Adam and Eve still a possibility?

Geneticist Richard Buggs, Reader in Evolutionary Genomics at Queen Mary University of London, has just written an intriguing article in Nature: Ecology and Evolution (28 October 2017), titled, Adam and Eve: a tested hypothesis? Comments on a recent book chapter. It appears that Buggs is unpersuaded that science has ruled out Adam and Eve. He thinks it’s still theoretically possible that the human race once passed through a short, sharp population bottleneck of just two individuals, followed by exponential population growth. Buggs disagrees with the assessment of Christian biologist Dennis Venema, professor of biology at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, who forthrightly declared in chapter 3 of his 2017 book Adam and the Genome that it is scientifically impossible that the human lineage ever passed through a bottleneck of two, and we can be as certain about this fact as we are about the truth of heliocentrism.

Here’s Buggs’ take-down of the three methods employed by Venema to discredit the possibility of a single primal couple. As a layperson, I have to say it looks as if Buggs has done his homework:

Linkage disequilibrium within populations

…The methods assume that the populations at any given time point are at equilibrium and not expanding exponentially (the authors deliberately exclude the last 10,000 years from this analysis as they know that exponential population growth has occurred in this timeframe). It is hard to see how they could pick up on a short, sharp bottleneck even if one had happened. It would be nice to see this modelled, just to check.

PSMC method

…More recently, some simulations by a graduate student have shown that the PSMC method does not detect short, sharp bottlenecks, such as those caused by a pandemic or natural disaster. Thus I cannot see that PSMC analyses (many more of which have been done on human genomes since the original paper by Li and Durbin) can be cited as rigorously disproving a short, sharp bottleneck.

Incomplete lineage sorting

Venema makes an argument based on incomplete lineage sorting among humans, apes and gorillas, which gives a large estimated effective population size. This argument is not relevant if we are only interested in the human lineage (the occurrence of ILS does not require maintenance of large populations sizes in every lineage after speciation and so does not exclude a bottleneck in the exclusively human lineage).

Buggs adds:

We need to bear in mind that explosive population growth in humans has allowed many new mutations to rapidly accumulate in human populations (A. Keinan and A. G. Clark (2012) Science 336: 740-743). Hyper-variable loci like MHC genes or microsatellites have so many alleles that they seem to defy the idea of a single couple bottleneck until we consider that they have very rapid rates of evolution, and could have evolved very many alleles since a bottleneck.

In his conclusion, Buggs modestly refrains from claiming to have rebutted Venema’s arguments:

The question asked by my religious friends is different to the questions being asked in the studies discussed above. My religions (sic) friends are not asking me if it is probable that humans have ever passed through a bottleneck of two; they are asking me if it is possible. None of the studies above set out to explicitly test the hypothesis that humans could have passed through a single-couple bottleneck. This is what we need to nail this issue down…

If I am missing something, then I would very much like to know. Whilst this issue may seem trivial to many readers, for large numbers of religious believers in the world, this is a critical issue. Do they really face a binary choice between accepting mainstream science and believing that humans have, at some point in their history, all descended from a single couple? I am open to the possibility that they do face this dilemma, but I need more evidence before I am persuaded.

I would be interested to know what biologists think of Richard Buggs’ article. Is he right? Does science still leave open the possibility of Adam and Eve? Over to you.

362 thoughts on “Adam and Eve still a possibility?

  1. Hi keiths,

    Thank you for your comments. Until now, I’ve defended the Catholic line on Original Sin. I’m now going to step away from that line, and discuss Original Sin from a more general Christian perspective. I certainly wouldn’t claim to be as certain of the truth of Catholicism as I am of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and like many Catholics, I have my fair share of doubts. If the Catholic view of Original Sin is a stumbling block to you and other atheists, then it might be more helpful to explore alternative views that Christians might hold.

    The problem isn’t that I don’t understand original sin — I was steeped in the topic from an early age.

    Yes, but which version of Original Sin are we talking about, here? The classic Protestant version, the Catholic version or the Orthodox version? The Orthodox have a more moderate view of Original Sin than Catholics and Protestants, since their thinking on the subject has been largely unaffected by the gloomy theology of St. Augustine. Here are a few links, if you’re interested (by the way, I would still urge you to read Lewis’ cosmic trilogy, purely for your own enjoyment):

    Two very short articles by the Orthodox Church of America (OCA):
    Sin
    St. Augustine & Original Sin

    Article in OrthodoxWiki:
    Original sin

    And finally:
    Original sin: Orthodox doctrine or heresy? by Archimandrite Vassilios Papavassiliou (longer, but worth reading).

    Notwithstanding the softer line taken by the Orthodox, they still believe that we suffer the consequences of Adam’s sin. To quote from the OCA article, St. Augustine & Original Sin:

    In the Orthodox Faith, the term “original sin” refers to the “first” sin of Adam and Eve. As a result of this sin, humanity bears the “consequences” of sin, the chief of which is death. Here the word “original” may be seen as synonymous with “first.” Hence, the “original sin” refers to the “first sin” in much the same way as “original chair” refers to the “first chair.”…

    In the Orthodox Christian understanding, while humanity does bear the consequences of the original, or first, sin, humanity does not bear the personal guilt associated with this sin. Adam and Eve are guilty of their willful action; we bear the consequences, chief of which is death.

    In a similar vein, Archimandrite Vassilios Papavassiliou writes: “While infants inherit a human nature which, in its wholeness, is wounded by the Ancestral Sin, weakening the will and making each person prone to sin, they are innocent of sin nonetheless.”

    And it is precisely this belief which is a stumbling block for you, as it generates what you refer to as the “transmission” problem:

    You still have the “transmission” problem. Suffering and death aren’t the whole story; you also have the degraded human nature, prone to sin, that is passed down from Adam and Eve to their descendants. How?

    You will recall that I suggested we could better describe the Fall as a failure (on the part of our first parents) to rise from the default condition for the human race, in an imperfect world: namely, suffering and death. What does that mean for the human nature we inherit from our first parents? You could think of it this way, if you liked. For a brief and glorious interlude, our first parents enjoyed supernatural communion with God. They were born into it. Then they rejected it. We are no longer born into such a privileged state. Consequently, our sense of the presence of God is much weaker than that of our first parents, in the privileged state they once enjoyed. We find it much harder to keep our eyes on the prize: we get easily distracted by bright and shiny objects (not only carnal temptations, but also the sin of pride), precisely because our consciousness is not filled with the presence of God, as that of our first parents was. In that negative sense, we are “prone to sin” in ways that our first parents were not, at the beginning of history. One need not imagine that we have any positive inclination towards evil; after all, evil is purely a privation.

    So how is this deprivation of the supernatural life transmitted from our first parents to us? The question is misconceived. What we need to understand is that although our first parents were born into a privileged state, in which they enjoyed the presence of God and were able to talk to Him personally, such a state was not natural to them. It was a supernatural gift, which they spurned. Since it was not natural, it was not inherited by us. We, unlike Adam, were not born with a silver spoon in our mouths. We are born without the silver spoon, because it never belonged to human nature in the first place. In that purely negative sense, we can legitimately speak of Original Sin as being “inherited” and “transmitted,” but it would be far more correct to say that the supernatural gift enjoyed by our first parents is not inherited.

    You continue:

    And even if your proposal did solve the transmission problem, it wouldn’t solve the fairness problem. You’d still have God withholding the opportunity to “rise” from all of Adam and Eve’s descendants, on account of a decision that those descendants had absolutely no part in.

    I’m going to surprise you here. I’ll concede that it was “unfair” of God to withhold the opportunity to “rise” from all of Adam and Eve’s descendants, but I would argue that He had no choice in the matter. There was no workable solution available to Him, because there was no practical way for Him to separate “goodies” from “baddies,” and keep the latter from injuring the former, with both groups living on the same planet. God would have had His work cut out for Him, as He would have been obliged to continually intervene and work miracles, in order to protect the saints from the sinners. That’s not a satisfactory solution. Tragic as it was, the only sensible option was to deny everyone the opportunity to “rise,” subsequent to Adam’s Fall, thereby leaving everyone liable to suffering and death, even in cases when they were totally innocent of all wrongdoing (e.g. newborn babies). It’s horrible, but what else would you have had God do? Whisk people out of this world and straight into Paradise, if they made the right choice, opting for Him instead of choosing autonomy as our first parents did? Well, perhaps; but it does sound very Deus ex machina, and also, it would (in some cases) involve God separating mothers from their children for the rest of their lives. How humane is that?

    Finally, you write:

    You’re in a tough spot: Cling to the doctrine of original sin, and you’re admitting that your God is unfair. Jettison the doctrine, and you jeopardize Christianity.

    I’ve addressed the fairness objection above. I’d now like to address the question of whether one could still believe in some form of Christianity, even if one rejected Original Sin. The Catechism of the Church expresses a contrary view: “The doctrine of original sin is, so to speak, the ‘reverse side’ of the Good News that Jesus is the Savior of all men, that all need salvation and that salvation is offered to all through Christ” (para. 389).

    But it seems to me that even in the absence of a doctrine of Original Sin being transmitted to each individual, one could still believe that: (a) the sin of Adam somehow ruptured the relationship between God and the human race; (b) God the Son, by becoming incarnate as Jesus Christ and by dying on the Cross, restored that relationship; (c) Jesus’ saving act enables us to enter the gates of Heaven, which would have been shut if He had not saved us. That’s a minimal version of the Redemption. Note that the version I am proposing here does not insist that Christ had to die in order to save us; that’s just the way He chose. Nor does it claim that people who died before Christ were all waiting in Limbo until He died on the Cross; on the contrary, it’s quite possible that His saving death acted retrospectively, opening the gates immediately upon their death, without the need for any sojourn in Limbus Patrum. Nor does it claim that an explicit act of faith in Christ is required in order to enter Heaven; God, Who reads the innermost secrets of each human heart, infallibly knows which souls are open to His love and goodness and which souls are hardened with pride.

    I’ve addressed your main objections to Original Sin. I’ll address some of your remaining remarks in my next comment.

  2. vjtorley: I’m going to surprise you here. I’ll concede that it was “unfair” of God to withhold the opportunity to “rise” from all of Adam and Eve’s descendants, but I would argue that He had no choice in the matter. There was no workable solution available to Him, because there was no practical way for Him to separate “goodies” from “baddies,” and keep the latter from injuring the former, with both groups living on the same planet. God would have had His work cut out for Him, as He would have been obliged to continually intervene and work miracles, in order to protect the saints from the sinners. That’s not a satisfactory solution.

    So what you’re saying is that any situation in which god grants favor to humans is unstable, because a single sin on the part of any human completely upsets the world and requires him to remove his favor from everyone. Are you sure you really want to take that position? It makes him out to be an idiot for providing grace to Adam and Eve in the first place.

  3. Rumraket:

    Couldn’t God predict they’d eat from it and simply put it out of their reach?

    Yes, absolutely.

  4. Allan Miller,

    I already showed where the far more likely place for loss of heterozygosity was, not in Adam, but the 3 sons and 3 daughter-in-laws of Noah. The number of kids for Adam is an open question, not so much so for Noah, unless we assume there were some unrecorded sons, which is possible after the Tower of Babel incident.

    Carter and Jeanson, and to some extent John Sanford are building their models around Noah, not Adam directly.

    Sal

  5. stcordova,

    I already showed where the far more likely place for loss of heterozygosity was, not in Adam, but the 3 sons and 3 daughter-in-laws of Noah.

    And yet you said that the variation in humanity was derived from that in A&E. Have a scrap with yourself from a few pages back, let me know who wins.

    The number of kids for Adam is an open question, not so much so for Noah, unless we assume there were some unrecorded sons, which is possible after the Tower of Babel incident.

    Carter and Jeanson, and to some extent John Sanford are building their models around Noah, not Adam directly.

    Haha. All of diversity in a boat. Haha.

  6. stcordova: I already showed where the far more likely place for loss of heterozygosity was, not in Adam, but the 3 sons and 3 daughter-in-laws of Noah.

    No, you didn’t show anything of the sort. They’re both extreme bottlenecks, and in fact the Y-chromosome bottleneck is equal. Y-chromosome Adam, in your scenario, is really Y-chromosome Noah. Can you model that?

  7. Yeah, I don’t quite get that sticking the bottleneck a few years later is really much help. You still need to make sure that the occupants of the boat had more than just a sample of the existing population’s diversity, but were highly heterozygous in order to fool future geneticists into not seeing the bottleneck. [eta – still wouldn’t be enough, of course. You can’t make 2 look like 10,000 in a short time, without more string-pulling]

    Which, of course, being an all-powerful deity, you can do, but why bother with a boat?

  8. Hi keiths,

    You write:

    A truly timeless God would be under no temporal or quasi-temporal restrictions of the kind you describe. He would be able to act on the world just as timelessly as he perceives it, and since God’s actions have consequences for the future, it means he could timelessly alter the future based on his timeless perception of that future, thus turning future facts into counterfactuals.

    In other words, he could timelessly view the consequences of creating Adam and Eve and timelessly act to create the sinless Bob and Brenda instead.

    I’m afraid that makes no sense to me at all. The consequences of creating Adam and Eve only arise because God actually decides to create them; without such a decision on God’s part, there are no consequences. God, having decided to create Adam and Eve, cannot “un-decide,” and choose to create Bob and Brenda instead.

    You also accuse me of effectively making God temporal again, rather than timeless, by smuggling in terms such as “logically prior” and “logically subsequent”. But you yourself speak of God as timelessly viewing the consequences of creating Adam and Eve. Pot, kettle.

    In any case, it is surely true that God’s knowledge of certain facts is derivative upon His knowledge of other, more fundamental facts: for instance, His understanding of the term “theft” presupposes (and is therefore logically subsequent to) His prior understanding of the term “property.” That is true, regardless of whether one conceives of God as being in time or out of it.

    Re my suggestion that God allows evil in order to better manifest His attributes, you write:

    So people (and other creatures) suffer merely because God wants to preen? That’s appalling, Vincent….

    And God is certainly passing up a lot of opportunities to demonstrate his loving-kindness, wouldn’t you say?

    You’d think he could have dialed down the suffering a bit without depriving himself of opportunities to show off.

    The people who suffer are in no position to complain, because they would not exist in the first place, if God had not chosen to create a world in which suffering, death and evil were allowed to occur. Other human beings would have taken their place.

    As for God dialing down the suffering: I don’t claim for a minute that suffering necessarily serves a higher purpose. Usually, it doesn’t. For instance, it puzzles me why God allowed people to be tortured to death by the Nazis and Soviets, in prison camps, especially in cases where no good came out of such suffering, even as an unintended side-effect, and also in cases where the victims of torture died in a state of broken despair. I can tell you why I think God created a world in which suffering was permitted, but I can’t tell you why God chose to allow that kind of suffering.

    The most straightforward way to prevent such suffering would have been for God to have lowered the pain threshold at which humans black out and mercifully lose consciousness, due to the severe trauma which their bodies are undergoing. That would certainly work, if your aim is to reduce the amount of gratuitous suffering in the world. But it might also mean we’d have a lot more torture victims who never return to consciousness, because they never manage to snap out of the “shut-down” state into which their bodies have entered, so perhaps that might not be such a good solution, after all. (If you’ve ever read Frances Farmer‘s book, Will there really be a morning?, you’ll know what I’m talking about: see her harrowing account of the rape victim who never recovered. Despite her subsequent conversion to Catholicism, Farmer never attempted to explain why God allowed the hell that she went through; instead, she suggested that God was unable to penetrate the asylum in which she and her fellow inmates were incarcerated.)

    What I suspect, though I cannot prove it, is that any naturalistic attempt on God’s part to eliminate the very possibility of certain categories of suffering in our world, would only create more problems than it solves. But I might be wrong.

  9. John Harshman:

    So what you’re saying is that any situation in which god grants favor to humans is unstable, because a single sin on the part of any human completely upsets the world and requires him to remove his favor from everyone.

    No. What I’m saying is that if God grants the supernatural favor of being able to enjoy His presence and converse with Him freely to the first humans, then a single sin on their part would cause Him to revoke the favor from them and all their descendants (even though many of these descendants were completely innocent). But had they not sinned, then perhaps keiths’s “Bob and Brenda” scenario would have come true, after all: maybe all their descendants would have thereby been confirmed in grace, meaning that their wills would be unable to turn away from God, leaving them free to choose between various goods, but not to choose between good and evil. (Of course, the world would have been peopled with a totally different set of individuals from those who were born after our first parents rejected God.)

  10. Hi everyone,

    In view of Steve Schaffner’s comment above, it seems that the scientific evidence tells very much against the idea of humanity having descended from an original couple. I had my hopes up after reading Dr. Richard Buggs’ article on Adam and Eve, which was the subject of my post, but the following arguments by Dr. Schaffner appear to be unanswerable:

    As we have discussed previously in another thread here, you can inject any amount of genetic diversity into Adam and Eve, but that diversity won’t look anything like the actual diversity we see. What we see has a characteristic frequency distribution that falls off as 1/frequency, so that there are many more rare variants than common ones. Genetic variants in Adam and Eve would all be at high frequency, since the lowest frequency variant you can have with 2 individuals is 25%.

    The other strong piece of evidence that human genetic variation is the result of accumulated mutations is that it looks like accumulated mutations. That is, kinds of mutations that we know happen very frequently also appear very frequently in modern genetic variation, and kinds of mutations that occur rarely are seen in variants.

    I’ve written above that the doctrine of the Fall (or, if you prefer, failure to rise) stands or falls on the occurrence of a fateful decision, at a single location in time and space, which prevented the human race from enjoying immortality. I argued above that it is just possible to envisage this decision as having been taken, collectively, by a prehistoric tribe, consisting of about 500 humans. Normally, foraging humans live in bands of about 25 individuals, and these bands are part of a larger population of about 500 people, all sharing the same dialect, inter-breeding and knowing each other by name. One could perhaps envisage these bands as having a big get-together and collectively deciding the future direction of the human race. Perhaps they elected a spokesman, and “Adam” was that spokesman. I’m just speculating here.

    So the next question that needs to be examined is: does science leave this scenario open? Does the genetic evidence point to the human race having arisen at a particular location in Africa, or does it rather indicate that the human race arose at several locations, more or less simultaneously? As far as I know, the question remains open. Should science point strongly towards the latter conclusion at some future date, then I think the doctrine of the Fall would simply have to be jettisoned as theologically unworkable.

    And on that somber note, I shall conclude my comments. If others want to continue the conversation, they are welcome to do so.

  11. vjtorley,

    I don’t think multiple simultaneous origins makes much biological sense, if that gives comfort to one trying to shoehorn religion into the factual world. But I don’t buy the whole Sin thing either.

  12. vjtorley: No. What I’m saying is that if God grants the supernatural favor of being able to enjoy His presence and converse with Him freely to the first humans, then a single sin on their part would cause Him to revoke the favor from them and all their descendants (even though many of these descendants were completely innocent).

    So we’re back to punishing everyone for the sins of their ancestors, which cannot be justified.

    But had they not sinned, then perhaps keiths’s “Bob and Brenda” scenario would have come true, after all: maybe all their descendants would have thereby been confirmed in grace, meaning that their wills would be unable to turn away from God, leaving them free to choose between various goods, but not to choose between good and evil. (Of course, the world would have been peopled with a totally different set of individuals from those who were born after our first parents rejected God.)

    I sense that you don’t believe this scenario at all, since there is no reason why A&E’s descendants would have been any more “confirmed in grace” than they were. In fact, such a scenario raises the question you wish to avoid: why, if it’s possible to be “confirmed in grace” from birth, A&E weren’t created that way too. I suppose you’re trying for reductio ad absurdum, but that’s hard when the absurdum is present in all your scenarios, including the one you believe, making any attempt at reductio pointless. You need to try to justify your own scenario without all these tangents.

    Let’s face it: neither original sin nor substitutionary atonement make any sense at all, and attempts to defend them both begin and end in absurdity.

  13. John:

    No, you didn’t show anything of the sort.

    LOL! So you want to argue Noah is a less worse of bottleneck than Adam. You’re just in criticize everything I say, even when I put a point on the table that is AGAINST creationism. Too funny.

  14. vjtorley: I argued above that it is just possible to envisage this decision as having been taken, collectively, by a prehistoric tribe, consisting of about 500 humans. Normally, foraging humans live in bands of about 25 individuals, and these bands are part of a larger population of about 500 people, all sharing the same dialect, inter-breeding and knowing each other by name. One could perhaps envisage these bands as having a big get-together and collectively deciding the future direction of the human race. Perhaps they elected a spokesman, and “Adam” was that spokesman. I’m just speculating here.

    So the next question that needs to be examined is: does science leave this scenario open?

    Before that question, you need to figure out what allows one man, or 500 people, or 10,000 for that matter, to make irrevocable decisions on how god would treat future generations. This isn’t like your various analogies, unavoidable consequences, but consequences only because god decides to honor them. But what justification could he have for doing that?

  15. stcordova: LOL!So you want to argue Noah is a less worse of bottleneck than Adam.You’re just in criticize everything I say, even when I put a point on the table that is AGAINST creationism.Too funny.

    “Less worse”? Whatever are you talking about? In some respects the Flood bottleneck is less extreme than the Creation bottleneck: a possibility of 10 variants at each autosomal locus vs. 4, somewhere between 7 and 8 at each X-locus as opposed to 3, and 3 mitochondria as opposed to 1. But in one respect, Y-variation, it’s equal. What is incorrect about that?

  16. stcordova,

    LOL! So you want to argue Noah is a less worse of bottleneck than Adam. You’re just in criticize everything I say, even when I put a point on the table that is AGAINST creationism. Too funny.

    Adam isn’t a bottleneck at all, in standard YEC. God could – I guess – generate as much heterozygosity as he liked, since there was no prior population to represent, and they just popped into being with whatever diploid sets He felt like.

    But Noah (and all his organismal companions on the Ark) is a different story. These can’t just be ‘normal’ individuals from prior populations (insufficiently representative of wider diversity), but they aren’t specially created (with magic diversity built-in) either. I’m glad you acknowledge this as a problem for Creationism.

  17. Allan Miller:
    vjtorley,

    I don’t think multiple simultaneous origins makes much biological sense, if that gives comfort to one trying to shoehorn religion into the factual world. But I don’t buy the whole Sin thing either.

    Would hybridization with Neanderthals count as separate “origins”?

  18. Vincent,

    You also accuse me of effectively making God temporal again, rather than timeless, by smuggling in terms such as “logically prior” and “logically subsequent”. But you yourself speak of God as timelessly viewing the consequences of creating Adam and Eve. Pot, kettle.

    Surely you’re not arguing that to be aware of time makes God temporal, are you? Boethius certainly didn’t think so. There’s nothing about timelessness that precludes an awareness of time and causality.

    Do you see the difference? In your view, a timeless God is still subject to the limitations of temporality. “Logically prior” to a freely willed action, God is unaware of the action and unable to respond; then some “logical time” passes, and “logically subsequent” to the action, he is aware of it and can respond. He’s in the same epistemic position as a human observer. You’ve just substituted “logically prior” for “(temporally) prior”, “logically subsequent” for “(temporally) subsequent”, and “logical time” for “time”. God’s state of knowledge is changing through logical time, when he is supposed to be timeless.

    Why the restriction? A timeless God should be able to view the entire sweep of history “in parallel”, and to act on it “in parallel”. You are serializing what should be a parallel phenomenon.

  19. Sal, to John:

    You’re just in criticize everything I say, even when I put a point on the table that is AGAINST creationism. Too funny.

    That says it all. Sal can’t comprehend that his opponents are actually concerned with truth and correctness, not merely with scoring points for their “side”.

    Unlike Sal.

  20. newton: As far as I know there was only one eyewitness to the procedure . He is believed to be unimpeachable.

    1) Is the only available evidence eyewitness testimony?
    2) Did the one eyewitness express himself only in early 17th century English authorized by the king?

    peace

  21. newton: From the only source we have about the existence of Adam and Eve and how they came to be:

    “Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.”

    You misunderstood my question.
    I’d asked WHY a rib bone was chosen (out of so many bones in human body-206 in total) to be used to make Eve out of it?
    Why not use another bone? What’s the difference? Do you know?
    There was a reason why the rib bone was chosen… IMV…

  22. vjtorley: So the next question that needs to be examined is: does science leave this scenario open?

    I think it does and I don’t have any strong theological objections to going that route

    I just think you are too quick to abandon the more traditional understanding.

    To me that proposal sounds like the same sort of unnecessary accommodation that Christian thinkers in earlier times made in when they were willing to grant a eternal universe just because that was the majority “science” of the day.

    Science eventually came around to a temporally finite universe and I see no reason not to expect a similar outcome in this instance. The best approach IMO is to be agnostic about the science until a bottle neck of two is deemed to be impossible and not just highly unlikely every thing about us appears to be highly unlikely why should this be any different.

    I’m not in position to debate the genetics but I think that any approach that relies solely on genetics to define the boundaries of Homo sapiens is way way too premature and not a little presumptuous..

    The genetic species concept is subject to many of the same problems as other materialistic concepts. It basically comes down to human judgement as to which organisms are in and which are out and where to draw the line.

    Were Neanderthals and Denisovans truly different species merely a sub species grouping of humans? I don’t think we are in any position to say as of yet.

    Even if you grant the genetic species concept the figure you come up with as to the founding population is only as good as the assumptions you bring to the table.

    For starters we really have no clear idea when humans arrived on the scene and the event could easily have occurred many millennia before the proposed 10,000 individual bottleneck occurred and there is certainly no reason to grant the long term stable population that is being assumed here.

    On top of that as has been pointed out there is no reason to rule out the strait up miraculous in this instance.

    I would say that if God was to ever directly intervene in the course of history the genius of humanity would be one of the top three or for places we would expect it.

    Just my two cents

    peace

  23. J-Mac,

    There was a reason why the rib bone was chosen… IMV…

    So why are you asking newton when you could simply present your view?

  24. fifth, to vjtorley:

    On top of that as has been pointed out there is no reason to rule out the strait up miraculous in this instance.

    Don’t forget the PMM:

    It’s the Principle of Miracle Minimization, or PMM. By limiting the number of miracles, God makes the story slightly less ridiculous and enables later believers to accept it with less cognitive dissonance.

    Unfortunately, the story is still ridiculous, and a much more sensible one — that Adam and Eve never existed — is available.

  25. Vincent,

    The people who suffer are in no position to complain, because they would not exist in the first place, if God had not chosen to create a world in which suffering, death and evil were allowed to occur. Other human beings would have taken their place.

    That argument backfires badly on you.

    1) By your logic, no one could ever rightfully complain to God about anything in life, no matter how horrible. So a person who suffered unspeakably and continuously from birth to death, and then suffered an eternity of torment in hell, would be in “no position to complain”. That’s ludicrous.

    2) You are assuming that never to have existed is a horrible thing. If so, that makes God a monster. Think of the quadrillions of people who have never existed due to God’s failure to create them. Do you really want to go down that road?

  26. vjtorley:

    For instance, it puzzles me why God allowed people to be tortured to death by the Nazis and Soviets, in prison camps, especially in cases where no good came out of such suffering, even as an unintended side-effect, and also in cases where the victims of torture died in a state of broken despair. I can tell you why I think God created a world in which suffering was permitted, but I can’t tell you why God chose to allow that kind of suffering.

    It makes perfect sense if a) God isn’t powerful, or b) God isn’t loving, or c) God doesn’t exist at all.

    Why cling to Christianity when better explanations are available?

  27. fifthmonarchyman: 1) Is the only available evidence eyewitness testimony?

    It is purported to be the Word of God, why would another source of evidence be needed?

    2) Did the one eyewitness express himself only in early 17th century English authorized by the king?

    Seems as likely as to an unknown guy sitting around a campfire in the middle of the desert somewhere. Or to guy translating a story into Greek. Or to some guy sitting on an island.

    Makes sense to me that a God who fiddles around with life could do the same for literature if He desired

    peace

  28. keiths: Why cling to Christianity when better explanations are available?

    Maybe they like the smell of incense and the narrative of hope.

  29. newton:

    Maybe they like the smell of incense and the narrative of hope.

    It certainly isn’t for intellectual reasons.

    We never used incense in my (Lutheran) church. That always bummed me out. But at least we had real wine at Communion, not grape juice like the Methodists.

  30. keiths:

    You still have the “transmission” problem. Suffering and death aren’t the whole story; you also have the degraded human nature, prone to sin, that is passed down from Adam and Eve to their descendants. How?

    Vincent:

    In that purely negative sense, we can legitimately speak of Original Sin as being “inherited” and “transmitted,” but it would be far more correct to say that the supernatural gift enjoyed by our first parents is not inherited.

    Then you are at odds with the Catholic Church, which teaches:

    403 Following St. Paul, the Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination towards evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam’s sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the “death of the soul”. Because of this certainty of faith, the Church baptizes for the remission of sins even tiny infants who have not committed personal sin.

    [emphasis added]

    And (in 404):

    By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice.

    [emphasis added]

    (I’m not complaining, mind you. I think it’s very good that you are willing to think for yourself and reject Church teachings. Just pointing out the conflict.)

  31. keiths:

    And even if your proposal did solve the transmission problem, it wouldn’t solve the fairness problem. You’d still have God withholding the opportunity to “rise” from all of Adam and Eve’s descendants, on account of a decision that those descendants had absolutely no part in.

    Vincent:

    I’m going to surprise you here. I’ll concede that it was “unfair” of God to withhold the opportunity to “rise” from all of Adam and Eve’s descendants, but I would argue that He had no choice in the matter. There was no workable solution available to Him, because there was no practical way for Him to separate “goodies” from “baddies,” and keep the latter from injuring the former, with both groups living on the same planet.

    There’s a very simple solution: God could have created Adam and Eve (and all subsequent humans) in the same “confirmed in grace” state you discussed above, in which they would always freely choose to do the good and not the bad.

    Why didn’t God think of that?

  32. vjtorley:

    But it seems to me that even in the absence of a doctrine of Original Sin being transmitted to each individual, one could still believe that: (a) the sin of Adam somehow ruptured the relationship between God and the human race;

    That just restates the idea of transmission in different words. The “rupture” gets transmitted from Adam and Eve to their descendants; otherwise it wouldn’t apply to the whole human race.

  33. Vincent,

    Of all the comments you’ve made in this thread, I think the following is the most revealing:

    The way I see it, in order to preserve the doctrine of Original Sin, you need, at the very least, a single decision made at the dawn of human history, in which the human race rejected God. Christians refer to this event as the Fall.

    Instead of seeking the truth, you are trying to preserve the doctrine of original sin. To prioritize dogma over truth is intellectually dishonest, and it’s no way for a trained philosopher to behave.

    In my youth, on my painful but ultimately liberating path to deconversion, I reached a point where I decided that instead of fighting to preserve dogma, I would make truth the priority.

    My reasoning went something like this:

    1) If Christianity were true, then I wanted to be a Christian.

    2) If Christianity were not true, then I didn’t want to be a Christian.

    3) If Christianity were true, then an honest search for truth would lead me to Christianity, especially if God were presiding over the process.

    4) A truly honest search for truth would not begin by assuming the truth of Christian doctrine, then looking for excuses to keep believing it. Nor would it start by assuming that Christianity was false.

    5) In other words, if I were to remain a Christian, I wanted to do so because Christianity, when evaluated objectively, seemed true, fit the evidence, and was a better explanation than the available alternatives.

    6) I also reasoned that if I honestly evaluated the evidence but somehow came to the wrong conclusion, that a just and loving God would not hold it against me. (If there’s an unjust and unloving God, then we’re all potentially screwed.)

    7) And I figured that since it was possible that Christianity was false and some other form of theism was true, that to question Christianity was actually a sign of respect for God, because I was seeking the truth about him (if he existed at all).

    8) The upshot of all of this was that it made sense to pursue the truth honestly and with no holds barred. To exempt any bit of Christian doctrine from critical examination would have been dishonest and would have impeded the search.

    I can tell that you care about the truth, and that it bothers you to have to make endless excuses and rationalizations for the Christian God and for Christianity. Why not elevate the truth over dogma and let the search lead you where it may?

    I did so, and I’ve never regretted it.

  34. J-Mac: I’d asked WHY a rib bone was chosen (out of so many bones in human body-206 in total) to be used to make Eve out of it?
    Why not use another bone? What’s the difference? Do you know?
    There was a reason why the rib bone was chosen… IMV…

    This came up earlier in the thread.

    Vincent explained that the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib is based on a Sumerian folk tale and that the rib was chosen as a result of a play on words. The word “rib” can also mean “life” in the Sumerian language.

  35. dazz,

    Would hybridization with Neanderthals count as separate “origins”?

    Not to me. The Neanderthal and H sapiens populations had common ancestry, ie common origin. There are various degrees of divergence and introgression (remerger of gene pools) possible before genetic incompatibility is fully established.

  36. Corneel: J-Mac: I’d asked WHY a rib bone was chosen (out of so many bones in human body-206 in total) to be used to make Eve out of it?
    Why not use another bone? What’s the difference? Do you know?
    There was a reason why the rib bone was chosen… IMV…

    This came up earlier in the thread.

    Vincent explained that the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib is based on a Sumerian folk tale and that the rib was chosen as a result of a play on words. The word “rib” can also mean “life” in the Sumerian language.

    Ribs can grow back, in whole or in part. A lot depends on the care with which the rib is removed; it needs to be ‘peeled’ out of its periosteum to leave this membrane as intact as possible.

    I wonder how simple people few thousand years ago knew about it since science just recently realized this fact?

    Let’s listen to the deniers first…;-)

  37. newton: It is purported to be the Word of God, why would another source of evidence be needed?

    The spoken word is not the only way God communicates

    When my wife tells me something it’s often beneficial to look around for facial expressions and other clues to better understand what she is saying.

    Why expect communication with God to be any different?

    newton: Makes sense to me that a God who fiddles around with life could do the same for literature if He desired

    He could if he desired but why would he bother. I see no reason for him to reward intentional laziness on the part of the reader.

    The Hebrew is readily available as are other translations both ancient and modem.

    If you are interested in meanings it takes almost no time to look up the definitions of the words or do some independent word study to see how they are used in other contexts.

    peace

  38. J-Mac: I wonder how simple people few thousand years ago knew about it

    I think you should learn to question the built-in assumption you make here.

    As in, how do you know that they knew about it? The mere fact that it is claimed Eve, who demonstrably never existed, was created from a rib, does not even imply that “simple people few thousand years ago” knew anything about the healing potentials of ribs.

    You are assuming and blindly believing so many things on literally no evidence at all. And none of it makes sense. Why would God need a rib to create Eve from? Why would he need to take one from Adam, when Adam was not created from anything? Or maybe from clay? Supposedly God can create matter from nothing at all.

    I repeat. None of it makes sense. It can’t be believed by a thinking person.

  39. keiths: Instead of seeking the truth, you are trying to preserve the doctrine of original sin.

    For what it’s worth my interest in preserving a scientifically tenable literal A&E for non Christians is about the brotherhood and equality of man more than original sin.

    I’m not sure how you maintain a basis for shared kinship when there is no family relationship.

    quote:

    And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,

    Acts 17:26-27
    end quote:

    We have seen all kinds of evil perpetrated against other groups of people when folks fail to internalize that Christian concept of shared familial relationship for one reason or another.

    peace

  40. J-Mac: Ribs can grow back, in whole or in part. A lot depends on the care with which the rib is removed; it needs to be ‘peeled’ out of its periosteum to leave this membrane as intact as possible.

    I wonder how simple people few thousand years ago knew about it since science just recently realized this fact?

    Let’s listen to the deniers first…;-)

    And why is that significant?

  41. fifthmonarchyman: The spoken word is not the only way God communicates

    Not exactly sure that the spoken word is how God communicates at all, but that is the story

    When my wife tells me something it’s often beneficial to look around for facial expressions and other clues to better understand what she is saying.

    No doubt born of experience with humans in general and your wife in particular. But as with all human communication it is subject to misinterpretation as men constantly demonstrate when it comes to women.

    Why expect communication with God to be any different?

    For instance, what is the body language of God?

    newton: Makes sense to me that a God who fiddles around with life could do the same for literature if He desired

    He could if he desired but why would he bother. I see no reason for him to reward intentional laziness on the part of the reader.

    So God’s message about Himself is a reward?

    The Hebrew is readily available as are other translations both ancient and modem.

    It is beginning to sound like the Word of God is reserved for the educated elites or ancient Hebrews

    If you are interested in meanings it takes almost no time to look up the definitions of the words or do some independent word study to see how they are used in other contexts.

    Not particularly prefer to look at the night sky for divine messages. So in your expert opinion was Eve formed from the rib or side of Adam?

    peace

  42. Found the way to this page from somewhere else. Neither Vincent Torley nor this atheistic miserable pseudo-skeptics zone draw much attention on their own.

    After giving it the old college try, English teacher Torley succumbed to himself, and wrote: “it seems that the scientific evidence tells very much against the idea of humanity having descended from an original couple.”

    Thus, he gave up on the title of his thread: “Adam and Eve still a possibility?” Apparently not in Torley-land, which means get your PhD and only (attempt to) publish on blogs.

    After long-winded Christian evangelising to ‘keiths’, who won’t be converted back to Christianity until hell freezes over, and several others here, Torley has just given up like that on a core Christian teaching – real, historical Adam and Eve – apparently because he’s been convinced by one of the least evangelical of Christians on this list, Dr. Steve Schaffner, who is also willing to throw Dr. Joshua Swamidass under the bus both for his biological claims and theological asides. Besides, Swamidass got his argument from Dr. Ken Kemp, but apparently won’t tip his hat to that Catholic in his evangelising ‘science and religion’ (mirror of Venema) ambitions. It’s still a cruel world in the evolution(ism) vs. creation(ism) conversation, as it has often been.

    Then Torley speculates on polygenism and prances away, apparently sombre for the moment, not feeling any less ‘catholic’ than he did before. That’s the level of Christian spokesperson you have attracted to this god-forsaken place. This is TSZ. Your audience awaits more disguised despair, misanthropy and dehumanising atheism. Carry on, folks.

  43. Gregory:

    Torley has just given up like that on a core Christian teaching – real, historical Adam and Eve – apparently because he’s been convinced by one of the least evangelical of Christians on this list, Dr. Steve Schaffner, who is also willing to throw Dr. Joshua Swamidass under the bus for his biological claims and theological asides.

    So you think Vincent should weight the arguments of scientists based on how ‘evangelical’ they are?

    And do you think there’s something wrong with giving up a belief based on scientific evidence?

  44. Gregory:
    bla bla bla bla

    Notice how there are no actual arguments in Gregory’s post. It’s just a lot of anger against someone for not being, in Gregory’s view, a proper christian.

    Apparently going with the evidence wherever it leads takes second place to being a proper Gregorian christian.

  45. Gregory:
    “So you think Vincent should weight the arguments of scientists based on how ‘evangelical’ they are?”

    Obviously not. Schaffner’s anti-Adamism isn’t a secret here. He’s not about to start writing poetic odes to the ‘realism’ of A&E.

    “And do you think there’s something wrong with giving up a belief based on scientific evidence?”

    Which beliefs do you hold, keiths, that are beyond scientific evidence? Any?Please do the work and name some.

    As a faithless man who’s become a hardcore anti-religious fool, you’ll most likely fail to come up with anything worth consideration. And then parade that failure as pseudo-success for heartless nihilism qua ‘skepticism.’

    As for ‘proper Christian,’ the despairing attempt at catnip works no longer. Go back to your cave and wallow in atheist misery. Torley at least has some sense left, if ever he could find a way out of this place.

  46. You can practically feel Gregory’s longing for the good ole days of inquisitions and witch-burnings.

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