The Cheese Stands Alone?

@Paul_Nelson If you don’t mind a single off-topic question, why “The Cheese Stands Alone.”??? We couldn’t figure that one out. :slight_smile:

Josh wanted me to reply to his Sapientia response to my review of GAE.

And I was struck by the fact that no one, including Josh, had said (in re the GAE scenario), this is what we think actually happened.

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I’ll post that soon. Btw, thanks for writing that article.

That isn’t true. @Pnelson. Seems that you missed @naclhv and @jongarvey. WLC takes a variant of this (with Adam and Eve as more ancient) so he counts too. What most everyone agrees now is that it could be true, which is my main point.

What’s more, wouldn’t this objection be levied at Plantinga for his free will defense? He doesn’t argue that Molinism is true, but that if it were true this would resolve the apparent conflict, so we can’t claim these things are conflict any more. Can you point to any one who dismissed his logic merely because he hadn’t committed to Molinism being true? There would not be good logic to this at all.

Of course, after the fact, many people have argued that molinism is in fact true (@tim1). The same pattern is playing out for the GAE.

And here you go: Nelson: On the Swamidass Hypothesis — The Cheese Stands Alone .

Hi Josh
You have make the claim that the GAE does not depend on common descent being true. How do you envision the model for someone who is skeptical of human/primate common descent?

I explain the book that those that reject CD can take this as a type of theological or science fiction. You don’t have to believe we all descend from Cylons to understand and make sense of the Battlestar Galactica series. You don’t have to believe we share common ancestry with the great apes to agree with the key points of the GAE.

Going further, to make a new model, you could just posit that God made the people outside the Garden by a process other than common descent. I don’t camp out on that idea, but I certainly explicitly address it in the first chapter. It would inherit some new scientific objections from OEC, but it would still be a GAE.

None of this is new here. All of this is stated in the book.

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I would conclude that this picture that @pnelson posted does not represent your position. The blue circle would also fit inside a circle labeled human special creation. The claim is compatible both with common descent and A and E being the first humans.

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I read your paper with interest yesterday and I - like you - am more wanting to know what Dr S “believes personally” - as a personal theological conviction - rather than a mere “what he thinks happened”.

Dr. S, is there an answer to Nelson’s and my query? Do you even really believe in a literal Adam and Eve - one Man and one Woman - or are you just using them as a theological convenience to try and bring some semblance of peace and unity in the Church?

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For several reasons, I’ve chosen not to disclose my persona beliefs on Adam and Eve.

  1. My point in the GAE does not make any appeals to personal religious belief.

  2. Some people (on all sides), want to use my personal beliefs as an ad hominem to reject what I’m saying. Imagine an evolutionist saying, “well he personally believes this hypothesis because he has a religious belief in Adam and Eve, so we dont’ have to listen tot what he is saying,” or “he personally doesn’t personally believe this hypothesis so we don’t have to take it seriously.” That’s all nonsense; 1+1=2, whatever I personally believe about 42.

  3. I think there are a large range of views that are consistent with Christian tradition, Scripture, and scientific evidence, and I don’t want to artificially restrict my voice by what personally might or might not make most sense to me.

  4. By not disclosing my own beliefs, it encourages others to take up variants of the GAE for themselves. I’m more interested in changing the paradigm than pressing a narrow view.

  5. I choose to confess that Jesus is Lord and that he rose from the dead, because he is greater than Adam and Eve, and I’d rather take professional risks for what I believe about Him than what I believe about them.

Those are all reasons I don’t disclose what I personally believe about Adam and Eve. Maybe if I get to know you better I will tell you one day. It is not relevant at this point in the conversation.


Maybe it is and maybe it’s not. Thinking…

Should we take your proposal seriously? Right now it seems like more of an academic exercise to get a grade of some kind. What kind of grade are you expecting from us?

It is not an academic exercise.

It is my civic practice of science. @r_speir my goal is to serve you with an honest account of science and what it means, without forcing my personal beliefs on you.

You should take it seriously because I’ve taken you seriously. I’ve taken personal and professional risks to bring this to you. I’ve certainly earned a hearing, even in your world, and I’m using that hearing to serve you and your concerns.

So take it seriously.


Don’t agree. How does GAE become a successful subset of human special creation? They war against one another. Nelson seems to have the diagram right.

Hmm. Or maybe your gloss has brought up a weakness of the model. The GAE fits inside a larger circle of “Established Scientific ‘Truth’ of Human and Great Ape Common Ancestry” but GAE could never fit inside a larger circle of “Human Special Creation”.

The model works with both cases. The case where Adam and Eve are the first humans does not need to be argued as by definition everyone is related to them. Josh has stated that he is not arguing this case under methodological naturalism. The case for humans outside the garden is still a valid point of discussion.

People tend to be uncomfortable with flexible models but given our current understanding of the details of biology it does make sense to be flexible at this point. I personally do not see a likely primate common ancestor to humans but I consider the issue still open.

That used to be true, but not any more. I showed how special creation of Adam and Eve and the common ancestry of humans with the great apes can both be true at the same time. We did not know this before, but we do now. They two ideas are not in conflict.


Calling the GAE an “academic exercise” is simply an admission of ignorance of what the argument is. At least that’s my opinion (I don’t speak for Joshua or anyone else). Here are my brief thoughts about the nature of the GAE argument.

Consider this fictional example.
J: I saw Matheson at church. This may mean that he is reconsidering Christianity.
P: That’s impossible.
J: Which part?
P: The part about Matheson reconsidering.
J: So you agree that I saw Matheson at church?
P: Doesn’t matter. Matheson can’t reconsider because of Hebrews 6.
J: [presents logical arguments about how Matheson could in fact reconsider]
P: Yeah but do you actually believe that Matheson is reconsidering?
J: It doesn’t matter what I believe. My point is that Matheson was at church, and it is possible that he is reconsidering. My argument establishes both.
P: Well, if you don’t come out and say whether you think Matheson is reconsidering, then I will type a lot of stuff but will claim that your argument doesn’t matter since you won’t tell us whether you believe it.

My understanding of the history of the GAE is that it cannot be separated from arguments about the possibility/plausibility of genetic ancestry through a single couple, arguments that are then used frequently to discount particular accounts of the origins of humanity in a religious context. The GAE argument is pretty straightforward and is clearly independent of what Joshua or anyone else actually believes about gods or haunted gardens. The argument is: common genealogical ancestry in humans is not only plausible, it is likely and this has been shown convincingly. Therefore recent common genealogical ancestry is possible, subject to other data (times of isolation of particular populations etc). The only question is whether genealogical ancestry, with its necessary condition of humans “outside the garden,” is a satisfactory solution to theological “problems.” What Joshua believes about A&E is beyond irrelevant: it is immaterial, and every time it comes up you should smell an especially fragrant red herring.


Part A

I think your argument fails because you have not established that a reconsideration of Christianity is even possible for Matheson. It may in fact be impossible though one could still think (wrongly so) that it was possible.

If truly impossible, then this part of your argument fails, no matter what the person speaking thinks:

“J: It doesn’t matter what I believe. My point is that Matheson was at church, and it is possible that he is reconsidering. My argument establishes both.”

False. It only establishes that you or Matheson or both, might “think” he is reconsidering when in reality a true reconsideration is impossible.

This same rationale may impinge on GAE. Part B next

This is laughably making my point about how the whole topic of what I or you or Joshua or the Morrigan believes… is utterly immaterial to the GAE or to any argument about anything empirical. To persist in the splattering of these red herrings is to insult the intelligence of anyone tragically still reading this thread.

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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.

Part B

The proper question may not be “Will it be ultimately false?”, but rather, is it even possible?

If science is honest it cannot even speak to the possibility of an idea like common descent. It can collect and codify information in such a way that it “appears” to be possible, when in reality it may be impossible nonetheless. You may think I am addressing the missing mechanism of abiogenesis but I am not. Even if that mechanism were in place, ucd and common descent may still be impossible.

One has yet to establish that common descent of modern humans from the great apes even works. You think it does and most of you are convinced it does. But that only moves you, it does not move an impossibility into the realm of the possible.

If common descent is not possible, GAE doesn’t even get started.

@r_speir, you are really confirming the reality of @sfmatheson’s parable. Much of what you are saying neglects some basic facts. I would respond point by point, except this has already been explained in this thread. If you just go back and read it, you’d see where you made some wrong turns.