Hardin: Biology and Theological Anthropology: Friends or Foes?

This paper was first privately presented by Jeff Hardin (Chairman of the Board of BioLogos) June 2018 at the Dabar Conference. This private paper was made public in December 2019 on the BioLogos website.

Abstract: The current scientific consensus on human origins is widely perceived by
Evangelical Christians to be at odds with core theological doctrines at the heart of
Evangelical faith. But is the situation as dire as some would claim? After setting the
biblical and biological stages, the remainder of this paper briefly examines fruitful ways
in which science seems to rub up against a key doctrine in theological anthropology:
the challenge of the historical Adam and the nature of human sinfulness. I will make
the case that modern science can be a friend to theological anthropology, by sharpening
our focus on theological essentials, and by avoiding missteps as we construct a robust,
biblically based anthropology

There is a lot of positive things about this paper. His summary of anthropology seems to be accurate (at least to our understanding at the time), brief but also detailed. That is hard to do.

I appreciate the endorsement of our work here. My main caution to readers is that he does not represent the GAE or my position well, nor does he categorize it correctly, though I am sure he is writing in good faith. His ontology of theological models does not make much sense.

It is notable, nonetheless, that Hardin positively acknowledges Richard Buggs and myself by name, endorsing our critique of Dennis Venema’s population genetics.

Is there a possibility of a population as small as two individuals in the past history of hominins? A different type of analysis is needed to test if such an extreme “genetic bottleneck” took place in the past or not. Based on a long, technical discussion between three Christian geneticists/computational biologists (Dennis Venema, Richard Buggs70, and S. Joshua Swamidass)71, there is reason to believe that the methods cannot rule out a bottleneck of one male and one female hominin that would have occurred before 600-700,000 years ago and earlier than 7 mya72. The recent end of this range is about the time when H. heidelbergensis (or perhaps H. antecessor) was alive.

He also notes there is no evidence against the de novo creation of Adam and Eve. This admission was made less than a year after In Defense of Tim Keller (which he does not mention). It would be about a year longer before BioLogos Edits Their Response to Keller.

As Swamidass has pointed out134, miraculous creation cannot be detected by genetic science, so these models allow for genealogical descent from a de novo couple.

(I emphasize, however, I never have put forward a genealogical ancestor model, see: BioLogos: First Mention of The Genealogical Adam (and Eve)).

It has been over two years since this bundle of mistakes in population genetics was uncovered. Several scientists deserve credit, some of us unlikely: @glipsnort, @Agauger, Richard Buggs, and myself.

We see in Hardin’s paper that he understood these mistakes in June 2018. Why wasn’t this paper made public earlier? Why haven’t these mistakes been publicly acknowledged and corrected? I am not sure.

To Darrel Falk’s credit, he publicly acknowledged these mistakes early on, in 2017, even admitting error in his endorsement of the GAE book. With the publication of this article, however, there are now two BioLogos scientists publicly on record agreeing that mistakes were made. That is good news. I look forward to seeing the story unfold.

You can tell that the writer hasnt broken old habits of expression.

A better way of saying this is:

“… as we construct a robust, science-centric anthropology, which still allows for a few miracles outlined in the Bible (see Romans 5).”