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Monday, January 3, 2022

Can Science “Make Space” for Adam and Eve?

             I chose Adam and Eve as my VIPs for this week for two reasons. The first reason is that my scriptures study this week is about the Creation of the earth and everything on it, including Adam and Eve. The second reason is that I found an interesting article with the claim that evolutionary science could be “making space” for Adam and Eve. The article is a report on a news item by Tyler O’Neil on Fox News earlier today

            Many Christians reject the theory of evolution because it has “no room for God’s first people, Adam and Eve.” O’Neil reported that scientists are pointing to “genetics breakthroughs” that could resolve the “impasse between faith and science.”

            According to S Joshua Swamidass, an associate professor at St. Louis’ Washington University School of Medicine, the “deep and stubborn” conflict in society between Christianity and evolution may be ending.

Now, in a surprising twist, evolutionary science is making space for Adam and Eve…. It turns out that the theological questions are about genealogical ancestry, not genetics. In this paradigm shift, we are finding a better way forward, a better story to tell.

            The professor published a book in 2019 titled “The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry.” In his book, the professor wrote that “genetics and evolutionary theory can work hand in hand with the existence of Adam and Eve.” He explained to Fox News:

Most readers of Genesis understood Adam and Eve to be (1) ancestors of us all, and (2) miraculously created without parents of their own…. In contrast, evolution teaches that (3) we share common ancestors with apes, and (4) we arise from a large population, not a single couple. This conflict of fact only seemed solvable by revising foundational Christian theological beliefs, or by rejecting evolution.

But now, clearing up some big scientific understandings, we know that all four of these things can be true at the same time…. Even if Adam and Eve lived as recently as just 6,000 years ago, they would be the genealogical ancestors of everyone across the globe by AD 1. They could even have been created de novo, from the dust and a rib. Of course, at the same time, we would also descend from people outside the Garden, others whom God created by a providentially governed process of evolution.

            Science tells us that we receive half of our DNA from our mother and half from our father. O’Neil explained that each ancestor contributes a smaller percentage of our DNA as we go further back in our ancestral line.

While universal genetic ancestors are rare, universal genealogical ancestors are surprisingly common…. Each individual has four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so on, but population size in past generations tends to get smaller, so overlap is inevitable. [Swamidass] argues that by 1 A.D., every person on Earth was descended from Adam and Eve.

In his GAE model – Genealogical Adam and Eve – Swamidass claimed that biological humans, despite the span of time of between the time at which Adam and Eve existed and modern day, may still share a common ancestor with apes as per the theory of evolution, but that God could have “created Adam and Eve from the dust and a rib, without parents, and these two became the ancestors of all humans by 1 A.D.

            Swamidass does not understand that Adam and Eve had numerous children besides Cain and Abel, including Seth – a younger brother. Without this understanding, where did all the other people come from? He concluded that there were other people on the earth because Cain got married and built a city after he killed Abel.

            Other educators support the idea that science and religion have common grounds. Commenting on Swamidass’ research, Christian philosophy professor Michael Murray said that he believes “we have arrived at the point where we can confidently affirm that the basic evolutionary story is not the threat to Christian orthodoxy that we once feared, and not because we had to compromise on orthodoxy.”

My view is that recent findings in genetics and paleontology have shown that our best scientific theories and data do not rule out a historical Adam and Eve…. [New developments show that] for all we know, there might have been a pair that is the ancestor of all extant humans or extant Homo sapiens.

            Murray added that there is an “emerging consensus among both secular scientists and scientists of faith that the relevant empirical data was flatly inconsistent with an ancestral pair.” Because of recent developments, an “ancestral pair is not flatly ruled out as was previously thought.”

            Comments by biology professor Nathan Lents said that recent developments made Adam and Eve “more plausible.” He told Fox News:

I would not say that there is any evidence, historical or scientific, in favor of the existence of Adam and Eve, as they are presented in the Bible…. However, there have been developments in our understanding of ancestry and genetics that allow for the possibility of universal ancestors of the entire human population in the surprisingly recent past.

            According to Swamidass, “secular scientists have an opportunity to offer an olive branch to religious communities” by “making space for Adam and Eve.” He continued, “I’m encouraged to see that many religious leaders … have been eager to take the olive branch…. For those seeking to advance science in a fractured society, this is very good news indeed.”

            In the words of President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – a scientist and a prophet: “There is no conflict between science and religion. Conflict only arises from an incomplete knowledge of either science or religion, or both.” 


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