TGC Reviews the GAE

Seems like an interesting review from a YEC, and I hope it is the first of many exchanges.


What do you think @dga471 and @jongarvey?

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It’s a long review, and I had time only to skim it. And of course, I have a 300 page dog in the fight!

Just a few observations.

The stress he makes on your “agnosticism” on the positions you present misunderstand the scientific approach (but the misunderstanding is probably an inevitable outcome from that approach). Interesting to know how he would deal with my book, which commits to a particular position deliberately (who=ilst being open to others).

It’s scarcely fair to blame you for excluding those who reject people outside the garden in your inclusiveness, since that is the thesis itself.

Again, the accusation of flexibility in theology as opposed to firmness on evolutionary theory is fair enough in itself - except that in point of fact evolution is pretty irrelevant to the thesis. The people assumed to be outside the garden, within GAE, are simply there, and it is not primarily evolutionary science that says so, other than the conclusions from population genetics. Palaeontology would offer the same evidence if Louis Agassiz’s platonic forms theory were true. Archaeology, linguistics, ethnology and so on equally have no dependence on evolution in forming their views of the past.

Most of the other disagreements, as far as I could see, have to do with not fully engaging the arguments in GAE. In particular, he appears not to have taken on board the unavoidable question of what constitutes “human” - to say that Romans requires that all men are sinners in Adam may be true, but doesn’t address what constitutes “all men”.

Neanderthals clearly existed (without reference to evolutionary theory). Were they “men”? Were they “in Adam.” If so, how and why? If not, how and why? Did they get to be Neanderthals only after the garden? If so, how did they get that way, and why so long ago?


And also because I’m writing a book right now with WLC that doesn’t have people outside the garden :slight_smile: (at least not in the same way). He faults me for presenting a view consistent with mainstream science too, just have others faulted me for presenting a view consistent with a literal reading of Genesis. You can’t win for loosing!


Hans is giving a verbal response to the book at ASA, where I will be able to respond. Which parts of his review do you think would be worth him focusing on, so that I could respond to him in that context?

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Without reading the review in more depth, the things that struck me most were:

(a) the apparent suggestion that you are altering theology to suit a fixed science of evolution. As I suggested above, although your affirmation of evolution shows your “credentials” to the scientific community, it’s irrelevant to GAE as such: if it turned out that Genesis 1:26 were an act of special creation, GAE would still help account for present humanity and an historical Adam (and would be consistent with all the historical sciences that aren’t invested in evolution). It is history, not evolution, that requires people outside the garden.

(b) It seemed to me that most of his objections that GAE, in fact, already answers were based on his failing to grapple with the “definition of man” issue. This is where I’d be inclined to hold his feet to the fire, because everyone, including YECs like Todd Wood, somehow have to make decisions about the humanity of early hominids, and what it means. If Neanderthals and Denisovans made art of buried their dead, where do they stand as “humans”? And if they are “humans” in Romans 5 terms, Adam lived tens of millennia before Scripture says he did, or the Fall somehow changed them into Homo sapiens a few thousand years ago.

Maybe because of the tack my book takes, I think it’s important both for apologetic and theological reasons that theologians don’t treat the Bible as a self-contained alternative history of the world - “the Flannelgraph Bible.”

If the history of the Bible does not fit into the rest of history, then it isn’t history at all. It would be like saying that Jesus was really crucified and raised from the dead in Shangri La.


It is interesting that he finds my on ramps to no-Adam theologians to be so objectionable.

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Well, he hasn’t had them accusing him of racism like you have, has he?

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The review is ripe with some good “sound bites”:

Peaceable Science

“In sum, there’s a lot to learn from this book. Swamidass is a Christian who writes with verve and scientific authority. He knows his stuff. He’s helpful at explaining the esoteric mysteries of genetic science (much of which is left out of this review). As Augustine famously argued, Christians will be mocked if we don’t know what we’re talking about scientifically. Swamidass raises the level of our conversation.”

“His argument is also impressive as apologetics by showing how the idea of a single couple as the ancestors of all humanity isn’t so ridiculous after all. This book incarnates the theme of his blog (i.e., Peaceful Science). Swamidass is trying to foster peace between evolutionary science and Christianity, making space for difference and inviting others into charitable dialogue.”

“For reasons outlined above, I doubt that this book will convince readers who have exegetical and theological misgivings with mainstream evolution. Christian evolutionists, however, will want to raise three cheers to Swamidass. They can have Adam and Eve as well as evolution. They can have their cake and eat it too.”

The bold text in the last paragraph could be removed completely … but even with that sentence, in its own way, it is a pretty enthusiastic critique!

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That last quote is interesting because it essentializes what can’t be essentialized.

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No, it’s evolution and history. Depending on how old you allow Adam to be, and what you mean by “people”, history may not require people outside the garden. But evolution (i.e., the facts of earth history) requires that humans are related to chimpanzees and the rest of life. Thus an evolved population is necessary.

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Historically, we were wondering about people outside the garden before evolution was even proposed, so it really was something other than evolution driving this.

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Who is “we”? At any rate, that isn’t the history that @jongarvey is talking about.

9 posts were split to a new topic: R_speir and the People Outside the Garden

I think the review is pretty balanced, charitable, and fair-minded coming from a YEC. But Madueme is much more thoughtful and respectful of science than almost any other YEC author I’ve encountered.

Textual objections

Here is his first objection:

Nevertheless, the genealogical hypothesis itself is still dissonant with the biblical Adam and Eve. In that latter picture, Adam and Eve are genealogical ancestors of all human beings who have ever lived, not merely the ones alive today. This judgment has ample biblical witness, including Genesis 1–3, the biblical genealogies across the two Testaments (Gen. 1–11; Luke 3:23–38; see also 1 Chron. 1; Jude 14), Paul who believed Adam and Eve were exclusive progenitors of the human race (Rom. 5:12–21; 1 Cor. 15:21–22; Acts 17:26), and so on.

If this comment is meant to be a counterargument, it seems circular, given that the GAE hypothesis was constructed with these very biblical passages in mind (especially the last three), and you do discuss many of these passages for example in chapter 11, “Humans of the Text”. So here, Madueme is simply asserting what he is supposed to argue: that the “biblical Adam and Eve” is not the GAE but the sole-progenitor A&E (presumably). This is also an example of an unfortunately common argumentative tendency that is common in some evangelical literature: to respond to your opponent’s argument about X, immediately contrast it with the “biblical view of X” and cite some proof texts without going into in-depth exegesis. This paragraph also seems incongruous with the later parts of the review, where Madueme is clearly aware that you do talk about the difference between textual and biological humans. It almost seems inserted afterwards by the editor.

He doesn’t adequately address the significance of other pressing realities like the fall, original sin, salvation, and theodicy (while he does touch on some of these issues in chaps. 15 and 16, his discussion is too cursory and overvalues the contribution of his genealogical hypothesis).

Maybe true, but the point of the book is to open the conversation to theologians who have more knowledge and stake in particular models of original sin, salvation, and theodicy.

Next is what Madueme calls his “weightiest objection”:

This becomes evident in light of the analogy of Scripture. Swamidass repeatedly says things like: “Looking at Genesis alone, we cannot conclude that all people descend from Adam and Eve” (138, and passim ). My weightiest objection to this claim, and my main objection to the book as a whole, is that Swamidass is almost certainly wrong in canonical context. In brief, God’s creation of humanity in Genesis 1:26–28 ostensibly depicts Adam and Eve as the sole original pair, hence Eve’s designation as “the mother of all the living” (Gen. 3:20). In biblical discourse, men and women are “sons of Adam” (e.g., Ps. 11:4; 1 Kings 8:39), while “Adam” is often translated as the generic term for humanity (“sons of mankind”). However, that linguistic nuance—the same Hebrew word for Adam and humanity —itself reflects the biblical mindset that the human race derives from Adam the first man.

Against the backdrop of a global flood (2 Pet. 2:5; 3:5–6), Adam as father of humanity foreshadows Noah as the second Adam and father of post-flood humanity. In the New Testament, Luke’s genealogy extends all the way back to Adam (Luke 3:23–38), Jesus in his discussion of divorce mentions the creation of Adam and Eve and their union (Matt. 19:4–5), and Paul sees him as the font of humanity (Acts 17:26; see also 1 Tim. 2:11–14; 1 Cor. 11:8–9). Indeed, the biblical story of sin and redemption makes little sense without Adam as first human being (Rom. 5:12–21; 1 Cor. 15:21–22). The unity of the human race is rooted in him; although we sinned in the first Adam, God’s Son came down from heaven, in human flesh, as the last Adam—and therefore, astonishingly, Jesus is Savior of all people (John 4:42; 1 Tim. 4:10).

The interesting thing here is that none of Madueme’s interpretations of the biblical passages above box us into a sole original pair. At most, it forces us to give more unique metaphysical or spiritual significance to textual humanity and the descendants of Adam, so that the GAE Adam truly is the fount of humanity. Here maybe the Kenneth-Kemp model, where Adam is the first rational soul, might pass the test better. And I echo @jongarvey’s question: even if you reject GAE, you have to grapple with the question about the theological status of other hominids that we know existed from physical evidence. Unless you want to push Adam to be the father of all such hominids (like Gauger’s model of a 2 mya Adam), then some version of GAE just must be true. Apart from this, Madueme’s interpretations point to a sole progenitor AE only if you already assume that to be the “default option”, which is begging the question.

This is a more interesting objection:

In any case, the explicit passages of Scripture should guide our interpretation of less clear texts; they should delimit the significance of the alleged “clues” in early Genesis. The idea of people outside the garden is only plausible if one interprets Scripture atomistically, focusing on ambiguities in the text. Pressures from science prompt new interpretations gleaned from textual silences, interpretations that contradict what the text states explicitly elsewhere.

The idea that clearer parts of the Bible should guide the interpretation of less clear ones is a common and sound one, so let’s stick to it. Here Madueme’s point is that if we are reading Scripture only, without any reference to science, we would think that there were no POG. One could see this argument extended in favor of YEC in general: if we only read Scripture, we would never have thought that the Earth is billions of years old. (I wouldn’t be surprised if Madueme would approve of such an argument.)

I don’t remember if you addressed this hermeneutical/methodological issue at length in the book. Now, how much our theology should be informed by science is an enduring debate. But for now my comment is that most evangelical Christians don’t read the Bible completely divorced from modern science. I presume that Madueme accepts that the Earth is not flat and that it moves due to modern science, despite biblical passages which were traditionally invoked to support geocentrism. Overall, there is nothing in the Bible which directly contradicts the existence of POG, and some hints of support.

For example, while Genesis doesn’t tell us whom Cain married, Genesis 1–11 is a highly compressed, selective narrative that omits many other descendants of Adam and Eve. Cain would have married one of his sisters (and, presumably, incest had a different moral quality at this early stage of the human story). This traditional solution, whatever its defects, approaches Scripture as a unified, single-yet-polyphonic Word of God rather than conjuring up other non-Adamic humans, a move that negates explicit monogenetic texts. Scripture isn’t concerned with “biological humans of antiquity” (140) because that category itself is foreign to the redemptive-historical narrative and, indeed, is antithetical to its very structure.

Isn’t this one of the arguments for GAE? That Genesis 1-11 is a very highly compressed, selective narrative which is primarily for redemptive history, and so it’s unsurprising that POG are not mentioned? Again, most of the arguments here can be reinterpreted as support for GAE!

Second, evolutionary biology dictates the rules of engagement in The Genealogical Adam and Eve . Swamidass’s task is then to offer multiple interpretations of Adam and Scripture that don’t violate those rules. The asymmetry is telling—he’s confident about evolutionary science, meanwhile the relevant biblical texts have no fixed meaning. If Swamidass thinks that his many options are all equally defensible exegetically, then I disagree. Scripture is not so opaque.

Often I’ve been baffled why you are criticized so much for not committing to a single, narrowly defined personal position in the book or other places. I think this is one explanation: by keeping the science relatively fixed (i.e. only mainstream science and not creationist alternative theories) and allowing as many options for the exegesis and theology, you can draw a large range of Christian readers, but you also can give the impression of being too relativistic with regards to biblical interpretation. I’m not sure how to avoid this accusation as you are clearly speaking as a scientist in the book, not a theologian.

Now the section comparing your hypothesis of interbreeding with that of Bodie Hodge:

Whatever we might think of human beings interbreeding with fallen angels, it has a solid textual basis and presupposes all humans as descendants of Adam. Swamidass’s thesis about others outside the garden rests on a thin exegetical reed and presupposes that not all humans descend from Adam. Regardless of your convictions on origins, his equivalency move seems to be a big red herring.

It’s true that interbreeding outside the Garden other than with the Nephilim has no explicit textual basis, but the “equivalency move” does show that there is no theological objection against allowing the existence of interbreeding.

Comparing the theological foundations of science versus belief in Adam and Eve

He thinks that science’s exegesis of the physical data is better off without theological assumptions. I doubt that. Natural science is and always has been laden with theological assumptions—e.g., that scientific laws are uniform, that nature is intelligible, that we have the cognitive ability to make sense of it, and so on. Such tacit commitments are hard to account for outside Christian theology.

Yes, but the metaphysical and theological assumptions of science are philosophically very foundational and require no explicit reference to Scripture, unlike descent from Adam! There are many people who are atheists and accept the basic metaphysical assumptions of science based on pragmatism and/or common experience. There is almost no one who accepts the existence of a sole progenitor Adam and the Garden without getting the idea from Scripture. The theological assumptions we’re talking about are very different here, and Madueme surely knows this. This is also why greater consensus exists in natural science compared to social sciences and humanities (including theology). Natural science is based on very few philosophical assumptions but with much use of basic empirical data, which anyone can access with their own senses.

This commitment to methodological naturalism lies behind the fifth proposition, “No additional miracles allowed” (26), which leaves one wondering why he even allows one miracle—and if you allow for one, why stop there?

This is a common YEC argument, which does deserve a substantial response. (I don’t remember if it is addressed at length in the book.) The problem with allowing an uncontrolled number of miracles is that they easily become a means to cover empirical holes and internal inconsistencies in one’s theories. See, for example, the concession of the YEC RATE project that if radioactivity was much higher in the past, that would generate large amounts of heat that would make it impossible for life to develop. Of course, if the heat miraculously disappeared, then that would also solve the problem. In short, if we allow miracles to proliferate uncontrollably, instead of testifying to the power of God, they only reflect our human intellectual shortcomings that obscure the beautiful rational order of God’s creation.

That interpretative stance denies any people outside the garden, given texts like Genesis 2:18 and the logic of the traditional understanding of the biblical story, a logic in which a sole original couple and their de novo creation go hand in hand.

Let’s take the reference to Genesis 2:18 there. "Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” There is nothing here that rules out people outside the Garden. There are plenty of animals on Earth at this time, yet man is still said to be alone because none are fit to help him. Similarly, there could be plenty of hominids outside the Garden, but none are fit to accompany him as being special representatives of God.

Creeds, Adam and Orthodoxy

Second, there’s an obvious reason most creeds make little of Adam. All Christians assumed Adam was the first human being, as real and historical as they come. No one questioned those beliefs. A belief so universal that it never came under attack and didn’t need creedal defense is more secure than one virtually absent from the early Christian communities. Creeds were fashioned in response to doctrinal aberration—had Isaac La Peyrère’s views appeared in the fifth century, Adam would doubtless have loomed large in the creeds.

First, I’m baffled why Madueme seems to focus a lot on your appeal to historical creeds regarding the matter of Adam. Reading chapter 12, it seems that you only mention creeds once, almost passingly (p. 157). Maybe the discussion of tradition in the book can be expanded, but I find it odd that he focuses a lot on your comments of mythical views. The whole premise of the GAE project that a historical Adam and Eve are important and part of Christian tradition, and that is clearly conveyed in chapter 12.

Secondly, one can’t argue what existing creeds actually say and mean on the basis of speculating what they could have said if history developed differently. For example, debate about justification arose mostly in the Reformation era, and it is naturally also not addressed directly by the ecumenical creeds before AD 1000. Yet, most Protestants would not put belief in justification by faith as central as belief in the Trinity (which is attested to directly by the creeds).

I’m also interested in whether anyone has done a historical study on how Gentile converts to Christianity just accepted the Genesis narrative of Adam without question. Did all pagan cultures believe that there was an original pair?

Third, creeds don’t work the way Swamidass thinks they do. That an ancient creed doesn’t mention a specific belief (e.g., a historical Adam) doesn’t imply said belief is peripheral to faith. Consider that none of the ecumenical creeds mentions the doctrine of infallibility that is so central to Swamidass’s understanding of tradition (157). Does that mean infallibility is superfluous to Christianity? Of course not.

But belief in infallibility and inerrancy is certainly not as central to Christianity as belief in Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus’ divinity and the Trinity, for example. For example, Lydia McGrew doesn’t accept inerrancy of the Bible. But I don’t think even Madueme would put her in the same category as a JW who rejects the Trinity.

Summing up

To summarize, I think the most interesting points that Madueme raised are as follows:

  • Maybe there could be more extended analysis of certain Scriptural passages with regards to differentiating GAE vs. sole progenitor AE. I think Genesis 3:20 (Eve as the mother of the living) is one candidate. If becoming a universal genealogical ancestor is something biologically and genealogically unremarkable, then why did Adam (or the author of Genesis) felt important to point out the origin of Eve’s name, given that there are many people outside the Garden who are also universal ancestors of the same set of people as A&E’s descendants?
  • I think it’s obvious why you restrict the number of miracles in the GAE hypothesis, but maybe that needs to be explicitly defended to a YEC audience.
  • Hermeneutics. Are we OK believing in POG on the basis of scientific evidence even though they’re not explicitly in the text of Scripture? How does that interact with not just infallibility/inerrancy, but also perspicuity and clarity of Scripture? This issue could be explored further.

Sorry to hear the TGC review was not more favorable. Hopefully more people will become more open to the theory, as many objections seem to be due to biases from how people are used to thinking about scriptures (either on the very figurative, or completely literal ends of the spectrum) before they knew this option might be viable. I’ve also seen objections come from people with preconceived ideas they have about the theory, without reading the book and engaging with it.

Here were a couple quotes from Hans Madueme’s TGC review with praise for the usefulness of Joshua Swamidass’ book:

"In sum, there’s a lot to learn from this book. Swamidass is a Christian who writes with verve and scientific authority. He knows his stuff. He’s helpful at explaining the esoteric mysteries of genetic science (much of which is left out of this review). As Augustine famously argued, Christians will be mocked if we don’t know what we’re talking about scientifically. Swamidass raises the level of our conversation.

His argument is also impressive as apologetics by showing how the idea of a single couple as the ancestors of all humanity isn’t so ridiculous after all. "

" Swamidass wrote the book for three distinct groups: secular scientists who want to understand religious people, evolutionary creationists who have abandoned a traditional Adam and Eve, and traditional Christians who reject evolution out of allegiance to Scripture. The book is admirably interdisciplinary, bringing science into dialogue with exegesis, theology, church history, philosophy, and more. That kind of ambition is risky, but we need more scholars like Swamidass who think big and bring together different fields of discourse.

The Genealogical Adam and Eve joins a long line of efforts to reconcile evolution and faith; it makes a substantive contribution to the dialogue, especially in alerting us to the genealogical versus genetic distinction. That insight alone is worth the price of the book."


I’m not too worried about it. I think @jongarvey is right. He hasn’t taken on some key points yet. It is also good publicity.

@dga471 is working on a response to Hans now to publish on the blog.

Looking forward to reading @dga471’s response!

Yes, that was the one scripture quote that could be challenging to a genealogical rather than sole progenitor interpretation. Would it help to consider the context of this verse, in which Adam named Eve? The naming comes after the curse saying the woman would bear children.

  • However, they were still in the Garden and so had not yet interacted with (and thus perhaps did not yet know about) the people outside the garden.

  • Or could the meaning of “living” in that verse have to do with spiritual in addition to biological human life? Spiritual life and ability to have a personal relationship with God seemed to start with Adam and Eve.


That is pretty easy to resolve. Eve certainly is the mother of all humanity in the GAE if we use a textual definition of human: AE and their descendants.

Moreover, there are three important linguistic points(@AllenWitmerMiller):

  1. Whether or not there are people outside the garden, there are contextual bounds to the title. At that point in story, Eve is not mother of Adam and she is not mother of all the animals, even though they are all living.

  2. Whether or not there are people outside the Garden, the title must be being used anachronistically, because she is not mother of anyone when it is given to her. Therefore it must be understood as: Eve would become mother of all the living.

  3. Of course, Eve does become mother of all people across the globe.

Together, it becomes clear that this title can not possibly construed to rule out people outside the garden. It might be a good argument for universal descent from Eve at the time Genesis is written down, which would push more ancient the latest date allowable for Adam, but that seems somewhat of a concordist reasoning.

Regardless, if AE lived at 10 kya, then by 3 kya or so when Genesis is written, by then Eve actually is mother of all the living any ways.

So I can’t see how this is a remotely plausible objection.