My Amazon UK review of GAE

It looks as if IVP have finally sorted out their supply lines in the UK, but there were no home-grown reviews of Josh’s book on the website yet. So I’ve done one, currently going through their moderation process:

First, a declaration of interest. I have collaborated over several years with the author, Dr Swamidass, on the genealogical Adam and Eve idea, and so made some small contribution to the book,as well as writing my own, The Generations of Heaven and Earth. But a review for readers in the UK is called for, because the widespread interest in America is, I find, not yet evident amongst theologians, scientists and lay people here. I hope this book will change that.

The Genealogical Adam and Eve presents the science of what is at heart a very simple idea, which nevertheless overturns the longstanding impression that an historical Adam and Eve are incompatible with science. The truth is, as Dr Swamidass explains at length, that a couple living at the kind of historal period indicated by the Bible, perhaps six or seven thousand years ago, would almost certainly be universal ancestors of everyone living today, and even in the first century, when the New Testament was written. All the traditional doctrines based on the existence of Adam and Eve may therefore be affirmed without challenge from mainstream science, including (but not entailing) evolutionary theory.

The one condition of this is that there were also, as the historical sciences indicate, other people living outside the garden, with whom Adam’s line intermarried. But as Swamidass goes on to show, nothing in the biblical text actualy precludes this, and old chestnuts such as the identity of Cain’s wife reinforce the possibility.

Adam and Eve would, according to well-grounded population genetics science, be in each of our family trees, though we would also have many other universal ancestors. Adam would therefore be unique not in being simply our ancestor, but in his very special theological role.

Dr Swamidass, though by training a scientist, has a natural ability as a theologian (as well as networking widely with leading professional theologians in the preparation of this book). He fleshes out the scientific account with investigation of just what the Bible says about that special role, which includes, but is not restricted to, the origin of sin and the loss of immortality. Given that neither science, philosophy nor theology can give a clear definition of “human,” and that the Bible defines it in terms of descent from Adam, we could even say that the uniqueness of Adam makes him the sole progenitor of what is now the human race, genealogical head as well as “federal head.”

Reawakening the historical possibility of Adam and Eve 160 years after Darwin is enough of a game-changer to be worth the price of the book. But Swamidass is a peacemaker as much as he is a scholar. He has deliberately written The Genealogical Adam and Eve to make a new dialogue possible between Christians with varying theologies of Eden, between them and scientists, and even between Christians and atheists, a number of whom have endorsed its findings.

That makes it not only a good book, but potentially a great one for the progress of human affairs.