Adam, Eve and Population Genetics: A Reply to Dr. Richard Buggs (Part 1)

(Dennis Venema) #670

Hmm. For those that don’t know about it, that’s a case where humans cause a bottleneck for one population of sheep by transporting them to a remote island. They certainly don’t enjoy exponential growth afterwards either. Mouflon sheep in Europe continue on during this time. So, not many parallels to the proposed situation unless we’re floating the idea that the postulated hominin bottleneck was intentionally caused by an intelligent agent.

(Dennis Venema) #671

What are you saying is “my scenario”?

(Peaceful Science) #672

As I understand it, you hold that “humans” are Homo sapiens, and Adam is not a historical figure. Rather, God’s Image and our Fallen nature are instilled gradually over time as our species arises about 200 kya. “Adam” in Genesis is not a historical individual in our past, but perhaps an allegorical reference to the rise of Homo sapiens.

You acknowledge that Neanderthals do interbreed with “humans,” but we neither refer to them as “human” or “non-human” or “sub-human.” They are something else that has not been specified. Somehow, they are not the same thing as Homo sapiens, but they breed with Homo sapiens, and their origins need not be specified. (Epicycle?)

Of course, please do refine and clarify your view.

(Dennis Venema) #673

I’m not aware of anyone proposing intentional burial, art, or religious activity at 2 million years ago. I’m open to being corrected on that, of course, if you know of any examples.

(Peaceful Science) #674

You are really not aware of this? That is surprising.

Most recently there has been a raging debate surrounding H nadelii. Some were arguing that they are a version of Homo erectus, burying their dead. It now seems these bones were dated around 250 kya, but for a while people were thinking much much earlier. That date, also, is certainly up for dispute and could be revised again.

Even if affirm the more recent dating, if we see this behavior in multiple species/subspecies at this time (which we do), we expect it actually arose much earlier, closer to the common ancestor of all of them (unless its convergent). So it is not unreasonable to suggest it arises even earlier that we have observed, well before humans arise.

Yes, you could disagree with this interpretation (and I personally have no stake here). However, that does not remove the raging debate on these points. There is precious little data to go off of, and many of the most populated areas are now covered by rising seas. We just do not know when intentional burial arises, and most think it arises long before Homo sapiens.

Likewise, large scale pigment mining also arises before Homo sapiens: It is almost expected that small scale pigment utilization is taking place long before that.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the mining of minerals for use as pigments may have begun more than one million years ago

Of course, pigments are used often for art, and we do not expect art from 1 mya to last to this day, except perhaps in the most fortunate of extremely rare and lucky cases.

There is a repetitive quality to this part of the conversation. It seems there is a pattern of arguing that “because we do not detect it, it’s not plausible to wonder if it exists”.

I’d encourage a more scientific approach, where we propose several hypotheses, understand what evidence would be uncovered under each hypothesis (which may be nothing), and then consider what the data might tell us. In cases like Homo erectus 2 mya, there is not really much data. Most hypothesis are plausible, and that is why there is so much debate within anthropology. That ambiguity a fact of scientific inquiry, and pushing too quickly past it leads to errors.

(Dennis Venema) #675

I’m well aware of the evidence about H. naledii. I think they intentionally buried their dead. But they are nowhere near 2 million years ago, which is the time point we are discussing.

I’m also well aware of the evidence for pigment use in Homo. I have not seen a peer-reviewed article that places this evidence further back than 250-300 KYA. I’m of course open to new evidence as it arises. But again, there is none (that I know of) anywhere close to 2 million years ago.

(Peaceful Science) #676

That is under debate:

That is openly contended by many anthropologists.

Early Homo species arose within the southern savannas of Africa and left evidence of the collection of red ochre and specular haematite (specularite). Some authors have suggested that these early Homo species therefore had enhanced aesthetic and symbolic capabilities. However, the date and location of the emergence of ‘symbolic behaviour’ is still debated and may never be unequivocally resolved.

I know it is tempting to speed past the controversies, but science does not end up resolving all the details. We are limited by what we can see, and that is a mere fraction of what has happened.

Things also have changed since you were in graduate school. Back then, your view was quite common, until the weight of evidence started to challenge it. Now, most anthropologists tell a different story. There has been a steady progress of finding evidence of symbolic thought earlier than Homo sapiens. That is part of the reason why @agauger is in closer agreement with the Natural History Museum than you.

Ultimately, we cannot really be sure. That makes it more interesting. Do not prematurely foreclose the conversation. It could be fun!

(Dennis Venema) #677

I’m not really understanding why you think this view - and I will clarify it a bit for you below - is somehow as at odds with the setting of Genesis as seeing Adam as Homo erectus at 2 million years ago. Not following you here.

My own personal view (and note, this is my own view, not any sort of an official BioLogos position, of course - and despite the title on these comments, I am no longer the Fellow of Biology for BioLogos) is my own sort of mash-up of Pete Enns’ Adam is Israel and Walton’s cosmic temple view. I think Genesis is operating on both levels here - telling the narrative of Israel’s God creating the world and echoing the exile at the same time. I’m ambivalent on whether historical individuals named Adam and Eve are part of that. My suspicion is not, but people I respect (Walton, N.T. Wright) are holding out for at least some form of that, so I’m happy to let the theologians discuss it and see where it goes.

All of this sits quite well with the Genesis narratives set in the neolithic, around 6,000 years ago. I don’t think Genesis has in mind at all any time frame before this.

(Peaceful Science) #678

Sounds quite a bit like a recent genealogical Adam.

Probably because of your strong stance against identifying Adam with anything other than the origin of “humans,” by which you mean Homo sapiens. Yet, here, you identify Adam with Israel, who is certainly not the ancestor of all Homo sapiens.

Like I said, your position is very close to the recent genealogical Adam view. Surprising.

(Dennis Venema) #679

Again, everything I’ve seen in the literature is ~300KYA or later. I don’t think the debate stretches back to 2MYA, but like I said, I may have missed a paper somewhere.

(Peaceful Science) #680

You’ve missed a whole body of literature, not just a single paper. See this one on art from 1.8 million years ago.

I’m not presenting this as definitive evidence of art, but of definitive evidence of open debate. Many anthropologists hold that Homo erectus was fully human, with symbolic thought, art, and more.

Current archaeological evidence supports the claim that symbolic behavior, including palaeoart, first emerged in human evolution around 1 million years ago. The purpose of this article is to review archaeological studies that might support the hypothesis that the earliest palaeoart actually is evident around 2 million years ago. This review identifies nine Oldowan artifacts that have been proposed as possible non-utilitarian and possibly symbolic behavior. Among seven stone tools, the three strongest candidates are the Olduvai Gorge, the FLK North grooved and pecked cobble, ~1.80 million years ago, and MNK Main subspheroid with hexagon shape framing an apparent natural dot-and-undulating-line motif, ~1.5–1.6 million years ago, both initially reported and described by Mary Leakey; and the curated Koobi Fora FxJj1 “broken core” with inner rhomboid shape, ~1.87 million years ago. All six stone tools from Olduvai Gorge need scientific re-examination to determine their chaîne opératoire and assess non-utilitarian features. If even one of the Olduvai Gorge artifacts were validated as symbolic behavior this would indicate the emergence of palaeoart one million years earlier than current proposals. It would also suggest that Homo habilis/rudolfensis or a very early Homo erectus had substantially more advanced cognitive, design and symbolic competencies than inferred in current theories. It would constitute a challenge to develop more advanced cognitive semiotic and art-theoretic analytical tools for illuminating the role of such palaeoart in hominin cultural evolution.

Like I said:

True, but you are also a speaker in the Voices Program, and have a long running blog on the site, and are the face of the scientific account of BioLogos. BioLogos does includes people of a wide range of views on Adam. True. However, it only forefronts a small number of people, including you. That means something too.

(Steve Schaffner) #681

What single location did erectus spread from?

(Dennis Venema) #682

Thanks for the paper, I’ll read up on it. It’s not my area, so it’s not something I keep close tabs on.

At first blush, it is as I suspected - the early evidence is pretty controversial. When the average Christian hears “art” or even “paleoart” they’re not thinking about natural objects that may have been collected for aesthetic purposes, or a few lines on a bone that might have been intentionally made as opposed to the results of butchering with stone tools, or very crude natural figures that might be intentional or might just appear to us to be pareidolic. What we see is a gradient of behaviour. Just like species, there is no clear line of when “art” begins.

This is what we expect from a gradual progression, not “fully human” entities at 2MYA.

Genesis has art, agriculture, metallurgy, pastoralism, music, and so on within Adam’s lifetime. It fits well with 6KYA.

Thanks again for the paper. It’s a fascinating read thus far.

(Peaceful Science) #683

Africa, at the bottom of the figure (“eregaster” here).

Yes, but completely within mainstream speculation. Moreover, current views with much less controversy place first art about 1 mya, not just 300 kya. Either way, @agauger is just going with one view which is solidly within mainstream science when she says “humans” arise 2 mya.

Yes, it is also what we expect in @agauger’s model.

Which is why we have to tolerate diversity and differences of opinion here. It is not really something science answers.

(Peaceful Science) #684

It is very interesting seeing you coming over to a recent genealogical Adam view of origins. If you start asking the questions you’ve been directing my way over the last year, you might move even farther.

(Steve Schaffner) #685

In this context, an entire continent is not something I would consider a single location. (Actually, I can’t think of any context in which I would consider Africa to be a single location. Interstellar travel, maybe?)

(Dennis Venema) #686

I agree - there needs to be allowances for differences on disputable matters. FWIW, I’m happy fellowshipping alongside Christians of widely disparate views - YEC, OEC, ID, EC, and everything in between. I do draw the line (as nicely as I can) when folks start saying that one has to reject evolution to be a Christian (or similar), though.

(Dennis Venema) #687

Not sure what you mean here - I’ve always thought that Genesis has 6KYA in mind, as far as I can recall. I want to take Genesis on its own terms. It doesn’t have modern science in view, in my opinion.

(Peaceful Science) #689

How about “somewhere in Africa”.

Evidence is spotty. It does not seem they instantly appear everywhere. As I understand, the evidence of their tools is distinguishable from early creatures, but exactly how and where they arise will always be blurry.

(Ann Gauger) #690

Hi Dennis,

I just want to share my favorite evidence for the existence of art in Homo erectus/ergaster. This piece was found in South Africa at Kathu Pan, and dates to 750 KYR. It was made using many more flakes than required, and has a clear aesthetic quality

As far as anatomical similarity between Homo sapiens and Homo ergaster/habilis, see here

Thank you, @Swamidass, for the links to the evidence for neural development and art.