Lents at USA Today: Scientific Possibility for 'Adam and Eve'

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Superb writing by @NLENTS. We can also praise USA Today for delivering these ideas to the general public.

It is thrilling to see what was once a relatively obscure speculation in scattered theological circles bolstered by today’s population genetics. The Genealogical Adam and Eve - InterVarsity Press is truly groundbreaking and has the potential to become a major apologetics milestone as well as a stellar example of genuinely peaceful science.

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@NLENTS encouraging tweet from Razib, right?

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I agree, that is quite good.

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Aww, thanks guys!

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4 posts were split to a new topic: Serpent Hate Mail

Great write-up @NLENTS! I’ll definitely be passing along to my colleagues.

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Great article @NLENTS

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I love the piece, and I found it crystal clear, speaking as an apostate devotee of scientism and someone who thinks Christian belief is ludicrous. In other words, I thought @NLENTS was praising the project and its potential benefits for humanity, without suggesting that the ideas themselves are worthy. To whatever extent this is a fair characterization of @NLENTS’ words, I heartily agree.

I do think that it’s a difficult choice for a humanist. The ideas themselves, that a discredited and unlikable deity did magic 10,000 years ago, so as to subject a couple of apes to a ridiculous test, are not, to me, even defensible. But the solution that @swamidass offers, if it takes (and I very much doubt that it will), could help society by partially detoxifying the belief system that he is trying to defend. That goal is a quintessentially humanist goal, and so those like me who see the awful toxicity of Christian teaching must decide whether partial detox (by suggesting overstated plausibility of ridiculous old myths) is a good choice. In my case, speaking only for myself, I think it’s worth a try.

I don’t know whether that’s an endorsement, but there it is.

But I have a quick question for @NLENTS. Some are saying publicly (at BioLogos forum) that you are taking a risk, in fact “a serious risk,” by writing this piece. Is that what you think? I am concerned about that kind of talk, but perhaps you have perceived or experienced actual risk in writing as you did.

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Yes this was and is a risk for me in terms of how I am viewed in the secular/atheist community. Most won’t care, some may see the value, others will be quite angry. I have already been in an email exchange with someone who plans to speak out against this and my role in it. Our exchange has been friendly, so I don’t think it will be too unkind, but it could hurt my reputation for sure. I weighed this possibility and decided the potential benefits to society outweighed the potential risks to me.

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Okay, that’s what I thought. It’s your choice to call this “a serious risk,” and to let Christian allies use that phrase in a way that sounds deceptively ominous IMO. (Maybe it’s just me, but the way it was portrayed on the Biologos forum was misleading in that it was suggested that you are taking a professional risk.) I am uncomfortable with that choice, but that’s just my opinion and perhaps it’s none of my business.

But I will say that as a board member and past president of a somewhat prominent humanist organization, your endorsement of @swamidass’ effort, and especially your clarity in how you did it, is not only consistent with humanist values, but nearly mandated by them. The challenge for me, as I already mentioned, is to find the balance between backing the effort and suggesting that the story of the fall, even nuanced with population genetics, is even worthy of consideration. I’m still working that through in my own head.

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Just depends on what kind of risks they’re talking about. My job is safe. The risk is to my reputation and standing. Can you link me to the threads you mean? I am off to coach soccer practice now, but I will look tomorrow.

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Well, FWIW, I just gave you an endorsement. :slight_smile: And my read of the “atheist community” is that is so dysfunctional that the value of “standing” within it is hard to gauge. But again, I’m in your corner on this one.

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That is a very fair point, though I don’t think that was @cwhenderson’s intention (or @nlents). I did get some private comments on this too. I have been clear that the risk is real, so might be a sense of caution, but I expect to see responses mainly like this:

Christians sometimes think (or, sadly, argue) that atheists, scientists, and atheists scientists are unfair and out to get them. That is not true, for the most part, even from critics. As more make their response to @Nlents known, it won’t matter so much the precise phrasing. It will be clear that this, from the beginning, was fear might be understandable in some ways, but it doesn’t have to match reality.

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Yes, it very well could be “just you”. Perhaps I should have fleshed it out more, but I did not state nor imply that @NLENTS was taking a professional risk. As a matter of point, I asked Nathan to review my full comment before I posted it. It was not “portrayed” in any way that was unfair.

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I think what is really going on is that atheists are so often vilified by christians that they might be sensitive to precise wording. @cwhenderson certainly wasn’t vilifying atheists, and he did clear it with @nlents. :slight_smile:

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Don’t worry about the angry ones. There are some who think this is a team sport where we need to defeat the other team. They forget that we are all on the same team, the human team. I think you put it perfectly:

That’s the best description of @swamidass work that I have seen. It shows that faith and mystery can live side by side with science. We don’t have to choose between the two.

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Thanks very much. I’m glad you “get it” also.

Funny thing… I also published an op-ed in Newsday this past Monday, essentially denouncing and decrying two new “at-home DIY rape kits” that might hit the market. The owner of one of the companies contacted me and now we’ve had a very friendly exchange and we’re going to meet to discuss this more. Is this becoming a pattern with me? :slight_smile:

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Perhaps we could pass a hat around and fly you to the middle East. :wink:

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I’ve always wanted to visit the Holy Land. (not The Castro, the other Holy Land)

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