S. Joshua Swamidass: The Rejoinder for the Sapientia Symposium

Closing out the Sapientia Symposium on The Genealogical Adam and Eve, my rejoinder was published today. I respond in turn to all five respondents:

I thank Sapientia for inviting this exchange, along with the article three years ago that brought us here. I thank the respondents for reading my book and offering their thoughts. I wish there was more space and time to respond with even more detail. For now, the conversation must pause, but it will resume again soon.

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Very well done!

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What do you think worked about it @Dan_Eastwood?

6 posts were split to a new topic: Spier: A YEC’s Proposal for People Outside the Garden

Alright. I read it. Am now re-reading it.

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Ross’s arguments do seem to be important so I leave them out. Here are my comments on your answers to Nelson.

I am certain, however, that this is a misdiagnosis. I found space for a literal reading of Genesis, including the de novo creation of Adam and Eve. There was no need to challenge MN. If Nelson’s telling were correct, this should not be possible.

My response: Your complaint here against Nelson is weak. Nelson would not have missed this obvious fact. Nelson challenges MN as related to your study, and probably rightfully so, by your insistence that evolutionary origins – in every way, a “science-only” dialogue – be found alongside theological origins.

More to the point, MN is neither a premise nor a presupposition in my book. Most clearly demonstrating Nelson’s error, MN certainly does not influence the analysis as he supposes.

My response: I think you are missing his complaint. While MN may not come into play in mainstream science and while it may in fact to you be “unrecognizable”, it most certainly is germane to the conversation when one wants to impose evolutionary origins alongside a de novo creation of Adam and Eve! So, in reality, it was your mix of traditional theology and modern-day science that prompted the discussion of MN in the first place. Nelson was right to bring it up.

Supposedly because of MN, a genealogical Adam and Eve is undetectable to genetic science. However, undetectability is a finding that follows from understanding the limits of genetic evidence, not a starting presupposition .

My response: Here you are trying to move a theological A&E over to an exclusively genealogical A&E to help make your argument against MN. But this distinction completely fails given that we know no “Adam and Eve” outside of theology.

He quotes the “most telling sentence” in the book: “As a scientist in the Church and a Christian in science, I see firsthand the strength of evolutionary science. What version of theistic evolution could be theologically sound? ” Nelson truncates the quote; tellingly, he leaves out the next sentences:

This question, I hope, can be received with empathy by a new generation of theologians. Help us find a better way.

My response: But your inclusion of what Nelson omitted does not help reveal any weakness in Nelson’s argument that you have pre-defined all the rules of the dialogue. By making any discussion outside the bounds of “evolutionary science” and “theistic evolution” irrelevant to the game in play, you immediately exclude millions of Christians, and not just YEC, who simply do not want to participate in your game.

I don’t want to grandstand and GAE is obviously not meant for people like me or Ross or Nelson, so I already feel left out, unimportant. For that reason, I will wrap up my thoughts in the next post and go straight to what I feel Dr S’s true motivation is in his effort. And, no, it will not all be bad. I do have a positive comment to make.

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My first thoughts for what they are worth.

Under the heading “The Fractured Monologue” I can admit an appreciation for Dr S in his rift with BioLogos, he did take a risk and stand against the crowd.

The section “Ending the Challenge of Evolution” is by far Dr S’s strongest showing. I appreciate Dr S’s efforts against an ‘evolution-only’ interpretation of Adam and Eve.

Naturally, I am strongly opposed to how he ultimately resolves the issue – namely, placing A&E “alongside an evolutionary account of human origins.” This approach legitimizes evolution, and disdainfully does so in a theological setting.

My thoughts on Ross and Nelson are next.

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Why shouldn’t one legitimize evolution, assuming that it even needs legitimizing? And in what way is that disdainful?

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@r_speir thanks for your constructive responses. Looking forward to hear you unpack more. And I’m looking forward to @pnelson’s response too.

The GAE is meant for you. You are part of the conversation. Even if you disagree with it, it challenges some of your presupposition. It makes space for Scriptural Realists like you, which raises the question: why not take the Olive branch? I am eagerly waiting for you and others to explain you reticence.

If it can be consistent with Scriptural Realism, what exactly is the problem?

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Good news. I did not capitulate to anything except Man’s word. I just trust God’s word more. A lot of YECs I’ve talked to appreciate the GAE for just this reason.

At some point, we can lay down the anti-evolution idols and follow Him.

Very briefly, you say exactly what you need to say and no more.

Evolutionary science presses on Scripture in a very limited way, merely indicating there were people outside the Garden. A historical reading of Genesis, taken very literally, can be consistent with evolutionary science.

AND …

My goal in The Genealogical Adam and Eve was a better conversation, and it is beginning to emerge.

as we see here and now.

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Quoting from Swamidass:

“As a scientist, I confirm that the scientific evidence appears to indicate we share common ancestors with the great apes. Even if it is ultimately false, common descent is the plain reading of genomes. The church must somehow reckon with this reality of the world that God created.”

My response: And herein lies the real motivation for Dr S’s work in GAE. For him personally there came a time when he felt he could no longer hold on to a plain reading of the Genesis creation text, and he simply let go.

But his enthusiasm was surely premature. What we know is that so little of the genome has been mapped. As more information emerges – e.g., the Y chromosome controversy – humans and chimps exhibit less and less similarity.

Swamidass must sweep aside good observations like this study:

Who is going to answer these kinds of objections and stop the premature rush toward common descent?

And then what of the “unknowns”? For instance, this study is touted as a distant branching of humans and great apes

…but it is unable to tell us with any certainty “who came first”. What if the Human Kind was first and it better describes the branching off of a sub-human species that had lost the image of God? That would mean that God never created the great apes!

Is that thought too wild for the average Christian? Well, consider another “unknown”. Perhaps the only reason humans and chimps seem to have mutated with “similar dissimilarity” is because, both being very separate creations of God, we still do share common homologous features/structures, shared emotions and drives - sensual, dominance, aggression, passion, compassion. Societal pressures relating to family and groups, child bearing/nurturing and a long list that I have not included. This might tend to give our genomes a “false positive” regarding common ancestry.

Having already capitulated on a plain reading of the Genesis creation, Swamidass seems to challenge us to follow suit, “The church must somehow reckon with this reality of the world that God created,” almost as if to say we have no choice in the matter.

Well, gird up fair Christian! The fight is far from over.

This is totally and unequivocally false. The GAE shows that plain reading of Scripture is not in conflict with evolutionary science. Please do not make things up about me.

This is not a “study.” I didn’t sweep it aside, and in fact it was responded to by me, and by even an ID supporter who found it to be absurd:

https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/in-defense-of-swamidass/

Well, apparently we already did answer these objections. They were so absurd that an ID supporter decided to defend me.

Fight on if you wish. But it isn’t necessary and I’m not participating.

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Dr S, don’t you see? That was exactly the response from Paul Nelson to you. When you draw the lines so sharply, we cannot play in your game.

Then when I turn around and redraw the lines sharply in our favor, you can’t play.

I’ll bite. What is “the Y chromosome controversy”?

Short answer: those objections are nonsensical. Cornelius Hunter is massively ignorant of biology, as are you.

No it isn’t. You seem to have completely misunderstood the point of the article, which is about the distribution of types of site differences matching the distribution of types of mutations, as would be expected under common descent but not under separate creation.

That just kicks the can down the road. If all great apes are descended from humans, what about all primates? All mammals? It’s phylogeny all the way down. You will end up with humans being ancestral to all life if you go down that path.

It would not. None of that has anything to do with mutation or with the bulk of the genome.

Well of course you have a choice. You can deal with reality or you can hide from it. Still, the latter choice seems unhealthy.

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I’m saying unwilling to fight with you.

I’d love to have a conversation with you. Are you really saying that you are unwilling to do anything but fight with me? Are you really saying that you can’t consider what it would mean if common descent were true without turning this into an argument about whether or not it is true?

Note that I’ve already responded ad nauseam to why I affirm common descent. So I’m not dodging that conversation. I’m just interested in other conversations too. Why not participate?

You know full well.

Seems pretty knowledgeable to me. Torley did not have a good rebuttal one. He complained a lot.

I understand the article just fine thank you.

Whew, you do take things to the nth degree when someone makes a good point, don’t you. I would never have humans ancestral to all life and you know it.

Oh so wrong. Commonness among us, might actually have everything to do with why the study looks like it does.

You aren’t qualified to assess and you aren’t even trying. What you can know for sure is that I didn’t ignore this criticism like you first claimed. That was a false claim.

I truly have no idea what you are talking about. Please explain.

That’s because you are also massively ignorant of biology.

Then why did you grossly misstate its point?

Then where would you stop, and why?

I do not understand what you were trying to say there. The study that you claim to have understood is talking about the differences between species, not similarity.

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I am not above an apology. I was wrong about saying that so I am sorry.

(Still think Hunter has a good paper, and yes I understand it. Torley remarks truly seem to be mere complaints without much substance. I can understand that too.)