Gregg Davidson: Genetics, the Nephilim, and the Historicity of Adam


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #21

I think it goes: “with friends like this, who needs a publicist?

@davidson, you, @Joel_Duff, and Ken Wolgemuth have been doing excellent work at Solid Rock Lectures: I’m really glad to draw attention to your work. It was cited in my PSCF article, and was an important stepping stone in my thinking. I want to be sure you get full credit for your contributions.

You also are still on BioLogos Voices. I’m curious how that has worked out for you. As you know, I had to part ways.

It is a very common view.

I agree. It would have to be at least 1:1 mixing, if not even more skewed, as we have already discussed.

They way he frames it, this all appears to be a large problem. However, I think there are some easy ways around this. It all comes down to how we understand those “outside the garden”. Here is where the work on a Genealogical Adam" could help him out.

The word “soul” does not even appear in Genesis. Some would even equate “soul” more with consciousness, and say that animals have souls too.

I think it is most useful to understand @davidson’s project here as a thought experiment. I do not think he is dogmatic on anything here. It is a simple proposal to be refined and modified. As a geologist, we can let the population genetics misses pass, especially if he responds by fixing those errors (which I entirely expect he will).

Glad you can join us here Gregg. This is an important paper. I’m looking forward to see how we can bring into alignment with current scientific knowledge. I’m also curious, along with @jongarvey, how you can make use of some of the theological moves of the Genealogical Adam to resolve the theological objections.

I know you did not get much support from BioLogos on this one, but I want to thank you for putting this forward. It was an important part of the larger story.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #22

There is some fuzziness on these boards, and even a lot of crazy ideas.

From most of the scholars, however, I am seeing “nuance”, which is easily mistaken for “fuzziness” for someone outside the field

A great example is the objection you are putting forward. The working understanding that most textual experts have on Genesis is acutely aware of this. There seems to be strong evidence, both internal and external to the text that the Genesis narrative was developed over a long period of time. It was common to add to and adapt stories for contemporary concerns.

With this in mind, it could have been recorded earlier, not as a polemic, and then later adapted into a rhetoric that was responding to their contemporary concerns. So it is not an either or, but a both and. I’m not an expert here, but it seems there is a good deal of evidence supporting this view. (though, I stand to be correct and refined by @deuteroKJ and @jongarvey here).

Even in contemporary literature we see a similar dynamic. Stories are told and retold, but often modified to speak to contemporary concerns.

The text doesn’t teach it and there is no physical evidence of it.

There is good reason to think that there were massive regional floods through in this area. This also gives a common cause for the many flood narratives here.

(John Harshman) #23

But should we look for any historical truth in such stories, beyond the fact that there are sometimes floods in the area?

Well, of course there’s no physical evidence, but that’s not relevant to the story itself unless we suppose it might be true. But the story is clearly about a flood that wiped out all humanity and all land animals that weren’t on the ark. The story may not describe a globe, but that isn’t relevant. It talks about a flood that covered everything, including the tall mountains, for nearly a year. Any other reading is just an attempt to avoid collision with the physical data.

Well, of course. But does that give us any reason to suspect that the flood story records a particular real event involving any of the details in the story?

(John Harshman) #24

Should we care if it’s a common view?

Exactly. If they’re just people, indistinguishable from Adam and Eve, all those problems go away. We are left to wonder just what the A&E have transmitted to us, if anything, and how that would happen.

(Gregg Davidson) #25

Yes, of course, this is exactly what I was thinking :wink:

(Gregg Davidson) #26

There has been substantial discussion on this thread. If I try to go back and read all comments and try to address them, I am afraid my post will seem a bit haphazard. Instead, I will make a general comment about the paper, and then invite folks to tell me what they would like to see me address.
The general comment is that this paper was written at a time when many people believed that population genetics made it impossible for there to have ever been an actual Adam and Eve, whether specially created or evolved. The paper was a thought experiment exploring if there was any scenario in which a first pair could exist without violating the findings of population genetics. The paper offered a scenario in which I believed it to be possible.
The fundamental aspects of the model were (1) selection by God of a pair from the hominin herd, (2) interbreeding of the offspring of that pair with those members outside the garden, and (3) all living people today tracing their ancestry back to both that selected couple and the larger population.
The rest of the paper, regarding the soul, the Nephilim, and the timing, attempted to flesh out what this model might theologically entail, but these aspects were/are not integral to the model. In this sense, there is a great deal of similarity to the genealogical model. I think a stumbling block for many was my reference to “limited” interbreeding, which would not have introduced enough genetic variation. But, the model just as easily accommodates LOTS of interbreeding.

So … what are people interested in hearing about either the thought behind that model, or current thinking?

(Gregg Davidson) #27

I should add that I am not like Josh, who we not sure requires food or sleep. Some hours may pass between prompts and my responses.

(John Harshman) #28

There is nothing in that scenario that is even in principle capable of being refuted by population genetics or anything else, other than #3. And given that you don’t necessarily mean genetic ancestry, the scenario is possible even for a couple only 6000 years ago. (It’s still possible for genetic ancestry, just very unlikely, given that you are unlikely to share any genetic material with any particular ancestor that long ago.) It’s all that other stuff about souls and nephilim that’s the problem.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #29

Just 3 years ago :smile:. Looks like things have shifted.

That’s great.

To what extent do you see:

  1. Biological difference between Adam & Eve vs. their “hominin” heard?
  2. That there needs to be genetic descent from Adam & Eve for everyone?
  3. Theological points of high importance to you in your model?

As I understand it, this is just a tentative proposal, and a lot is open to be reworked. You aren’t holding very much at all tightly. Is that right?

Thanks @davidson.

Your current thinking would be great.

(Gregg Davidson) #30

All scenarios regarding the mode in which Adam and Eve came to be, and their possible interaction with surrounding populations, should be held lightly. The Bible does not spell it out, and science only sets some parameters within to work. What we are working on, then, is what is possible and what isn’t.

(Gregg Davidson) #31

If Adam/Eve were selected from a population of hominins, they would have been biologically equivalent. What set them apart was the spiritual gift (soul/spirit/whatever-you-wish-to-call-it) that made life beyond the grave possible.
If the timing was such that other hominins were present at the same time, greater biological differences could have existed, though interbreeding still very possible.

(Gregg Davidson) #32

More on these later …

(Gregg Davidson) #33

My thoughts on this are currently a work in progress. My objective in the paper was focused on the genetics only in the sense of ancestry,. Population genetics was arguing against the possibility of common ancestry back to a single couple. In that sense, it was making a similar argument as GA.

(Gregg Davidson) #34

There were/are several theological issues raised in my paper that were all pertinent, though not all critical to the model. (As a caveat, when I say critical to the model, I do not mean critical to my faith in the truth of scripture.)

The critical aspects are

  1. An actual Adam and Eve (abandoning due to population genetics premature)
  2. Hominin population(s) coexisting outside the garden
  3. Gifting of a non-material soul to Adam and Eve that set them apart from their otherwise biologically equivalent cousins
  4. Forbidden interbreeding that happened a lot anyway.
  5. All humans today are members of the same ancestral family.

Theological points of lesser importance

  1. While I think that Gen 6 may well be speaking of the interbreeding mentioned above, it is not critical to the model that it is. The interbreeding could have occurred AND Gen 6 is talking of something else.
  2. Along the same vein, I find it plausible that the Nephilim were unique offspring of some of these forbidden unions, but they don’t have to be for the model.
  3. Would the product of such a forbidden union have a soul? Interesting question that could be answered yes or no without undermining the model. (I speculated “yes” in the paper.)

(Gregg Davidson) #35

I recognized even in the paper that the population-genetics claim that the earliest possible common ancestor was over 100,000 years ago was inconsistent with biblical descriptions of agricultural practice by Cain and Able. I did, and still do, allow for a number of possibilities here.

  1. Genetic variability may have been introduced faster than geneticists have estimated, giving a more recent date.
  2. Agricultural practice may have started earlier than archaeologists realize.
  3. Biblical references to agriculture by the first family may have been “modernized” for the Hebrew readers.
  4. Or perhaps the added observations of GA collapse the time frame necessary for the common ancestry.

(Gregg Davidson) #36

I mentioned the flood in the paper, but did not “integrate” it. It was acknowledged that a flood leaving only a single family alive remains unsupported by population genetics.

(Gregg Davidson) #37

Point taken, though as mentioned earlier, the model can accommodate LOTS of interbreeding as well. In fact, if Gen 6 is referring to this, it notes that it was pervasive. (Noting, again, that if judged by a flood, it could not have wiped out everyone except one family and still gibe with population genetics.)

(Gregg Davidson) #38

No objection from me on calling interbreeding with soulless hominins beastiality. This would technically be true. I hope, however, that “eww” is not being put forward as an actual argument? How I feel about something is not relevant to whether something is true. In a real sense, I should think of ALL forms of sex outside of the bonds of marriage as “eww,” but I don’t. Humanity has a talent for operating outside of the God’s mandates.

(Jon Garvey) #39

That, too me, is the best option. GA easily allows any date from the bronze age back.

(Gregg Davidson) #40

There are myriad questions we can ask about why would God do this or that. Why did God make us with a nature capable of disobedience? Why did God chose a single nation to set apart? Why not make all of humanity set apart? Why did God create a universe that man uses only a minuscule fraction of?
I am not dismissive of asking such questions and giving them thought, but I readily acknowledge that God’s ways are not my ways.