Discomfort With Messiness of Science at BioLogos

This year, more than ever, I’ve wondered if it is providential that I am an Indian, for this very reason. Even though people keep dropping the race card on me, the reality of who I am exposes the absurdity of the race game here.

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The next time someone accuses you of racist distinctions because of the proposal for one group of humans made by Evolution, and another group started by de novo creation of Adam and Eve, can’t you just say:

“If the 2 chapters of Genesis used for this scenario both refer to the resulting humans as made “in God’s image”, and if by the time of Jesus everyone is a descendant of de novo Adam, how can there be any issue of racism?”

If you answer their charge with a Question, all of a sudden they have to explain how their version of racism would apply?

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I have no intention of legitimizing flippant charges of racism.

This last year, I just took a master class in navigating these taticts. It does not work to deal with indirectly or inductively. False accusations of racisms direct at me are usually the real problem of racism we are facing. I have no interest to in creating a safe environment for considering slander.

The good news, also, is that whenever I stop treating this absurdity like a legitimate accusation, the accusations stop.

(to be clear @AllenWitmerMiller was not making a flippant charge against @jongarvey , but just processing legitimately and appropriately what is and is not racist in this context.)


Remember @gbrooks9, we recently had an example of a person (not to be shamed) who made that charge, but then immediately backed off it (to his credit). Genetics, Genealogies, and Racism. And to be clear, the person in question and I are obviously doing just fine with each other now. Do not anyone think I’m calling him a racist now.

[PS. Why are white people so touchy on race??]

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It’s really not restricted to any group.

  1. Some time ago, when I was in California, I used the word ‘oriental’ to indicate an ethnicity in a conversation (nothing offensive meant, just a category). I was warned by a Chinese American colleague that the term was considered a bit racist or derogatory, particularly among the Asian community. This was news to me, a Japanese American, as I’d never hear it used in a derogatory manner previously. In fact, within my family conversations such an issue never came up. I was also oblivious to “Asian Awareness” organizations or movements. It seemed needlessly counter-reactionary to me.

  2. I’m very aware of the degree of racism that still persists among many in Japan. The US still has a long way to go, but compared to some intra-Asian racial prejudices…

  3. Some of the touchiness may be due to the generally easy way which outrage can be stoked these days. That is, in a world where anyone can feel offended, it can be hard to navigate the minefields. This example will be offensive to someone, but: …Consider what it’s like to be male in a Women’s Studies course.

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Of course he is. My post was, as I wrote quite intentionally, “a side note”. I was simply commenting on the fact that the mere mention of a word (“pygmy” in this case) which at least some people associate with racism is enough to set off lots of emotions and reactions in some circles.

I made the observation because it related to the combustibility of non-racist (but potentially perceived as racist) ideas which we discussed in another thread about Easter of 2017.

Of course he is. How is that not obvious to all?

No. Certainly not. (Are you certain you carefully read what I wrote?)

I made no attempt at redefining the word. I have no “terms” of my own in the casual post. I simply anticipated that some readers—if there were a wider audience here—might immediately react to any use of the word “pygmy” as allegedly racism-tinged word. Yes, that would be an absurd charge, especially in jongarvey’s context but absurdity has never stopped emotive people from over-reactions.

As a linguist with many interesting experiences in lexicography, I’m simply looking back over a lifetime of observing the word “pygmy” go through various stages of societal acceptance.

I get the impression you were reading far too much into a brief and casual anecdote of how a word has gone in and out of favor within “polite society”.

Absolutely! Amen to that.

By the way [This is another side-note.] these topics related to the emotions which words can generate, and how they are perceived very differently by various groups, bring to mind one of my favorite examples:

Some years ago a Jewish university student got into all sorts of trouble (and huge legal costs) when a group of African-American sorority members were engaged in some sort of initiation celebration outside of his dorm window while he was studying. He opened his window and shouted at them something like, “Quiet down, you BEHEMOTHS!” He was disciplined by the university for “racism”. Of course, the Jewish student was shocked at this charge because it is quite common for a Yiddish person (for example) to use this Hebrew word (a word found in the Bible, as Ken Ham keeps reminding us) when referring to someone who is being boisterous and loud. But the sorority and the university claimed that calling the young ladies BEHEMOTH was calling them “animals” and therefore demeaning and racist. Most of all, they considered his conduct “insensitive” to the plight of a minority. One administrator even claimed that his motive was to associate the sorority members with “African animals”. This amazed more than a few people because nobody had dreamed that the BEHEMOTH was somehow uniquely associated with Africa!

Just a few weeks ago I had to encourage a senior pastor to educate his youth minister, who had told an unfortunate story during the “children’s church” portion of the worship service. The thirty-something gentleman described some incident at age 8 where he was guilty of being “an Indian-giver!” I had assumed that the Millennial generation would be far more sensitive to such terms than my own generation, but the young African-American youth minister who told the story was genuinely oblivious to the historical injustices and absurdity behind the term. (To my knowledge there were no Native Americans in the congregation and, fortunately, no ruckus resulted from the incident.)

I also recall a city council meeting in Louisiana which got a lot of news coverage after emotions erupted when some elected official made the statement that some department of the city was “a financial black hole, where money goes in but never comes out.” There were impassioned protests about “the obvious racism behind the phrase!”

I find the various emotions behind words very interesting. Determining the line between inappropriate and appropriate uses of words (and between being “rightly offended” versus being “too easily offended”) is not always easy.

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I think touchiness is endemic in society now.

To divert from racial issues, I got into trouble here a few years ago for referring Iin a sermon, I think) to those who were handicapped - it appeared the correct word was “disabled”. I noted with interest that I kept seeing the word “handicapped” used quite neutrally in the US, for example on parking spaces (maybe it’s different now?). In the course of time I got pulled up for “disabled” because I should have said “differently abled.”

All of which makes one suspect that for some people, playing games with vocabulary to catch people out in prejudice is part of a victim strategy. As for me (as my late father used to say) it’s a wonder I haven’t got a persecution complex, what with the whole world being against me.


For a relatively small group, we really do cover a significant variety of very interesting topics in this forum.

The diversity of academic backgrounds of the participants in this forum leads to a lot of fascinating subtopics. (Of course, the reason I often bring up linguistic observations, even within the scientific discussions, is in part because of the ways similar lexicographic and exegetical issues impact our interpretations of the Bible. And, yes, I just now potentially offended some of my faculty colleagues of years past by daring to use the noun “impact” as a verb! I’m definitely a rebel in that way!)

Dr Swamidas, you’ve managed to create a quite fun as well as educational environment here.

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Invite your friends. The water is nice!

I’ve always felt like it was because of our ugly history. It’s like we are trying to make up for it but in the process we try too hard and go overboard and say things are racist that really aren’t.

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Those are great examples. This sub-topic may merit its own thread—but we already pursue (quite legitimately) a surprising and growing number of tangents on this forum, so I’m resisting the urge to post more examples and related questions. Yet, because language perceptions and misperceptions (and other very human dynamics) were so much a part of the Easter 2017 events, I can’t help but think about all of the related factors.

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I was recently doing a handshake with a black friend of mine and I totally butchered it. He laughed and said man you really white boi’d that handshake. Lol. There are people who would really be upset by that joke and it’s just ridiculous


Punk eek monogenism? : )

I agree that certainly is sometimes the issue, @T.j_Runyon, for some people. But also, the accusation of racism is often intended to exclude people whose opinions the accuser does not want to deal with. As in, “Aha! You ARE racist, therefore nothing you say has any value, and, in addition, those that hold your opinion on any subject are evil like you!” Purely ad hominem. Actually a very dangerous place for our society to have come to.

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3 posts were split to a new topic: Introduction to the Genealogical Adam


I thought i would re-read your introduction to “Genealigical Adam”. The lines of logic hold up very well! [[I took the liberty of inserting some proposed wording in double brackets to replace words or terms that unnecessarily encumber your narrative.]]:

"Entirely consistent with the genetic evidence, it is possible Adam was created out of dust, and Eve out of his rib, less than 10,000 years ago in a divinely created garden where God might dwell with them, the first beings with opportunity to be in a relationship with Him."

"Perhaps their fall brought accountability for sin to all their descendants. Leaving the Garden, their offspring blended with their neighbors in the surrounding [settlements]. In this way, they became genealogical ancestors of all [[humanity by the time of the birth of Jesus Christ."]]

"Even if this scenario is [[considered optional]] or unnecessary, nothing in evolutionary science unsettles this story [[concerning just a single couple]]. So, evolution presses in a very limited way on our understanding of Adam and Eve, only suggesting (alongside Scripture) [[that there some other universal ancestral couples because it is mathematically inevitable]]."

((Made some edits per Patrick.))

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all currently living humanity in recorded history? Note that there was a million years of humanity prior to GA.

Well millions of sequenced genomes do. You may need the caveat that the first couple were created each with a genone (including retro viruses) that were common in the settlements at the place and time near the garden or that nothing in A&E’s genome past on.

Don’t understand the mathematically inevitability. Please elaborate.


You write “Well millions of sequenced genomes do. You may need the
caveat that the first couple were created each with a genone
(including retro viruses) that were common in the settlements at the
place and time near the garden or that nothing in A&E’s genome past

Yes, the couple could have been created with even with a full
compliment of retro viruses. But because the genetics of Adam and Eve
are not the key, it is really up to denominational or personal
preferences as to what genetics Adam/Eve might have been blessed with.
Their impact is too small to trace, even if we knew it precisely.
What matters is their genealogical role for all of surviving humanity.

You ask about this: "[ I ] [d]on’t understand the mathematically
inevitability. Please elaborate."

Even with low rates of immigration, Universal Ancestral couples can
accomplish their status in less than 2000 years. And if we include
the likelihood that God would have engaged in making sure key migrants
made it to some far-away land, due to:

o via storm-driven ships or
o Adam/Eve offspring with a strong wanderlust
and an uncanny luck for surviving the worst of travels…

it seems theologically certain that “Genealogical Adam” would be an
inevitable reality.

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Genetics of Adam and Eve are key. They need to be invisible to scientific inquiry. As more and more ancient genomes are sequenced from the time period and location of Adam and Eve, and differences found among the genomes can’t be attributed to Adam and Eve as they have to remain genetically invisible to advancing ancient genome sequencing.

You just state this but you don’t give the simplest mathematical model that can support this claim. It is purely hand waving. There are anchor points in time and location as we have millions of genomes already sequenced. Your model needs to match up with them or they are contradictory to the science which Genealogical Adam can’t be. Realize that GA needs to be invisible to science now and in the future. A new discovery or a new study on the ancient people of the Levant shouldn’t be able to disprove GA. So you need more than hand waving for that. If an evolutionary scientist is going to put his scientific reputation on to a theological argument, it better be completely invisible to falsification by science.