Jeanson's Method of Inferring Past Population Sizes

Even if we were to grant the hypothetical scenario where no men ever died before having sons, his method still makes no sense. These are the paragraphs where Jeanson tries to justify using a sample of <350 men to reconstruct the last 3000 years of population size changes, but it’s just gibberish:

“Deeper consideration of the multiplicative nature of human population growth further refined this criterion. Mathematically, biblical population growth of males spanned about 9 orders of magnitude— growing from an initial population of 4 men (e.g., Noah, Shem, Ham, Japheth) to nearly 2 billion in 1975. Yet the high coverage dataset that I employed (Karmin et al. 2015) spanned only 2 orders of magnitude (i.e., less than 350 men were sampled). Mathematically, it would seem unlikely that a sample of a few hundred men in the present would permit access to the entire population history of the globe.
Instead, under the second criterion, we might have expected these datasets to capture the most recent 3,000 years of human population growth. For example, in 1000 B.C., the male population was already 25 million. By 1975, this number had grown by only 2 orders of magnitude—to nearly 2 billion. Since the Karmin et al. (2015) dataset represented men sampled in the present and, therefore, represented a look back in time at the population growth that led to these living males, we might have predicted this approach to capture population growth post-1000 B.C. Before 1000 B.C., population sizes would have grown by 7 orders of magnitude—too great a change to be detected by our methods. Thus, we might have expected pre-1000 B.C. population inferences to be a flat line—no branching events due to the multiplicative nature of human population growth.”


There’s actually historical evidence for this. China used to have a great many more family names than it does now. Family names pass through the male line, and most of them have now become extinct. And of course the Y chromosomes associated with those lines have also become extinct.


OK, I see he’s saying he employed a minimum value to capture this, but y’all would argue it still doesn’t pass the test?

"Before comparing these historical data to the population growth curves inferred from the Y chromosome, I added a correction factor to the historical data. My reasoning was as follows: Because Karmin et al. (2015) sampled living males, they effectively sampled the history of only those historical lineages that left survivors in the present. From historical records as well as from archaeology, it is well known that the last 3,000 years of human history record periodic population downturns and episodes of population stasis (i.e., see McEvedy and Jones 1978). Population downturns imply loss of Y chromosome lineages, due to death of male offspring or, simply, to failure to reproduce. Similarly, population stasis can lead to loss of lineages. For example, Biggar et al. (1999) contains an analysis of over 700,000 Danish families at population stasis (i.e., number of children born was equivalent to the sum of the number of fathers and mothers). Their results showed that 28% of fathers left no male offspring (see Table 1 of Biggar et al.). Thus, by sampling the historical male lineages that survived, no one using Karmin et al. (2015) data would ever be able derive a population growth event followed by a downturn. Rather, inferences derived from Karmin et al. (2015) data would simply depict the lineages that made it through the downturn.

Thus, to make the evaluation of my predictions more rigorous, I converted the known global population growth curves from Maddison (2001) and McEvedy and Jones (1978) into minimum population growth curves. Where historical stasis or downturn events occurred, I connected the growth curve data points at their minimum values. Practically, this resulting curve is a type of smoothed global population curve (Supplemental fig. 1; see also Supplemental table 6).

Yes it does not pass the test.

He took one curve of increasing numbers (the number of Y-chromosomal lineages), and claimed it was a population size estimate. This is equivalent to arguing 1+1=3.

He took another curve of numbers, of estimated population size in the past, derived assuming an ancient earth and ancient ancestors. This is equivalent to starting from the assumption of an old earth.

Then he applied several unwarranted modifications to each of the two curves, modifying the second into increasing numbers, until they somewhat aligned. This very much looks like manipulation of data, and it certainly is not a valid test.

Compare his work to this phenomenal work that recovers events from history using a standard population genetics model:

Don’t miss the excellent website here:

There is just no comparison favorable to Jeanson.

  1. They don’t resort to any 1+1=3 arguments.

  2. They are able to see genetic evidence of ONE HUNDRED events in history.

  3. They make their software available for any one to look at and reproduce.

  4. They, in 2014, use the whole genome, instead of just the Y-Chromosome, which Jeason falsely claims is impossible to use for this purpose.

For Jeanson to be right, he needs an explanation of how it was possible to line up, in the evolutionary timescale, 100 events with the genetic data. He doesn’t have one, of course.


Why do I need to be worried? I believe in Jesus. I already generally understand how the world works. If I die, and there’s no God, oops I was wrong. But I do believe in God, I know I need His grace. Origins are an interesting question, and I do consider the data and file it away as a question mark if I don’t know, but it matters little on the grand scheme of things for someone who has full confidence after testing their beliefs a lot.

You don’t need to worry about your faith, because it is rooted in Jesus. However, that should give you confidence to worry about Jeanson’s work specifically.


Does he do any work to demonstrate that this adjustment is sufficient? Not that I can see. His adjustment just crudely chops off the lumps in the historical population growth curve, as you can see in his supplementary figure 1 (black lines vs grey lines).


I wasn’t aware of this so I’ll have to take a look and see what they predict versus where he’s gone since I watched the videos.

Correct. And if I only believed in YEC because of his work, then my confidence should be lower in this as you’ve shown me. But I believed YEC is true before I came across this because, as I explained earlier, I think Jesus’ miracles pointed to His command over instantaneous creation as the Word of God.

What’s interesting to me, is that even if his work is sloppy, if YEC is true, it will “bear more fruit” at least historically than an evolutionary time scale. So here, it’s time will tell. I will definitely check out the link to see what they’ve got.


If you don’t care about any of this, why are we even talking?

Perhaps. But he doesn’t always use instantaneous creation, does he? So the question is when does he and when doesn’t he, and science can certainly help there. It’s clear from science that the universe, earth, and life are all much more than 6000 years old. So Jesus must not have used instantaneous creation for that.

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Disappointing. @thoughtful seemed to be someone who could put her ideological preconceptions aside and accept the assistance and explanations patiently provided by the scientists here, some of whom are world-renowned in this field. And hopefully that remains the case, but it’s looking a bit shaky now.

@swamidass’s comment is very much on point. It doesn’t say much for one’s faith if it cannot withstand accepting facts about physical reality that are beyond serious question.

Phew! I found it. :sweat_smile: I enjoyed the videos, but watching them again was a little bit boring when I’d rather watch quantum physics now. :joy: Anyway, it’s at 29:53 here

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I would differentiate between caring and worrying. I had post-partum anxiety twice. Counseling helped the most. I found out for myself after applying what I learned that worrying is about making idols, which has never helped me. “Caring” means I’m interested in the topics and enjoy researching it and learning more. So thank you for helping me do that.

I can’t think of an instance off the top of my head where Jesus didn’t do a miracle instanteously - besides the resurrection, and that fulfilled prophecy that he was buried 3 days. The point being that Jesus’ followers believed in the Genesis 1 story literally. And every time Jesus did a miracle, the gospels record they were astonished - what kind of man can do this? Is he sent by God? Is he Elijah back from the dead, as he also did lots of miracles and that seemed to fit a prophecy? It wasn’t until he rose from the dead that they realized He was God and was the Creator. The purpose of John 1 is to also make that clear.

So us saying 2000 years later that creation took a long time, feels to me like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Something or a lot of things don’t pass the smell test. The Bible literally read requires a lot of miracles…in the physics thread, I learned it’s the creation of light separately after time. That was cool to me to realize. It requires the miracle of a man only made from dust or particles, and his wife made from him. It also requires a miracle of the start of a global flood. Science can’t evaluate those miracles very well if everything appears to be running consistently.

Peter talks about this: 2 Peter 3:1-7
This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

Please let him correct me if I’m wrong, but that wasn’t the point. If I’ve built my faith on a rock, that is Jesus, then there’s intellectual freedom to explore questions about which one has some of a lot of doubt. It doesn’t mean I MUST accept them. Would a scientist be willing to die for a scientific “fact” - that the world is exactly a certain number of billions of years old, give or take a few million? I doubt it. Should a Christian be willing to die for their belief in Jesus? Yes.

The larger problem is that your scenario would require God to create the universe with a fake history already in place, such as fossils already in the ground and galactic interactions that never happened. For many, a deceptive God doesn’t make sense.

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No, a lot of these questions have been answered already by YEC scientists and none of them that I’m aware of include any of that. I’m not very familiar with their answers yet. There are not answers to all of the YEC questions. But science does not have all the answers either. All of the quantum physics video I’ve been watching are pretty honest that quantum mechanics and general relativity do not fit together, and there are still problems with the big bang theory for the origin of the universe, and any unifying theory of physics must be UV complete, and one hasn’t been found yet. I’ve already suggested in the other thread that I started, that I realized that there’s no unifying theory because light was created separately from time and Einstein is wrong, but first I’ve gotta figure out more how physics works to prove my point. :joy: Point is that no one has all the answers.

The problem is these problems haven’t been answered at all by YECs. YECs offer up some ad hoc explanation completely contradicted by the empirical evidence and CLAIM the problem is solved, hoping their non-science trained audience won’t notice. Scientists especially Christian scientists aren’t fooled even a little.

Not having all the answers don’t negate the solid answers to some questions we do have. We know for a fact the Earth isn’t 6000 years old. We know for a fact a literal Noah’s Flood / Noah’s Ark never happened. We know for a fact a literal Tower of Babel event never happened. These are well beyond any even remote scientific doubt.

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But you can probably think of many instances where he didn’t do a miracle at all, right?

Yes, and they probably also believed that the sun goes around the earth. We know stuff they didn’t. If so, does that diminish the message of the bible?

The problem with that is that, given at least some of those miracles, everything would not appear to be running consistently. The global flood is certainly the most obvious case. There would be evidence in the stratigraphic record is any such thing had happened, and yet there is none.

You will note that this says the scoffers are assuming young-earth creationism. If you pay attention to science, things aren’t continuing as they were from the beginning. There have been massive changes over billons of years. This is all couched in terms acceptable to people 2000 years ago. That doesn’t mean you have to believe it’s true. That certainly isn’t the point of the passage.

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I’m missing the 100 historical events as the article referred to about half a dozen. Am I missing something? I see that they have admixture events, but maybe I missed how they connect them to history in a table or something.

I was quite underwhelmed with the article… As after I watched Jeanson’s presentation I could see Genesis 10 taking shape in the tree the way he had it reoriented, especially comparing it to Josephus’ notes on the locations of those tribes. And after realizing that we have all of human history recorded in archaeology or written records, I wondered how easy it would be to look for historical evidence of Genesis 10. I found it’s really easy to see the names of these nations still in geography today. And it’s not hard to see the culture the first centuries after the flood so obvious in ziggarats and cuneiform and astronomical sites around the world. When he’s dating to within a hundred years, several centuries of uncertainty in the article here is :confused:

It seemed pretty obvious to me that if he had another 1000 men from all parts of the globe you’d see every major event and migration in the last 4000 years.

The archaeological evidence for human existence goes back well over 100,000 years, much earlier than the roughly 5000 year old written historical record.

If you’re really interested in what the DNA evidence shows about historical human migrations here’s an excellent 2019 book by geneticist David Reich.

Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past


@thoughtful Valerie, I have a lot of interest in your posts because they are so similar to my own “creation science” YEC background in the 1960’s and 1970’s, rooted both in my church and being heavily influenced by a first edition copy of The Genesis Flood (1962, Henry Morris & John Whitcomb Jr.) in 1964. I knew Dr. Whitcomb both as a popular preacher and seminary professor and eventually got to know him through a mutual friend and academic colleague years later. So for many years I was about as YEC as they come and knew all of the traditional arguments. I even participated in a number of debates defending many of the same ideas which AIG promotes today.

My responses to various of your interesting statements are certainly tangential to this thread—but I’m going to leave it to some other moderator to decide if/how/when this and perhaps some other posts should be moved to their own new thread topic.

My first thought is Jesus healing the blind man in two stages in Mark 8:22–26. That was certainly not an “instantaneous” miracle.

“Literally” can cover a range on a spectrum. I’ll not dissect that subtopic here but we should at least keep in mind that what Jesus’ followers happened to believe about Genesis 1 hermeneutics [as in school of interpretation] is not necessarily helpful to our understanding of it. Also, I would add that the Semitic culture of Moses’ day (for example) and the Semitic culture of first-century Palestine had very different assumptions about the importance of chronology versus what we take for granted today. Once I had a chance to study Hebrew under a Jewish rabbinical scholar as an undergrad, I started questioned my own heavily anachronistic interpretative “spin” on Genesis 1 chronology which I had inherited from my fundamentalist roots. [And, just for clarification, I’m still a born-again, Bible-affirming Christ-follower, so I’m not rejecting everything about my fundamentalist background at all. It’s just that I now have a much better sense of the differences between my fundamentalist traditions and what the Bible actually states in the original languages of scripture and in the contexts of the relevant cultures.]

Yes, and that is why I would say that expecting the miracle of the Creation to be “instantaneous” because the miracles of Jesus were instantaneous does not jibe with me. Apples and oranges. As you stated, Jesus did particular things in particular miraculous ways in order to show who he was and to underscore his message to the observers present. There were no similar observers for the events in Genesis 1.

OK. I understand. Yet I would say that God has clearly revealed in his creation what he did “in the beginning” and today we can observe that record in his creation. Scripture is not God’s only revelation. God has also declared many truths in the world he created. Indeed, the history of that world is “readable” very clearly throughout our planet and the universe in general. People like Ken Ham to try to denigrate “fallible man’s science” in an illogical contrast with the popular fundamentalist traditions of equally fallible men.

[[That is, theologians and Christian thinkers are just as subject to errors of scripture interpretation as scientists are subject to errors in weighing the evidence found in the earth. I’m resisting the temptation to comparing and contrasting the best and worst of peer-reviewed scholarship that I personally witnessed in an academic career which took me both into secular university science departments and evangelical theology departments. Each have their foibles. Long story. But I will certainly say that Ham is wrong to think that theologians somehow are infallible and scientists are just sinful deniers of the “truths” which in some cases are just his favorite man-made traditions.]]

As for me, I’m just as keenly interested and thankful for what God has revealed in his universe as I am in what God has revealed in the Biblical texts. So I reject unnecessary false dichotomies which assume the two somehow inherently at war with one another. (And if what I see in scripture appears to conflict with what I observe in God’s creation, I dig deeper into each. I don’t simply assume that one or the other is wrong. I usually find that it is limitations in human knowledge and methodologies which creates tensions which are not always valid.)

Are you aware of the Days of Proclamation view of Genesis 1? Briefly stated, it regards each YOM (usually translated “day”) as an event in God’s creative commands. Indeed, many of that position would say that each of God’s six creative events or stages was both “in the beginning” and instantaneous in the “pronouncement” of his will but were fulfilled over vast periods of time. (Seeing how God exists outside of the time he created, that seems quite plausible for a human author to frame the message as found in Genesis 1.) This Days of Proclamation view solves all sorts of obvious chronological problems which blight the traditional six 24-hour creative day view—a set of traditions which doesn’t not pass “the smell test”, in my opinion.

Yes, there are many in the Bible. However, I also emphasize that miracles are actually quite rare in the timeline of Bible history, most of which consists of years and even centuries of God not appearing to intervene and/or bring about miracles at all. For example, there is a “cluster” of miracles under Moses at the time of the Exodus and a few more under Joshua and the conquest of Canaan. Then, not until Elijah and Elisha do we see notable clusters. Jesus performed miracles for about three years of his lifetime. We see a few miracles in the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles and that’s it. Indeed, we can read a great many books of the Bible where no cluster of miracles (or even a single miracle) is recorded. I’m sure you know all of this but I just like to include this foundation in our discussion.

As I studied Biblical Hebrew, I realized that there is no “global” flood described in the Bible. Indeed, in the ancient world (and even in our world until very recent centuries) there was relatively little thought by the average person of “planet earth” instead of just the earth/ground/soil everybody stands upon. The Hebrew word ERETZ is best translated land or country, not “planet earth”. I often challenge my friends and colleagues to cite a Biblical text which unambiguously refers to the globe we call our planet. And as Hugh Ross likes to say, the Noahic Flood of the Bible is described as world-wide but not global. The land/world which Noah knew was described as flooded----and “everything under the sky.” Yes, the entire circle of the earth (everything Noah saw to the horizon) was flooded. [The phrase “the circle of the earth” is a typical English rendering of the Hebrew phrase which refers to the disk of land we all see when we go to a rural area and look around us a full 360 degrees.]

That’s actually one of my favorite passages for emphasizing that Noah’s Flood was not global. It carefully contrasts the Greek words GE and KOSMOS to distinguish the “world of rocks and continents” with “the world of people.” Indeed, if Young Earth Creationists believe Noah was just a few generations descended from Adam and Eve, it shouldn’t be hard to fathom that a regional flood would destroy all Imago Dei descendants of Adam. (After all, the Tower of Babel passage reminds us that even after Noah humans were still resistant to disbursing. They congregated.)

I’ve discussed the exegesis of 2Peter 3:1-7 in great detail on past Peaceful Science threads. If you are interested, I may be able to find them through the PS search function.

I’m in and out today but hope to address any questions you may have when I get the opportunity. You are pursing an interesting path of discovery and I think much of it is very familiar to me.