Comments on The BioLogos Statement on Adam and Eve

How so?

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

Incorrect, depending on what we mean by “human” it certainly can be the origin of “humans”.

Your other question has been converted ad naseum. I’m not sure what is left to say. Proof is in the pudding anyways. The same people making these objections think this resolves them.

From my perspective, the biggest change has been that after months of fighting the idea that humans arose as a population, all humans didn’t descend genetically from a single couple, and the human population never dipped to a single couple, in your PSCF article you swung around 180 degrees and affirmed all three of these points. What was it that made you flip from supporting Buggs and opposing Venema, to opposing Buggs and supporting Venema?

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That article was in press before the conversation with Buggs and Venema began. If I were to write it now, I would write it very differently. My Dabar paper and the GAE book handle it rightly. Venema was flat out wrong in his reasoning.

I did not flip.

I made a bigger mistake, and this was significant. Venema and Falk’s 2010 article stirred up a lot of conflict and controversy on Adam and Eve: Does Genetics Point to a Single Primal Couple? - Articles - BioLogos. I knew from back then (in 2010) that Venema’s argument was in error. He was arguing 1+1=3. It was a fallacious argument and I knew it back then. I held my tongue merely because I though he was ultimately correct, even though his argument was scientifically in error.

That was wrong. I regret this ethical lapse immensely. I should have still pointed out that 1+1=2, not 3, even if I though he was ultimately correct.

The conversation with Buggs got me looking at this more closely, and I realized that the HLA data was not definitive. It was already very clear that Venema was totally wrong about the effective population argument he made, claiming 10,000 was the minimum, not the long-term average. The HLA data was a backstop against the fallacious effective population size argument Venema was making. I’m very regretful I did not make my objections to Venema public much sooner.

So the chronology was:

  1. 2010 Venema argues no AE because 1+1=3.

  2. I wrongly keep my mouth shut because I thought HLA’s ultimately proved him right on a genetic bottleneck.

  3. 2016 I asked him about it and found out he knew that this was all in error.

  4. I wrongly keep my mouth shut because I thought HLA’s ultimately proved him right on a genetic bottleneck.

  5. 2017 I publish the Sapienta article on GAE, and I am promptly asked to leave BioLogos.

  6. 2017, I submit the paper on the GAE, and look at proofs.

  7. 2017, I publicly leave BioLogos when Haarsma confronts Keller, even though she knew at the time there is no evidence against his position.

  8. 2017, Exchange with Buggs-Venema happens, where I discover HLA does not show Venema is ultimately right. I acknowledge this publicly, Venema does not.

  9. 2018, The GAE paper is published, obviously, not mentioning the Bugg’s exchange, but still in error.

  10. The Dabar paper (2018) and the GAE book (2019) get this right, but this was far too late.

  11. I still need to write a real public apology for my ethical lapse here. I did explain it and apologize a the ASA workshop in 2018, but several people conspired to prevent a recording from being released. So I have tried, but I am not sure the right venue or time yet. For now, this post will have to do.

I made a mistake on this. I should have explained Venema’s errors much much sooner. The fact I am a scientist, and purport to represent mainstream science, that makes this far more egregious. I am genuinely sorry for my mistake. One challenge I face going forward is that explaining my mistake here is not comfortable for BioLogos, because it highlights their unfinished business here. In this explanation, my aim is not to put pressure on them, but to be upfront about my mistake. Of course, they have much to apologize for and to retract, but that is up to them.

Thanks for the question @Jonathan_Burke. It is important to be upfront and precise about my real error here. Buggs was right, and he still is right. If not for the work I did on TMR4A, Venema would not even have evidence against a bottleneck 10,00 years ago. His whole case fell apart.

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Thanks for the clarification. I think your lack of a public statement on this issue up to today hasn’t been very helpful. Some people may wonder why you chose to do this. I certainly wonder.

But I haven’t seen any mainstream science that says anything different. All the mainstream science I’ve read say this.

  1. Humans arose as a population.
  2. The human population never dipped to one pair.
  3. Humans are not descended genetically from a single couple who had no ancestors.

Where are all the papers saying humans descended genetically from a single couple who had no ancestors, or (because this is a separate issue), that the human population dipped to a single pair?

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The frustrating thing @Jonathan_Burke is that I would have done so immediately. I was hopeful at the time that Venema and Buggs would do a joint statement with me, and Dennis could save face by coming clean. Dennis, unfortunately, did not come clean about his error. I’ve been struggling about how to deal with this ever since.

I may write that article soon.

Absent other information, of course that what most people think. The problem Venema made was several fold, but at least included this:

  1. Arguing that Ne was the minimum, not the long term average. I have never seen this claim in the literature before, because it is just false. It is an invention of Venema’s, in conflict with the literature. This claim only appears in literature that interacts directly with him (i.e. the theological literature). He made it up.

  2. Everyone also agrees that the evidence against a bottleneck diminishes as you go back in time. Venema’s claim was about thee positive evidence against, and delineating confidence here has not been a goal of secular scientists. Thee TMR4A work is the first analysis that even attempted to answer that question (other than HLA). Venema did not acknowledge this.

Of note BioLogos still stands by his work here. This is another reason I have had to separate from them. Their scientific work is very shoddy here, and they have been unwilling to fix it, or to admit error. I’ve been labeled “difficult” because I tried to work it out privately with them. In the end, I realize they are going to do their own thing, and I can’t control them. I however am unwilling to be complicit in these ethical lapses again.

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Also, I should add that his whole case depends on a concordist definition of “human.” This turns out to be a particularly egregious error too.

Well a simple public post on Peaceful Science would have done it nicely. I’m not sure what the big deal is. One of the reasons why I stopped coming to Peaceful Science is that it seemed to me that you were telling different people completely different things about this issue, and it really seemed like you were picking and choosing what you said, depending on who you were talking to and what they wanted to hear. To be frank it still seems that way.

The way I see Biologos and Peaceful Science is like this.

  1. Biologos. Determine the scientific facts, and then amend theology if necessary. Everyone has to acknowledge that their theology could be wrong. Everyone must acknowledge the same facts, regardless of their theology and how they deal with it.

  2. Peaceful Science. Establish a theological line you don’t want to cross, and then find ways of making the science fit. No one has to acknowledge that their theology could be wrong. Everyone can pick and choose their facts, in order to fit their theology.

I realise that you might not think that’s an accurate description of the Biologos approach, but regardless of whether it is or isn’t, I think that’s the intellectually honest approach. That’s the approach I saw in your PSCF article.

Having said that I still have major issues with the way Biologos are approaching the issue because I think that like Peter Enns they have a tendency to try and deal with the tension by simply sweeping theology into a realm where it’s untouchable by science, by deliberately framing theological statements in unfalsifiable ways (though I think you do this too).

I’d love to see the other information which shows humans descended genetically from a single couple who had no ancestors, or that the human population dipped to a single pair. Just a handful of the best studies would be great. What do you have?

See this is the issue. Regardless of Venema’s errors, the question originally in dispute remains, and it doesn’t look like the science is on the side of you and Ken Ham. When I saw the triumphant assertion that if we go back 500,000 years we won’t be able to find clear evidence against a bottleneck (note that, bottleneck, not "humans descended genetically from a single pair who had no ancestors), as supposed evidence that the case for a single genetic pair was now safe, for me it totally destroyed any shred of credibility the Buggs side had. That was really a nail in the coffin moment. I think you should stand by your PSCF paper, because it’s far more aligned with the actual science.

Did you separate from them or did they separate from you? Sometimes it sounds like the former, sometimes it sounds like the latter.

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I’m not sure how that is the case. I’m just marking out the full range of ways that we could understand Adam and Eve. I’m not forcing people down any direction. I made special effort to discuss three options at ASA, though everyone wanted to talk about GAE.

That is right. Except they have been wrong about what science tells us. They have been using evolution as a wedge against theology they don’t like, even though it isn’t in conflict with science. This is not intellectually honest, in my opinion.

That is not my approach.

No, you miss that they misrepresented science, and I have done a great deal not to mispresent it. My approach is not welcome at Biologos, at least right now.

Deborah asked me to leave because of the GAE summer of 2017, but to stay affiliated so they could claim that I was part of their “camp.” I was blacklisted at this point, except as a person to claim was “in their camp.”

When she made her attack on Keller, I tried one more time to resolve it privately. She persisted in misrepresenting the science, so then I publicly left altogether.

I some times reduce this to, “She asked me to leave, and then I did.” There is of course more to the story. A few months later, they kicked me off the forum without explanation. They also have been slowly editing their documents to imperceptibly revise their position. Once again, I’m not with BIoLogos. They can do what they want with their reputation, but this is not trustworthy. Especially in light of my past mistake, I’m not willing to be complicit with this again.

You need to settle on what you mean by “human”, then. And the other question depends on it. And if you can’t settle on a date for Adam and Eve, we can’t tell who is and isn’t human by that definition.

And incidentally I think the literature you’ve cited so far does not support a claim that HLA alleles are possibly convergent between humans and other apes.


Yes, we have gone over this 100 times. I agree with you. There are once again some nuances on the theoogical side you are missing. Many people are okay with a localized group of, say, 40 people at the origin of humanity. This makes the HLA point entirely mute.

For Venema’s case to work, he really needed it to be thousands of people spread across the globe, and that is just not a conclusion that cannot be made from evidence that far back in time. Moreover, he did not reference the HLA data. Instead, he focused on effective population sizes. So even if HLA could support his case, he did not present that case. He made, instead, a fallacious argument.

In my book. Don’t worry.


The neither of these is @swamidass’s position. He thinks humans are mostly (probably entirely) descended genetically from a population of non-humans (by his currently unexplained definition of “human”) who interbred with Adam & Eve’s descendants, and that the human population (by his curious definition) began at 2, but that the Homo sapiens population (which, again, does not equal human) either did not or there is no evidence that it did. This is greatly confused by the failure to fix a clear meaning to human and the implied meaning that differs radically from typical usage.


Right now we are discussing a different position, genetic sole-progenitorship. Though the point you are making is important. It turns out theologians don’t really care about genetic sole progenitorship. They only really care about genealogical descent.


But position isn’t yours. Has it ever been yours? I presume you have not answered Burke’s request for information because there is none. But did you ever think you knew of any?

Do they care about sole genealogical descent? (Which of course is identical to sole genetic descent, but perhaps they don’t care about that either.)

I just realized this now, but even back then Venema knew about the genetic/genealogical distinction. 10 days after this article was published, David Opderbeck published this one, A “Historical” Adam? - Articles - BioLogos. This article, of course, has gone entirely unreferenced by BioLogos except when they want to argue that the GAE is nothing new.

What do you make of this @jongarvey?

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I’m not staking “my position.” I’m agnostic about the details. I’m just trying to mark out the full range ways that we could make sense of Adam and Eve. So it is a bit strange to discuss “my position,” as if it is exclusively the GAE. My position is that we are upfront and honest about what science does and does not say.

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I know you’re not forcing people down any direction, you’re doing the opposite by telling people everyone can have their own version that suits them theologically.

Well I haven’t seen anything different from you. The link you gave me does this right up front, here.

The first story is the most technical, and it is about sole-genetic progenitorship (discussion). If Adam and Eve were more ancient than 500-700 thousand years ago, they could have been our sole-genetic progenitors. This would mean all “humans” would descend directly from Adam and Eve, and their offspring never interbred with others.

The second story is the most recent, and it is about genetic-interbreeding progenitorship (discussion). If Adam and Eve were about 200 thousand years ago, it might be possible they were the genetic progenitors of Homo sapiens, as long as their offspring interbred with other hominids like Neanderthals. This finding is not settled yet, and will be looked at more closely with Reasons to Believe this Fall

The third story is the most surprising, and it is about sole-genealogical progenitorship (discussion). As recently as 6,000 years ago, Adam and Eve could have been created de novo, in the Middle East, ancestors of us all. Their offspring, however, would have interbred extensively with those outside the The Garden. This is The Genealogical Adam we have been putting forward for over a year now.

So you present three versions of the facts and tell people they can choose whichever version of the facts fits their theology. Statements such as “Theology has legitimate autonomy to define “human” however it likes” reinforce this.

This is precisely why Peaceful Science attracts people who don’t want to change their theology, and want to find ways of making the science fit their beliefs. Look at people like Jon Garvey and “Eddie”. They’re explicit about the fact that their opposition to evolution involves its clash with their theology. They’re explicit about the fact that they can only accept the science if the science fits their theology. They’ve drawn theological lines in the sand, appealing to centuries of Christian tradition, and insist those lines cannot be crossed. Their approach is literally medieval, and Garvey in particular seems to think that science peaked at Aristotle, theology peaked at Aquinas, and Galileo was wrong to disagree with the Catholic Church. He definitely thinks the Enlightenment was a bad idea, and he believes in healing with magical powers.

My reference to “Venema’s errors” indicates that I do not miss this. But I think you spend a lot of time pointing to Venema’s errors, while not spending much time talking about whether the science actually agrees with the different versions of the facts that you present.

Yes I realise neither of these is his position. However, he deliberately gives people the impression that both those are options which are supported (if not completely validated), by the science. I don’t think they are.

I definitely agree.

Are you agnostic about the descent of modern humans from an evolved population whose living sister group is chimpanzees? Unless I’m much mistaken, you are not.

You have misread them entirely. @eddie and @jongarvey do not oppose evolution. They oppose BioLogos, for linking theology they disagree with to evolution.

Science can’t answer all the questions we care to ask. Sorry.

And it is covered in my book GAE.


@swamidass, you really should go back and fix that document. I think we have agreed that “sole-genealogical progenitorship” is both wrong and confusing. Sole-genealogical progenitorship is sole-genetic progenitorship, coalescence to a single couple, not what you’re going for.