the risk that it may have created some initial bias against the concept of genealogic ancestors. There is also the theological question of how the inheritance of original sin works.

I also don’t blame them for being cautious. I know there is some history between @swamidass and the BioLogos crew, so they may be keeping GA at arms length for the moment. However, their most recent changes are a good sign since I think GA would be a good fit at BioLogos, even if it is simply an alternate viewpoint that isn’t overtly supported by BioLogos.

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #13

The history is that they kicked me out for suggesting it. I’m not sure why that explaines they need to keep it at arms length now. :smile:

I agree. It is a good sign. It seems unlikely they will embrace it, but maybe that will change.


I wasn’t sure about the specifics, but it does add some context to their statements on A&E.

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(John Harshman) #15

Hey, I have a hard time following what you mean. Help me out a bit. How is GAE compatible with point #1? Does this have something to do with “theological human” vs. “biological human”?

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #16

What is point 1?

The issue for them is two fold, and it is clear if you read the link.

  1. They are inclined to take the de novo creation of Adam and Eve literally, as in the traditional reading. That is certainly not natural processes.

  2. They are resistant to an understanding of evolution that is entirely sufficient and exclude’s God’s action. We’ve worked this out in the past, though it is not a major feature in my book: Would God's Guidance Be DNA-Detectable?.

#1 ends up begin a very important point, because taking ahold of this, #2 becomes much less of a challenge, both scientifically and theologically. Note, they don’t care at all if science demonstrate God’s guidance, so that is why they are not ID. They just reject an account that outright rules it out, as EC usually does.

@dga471, you might want to see this.

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(George) #17

I don’t think the “bottleneck issues” should have much traction…

@Agauger feels triumphant that she got the bottleneck to “at least 500,000 years ago”. This doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment: she has to sacrifice the 6000 year timeline, just to be able to say that Adam was Homo erectus!

Frankly, I hope she pushes that wagon uphill for as long as possible… it will shake up people who think ID folks are going to help them with an historical Adam/Eve!

As long as Genealogical Adam scenarios put the time frame anywhere from 6000 years to at the most 12,000 years… all we have to worry about are Homo sapiens… and some filtering in of some renegade genetics that don’t amount to much of a push in any particular direction!

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #18

It might be helpful to WLC, who falls in an interesting blind spot. He affirms evolution, and does not think de novo creation is important. So in some ways he is a TE.

I’m sure he will be working closely with me on the scientific plausibility of his model.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #19

The problem here is that Venema’s argument was flat out fallacious. They linked themselves to it for 10 years, even though it was full of scientific errors. To this day they have not allowed a single critique of his book on their blog.

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(John Harshman) #20

How so?

But can it be called “the origin of the human”? Not if there are prior, evolved humans.