The @Swamidass Model. What is "seeking peace"?


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

This is likely going to turn into a main blog post. For this reason, please clarify any questions that arise as you read this. This is central to the mission of what we are doing here.

There has been a lot of public and private conversation about what the @swamidass model “is,” and how to protect the great thing happening here from being lost.

Many have defined (variously) as:

  1. The recent genealogical Adam model, with various levels of specification (The Genealogical Adam).
  2. The ancient genetic sole-progenitor models (that have aided@vjtorley and @Agauger).
  3. The De Novo creation of Adam (in defense of Tim Keller)
  4. A sequential reading of Genesis 1 and 2 (i.e. @Guy_Coe and @jongarvey )
  5. A particular understanding of the Image of God (in contrast with @Revealed_Cosmology).
  6. Convincing everyone that evolution true, or that 1-6 is true.

Notice the fixation on Adam? Notice the internal contradictions too? Notice the absence of science? Notice the absence of Jesus?

NONE of these things are the @swamidass model. It not my goal to promote any of these things here at Peaceful Science.

Pursuing Peace

Rather, I am pursuing Peace in the Creation Wars, presenting science as theologically neutral as possible.

I believe that peace is possible when we place our own theological concerns behind those of others, and meet the where they are, helping them understand how mainstream science can be understood in light of their own beliefs. It is of central importance to me. Rather than trying to poke holes in other models, I want to find ways for other’s beliefs to make sense alongside (not within) mainstream science. Peaceful Science is not and never was meant to be a place to refine a single model of origins, or be a platform for advocates to push their personal view. Instead, we want to slow down, hear people, understand what is important to them, and help them refine their own understanding (see Larkin’s Take on Adam)

You can see this at work in several examples:

  1. We are trying to help RTB test their model (@AJRoberts) , and see how it could work with the evidence. I’m on their side here. I want their model to work, and will be disappointed with them if it runs aground the genetic evidence, even though it is not my preferred model:

  2. We’ve encouraged and anticipated the Lutheran Option by @CPArand. Without giving any spoilers, this has nothing to do with Adam and Eve. It is a distinctly Lutheran path to coming to peace with mainstreams science that will serve many of the lutherans here (e.g. @J.E.S, @Philosurfer, @JustAnotherLutheran), and probably many others (e.g. @scd).

  3. We’ve put forward the parable of the 100 year old tree, for YECs to make sense of the evidence for evolution. Here God makes a tree that is simultaneously 1 week and 100 years old, and had a blast as several theologians used it.

  4. We’ve welcomed atheists on the forum. This is intentional, because atheists are not usually an more evil than Christians. Often they are friendly, and we find common values. We want to come to peace with atheists too. Why an Atheist on the Forums?

  5. We’ve argued on behalf of Catholics (though I am not a Catholic) to show how both (1) sole-genetic progenitorship might be possible in the distant past (@Agauger, @AntoineSuarez, @vjtorley) and (2) a demonstrate A Catholic Approach to the Genealogical Adam.

  6. We’ve welcomed the contradictory view points of so many people here (e.g. compare @Guy_Coe vs. @Revealed_Cosmology, @sygarte vs. @Patrick, @pnelson vs. @swamidass, etc.).

  7. We’ve engaged the grand questions, hoping to find a confident voice in a scientific world. That is why we’ve recently highlighted @AndyWalsh’s new book, as an example of one such confident voice (The Axiom of Belief). It is the same reason we will be hearing more from @sygarte, and his new book Finding my Faith. It is the same reason I post here about the Veritas Forums (Veritas Forums the Week Dad Died (January 2018) and What are Veritas Forums?).

  8. We are inviting as many people in as will respond to the call to peace. This place is meant to be common ground, where everyone is welcome, respected, and heard. Where everyone can confront their cartoon understanding of reality and step in the possibility of a greater reality. Many invitations are going, and we await with excitement those who want to join the party. On the horizon is a public dialogue (in which everyone can participate) with @rcohlers on Divine Action (July 17-19, Clinton Ohlers: Two Parables on Divine Action), and maybe a book club too on @AndyWalsh’s book (Fall 2018, Considering a Peaceful Science Book Club).

  9. We are explaining the rules of the game, so students can confidently enter science. Following the rules, they might be able to find a voice, and not anger people by ignorantly being impolite (The Rules of the Game).

Look for the patterns here. There is a dedicated and sustained effort to put the needs of others before ourselves. We are not seeking to promote our view of the world, but to serve the common good with an accurate account of science. Everything is being done to bring new voices to the conversation, including yours, including people you do not see yet. This is so much bigger than me alone. I will fade. Of that I am sure.

So what is the @Swamidass model? Far more than a rhetorical flourish, this is my attempt to encounter the creation war with Jesus, the One who rose from the dead. This is my attempt to follow Him. My model, my prototype is Jesus. Of course, I am not always a very good follower of Him, and this has consequences. I tell you that Jesus is my model, however, so you know what lies at the heart of my effort to seek the common good. This is the only honest answer for me. My model is Jesus.

In Context

That being said, in different communities, I will be associated with different things.

At BioLogos, for now, in makes most sense to associate me with A) The Genealogical Adam model, B), the De Novo Creation of Adam and C) the quick retraction of scientific errors. For many, that will be their first introduction to me. That will probably be the model associated with me regarding Adam, whether or not I personally hold to it. So, at BioLogos, feel free to call this the @swamidass model. A+B everyone knows there, but do not neglect C.

At Reasons to Believe, I will probably be known for (A) helping them test their model and maybe also (B) originating a RTB version of The Genealogical Adam. Feel free to identify me with this in these places.

At ASA, I will probably be associated for bringing scholars together from across the spectrum. The ASA workshop is important, you will see soon when I release the panelist list. Also, soon, we start to see no-Adam Christian allies arise, like @Cootsona and @TedDavis and @acuriousmind. We are not a place merely for historical Adam Christians. Soon OEC leaders to will emerge, like @KenKeathley very soon too. Everyone is welcome here. This community is not predicated on agreement.

Hidden Order…

This may seem impossible, a fools errand in an entrenched and stagnant conflict, all to common in our fractured society.

I see some thing greater. There is a hidden order, and it is beginning to emerge. Come join us at Peaceful Science, serving the common good with an accurate account of science, free of theological agenda.

Come seek peace in the tiresome creation war.

Greg Cootsona: "Mere Science" and Adam's Empty Chair
The Fifth Voice
Is "Peace" A Calm Temperament and Uncritical Tolerance?
(George) #2


Is it safe to say that the one thing present in all your various projects is including (one way or another) a scenario that includes Special Creation of Adam and Eve, somewhere on Earth, sometime between 700,000 years ago and 6000 years ago?

If there is a project where that is NOT the case, which project would it be?

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #3


@AndyWalsh’s book makes Zero mention of a Genealogical Adam, or the de novo creation of Adam. I think that is in error, and he should fix that in his next edition. Adam however, is not why I am excited about his voice.

@gbrooks9, the reason to emphasize the special creation of Adam is because this is important to so many people. It frankly doesn’t matter what we think of it personally. If it is important to them, we need to quickly offer it to them (as you always do), rather than arguing against it. I’m taking this a few steps forward, by engaging scholars to legitimize it as a theologically coherent option. As is well known, I’ve already legitimized it as a scientifically coherent option.

That is why, for example, I just don’t care if @Guy_Coe affirms or denies the special creation of adam personally. However, we have a fine line to walk, especially as regulars. It is not okay to impose our beliefs on others. Show people how their beliefs can make sense with science, rather than arguing with them whether their beliefs are right or wrong. Let the evidence from nature and Scripture guide them, share our views were appropriate, but do not put the thumb on the scale.

@jongarvey is really good at this too. He is worth watching, and reading on Special Creation too. Take a look at how he handles this on this blog, even though he personally sees no reason for de novo Adam.

Follow his example here. Notice how he advocates for a view that he personally does not hold? Notice how he stays out of most the unnecessary fights here on the forums? We are both aligned in making space for others. That is the order to the chaos. See how Garvey talks about a YEC here too?

We are doing what we can to love our neighbor. Love others here alongside us. We do that by laying down power. We are not trying to convince people of anything. We are only here to give an accurate account of science, in the most theologically neutral way we can.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #6

@gbrooks9, you’ve done a great job understanding much of the work on Genealogical Adam. You will really enjoy and expand your ability to serve here by reading up some of the other things. For example, you might like th 100 year old tree.

(George) #7

I assume this is a book?

One way to simplify our PUBLIC stance, @swamidass, and since we both have a heavy "pro-Evolution foundation from our prior viewpoints, I even think we could oppose “No Adam” types publicly. Nobody on the Evolution side is going to think we are “secret Creationists”. So I’m less concerned about ruffling some feathers on the Evolution side.

It should be crystal clear that we support:

de novo Adam virtually anywhere in the timeline (that isn’t contradicted by science)…


the evolution and common descent of pre-Adam/Eve, most likely PRIOR to the de novo creation of Adam.

Thoughts on not having much interest in “No Adam”? My point is: as soon as you propose “No Adam”… then obviously special creation is being opposed.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #8


As for the rest, it will be clearer soon. Can’t explain right this second.

Considering a Peaceful Science Book Club
(Retired Minister) #9

Due to finger-dexterity limitations, my replies are brief:

I certainly do like it. And it reminds me of semi-related dialogue I’ve had over the years with “appearance of age” associates after my mentioning the Haymond Formation in Texas, where 15,000 alternating layers of sandstone and shale each contain their own independent networks of animal tunnels and burrows. A few surprised me by saying that God simply chose to create geologic strata with such an appearance and we shouldn’t be overly confident we understand them. Interesting. (“Uh… yes, but…”)

(Guy Coe) #10

Carl Sagan had a famous quote he used to address this kind of puzzling question; he would say “I think it’s immoral to postulate a God Who would consciously try to mislead thinking people.”

(Jon Garvey) #11

It’s a reasonable position, except that people are adept at finding misleading signs where nonee exist. For example, the living world screams “Wisdom! Design!” so loud that even Dawkins sees it. But people look at genetic mutations whose cause they don’t know, call them “random”, and then ask why God would deceive thinking people by making mutations look as if they are random if they’re actually designed.

The commonest cause of being misled is, of course, ignorance, not deception.

(Guy Coe) #12

The orientation of the heart casts the orientation of the mind… You won’t find what you’re unwilling to look for, no matter how strong the evidentiary case! That’s more like willful ignorance. :slight_smile:

(George) #13

NOW THAT is a great example!!!

(Andy Walsh) #14

Overall, I agree that peacemaking is part of following Jesus, and so the direction outlined here is worthy and laudable. I want to understand the specifics better, primarily so I can figure out how I can contribute; that is the spirit in which I offer the following questions and comments.

Hard to argue with this!

This is the area which interests me the most. I would like to hear more about where you specifically see a lack of peace with atheists (and ‘nones’, the areligious, and anyone else who does not claim any particular religious beliefs or any identity defined with respect to traditional religion or beliefs) and how Peaceful Science can address those points of departure. I’m also curious how you balance coming to that peace with the part of following Jesus that involves calling others to follow him as well. I don’t think the two are exactly at odds; at the same time, any attempt to call someone else to a different belief can be perceived as confrontational. Of course, I am happy to hear the perspectives of other forum members on these questions as well.

I can see the value in making clear that an ensemble of models are both scientifically and theologically valid, rather than advocating for one member of that ensemble. At the same time, I greatly appreciate when individuals clearly and specifically articulate what they do and don’t think or believe. It enables me to get to know them better personally, and to engage them better in conversation. For example, while I don’t share his beliefs, I am very glad for books like Stuart Kauffman’s Reinventing the Sacred. How do you think individuals should articulate the specifics of their beliefs so that it does not come across as advocacy?

My final question is not a reaction to any particular element of your model, but my own struggle with peacemaking. When I set out to write my book, I had a very similar aim of peace in mind. I did not expect to persuade everyone or even anyone of a particular take on origins or theology or anything, but instead hoped to encourage space for a wider range of co-existing beliefs. Over the past couple of years, the consequences of different groups maintaining vastly different understandings of reality & truth & the value of expertise have been thrown into rather sharp relief. In light of that, I guess my question is whether you see any limits to the peacemaking process, at which point a different mode of interaction (or noninteraction) takes over?

The Rift Between Atheists and Christians
(Andy Walsh) #15

I don’t know if there will be a next edition, but I am not opposed to amending it where appropriate. There seems to be an interesting tension in this reply, however. @gbrooks9 seems to be looking for evidence that the Swamidass model is about more than particular models about Adam and Eve. On the one hand, my book is held up as an example of a project that is interested in something other than the Adam & Eve question. On the other hand, that is immediately followed up with an assertion that my book ought to engage the Adam & Eve question and include the Genealogical model. That seems to reinforce the perception that Genealogical Adam & Eve models are a critical element of the Swamidass model.

(George) #16


Hmmm… there are a couple of different ways of interpreting that observation.

I think I should volunteer what it is I’m looking for:

In a room full of new friends and mysterious strangers, I am looking for those who wish to support Joshua’s work to be clear-headed about our biggest goal:

that we hope to attract two sides of the discussion that very rarely agree on anything long enough to develop additional agreements.

Pro-Evolution Christians see too much natural evidence for Evolution for them to ever consider dismissing the natural evidence.

And Creationist Christians see too much Biblical investment in de novo Adam/Eve to ever consider dismissing the Biblical stance.

So rather than continue the next century with a “winner-take-all” viewpoint, the @swamidass Models are designed to do one thing:

to accommodate BOTH sides of the scenario without making the other side feel they are losing something crucial.

For Evolution-minded Christians, we remind them that they already premise their faith on the miracle of Resurrection, and other wondrous works and signs. So despite their earnest support for Evolutionary natural law, it really shouldn’t be a “shocker” if God uses “special creation” to create a very special mating pair, unnoticeable by archaeology and genetic science, who are released into a larger population of evolved humanity.

For Creation minded Christians, they have the satisfaction of special creation of Adam and Eve, who by the computationally confirmed dynamics of the genealogical process, have become the dominant universal ancestral pair for every human that is now alive, and who were alive at the time of the birth of Jesus!

Science keeps it’s science; the miraculous tends to the wonder of the miraculous. And slowly but surely, the two sides can continue to compare notes…

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #17

My issue is that your discussion in the appendix misses fundamentally important material facts regarding Dennis and McKinght’s book. I’m not sure your personal position on Adam. It does not really matter. You don’t have to change anything I’ve seen in the main text, but there are just major overlooked developments you missed in the appendix (p. 266). As one example, we found out that Dennis’ argument against a bottleneck made two large errors.

So, honestly, you do not have to personally affirm or promote a genealogical Adam. I just don’t care about that. However, we all have to be honest about the science. Dennis’s book has major scientific errors. It is not a reliable scientific resource at this time. At the very least, it has to be balanced with other resources that correct the errors he made. That’s all.

Nope. This should clarify that theological neutrality and scientific accuracy are critical. I don’t care what you personally think of Adam. Your book, also, isn’t about the science of Adam, and that is fine. I like it how it is.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #18

The fact that we aim to help others does not mean we have to be silent about our own beliefs. Just look at how I helped @Agauger and Richard Buggs: Heliocentric Certainty Against a Bottleneck of Two?. I see no Scriptural merit for insisting on sole-genetic progenitorship. However, they feel it is necessary, and it is a well-posed and interesting scientific question. Moreover, there are a lot of people who agree with them, not me, and are threatened by evolutionary science as a result.

For these reasons, and just basic human kindness, it is worthwhile to take their questions seriously. No one was taking their questions seriously. I did, and helped them make their case. Everyone knew the entire time that I saw no reason in my reading of Scripture for sole-genetic progenitorship. That, however, is irrelevant. Much ore important is an empathetic response to questions, and an honest account of science.

It requires subsuming our personal views to serve others. That’s all. We can still talk about our personal views, but always remember that they are our personal views. We are not here to advocate for ourselves. We are here to advocate for others. For The Empty Chair.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #19

As Christians, we seek the Kingdom of God, whose Prince is of Peace. In the Church, we will see people claim to follow Jesus, but then choose war. We also find people who pursue peace. We will find them in unexpected places. When we find people of peace, we should stay with them, and do what we can to build bridges.

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? (II Corinthians 2: 15-16)

If we pursue peace, expect to make many enemies. People of war may truly come to despise us. We do not pursue peace because it is successful, but because it is right. This is what it means to follow Jesus. This clip from Stanley Hauerwas, one of the greatest living theologians, is important to me.

We pursue peace because it is the right thing to do, not because it will reduce conflict. In fact, in the short term, it might even increase conflict. It might even create enemies, with whom we will still seek reconciliation. Peace is costly, but seeking reconciliation is what it means to follow Jesus.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #20

Not exactly how I see it , however I agree, I am much less concerned about ruffling feathers on the Evolution side. The issue is that those that are already at peace with evolution don’t need our help. If they can just hold off advocating their personal views, and instead turn to serving others with their concerns, a lot of good could be done. That service orientation has been difficult for many pro-evolution Christians. I’m not sure why.

Though there are many allies among them, some no-Adam Christians have been very threatened by our work. We are going to ruffle their feathers, but if they are already at peace with evolution, I’m not sure we should care.

As one example, I defended Tim Keller’s affirmation of a de novo Adam against Deb Haarsma’s false claim this was anti-science:

It is just not important whether Keller is correct in his interpretation of Scripture or not. It is not any of our place to tell him one way or another. This certainly angered people at BioLogos. In the end, honest in our account of science is more important than their approval. They do not have the right to misrepresent science. The longer they take to retract, the less those outside the BioLogos camp will trust them.

[As a side note, we are coming up on 1 year in a couple months. I wonder if they can recover if it takes longer than one year to retract their claims]

None of this confrontation is inevitable. Many no-Adam Christians have been very supportive, and have been careful to get this right. The problem is not rejection of a historical Adam. The problem, rather, is misrepresenting science and infusing it with theological agendas, turning it into a weapon against others. That is the problem.

(George) #21


(George) #22

This is a nuanced and reasonable concern.