Is Nearly Universal Ancestry Enough For Theology?

Just got the book today! Will get around to reading it soon, hopefully.

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All this crucially depends on what we all get from Adam. What are the possibilities here?

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That is one way to look at it. I explain some options in the book.

Looking at what actually was done to Tasmanians 200 years ago…I struggle to imagine any theology that could possibly legitimize that sort of evil. Tasmanians were fully human, but we don’t even treat animals as badly as they were treated. Who could possibly offer anything to legitimize or justify that?

Whether they were fully human is one of those theological questions that depends on just what it is that makes you human and just what it is that Adamic ancestry gives you. And we have in the past certainly treated animals as badly as that. Ask the passenger pigeon and the plains bison.

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These points are true, and central both to Josh’s book and mine.

It’s odd that the moral question only becomes really acute because of the moral influence of Christianity. I read just this weekend that the entire culture of plains Indians was based on raiding - Comanches displaced several other tribes in the seventeenth century, and were themselves displaced by white settlers in the 19th. The standard raiding etiquette in these tribes was to kill all the adults, preferably by torture, kill all the infants, enslave the young women and occasionally adopt children around 8-10 into the tribe. Sometimes the Europeans followed suit, but with greater pretence of civilized institutions.

That’s not unique: I was discussing with a linguist/anthropologist PhD in London last week about the Bantu, now occupants of most of Africa, who swept down centuries ago after acquiring technological advances and displaced both the bush people and “forest people” (pygmies) amid great slaughter. Even today, there are places where pygmies are denied citizenship and even enslaved.

Under a doctrine of original sin, as in genealogical Adam and Eve, this universal pattern of violence against outgroups makes more sense than trying to pin it all on “imperialism”, “white supremacy” or “Christianity.”

The moral code of the latter, of course, raises the spectre of “hypocrisy,” but that only really carries weight if you grant that Christian morality is exceptional, which many skeptics are unwilling to grant. That exceptionality apart, we have only a depressing predictability whether we’re talking about the Beaker People invading Britain and changing the genetic makeup fundamentally, the destruction of the Dravidians in India, etc etc.

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There is very good evidence for the genetic and geographical isolation of Tasmania, but that doesn’t imply genealogical isolation. There are no peer-reviewed publications on the genealogical isolation of Tasmania, because genealogical isolation might be too difficult to evidentially establish, it might be outside our view.

Note, the “nearly” qualifier only becomes required if AE are really recent, say less than 8,000 kya, and Tasmania was in fact genealogically isolated. I think most would gladly consider AE at 10,000 years ago or even more ancient. So this is a lot of hoopla about a boundary condition and less than 0.001% of the population.

@swamidass

I find it odd that while appealing to the miraculous creation of Adam and Eve, you can’t bring yourself to mention God’s providence in bringing (scientifically undetectable) storm tossed ships or canoes to Australia and Tasmania.

If placental rats can get to Australia… without any ship at all … then humans certainly could have as well.

You don’t need to imagine any theology - there are historical precedents.

  • The theology that advocated race-based slavery.
  • The theology that led to the Albigensian crusade.
  • The theology that defends the Old Testament genocides.
  • The theology that underpinned Manifest Destiny.
  • The theology that ascribed blood guilt to the Jews for Jesus’s crucifixion.
  • The theology that opposed interracial marriage.
  • The theology that advocates killing LGBT persons.

In the case of the GAE the verses that give me pause are Genesis 1:26-30. There are several interpretations of this, and a stewardship one seems to be the most common. (AIG has a paper up arguing that mankind doesn’t have dominion.) But I understand that there is an interpretation that mankind is allowed to exploit the world as it sees fit (a cursory web search only found articles arguing against this) - this is at the root of Christian opposition to environmentalist movements.

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Chapter 2, page 26, explains why I don’t appeal to miracles. Page 177, footnote 11, gives you the loophole you are looking for too.

This is a key nuance to the argument worth getting straight.

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None of these theologies justified what happened to Aborigines. It was horrific. Regardless, these theologies themselves boggle my mind any ways. Perhaps I have hit the limits of my imagination here.

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@swamidass

I think Page 177, along with footnote 11, provides a perfectly adequate way to defend against the “Tasmania Complaint” - - assuming there is an interest by some to have Adam come between 6000 ya and 10,000 ya.

And since I am not proposing miraculous (“poof”!) events of the caliber of one-off miracles like the special creation of Adam, I don’t think you should be so restrictive when it comes to so-called “Acts of Providence”.

At no time do I discuss God instantly transporting an Adam/Eve descendant across the 300+ mile straight between the Indonesian islands and Australia - - or across a similar straight between Australia and Tasmania. All God has to do is arrange a storm (you know, evaporation then condensation!) to push a boat to shipwreck on the shore of either place. This would be no more inexplicable than thinking God might “salt” a human population with an important mutation by arranging for a Cosmic ray to “bump” a DNA molecule for increased brain mass (or what-have-you).

@swamidass

I thought I would mention, in addition to my earlier mentions of placental rats that made it to Australia only a few million years ago (presumably, without boats!), I wanted to mention how anciently populated are dozens of polynesian islands… many of them quite close to Australia itself!:

[CLICK ON IMAGE TO INCREASE LEGIBILITY]

Chuuuk (aka Truk) was populated by 200 BCE; Guam by 1000 BCE; Solomon Islands (1300 BCE), and occupation of the braod sweep of Melanesian islands (east of Australia) - - all before 800 BCE!

In fact, I will have to redo my earlier map! For some reason, the map I was using didn’t include New Guinea!: "The shortest border distance between the mainlands of Papua New Guinea and Australia is about 150 kilometres! 150 kilometers is about 93 miles!

We are too easily blinded by scientific absolutism, even when we are criticizing the unfortunate effects of scientific absolutism!

You are dealing with the supposed difficulty of populating Australia, but nobody has mentioned that until you. It’s Tasmania, and only Tasmania, that’s the issue here.

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There is a narrow strait that separates Australia from Tasmania to its south. I would be very surprised if there were no storms in that straight.

If you’re trying to make a point, you should be more explicit.

@John_Harshman,

I’m writing for everyone else who knows the subject matter. Are you really so in the dark about my posting that you can’t imagine what I mean when I point out that there is a rather narrow gap between Australia and Tasmania? Weren’t we just talking about an even narrower gap between Australia and New Guinea?

I would appreciate the courtesy, if you’re technically responding to me, of writing at least partly for me. I shouldn’t have to imagine what you mean.

You were. But as I have pointed out, that’s not relevant. I’m sure you have imagined some kind of scenario in your head, but you haven’t managed to communicate it clearly. I’m not sure you have even tried.

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@john_harshman

I’m quite sure you are mistaken on all counts.

You have a way of making people very tired of conversing with you.

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I agree with @John_Harshman that your reason for bringing this up is unclear. As someone who just spent some time in Tasmania earlier this year and has spent time in Indonesia, the relevance of the narrowness of the gaps is dwarfed by the difference in weather. The north coast of Tasmania is 41 degrees south. The northernmost tip of Australia is only 10 degrees south of the equator.

Consistent with a big difference in the ease of crossing those gaps, we also know that dingoes didn’t make it to Tasmania with migrating humans as they did to the mainland. The name “Tasmanian Devil” is not historically accurate, as they used to be present in mainland Australia until they were outcompeted by dingoes occupying the same ecological niche.

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