GAE and Synthesis

Continuing the discussion from Drs Sanford and Carter respond to PS participants:

From the article that Paul Price wrote:

The debate has continued on Dr. Joshua Swamidass’ Peaceful Science blog. He is an evolutionist and the author of The Genealogical Adam and Eve (GAE), which received a scathing review on We find his science to be not at all ‘peaceful’, but openly hostile to the views of biblical creationists. In fact, he openly admits that his GAE hypothesis represents a sort of Hegelian1 synthesis between creationism and evolutionism.2 Readers be cautioned! Tricky rhetorical flourishes are not good arguments, but they abound in those pages.

This is footnote 1:

The ‘Hegelian dialectic’ is a system of thinking that describes a thesis , which gives rise to a reaction (an antithesis ), which leads to tension, that is eventually resolved by a synthesis of the two positions. This approach is the basis of Marxist philosophy, although it is certainly not restricted to these writers, having roots in Kant, Goethe, Spinoza, and others

The reference is to this post:

One important thing to note is that the idea of synthesis did not begin with Hegel and Marx, nor did it even start with Spinoza and Kant. So it is misleading to associate GAE with these figures as if it is some sort of modernist idea by attempting to synthesize two different philosophies. Synthetic thinking in Christianity has existed for almost as long as Christianity itself. Justin Martyr in the 2nd century AD already tried to harmonize Christianity with Platonism. Augustine is well-known to have adopted many elements of Platonism. Thomas Aquinas is famous for appropriating Aristotle into his thought (while still being influenced by Augustine). The Reformers adopted many parts of Roman Catholic thought more or less wholesale (e.g. doctrine of God and the Trinity) while rejecting and/or modifying others.

Going back even further, there are similarities between the Apostle Paul’s writings and the philosophy of Stoicism. And of course Christianity itself is a synthesis between Judaism and the life, teachings, and works of Jesus.

In other words, there is nothing mysterious or even Hegelian about the general idea of synthetic thinking. Synthetic thinking is none other than reading other thinkers with different opinions with a discerning mind and using some of their insights or questions to develop and improve your own ideas. Synthetic thinking does not always mean compromising your core principles. There are syntheses which fail, but there are also those which succeed.

Synthetic thinking is present even in creationism itself. It is well-known that important elements of the modern creationist movement started from the work of Seventh Day Adventist George McCready Price, who followed SDA founder Ellen White in holding YEC views. Yet many YECs today happily appropriate and develop these materials for their own benefit, even if they come from conservative churches which would denounce SDA theology as erroneous, even heretical. Similarly, the modern ID movement can also be viewed as a “synthesis” of sorts between earlier creationist anti-evolutionist ideas and information theory, including tamping down the more overtly religious elements in the hopes that it would become more acceptable to secular scientists.

My overall point is, even if GAE is a “synthesis” of sorts, I don’t view it as necessarily having anything to do with Hegelian philosophy. There’s nothing inherently right or wrong about synthesis itself.


It appears to be an attempt to associate @swamidass with communism. Is there anything more to it?


@dga471 It seems your post ignores the dynamic I quoted below with many of its examples. I don’t see many of those examples acting exactly in this manner - especially when it comes to the examples of Reformers adopting Roman Catholic thought (both are based on the Bible) and the modern creationist movement coming from Price (the ideas are based on creationism).

I’m not seeing refinement on “both sides” in any of those examples. Maybe I’m missing what you see or misunderstanding this concept.

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Many of us are seeing a refinement to both sides. For example, most creationists did not know about the distinction between genetics and genealogy, and they did not know about the tradition of Genesis which explores the idea of people outside the Garden. Now knowing this tradition and this distinction, they are often moving over to agree that genealogy matters more than genetics, and that there is value in wondering about people outside the Garden. That refines the creationist position, immensely.

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For the case of the Reformers, there was definitely a “both sides” aspect to it. The Reformers were happy to adapt certain aspects of the work of major thinkers such as Augustine and Aquinas while rejecting other aspects as not biblical or incoherent. Of course, synthesis is not always “both sides contribute equal amounts”. Different Reformers broke away in different degrees. For example, Lutheran theology has more similarities with Roman Catholicism compared to Reformed theology (e.g. retaining belief in sacramentalism to some degree).

Note here that by “Reformers” I’m mostly talking about the Magisterial Reformers, and not the Anabaptists or other later groups that are “Bible only”. Magisterial Reformers still accept many of the major Christian creeds and councils of the first millennium.

Well, you’re arguing that the way that you’ve been quoted is correct, but that doesn’t really show @dga471 examples are good comparisons.

Genealogy does matter more than genetics, but that doesn’t make genetics unimportant. I wasn’t really aware about a tradition outside of the garden, though from what I’ve learned I haven’t seen yet that it was important or significant, so I’d hesitate to call it a tradition. I don’t think any of that refines the creationist position. It’s still the same.

I’d probably fall into this camp.

I still think we’re understanding this concept differently.

Exactly. And as you pull those threads more, everything will change.

Exactly. And as you (or your children) pull the threads and work out their implications, creationism will be refined. After all, the GAE is basically a creationist/YEC interpretation of Genesis in the end, just a refined version of it that steps away from questionable creation science.

No, GAE is definitely not a YEC interpretation in the end.

When I said that genealogy is more important, what I’m referring to is the fact that that is the only thing in the Bible that gives us the age of the earth and humanity:

Family relationships are easy to understand; God created us to have children and to reproduce (unlike angels) and to see each other as family. Ages in each generation are easy to count up. All of that means genealogies have significance for us as we uncover genetics in this era that we live in. I’d say the reason FOR the genealogies is so we’d know how bad current evolutionary theory is (and it is). We can look for the scientific tools in genetics to refute it - since genetics also gives us family trees. That’s exciting; those tools may not be available to us today, perhaps. But I think it will take less time from us to that point where it will be obvious, than how much time we are from Darwin.

Certainly not Scientific YEC or YEC as you understand it.

However it makes space for six-day-no death-before-the-fall-revelationists. It is deeply connected to scriptural realism, and vindicates literalism. The best of creationism is its commitment to Scripture, and if that’s what’s truly important, most creationists will see this for what it is: a better way.