Coyne, Craig and Swamidass

Well this is a first. Coyne’s first reference to me. I’m glad to report it was not negative (or necessarily positive).

The article is mainly Coyne’s analysis of Craig. He writes:

I’m both amused and bemused by William Lane Craig’s latest “Monthly Report” on his Reasonable Doubts website, a report that deals with a “Creation Project” conference he attended.

It is an interesting read. Honestly, Coyne is not unkind to William Lane Craig, but he also can’t really understand what is going on here. The part relevant to us is here:

Maybe the population-genetic calculations were wrong. To obviate this, Craig claims that extra genetic diversity which hides the real bottleneck of Adam and Eve came from —get this—hybridization of Homo sapiens sapiens with our Neanderthal subspecies:

As I shared in our last Report, some scientific popularizers have claimed that the genetic diversity of the present human population could not have arisen from an isolated primordial pair. Joshua Swamidass, a geneticist from Washington University, who was at the conference, helped me to understand that this claim is completely wrong-headed. Rather what is at issue is the genetic divergence in the present population, that is to say, the mutational distance between alleles (= the variants in our genes that are responsible for various traits like eye color). These data present a severe challenge for a historical Adam and Eve more recent than 500,000 years ago. (But here’s a new wrinkle: Swamidass says he neglected to take account of the genetic contribution of Neanderthals and other archaic humans who interbred with homo [sic] sapiens and so have contributed to the human genome. He’s going to run new calculations to see if that makes a difference to the date.)

Given that the genetic variation in our own species contributed by Neanderthals is only about 2-3%, and none in Africans, I wouldn’t hold my breath to see if the “new calculations” reduce the bottleneck from 12,000 to 2!

Jerry Coyne might be right. It is great to have him on record with his guess. It will be interesting to see what the data ends up showing. @AJRoberts, I hope you take a look at this. A lot of people may be watching our conversations this Fall. This could bring some positive attention to Reasons to Believe.

@Patrick, what do you make of this?