Reworking the Science of Adam

Originally published at:

This last year, 2017 till now, we have been reworking the science of Adam. This brings us several new ways to think about Adam and Eve in human origins. This is significant in the conversation between science and the Christian faith, as two fairly large scientific errors have been corrected. In all these cases, it…

It says well what it says. I do wonder why, when you ran down the scenarios at the end, you left off one that fits well with GA and the observed mutation rates, and GA? That is, humanity was created as a “host” (Gen. 2:1) over 50,000 but less than 250,000 years ago by a process we can leave for later debate while Adam was specially created from 6K-14K years ago and has been mingled with the rest of his race since then. Depending on how you modeled it, it could fit observed rates 1X. Even with older samples which I think are going to hose the models because they are going to show a lot of diversity early (because the host was created with some diversity to begin with, not like a single couple).

I also wonder why you are continuing to bring in the “humans and apes share common ancestry” thing when it is going to buy you so much trouble and does not seem to be necessary to demonstrate what you are trying to show by comparing various human populations. I mean, you don’t owe me or anyone else an explanation, but I for one am curious about what could be a serious breach of “the main thing” principle (the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing).

It is an honest account of the data.

Even though it is difficult for some people to see evidence for common ancestry, it also build trust with those who know that is what the evidence shows. In the end, it’s the plain reading of genomes. I want to be honest about that with the Church. I’m not trying to squeeze theology into the scientific account, but rather trying to give an accurate account of the science.

Also, my point is more subtle. I’m saying that it looks like we share common ancestry, not that we actually do. Taking into account God’s action we cannot be sure.

I did include that here:

A genealogical Adam and Eve, ancestors of us all, is possible as recently as 10 kya in the Middle East.

The overlay of mankind being created sometime before is not as centered on the science of Adam, per se. As we consider theological scenarios in the coming months, that will be addressed head on.

For 1400 years an honest account of the data was that the sun and the planets orbited around the earth. There is a lot about genetics that we still don’t know. Lots of things are honest accounts of the data without being necessary to what is ostensibly the main idea you are trying to express. Knowing what I do about human nature, my estimate is that you still won’t impress the people you are aiming for, and will get tuned out on the other end of things by many who should listen. But I have been wrong before, plenty.

Ah, I am skipping ahead a bit, but its the part I am most interested in getting into. I already accept your conclusions as they apply to population genetics in humans.

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Hello Confessional Scientist,

This is a curious attempt at putting things together that on the surface do not seem to fit. If you would like to engage the multi-disciplinary topic of Adam, then let this non-scientist try to straighten a few things out, either with you or for you. Some questions follow. Are you up for it?

The science? Which one? The ‘the’ intentionally denotes a singular, right?

What makes ‘Adam & Eve’ a particularly scientific topic? Shall it be specified that we are speaking only about natural sciences? If you are restricting yourself primarily to your own field of study, then are suggesting that there is already a biological science of ‘Adam’ or that you are making a biological science of ‘Adam’? Did you not yourself first encounter the name ‘Adam’ in religious scriptures or religious context?

Or do you just mean ‘the science’ colloquially, as if, sure, Adam too could be dealt with scientifically, just as tying one’s shoes could by some people be considered a ‘science’ of some kind?

Another way to ask it: how much ‘science of Adam’ is out there to deal with? Is there any?

Nice to see that you are aiming to speak beyond narrow sectarian views of Adam and Eve using multiple competing hypotheses in this conversation.

aunty evology


Thanks for joining us @auntyevology.

Sounds good. I’m up for it.

Mainstream science. Not creation science or Intelligent Design.

It is for two reasons. First, from wikipedia:

There is no physical evidence that Adam and Eve ever literally existed, and their literal existence is incompatible with human evolutionary genetics.
Adam and Eve - Wikipedia

Even though this perception is common, it is false. It also appears in the peer-reviewed scientific literature (e.g. Ayala 1996). Because of this perception, this normally theological question is relevant to science.

Second, “Adam” and “Eve” are commonly used in the scientific literature as synonyms for universal ancestry (e.g. Y-Chromosomal Adam). The term, therefore, is important in scientific discourse. It is a reference to the science of ancestry.

No, we are not talking only about science. We are talking about the interaction between genetic science and Christian theology and hermeneutics.

I am not. I am in collaboration with theologians too, and also beginning to publish in theological journals too. This is about the dialogue between my field, science, and others.

There is already a way of looking at Adam and Even in science. This view needs some correction, because it is not correct. Errors were made in our understanding of how the scientific evidence constraints our theology of Adam. Those errors needs to be corrected.

I’ve encountered it in religious contexts.
I’ve encountered in scientific contexts.

No, I am referring to mainstream science, as is taught at my secular university. This includes evolutionary science and population genetics, broadly speaking, but also demographic inference, archeology, and anthropology.

There is quite a bit. As an example of some of this science in need of correction, I’d point you to Adam and the Genome:

That is the goal. I am not advocating for a single view as much as trying to give an accurate account of science for Church. I expect there will remain different views of human origins. Trusted voice on what the evidence is really showing us, however, are on short supply. I am doing what I can to serve the Church here.

So, how did I do with your questions? =)


I don’t see any reason why you can’t say that a genealogical Adam & Eve, specially created and introduced to a larger pre-Adamite population 6000 years ago [[ way sooner than 10,000 ]] could have become Universal Genealogical Ancestors to all humanity by the year 1 BCE!

If you keep saying 10,000, you aren’t really getting the mileage from your model that you deserve - - it would be like putting your foot to the gas while the other foot is applied to the brakes at the same time. Creationists like that 6,000 year number - - and the mathematics makes it quite achievable.

Can you explain your hesitation to go to 6,000 with the “universal genealogical ancestors” scenario?

@swamidass you mentioned the Adam and Eve workshop this summer? When and where again? Anywhere I can find the details?

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This summer, at the upcoming ASA conference, on Friday, July 27 from 2pm-5pm, It is in Boston, and you can get the details here:

Hope you can come, and please introduce yourself if you do.

Since you asked, answers to questions that you think you hear, but which were not actually written, like the following don’t help, when instead you could read carefully and answer straightly.

I asked:

Did you not yourself first encounter the name ‘Adam’ in religious scriptures or religious context?

You answered:

I’ve encountered it in religious contexts.
I’ve encountered in scientific contexts.

The question I asked was about your “first encounter” with ‘Adam.’ That is both clear and simple and remains unanswered. Not ‘have you?’ or ‘where (plural) have you?’ Are you claiming the first encounter of ‘Adam’ in your life came from both a scientific and religious context at the same time?!

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Feel free to clarify questions as you see fit. I’ll do my best to answer. Still not sure where you are going though, so it’s not clear what you are getting at with some questions.

I was raised a YEC by non-scientists, so of course I first encountered ‘Adam’ in stories from my parents, in sunday school, and the Bible.

Most of my scientific colleagues, however, were not raised this way and some of them first encountered ‘Adam’ in science.

I’m not sure what this is getting at though. I first encountered most things in a non-scientific context, and most these things are also the subject of scientific study at times.

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I’m more used to interrogation of this kind of intensity [as you have employed in your recent questions to @swamidass ] being reserved for suspected murderers. Maybe you could dial it down a little to just mildly tense?

I’m quite sure that @swamidass is not trying to deceive or trick you … and that he probably didn’t realize how important a specific answer would be to you … and even now I’m not quite sure where you are going with your discussion.

Take a few minutes to write what you think your discussion will show, based on what he says about his first experiences…

I’m sure it will better create the results you are hoping for.


Great. And I appreciate your efforts to answer the questions asked to you, not the ones you make up to ask yourself instead, so that we may have a more welcome conversation. Are we agreed?

Scholars should be careful in their communication. Poor communication practise is not charming, though not a few scientists fail badly as communicators.

“I first encountered ‘Adam’ in stories from my parents, in sunday school, and the Bible.”

Got it. So for you, ‘Adam’ comes from (originates in) the Bible and is part of religious teachings. Yes? If so, then we agree: Biblical Adam is a religious topic.

Next comes ‘secular science’ apologia that turns away to another conversation from the agreement above…

“Most of my scientific colleagues, however, were not raised this way and some of them first encountered ‘Adam’ in science.

While perhaps true that many scientists had never heard of Adam and Eve before becoming scientists (in their 20s or 30s), these are also still loose words, Joshua. Those ‘non-believer colleagues’ of yours might have encountered “Y-chromosomal Adam” IN SCIENCE, but not Biblical “Adam” in science. Can we pause to see if you agree with that?

Another question follows. Are you suggesting that there currently exists a field of study that is or should be called ‘the science of Biblical Adam’? The title of this thread is already strange and problematic in that it conflates when it need not and could improve if it were more careful.

Is that sarcastic? Or a bad attempt at a joke? I’m happy to answer reasonable questions, but I’m not submitting to an interrogation.

Note, I only expanded on the answer I already gave. No made up question was involved.

It’s not loose words at all. You understood exactly what I meant. One of the meanings of “Adam” is a “universal ancestor.”

No, I am not saying that at all. There is, however, evolutionary science, genetic science, and genealogical science. All three of which are in dialogue with theology of Adam.

It is a turn of a phrase. Seems like you know exactly what I mean, but are objecting to how I said it.

Perhaps this is more clear. We have made new progress in our understanding of how evolutionary science interacts with theology of Adam. Several scientific errors in our understanding of origins have lead to misunderstanding of what science does and does not say is possible. Correcting our understanding of the science of ancestry has value, both from a purely scientific and a theological point of view.

I’m sure you would agree there is no reason to cling to incorrect understandings of the scientific account.

Can you please get to your point? It sounds like you are trying to make a point, but won’t come out and say it. Instead, you are trying to pin me down with questions. Let’s try for a conversation instead. I want to understand you, but you are not understable right now.

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The reason I have specified that you answer the questions I ask, not the ones you make up for yourself is so that we have better communication. That’s exactly the point of the request. I cannot be held responsible for how you read questions. But when you answer the wrong question as you did above, I can politely ask that you answer the question I asked. That’s called being responsible, Joshua, and accountable for our words. I hope you count that as a Christian virtue on your seat in evangelical church.

"One of the meanings of “Adam” is a “universal ancestor.”

Yes, as found in religious scripture, not ‘ancient science’.

You are making my point for me Joshua and while doing so destroying any basis for you to claim there is a “science of Adam” that does not conflate 2 things: 1) Biblical Adam and 2) Y-chromosomal Adam. Why are you conflating 1) & 2) and then supposing you can insist you are not doing that?

There is no field of study called “the science of Biblical Adam.” Great. We are agreed about that.

And so instead of sensationally saying that you are “reworking the science of Adam,” what you’re doing should be careful not to conflate Biblical Adam with Y-chromosomal Adam.

“I’m sure you would agree there is no reason to cling to incorrect understandings of the scientific account.”

Yes, I agree with that. There are many scientific accounts, of course.

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Have you read much of my work? Any of it?

One of my first points in the PSCF article is that Y-Chromosome Adam could not possibly be the Adam of Scripture. I most certainly am not conflating them. Rather, in the post title, I am making a play on words, using both meanings (which are different) at once.

Well, we are reworking the science of Adam, and that is not a sensational statement. Have you had a chance to read any of my work or engage it more deeply that disputing the title of the post? If you do not like that title, what title would you use?

Were you able to follow the distinction I explained between genetic and genealogical ancestry?


The distinction between genetic and genealogical is the key to the whole topic.

All those years that science was presenting the limits of Y-Chromosomal Adam and Mitochondrial Eve, it was like the famous man looking for his wallet on the wrong street, because that is where the street lights were.

What seems to be full of potential is not who can be traced to the first man who had a certain “Y”, etc. …
but which mating pairs were alive 6000 years ago to be Universal Ancestors to everyone alive today.

There’s a whole field of study on lineage promulgation and extinction - - with the surprising fact that in 2,000 years or less, using very conservative assumptions, there will be multiple ancestral pairs whose lineage endures and becomes universal amongst all moderns alive today.

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Take me for what I am. There is no hostility to be read into my words.

Here are claims being made about a “science of Adam,” which if I were not a religious person, would make no sense to entertain.

Treat me like you would Jordan B. Peterson. I respond more calmly and rationally than you are imagining.

He wants a “science of Adam”. Well, at least Joshua is not claiming it’s time to change the calendar!


You should reflect on the tone that is embedded in your opening paragraph. Are you an English teacher perhaps? In just the few moments it took to read those lines, I suddenly felt transported to my third grade elementary class…