Purpose Nation: Fazale Rana (RTB) on Genealogical Adam

Brad Cooper (@purposenation, https://www.purposenation.org) runs a podcast at Purpose Nation. He recently featured Fazale Rana (colleague of @AJRoberts at Reasons to Believe) in a podcast, where he was asked about the Genealogical Adam. See the transcript here: Fazale “Fuz” Rana PhD - Podcast Transcript — Purpose Nation

@purposenation :
26:09 Well, sort of along those lines, and I don’t want to dive into too many controversies, but I do want to bring up one, which is sort of Adam and Eve…you wrote a whole book on it. There’s another Christian scientist, who I believe I’m going to have on the podcast here soon, Dr. Josh Swamidass, who has proposed is sort of an interesting model. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to see it, but it’s sort of, and it’s talking about Adam and Eve and how it still preserves maybe a 10,000 year biblically-mapped timeline for Adam and Eve in the garden. They are both the ancestors of all living people today. …

Dr. Rana:

27:16 Yeah. You know, you’re making a very good point, Brad. Things right now to me are probably more so in turmoil than any time that I, that I’ve been doing this in terms of how do we make sense of the idea of a historical Adam and Eve. And our contention is we do see some things that are rather provocative from molecular anthropology, namely this idea that there was a mitochondrial Eve and a Y-chromosome Adam, that we would argue could very well be the biblical Adam and biblical Eve. Yet within evolutionary context, the argument would be, well, while this concept of the mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam seems to be valid, you know, most evolutionary biologists would argue that the genetic variability of humanity is too great to have come from two individuals.

29:20 Now, Josh Swamidass… I’m not intimately familiar with his model, I’m generally familiar with the model. He’s an evolutionary creationist [@swamidass: I am not EC]. He argues that evolution is a fact in that humanity evolved, but what he argues is that even if there was a population, if you look at the genealogy of humanity, our genealogy will go back two individuals, just simply by necessity by the way genealogies work, to a pair that would have lived a few thousand years ago. And so he would actually argue that those people would be Adam and Eve, and so that Adam and Eve would be genealogical, not genetic. And I think what Josh is doing is very interesting. I think scientifically he’s correct that [genealogically] everybody would go back to a pair of people about several thousand years ago, but I’m uncomfortable calling that pair necessarily Adam and Eve. To me, I think it’s essentially an artifact of how you would construct genealogies. And so I actually prefer the mitochondrial Eve and Y Chromosomal Adam concept more so than the [Genealogical] Adam concept.

30:23 You know, part of Josh’s model requires that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are sequential. [@swamidass: This is not required] I view Genesis 1 and the sixth day of creation, as being amplified by Genesis 2. That is, Genesis 2 is an expansion of Genesis 1, it’s not sequential, but it’s an expansion of the Genesis 1 account with respect to the 6th day. Whereas, Josh would argue that it’s sequential where Genesis 1 is referring to all of these people and Genesis 2 is referring to the genealogical Adam and Eve. But, I am uncomfortable with Josh’s interpretation, because I think when you go elsewhere in scripture, for example, Mark 10:6, Jesus seems to be convolving Genesis 1 on the 6th day in Genesis 2 when he talks about the creation of the institution of marriage. You see that convolution in the Genesis 5 genealogies… in Psalm 8. So I think biblically, I’m probably more concerned with Josh’s model than I am scientifically, and I think it does create some theological issues that I think you don’t have when you appeal to a Mitochondrial Eve and a Y Chromosomal Adam as being the first persons…

31:37 Got it… and our audience is going, “Whoa…”

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I want thank Dr Rana for his kind words, but also clarify three things here.

I Am Not an Evolutionary Creationist

I am a Christian that affirms evolutionary science. Separating ways with with BioLogos, I am not aligned with Evolutionary Creation, which I find to be a limited theological position unacceptable to most of the Church, and insufficiently engaged with science.

As I wrote in November:

I still affirm evolutionary science, but I no longer am a theistic evolutionist . Since I first became public in my work, I have never been intent on evangelizing evolution. For this reason, I am not well defined as an “ evolutionist .” My worldview does not rest on evolution; it rests on Jesus, the one who rose from the dead. I am not well defined as a “ theist ” either, because I see great evil in this world justified by generic (and specific) theism; and I follow Jesus, who is much greater than theism.
The Confessing Scientist

Sequential Reading is One of Many Readings

We have put forward a new way to think about Adam and Eve alongside mainstream science, that makes a key distinction between genetic and genealogical ancestry (Story Three: Recent Sole-Genealogical Progenitor Adam). This is the Genealogical Adam, and it is creating a stir in many circles.

In this podcast, however, Dr. Rana’s objections center on the sequential reading of Genesis. A sequential reading of Genesis is merely one of many readings. A Genealogical Adam fits with all of them. I’m thankful to both @jack.collins and @deuteroKJ for helping clarify this with me. As I’ve explained elsewhere:

Y-Adam and Mito-Eve are Not a Bottleneck

Dr. Rana appeals to Y-Chromosome Adam (y-MRCA) and Mitochondrial Eve (m-MRCA) as where he places Adam and Eve. With all due respect, coalescence does not imply a bottleneck. See the figure below. We see y-MRCA (left panel, dark box) and m-MRCA (middle panel, dark circle) arise much more recently in the genealogy than Adam and Eve. If we arise genetically from a single couple (Story One: Ancient Sole-Genetic Progenitor Adam) or from a single couple followed by interbreeding (Story Two: Genetic-Interbreeding Adam, the current RTB model: Engaging the Zoo of RTB Models), it would be exceeding unlikely for Adam and Eve to be the y-MRCA and m-MRCA. The two concepts are only related in that we should think Adam and Eve are more ancient than Y-Chromosome Adam (y-MRCA) and Mitochondrial Eve (m-MRCA).

This is a common misinterpretation of genetic data being made here, that is not intrinsic to his model. For example, a recent science article (Did All Species Arise about 200,000 Years Ago?) created a great deal of controversy by mistakenly concluding that coalescence implied a bottleneck. It does not. Coalescence is expected in even a large population. I hope, for this reason, this error can be corrected at RTB.


Did you see this @Guy_Coe?

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@swamidass , please correct me if I’m wrong. You say, “With all due respect, coalescence does not imply a bottleneck.” Ok. Great. But, isn’t it true that if there was a genetic bottleneck you would also observe data that points to a coalescent signal? The two are not in contradiction to each other.


It turns out the answer is “no”.

First, keep in mind every part of our genome coalesces at a different time. First off we need to define coalescence using TMR4A for Autosomal, TMR3A for X, and TMR1A for mitochondria and Y. Because of recombination X Autosomal actually Correspondens to greater than tens of thousands of measurements.

What we know is that:

Time of Bottleneck > Maximum(Time to Coalescents)

Here, the “greater than” sign means “more ancient than”. There is a catch that helps you. Practically speaking we can’t directly measure Coalescence time, but have to estimate it based on mutational distance. For this reason we expect some of our estimated Coalescence times to be too high, in error. Therefore it is valid in this context to relax this constraint to:

Time of Bottleneck > Median(Time to Coalescents)

If the bottleneck is more ancient than this median time, we don’t expect to see any impact on the data. It could be there, but we dont know from genetic evidence.

No contradiction unless you want a bottleneck more recent than this bound.


25 posts were split to a new topic: Not an Evolutionary Creationist

Thanks for posting this @swamidass. If folks want to hear the interview (vs. just reading it), here’s the link (and would very much welcome the Peaceful Science folks to subscribe):

The parts where @swamidass is mentioned start at ~26 minutes into it.

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One thing I’ll say, in partial defense of Dr. Rana (I’m not a scientist, so cannot comment on the scientific issues), is that he seems to be pretty reasonable guy (a peaceful scientist) when it comes to being open to many potential sides to the issues.

After all, he did affirm evolution at first, but then later came to another viewpoint later on. And I have to also admire that in the 2015 update to his book, “Who Was Adam?” he and RTB were quite bold to say “we were wrong” on some of the conclusions they had reached in the original 2005 version of the book.

So, hopeful that @swamidass and the RTB team can meet up to go through these aspects together.

As Dr. Rana said in the interview, things have been in chaos on these issues the past decade or so. But I for one am thankful that @swamidass, Dr. Rana, @AJRoberts and many others on this forum come at these questions with a spirit of patience, gentleness and respect, just as we should in Christ’s family of believers.


I definitely agree with this. I have a very good relationship with RTB, including with Dr. Rana, @AJRoberts, and Dr. Ross. Dr. Rana did nothing in that interview that should be construed as close mindedness or misrepresenting me intentionally.

This is just a very complex area, and there are several proposals floating around right now, and we are finding ourselves in the center of it.

I hope so too.

This is very true, especially the last two years.


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