Ken Keathley: Notes from Dabar and a Baptist's Hope

Ah - if we’re citing Baptist credentials, I’m an elder in one that dates from 1650. Though that may indicate something different in the UK than the US.


@kkeathley legitimizes this critique more than I have.

How do you all respond to the “ad hoc” critique? I know @jongarvey has some thoughts here. This, for example, is a favorite objection of a BioLogos moderator. I’ve heard similar objections fairly regularly from that camp.

The very real issue a sequential reading addresses is the “requirement” to posit an Adam and Eve so far back in history as to render the Genesis 5 genealogies as utterly mangled.
Josh speaks of the “cave art,” and all the distinctive cultural artifacts we’ve discovered, as forcing us into an unnecessary ad hoc conception, in order to save our favorite versions of the Biblical model.
I have no such tension, under a sequential reading.

1 Like

@rcohlers, when you do show up, I was hoping you could share why you are excited about this new angle. You were one of the first to pick up on the significance a genealogical Adam last summer. What do you find attractive about this way forward? And perhaps what you observed at Dabar?

Hi Jon, I enjoy reading your blog. Your question is spot on. If I understand correctly, most OEC proponents place Adam from 50K to 200K years ago. This approach affirms the humanity of those who left cave paintings and other artifacts, but creates the other challenges you mention. Joshua’s approach avoids those challenges, but faces the theological issue of those outside the Garden. This is why the discussion is so intense, and still ongoing.


Hello from the Faith and Science Collaborative Research Forum located at the University of Hong Kong. Since it is rather late here, I’ll keep this brief for the moment. What struck me as extremely important in @swamidass 's analysis both last summer and again at Dabar this year was primarily two things – let me call them patterns of correction – that seem to recur in the history of science and Christianity. The first is that a scientific discovery and its seeming implications are treated as settled science and demands are made for a radical departure from recognizable Christian theology. The second is the appearance of a more sober corrective that recognizes the legitimacy of the discovery, but clarifies the real implications and in so doing provides breathing room for real theological reflection, development, and genuine intellectual progress. This second pattern is what I see Joshua’s analysis contributing, what made it so significant then, and why it generated such energy and engagement at the Dabar conference.


Geez, it seems everyone in the theological world reads @jongarvey’s blog. Someone is going to have to grant him an honorary doctorate at some point.

So I want to push back on this and get your response @kkeathley. I see the situation differently. Also, to fix the discussion, I’m going to reference the current RTB model (Engaging the Zoo of RTB Models), which includes interbreeding between Sapiens (whom descend from Adam) Neanderthals, (whom do not descend from Adam).

First of all, let’s look at the similarities (that are relevant here).

  1. They BOTH affirm the “humanity of those who left cave paintings and other artifacts.”
  2. They BOTH assert there were “those outside the Garden.”
  3. They BOTH affirm sole-progenitorship in a genealogical sense.
  4. They BOTH agree we all include DNA that did not originate with Adam and Eve.
  5. NEITHER are sole-genetic progenitor models, because both include “those outside the Garden,” and we all have DNA from them in addition to DNA originating from Adam.

Then the differences,

  1. The RTB model gives up on the Biblical timeline, but a recent GA does not.
  2. The RTB model explains the interbreeding between Adam’s offspring and others as bestiality, but the GA sees interbreeding as originally intended by God.
  3. The RTB model has most of us with Adam and Eve’s DNA (because interbreeding was rare and they are ancient), but the GA has most of us without Adam and Eve’s DNA.

Of course there are more similarities and differences, but how exactly is GA facing any new challenges that aren’t already in the RTB model? It seems to me that it reduces the challenges all around, and deals with the issue of interbreeding head on, rather than as a footnote. The directness with the challenge of interbreeding, it seems to me, shouldn’t be seen as a disadvantage, but one of its merits.

The same question arises already in the RTB model, so it is not as if this is a trade off between the two approaches. Rather, it seems that this largely resolves several longstanding problems with the “antiquity of man,” but draws new emphases to the specific question of interbreeding with those outside the Garden, which has always been lurking in the shadows, but never taken a prominent role in conversations.

Do you agree with that @kkeathley, or am I missing something?

1 Like

Great to hear from you @rcohlers. Looking forward to our conversation on Divine Action next week too: Clinton Ohlers: Two Parables on Divine Action.

Thanks for joining this conversation too. I had two question for you.

First off, can you explain what you mean by “energy and engagement”? You were there, and so were @kkeathley and myself, but most those listening in were not. You’ve also been to Dabar three times now. What type of energy and engagement did you see? How would you explain it to someone who wasn’t there?

By last summer, you are referring to my Sapientia article. I still remember our exchange in the comments of that article.

So here comes my second question. You are a historian of intellectual thought (and I hope you meet @TWReynolds soon, an aspiring historian), and mention “patterns” in history. What are the historical analogues you are thinking of? On what topics did this happen before? How who were the key people who instigated the “second” approach of a more sober analysis in the past? What can we learn from them now?

I’m gonna ask you this again next week, so you might as well get to answering this one @rcohlers :smile:. And not to distract from @kkeathley, what are your thoughts here too?


Once again I’m flattered that you read my blog.

I don’t see quite how a 50-200K Adam solves the “non-gardener” problem: if you take the “Great Leap Forward” as signifying the point of Adam, then if you step back in time 1 year the leap hasn’t happened, and the tools you find are just that much less advanced. And all those non-Adams are still, presumably, in existence a year later - unless one postulates a mass-change, in which case it’s no longer a historical Adam scenario.


Can you define “others” here? It seems to me that there is a difference between what God allows and what God intends. Was the interbreeding you are referring to Neanderthals and Denisovans or to a human population outside the garden, or do yo see no difference? Yes, Neanderthal human hybrids were possible but there also seem to have been barriers to fertility. And of course by the time Adam and Eve came nature had mostly sorted that out. So I don’t think that believing that there was a pre-Adam human population in the world obligates one to accept the humanity of Neanderthals or Denisovans.

1 Like

Reproductively compatible beings with whom Adam’s offspring eventually interbreed.

Yes, that is a distinction between the RTB and a GA.

The RTB position seems self-contradictory, especially because they think Adam and Eve were specially created. If God had done that, there is every reason to believe he could have created them in such a way that they could not interbreed with Denisovans and Neanderthals. He did not. Why not? There is no really good reason for that, and it is going to come again soon elsewhere: A Science Fiction Riddle. The fact that the can interbreed (and the barriers to interbreeding are debatable regardless) seems like de facto evidence that God wanted them to interbreed. That leads to some deep incoherence in the RTB position.

@vjtorley somewhat avoids this problem by saying Adam and Eve were not specially created. So it is a hang over from common descent that allows them to interbreed. Still God could have made them infertile, but He didn’t. Why not? I’m not sure there is a good reason.

GA just goes the other direction, making a natural theology argument that if they can interbreed, then God originally intended it. That seems to be the most coherent theological position, at least to me.

Notice, all cases include interbreeding. In all cases, there are people outside the garden. We are just theologically thinking about it in different ways. And, I would add, GA is doing it head on, but RTB is treating it like a footnote. The fact that they don’t announce interbreeding up front does not some how reduce the significance of the fact that they include it in their model.

Hmmm…depends on what you mean by “shake out.” If you mean “for the representative factions to interact with it,” then probably over the next year or two.

1 Like

Thank you Guy! I enjoyed my time with RTB this January. They were wonderful hosts.

1 Like

Yes, to his credit, Fuz acknowledges this in the 2nd edition of his Who Was Adam book. If I understand him correctly, at this point he argues (tentatively) that if they interbred then this was indeed bestiality. If that is so, then that raises questions about “humans” and “nonhumans” having the ability to interbreed. I get your point that, if this is the case, then the RTB model also has the problem of non-adamic “others”.


Still curious your thoughts in this.

I think you’re referring to my observation that OEC and EC proponents have at great deal of agreement about Gen 1:1-25, or at least the areas of agreement far outweigh the disagreements. Both affirm creatio ex nihilo . Both affirm the remarkable evidences for fine tuning–at the cosmic level, the planetary level, and even the biological level. Both affirm the continuation of divine action in bringing all this about. We disagree about how some aspects of divine action and whether or not this action is detectable in natural history, but theological debates about the nature of divine action are nothing new. It’s beginning at Gen 1:26 (with the arrival of humans) through Gen 3:24 that we have our disagreements. Without minimizing those disagreements it’s helpful to remember our common affirmations.

So @kkeathley what advice do you have for us at Peaceful science in the coming season? How can we best serve the common good?

Motivations for placing Adam in such a distant past are scientific, not theological or textual. This desire is to place an original couple at the headwaters of the human race. As you indicate, Gen 4-5 don’t seem to be describing a world of 100K+ years ago. It seems to be presenting a scenario that fits better with 10K-15K years ago. One perhaps could argue that the texts possibly are deliberately anachronistic, and there are examples of deliberate anachronisms in other places in the OT. One advantage of the GA model is that it understands Adam to be in a neolithic setting.

1 Like

I think that is the key point. There were already “those outside the garden” so the idea of other Homo sapiens outside the garden is not so big a stretch. The amount of genetic diversity in humans, even neglecting the 1.5% other-hominid DNA that Eurasians typically have, may still be too great to be explained by a bottleneck of two persons in any reasonable time frame. We will see how further research on the “bottleneck of two (Sapiens)” goes.

If the outside-the-garden humans had evolved from a common ancestor with the other hominids it would explain why a de-novo Adam and Eve could interbreed with both- it would just be an artifact of the way that the initial human population came about. I suppose the question RTB should be asking is ‘are there any purely creationist scenarios where this would be an artifact of the way the original human population came about?’ I do have some speculations on this which I want to hold off on for now- if RTB ever agrees that this is the sort of question they should be asking

You say that the idea that there were barriers to fertility between humans and Neanderthals is “debatable”. I suppose anything is “debatable”, particularly around here, but I don’t see that as a debate you are going to win if Dr. Rana chooses to engage you on it. The same kind of evidence which shows the interbreeding occurred can be used to show that there were barriers to fertility. I strongly urge you to look into the details. The supposed absence of such barriers is not a position you should stake anything on IMHO.

Now if you make it about there were genetic contributions to Adam’s descendants from outside the garden I think your position is strong. If you make it about God’s intent for other hominids and humans to interbreed you are on much shakier ground, with one caveat: The universe itself seems designed to weed out the wicked and prefer those who behave. Scripture says that the land itself will “vomit out the inhabitants” that do very wickedly. Those who honor their fathers and mothers are promised many days on this earth, etc…

So I suppose God Himself is practicing “evolution” in a way. And perhaps one of those ways the least obedient among us were weeded out were these sorts of unions and the fertility problems entailed. I mean we don’t even know that Adam and Eve were directly fertile with Neanderthals and Denisovans, it may be that they were only fertile with humans who had a small proportion of such ancestry. I am starting to babble here, but I just urge you not to be led off on any side trails that are dead-ends.

@kkeathley, on another thread, an OEC just decided to call me a philosophical naturalist: Swamidass is Inescapably a Philosophical Naturalist. Why does this sort of thing happen? How are some good ways of defusing these sorts of misunderstandings?