David Kwon and the Genealogical Adam and Eve

@naclhv presented several key ideas in the GAE back in 2014. We considered one of his posts here: Another early adopter of the Genealogical Adam. @jongarvey, what is your thoughts on his work and how it fits in?

I think he gets quite a lot right.

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It is notable how many of us were arriving at this idea from different angles. Opderbeck, @Jonathan_Burke, @Andrew_Loke, @Revealed_Cosmology, @jongarvey, @davidson, Kemp, Feser, and more. I’m lucky to be getting some of the visibility here, but it really does seem like idea whose time had come.

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Usually a good sign when a “new” idea is arrived at independently by several different people.

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I find it most impressive with people like @naclhv. He is not a scholar in this space, and not an academic. He was just paying attention, and thinking for himself. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in the right place get this proposal seen, but that is not his fault. Honestly, it is somewhat of an indictment on all the “experts” who neglected this for so long. It was hiding out in plain sight!

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How did you find his blog @dga471? Do you know @naclhv in real life?

I was just reading a post (Adam Revisited: First Man or One of Many?) by Hans Madueme, professor of science and religion at Covenant College and a frequent writer and commentator on the historical Adam (he was editor of the book Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin). He also seemed to have missed the GAE position, probably due to a lack of awareness of how quickly genealogical ancestry spreads. Although his concerns for polygenism vs. monogenism is understandable:

Moberly, as far as I know, does not believe Adam and Eve are historical; human authors reworked ancient legends for theological-rhetorical purposes. But there are others who read Genesis 1-11 more historically than Moberly and have interpreted those same exegetical clues he lays out as evidence for polygenism. If one claims that Adam and Eve were historical people inhabiting an already populated earth—what then? What are the theological implications of this hybrid position?

A key implication of this hybrid position is that human beings today are not all Adam’s biological descendants. On this view, Adam bringing sin into the world does not entail monogenism (Rom 5:12). Consider Romans 5:12-21 and its striking symmetry between Adam and Christ. Christ is historical, Adam is historical; Adam brought sin and death, Christ brings justification and life—and so on. But notice, those who experience justification are not Christ’s biological descendants, so why think that those who died in Adam are his biological descendants? If the fact that sin came through Adam doesn’t necessitate a biological connection (Rom 5:12), then perhaps our connection to Adam is merely covenantal .[15] Adam may have had thousands of ancestors and/or contemporaries, and many of us alive today may be genetically descended from such pre-adamites or co-adamites. But there’s no harm done, advocates say; Adam was our federal head not our biological ancestor. This position preserves the doctrine of original sin, while shedding the more controversial ideas that Adam and Eve had no ancestors and that they generated the entire human race. The payoff: more resonance with the current scientific picture.

In the historical debate over monogenism vs. polygenism, Christians wondered about the ontological status of people not descended from Adam. If we are not all his descendants, some of us alive today are not “Adamic.” That led some Christians to treat (alleged) non-Adamic humans as an inferior species. They were judged racially inferior and it was unclear whether they were even made in God’s image. There were also questions about the soteriological status of such non-Adamic persons. Christ was a descendant of Adam (cf. Luke 3:23-38); he became incarnate, taking on human flesh, sharing in Adamic humanity. As Gregory put it, “That which [Christ] has not assumed he has not healed.”[16] Where does that leave those who cannot trace their lineage back to Adam? Can Christ save them?

I wonder what his opinion on GAE (knowing that a 6-10 kya Adam could easily become genealogical ancestor of all very rapidly) would be. I’ve seen him being spoken of as an authority on A&E by Reformed people.

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No, I don’t know him in real life. I think I was probably just Googling historical Adam and Eve and came across it.

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I think I’ve demonstrated to all the theological readers that the GAE is monogenism, not polygenesis.

Of course, Dennis Venema is still very intent on painting the GAE as polygenesis, and Deborah Haarsma concurred the last time we talked. They, however, are outliers, really motivated to promote an no-Adam view.

One reason my book is important is that it puts that critique to bed for just about everyone but them.

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Also Hans is part of the Creation Project and editor of Sapientia. In general, Creation Project theologians have been enthusiastic.

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Thank you for the plug and the kind words! I agree that this is an idea whose time had come, and that many independent minds coming to the same conclusions is a positive sign.

I’m so glad to have found this community: before this, my blog posts just resulted in some people in my immediate circle going “hey, David has some new, interesting ideas”. Honestly, it was quite frustrating, to have something that I thought was hugely significant but to not have the means to disseminate it.

But now, the work done by the people here will make it so much easier for me personally to evangelize the GAE framework. For better or worse, people are mostly convinced by social proof, and it’ll mean so much to have actual scientists in the field publish an actual book which explains the idea!

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Hi Josh

It’s clear that David’s basic position stems ultimately from the work of Rohde - the use of “MRCA” shows that. His first statement appeared in 2014, so he may have interacted with Opderbeck’s work, or even mine, though I’m not familiar with him as a BioLogos commenter under his own or another handle.

Once one takes the Genealogical Adam position together with a high view of Scripture, the thing probably tends to develop in fairly inevitable ways.

For example, in episode 2 he opts for a view of original sin propagated by association, rather than by biological transmission. I’ve followed similar lines, at least in part, by focusing on the science of socialisation: ie, we now know we become the humans we are through our human social interactions, rather than being determined by our genes, at least in the moral and behavioural spheres. Hence sin can be seen in Scripture both as accountable - I am what I have chosen to be - and a deepseated and pitiable disease needing the miracle of God’s grace.

This is an answer to the weakness of the Pelagian position, in which sin is “imitated” voluntarily, a conscious and rather superficial process that really doesn’t do justice either to the depth of sin, or its corporate nature in our race.

David seems not to explore the mechanics of this so much, but these are early days for the paradigm, and the first book on it (yours) is not even out yet.

An idea whose time has come? I think so. The positive genealogical science of Rohde coincides with a less confrontational approach between evolutionary science and othodox faith, and the weakness both of Young Earth solutions and Metaphorical Adam solutions.

I would also add to the mix the greater understanding of the ANE context of Genesis, the strengthening through archaeology of its reliability as an historical source, together with strong growth in the field of biblical theology after too long a period of fragmenting source-critical approaches.

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I had been thinking about the problem of how to interpret the Genesis creation account for a long time - most of my life really - and I think I heard ideas like “Homo Divinus” or “Federal headship of Adam” before. It’s possible that I picked up some other ideas here and there. But yes, when I learned of the work of Rohde on the recency of the MRCA (found through the article on Wikipedia), that was when everything finally came together for me. And I agree that once the idea occurs to you together with some basic assumptions, the framework comes together quite naturally, which I think is one of the strengths of the theory.

I think my posts linked here are about the extent of my thoughts on the details of the propagation of spiritual conditions. Certainly, there’s much more that can be done - once one is convinced that the GAE is the most Biblical and the most scientific interpretation of the Genesis creation account, we can build quite a bit on it.

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David
My own book on it - due to come out early in the New year - links it to themes in biblical theology, some of which i hope are sound, others of which may turn out wrong.

But the idea is to get the biblical scholars and pastors applying the basic paradigm both to biblical understanding and traditional teaching. Nothing in the latter, in my opinion, is seriously challenged by Genealogical Adam and Eve, but rather is refined.

That’s especially true if, as I posit, the biblical writers were well aware of such a thing - and there’s no reason why they would not be: the “impossibility” of Adam was a product of misapplied evolutionary and genetic science. The ancients didn’t have that, and were closer to events as well.

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If this is the case, what is the need for genealogical Adam at all? We don’t have to be his descendants, just his acquaintances.

Not true. The impossibility of Adam is not directed at GAE but at first-and-sole-ancestor Adam or at bottleneck-of-two Adam. As such it’s a quite proper application of science.

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Not really. The genetic bottleneck of 2 was a red herring, the wrong question.

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Whose red herring/wrong question was it? Not its critics’. The critics were responding to proponents.

Story is far more complex and interesting. There were several people “steered” to this position. Most people did not have the distinction between genetics and genealogy in their mind, and did not even know to ask the question.

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Sounds like a conspiracy theory. Please explain.

I’m not sure it was a red herring, I do think it turned out to be the wrong question but I don’t think we would have known that a priori would we?

I think if the question is, “are Adam and Eve, at least approximately as described in the Bible, a historic possibility based on what we know in science (genetics, etc.)”, then it is reasonable to look for a bottleneck of two and/or a sole genetic ancestor. How would we know genealogical-but-not-genetic before asking the genetic question?

The answer seems to be that there is a mutual lack of awareness that theologians and scientists use the same words to mean different things (i.e. polysemy). Wasn’t this all started by the use of the term “Mitochondrial Eve”? According to Wikipedia,

Cann, Stoneking and Wilson did not use the term “Mitochondrial Eve” or even the name “Eve” in their original paper; it appears to originate with a 1987 article in Science by Roger Lewin, headlined “The Unmasking of Mitochondrial Eve.”[17] The biblical connotation was very clear from the start. The accompanying research news in Nature had the title “Out of the garden of Eden.”[18] Wilson himself preferred the term “Lucky Mother” [19] and thought the use of the name Eve "regrettable."[17][20] But the concept of Eve caught on with the public and was repeated in a Newsweek cover story (11 January 1988 issue featured a depiction of Adam and Eve on the cover, with the title “The Search for Adam and Eve”),[21] and a cover story in Time on 26 January 1987.[22]

It seems that this colloquial term caught on in the general public and started the seeds of steering theologians and Christian scientists to think about genetic instead of genealogical ancestry. Because scientific research on genealogical ancestry was not as prominent in the public eye, when theologians started wondering if science had anything to say about Adam and Eve, they immediately got drawn to looking at this genetic research instead. Doesn’t that seem right? This is basically like calling the Higgs the “God particle” and thinking it has anything to do with what the Bible is saying.

Another example of misunderstood terms include “human” and “species”. The issue of polysemous words is covered well in the GAE book.

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