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

I should add that the whole analysis is very tightly dependent most sharply on how many children Adam and Eve have. If they have, say, 8 kids, and then it goes down to just 0.4% growth from 2 centuries, then down to 0.04% long term, it would be very hard to detect.

Having 8 kids in one family is not at all implausible.

And having 3 of them die is quite within reason in a world without doctors and lots of physical risks…

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The question was discussed in the thread “My Theory about the Flood”. For the sake of accessibility to interested readers I develop my argument with pleasure in the follow:

First of all let me remark that about 362,000 humans in God’s Image are created each day around the world presently, that is, in “a separate moment in time from humanity’s initial creation”. So to this extent my interpretation regarding Genesis 9:6 is nothing bizarre.

Presumably you are astonished because I claim that Genesis 9:6 refers to the creation of Image Bearers the same way as God created the first ones (“Adam and Eve”). i.e.: by endowing human-like animals with capability to freely love Him.

Notice however that Genesis 6:2-4 explicitly refers to human beings called “sons of God” the same way as Adam is called “son of God” (Luke 3:38): This means that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2-4 were created the same way as Adam was created but in a separate later moment.

Gordon Wenham [Word Biblical Commentary I, Genesis 1-15, Word books: Dallas, 1987] following Claus Westermann claims:

Genesis 9:3-7 explain “why human life is specially protected, but animal life is not”, and proclaim “the inviolability of human life” that follows from “the unique right of God over life and death”: “Every single violation of this limit, be it based on national, racial or ideological grounds is here condemned” [p. 251]. Indeed the remark in Genesis 9:3 concerning food indicates a degree of distinction between humanity and the animal kingdom that was lacking in the vegetarian diet of Genesis 1:29 [p. 263-264]; and in Genesis 9:5-7 appears for the first time the prohibition of killing any creature belonging to humanity because mankind is made in the image of God.

One may wonder why this distinction and this prohibition were omitted in Genesis 1:26-29, as the “image of God” is mentioned for the first time. And even more astonishing is that the prohibition was omitted in Genesis 4:15, where to protect Cain God does not proclaim that he shares human blood and belongs to mankind but “put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.” A reasonable explanation for such an “omission” in divinely inspired Scripture is that a sharp distinction between human and animal life would not fit with the ontological status of pre-diluvian Creation; such a distinction is appropriate only once all human-like animals on the earth were transformed into human persons. Since this allegedly happened after the Flood, only then (Genesis 9:5-7) God categorically proclaims that the right to life, foundation of the personal rights, is defined by the belonging to humanity. And here we meet to some extent the interpretation of Hendel, R. S.: The Flood narrative with its introductory pericope of the “sons of God” ends ordering “the human cosmos” [Of Demigods and the Deluge: Toward an Interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 106, No. 1 (1987), pp. 13-26, and References therein]. The ordering happens mainly by means of an explicit formulation of the foundation of rights and law.

Please let me know whether I have answered your question or you desire further clarifications.

I won’t derail this very important Buggs-Venema-Swamidass-Schaffner thread further with these matters, particularly if this has already been discussed elsewhere on the Forum (at length, apparently, during the months when I took a break from the Forum).

My opinion on your theory does not matter in the least, but I do find it quite implausible. I will leave it there. If you wish to continue, you can start a new topic.

I would appreciate knowing why you find it implausible. Since the issue is related to transmission of original sin I would like to suggest you post the reasons in this other thread.

Nonetheless I think it would be also fitting posting here since in the end the question at the core of the debate seems to be:

Is it theologically necessary that all Image Bearers are genetically or at least genealogically descended from a single couple?

I would be thankful to know your answer to this question.

You’re probably a super nice guy, so I don’t want to offend you, but in general when people come to the Forum here with their own pet theories that are not mainstream, I don’t find it particularly useful to spend much time engaging with them.

This is because

[1] the chances of my persuading such a person are slim to none, and
[2] there are no lurking readers who might be convinced by what I spend valuable time writing, because lurking readers are very unlikely to be in the same camp as the pet-theorist.

This is why I have not spent literally one minute even reading the thread “A.Suarez’s Treatment on a Pope’s Formulation for Original Sin’s Transmission!” despite its high traffic. Life is short, I already spend far too much time on this Forum, and I need to manage my time more wisely; I truly mean no offense to you. If you manage to publish an article and your ideas go mainstream, perhaps I’ll go back and read up on them.

But to respond ever so briefly, I like to believe that the ideas of fallenness and of God’s image actually have some real-world behavioral correlates. So as for the idea that, magically, presto change-o!, all humans became image-bearers through some ad-hoc miracle not recorded clearly in the Bible, I find it implausible and not worth pursuing further.

But I certainly wish you well, brother!


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Bill, it seems we both agree that Writing conclusively demonstrates the presence of humans who are in the Image of God.

I would be happy if you can argue convincingly that Language is a feature capable of sharply distinguishing Image Bearers from human-like animals as well. But (“Chomsky, non-Chomsky”) the debate in this thread rather suggests that it is not.

In any case moving God’s creation of the first Image Bearers from 3500 BC to 50’000 BC does not seem to be relevant for the core question in this thread, that is:

Can all Image Bearers of all times be considered genetic or at least genealogical descendants of a single couple, who God created ex novo or by making human-like animals in His Image?

And after all:

Do you think that setting the creation of the first Image Bearers at 50’000 BC instead of 3500 BC fits better to the Bible or allow us to avoid some important theological problem?

If NOT, let us keep to 3500 BC as the safest proposal, at least for the time being.

If YES, please explain why.

God didn’t see fit to give us any indication in the Bible as to exactly when we became image bearers so you can’t say which is better 50,000 years or 3,500 years. Knowing exactly when does solve or create any theological problem that I can see. If 3,500 BC makes you feel safe then by all means keep to that date.

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No, there is evidence, but it comes from disciplines other than genetics. Steve referred briefly to it here:

We have an example of a bottleneck that sheds light on the discussion. The Toba super-eruption 74 Kya affected the climate for about 5,000 years and precipitated a near-extinction event for H. sapiens. Another 5,000 years later, the human population experiences “explosive” growth as it departs the Levant and begins migrating across the globe. In short, we have geologic evidence of a natural disaster that precipitated climate change and caused a bottleneck, and we have evidence of climate change that affected population growth for millennia.

Genetics indicated a bottleneck in the human population just prior to the “Out of Africa” event, and other sciences provided corroborating evidence to verify that finding. Any hypothesis involving a bottleneck to two individuals followed by explosive growth cannot rely on genetics alone. As Steve asked, what sort of natural disaster could fit such a scenario? The science of genetics may not be able to rule out a single-couple bottleneck of that sort, but surely climatology, geology, archaeology, etc., have something to say about it.

No one is trying to distinguish humans from animals in this thread. That’s worthwhile discussion, but it’s not the focus at the moment. We’re simply pointing out that two people could not invent language. It’s an absurd concept. Any scenario that involves the special creation of Adam and Eve – whether in the distant past or in the fourth millennium B.C.E. – requires that God implant such knowledge in their minds. It’s a re-run of the “creation with appearance of age” idea, with one major difference: now we are talking about human beings, rather than inanimate objects like trees or rocks or distant stars. In any case, once we resort to that sort of explanation, science is out the window anyway, so why even bother to worry about scientific evidence?

On your remark about newborns and the severely disabled, this depends on one’s view of the image of God. If one takes Gen. 1:26-28 to be a statement of vocation or purpose, then none of us functions properly as the image. None of us love God or others as we should, and none of us perfectly reflect his goodness and moral character. This applies to everyone, newborns and the disabled and scientists alike. I realize this may conflict with some Catholic doctrines, which is probably where the disconnect lies.

Exactly. This is a problem for all “recent Adam” scenarios. Were human beings prior to 6,000 years ago ignorant of all moral principles? Was human culture prior to the Fall sinless? The problems are endless.


Let’s take a break from these discussions for Holy Weekend. I’m locking the thread temporarily.


According to Genesis, God had not caused it to rain upon the earth. So, drought?

Thanks for this thread, I have been greatly enjoying how informative it is!

Wellll… This is perhaps stating the case a bit too strongly. Identical twins, deaf children, and fantasy writers invent languages all the time. I would submit that if you left two modern humans to be raised by wolves on a deserted island (if they managed to survive) they would be more likely than not to invent a language.

That said, I don’t find it probable at all that the development of language in human history was an abrupt shift from non-language to language. So if that’s all you meant, we agree.

We don’t even know enough yet to be able to tell if whales like orcas have true language or not. I think they probably do, personally. It’s entirely possible the only reason they haven’t invented spaceships yet is their lack of opposable thumbs…

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Perhap octopuses will. Or perhaps did, if you have seen the movie Arrival.


Ah, but the twins and the fantasy writer have the advantage of already possessing language. On the deaf and those raised by wolves, they certainly would invent ways to communicate, but would it be language? Helen Keller didn’t have language until Ms. Sullivan taught to her, although she certainly communicated with her parents before then. There is a difference between language and communication. Animals have forms of communication, but they lack language.


In human communication, you have the case of pidgin systems that can eventually evolve into creole languages. Like the cases mentioned above, pidgins are invented by speakers of other languages as a communication bridge, not created in a linguistic vacuum. It still stands that full-fledged languages (i.e. creoles from pidgins) require communities of speakers and new ones take generations to develop, they aren’t invented de novo by a couple speakers.


Isn’t the main difference between a pidgen and a creole whether you have kids growing up speaking it as a primary language? Kids’ brains naturally do things with language; if they don’t have one, they’ll invent one. It’s not unreasonable to call it an instinct, despite how often that term has been misapplied.

It is hard to imagine realistic circumstances that would put two people in a linguistic vacuum, modern day or not. But I stand by the statement that their communication would be likely to become a language, supposing they started young enough that their brains had full potential for language.

Just curious how you’d define this difference? Grammar? Abstract concepts? And how do you know? Do you assume humans would be able to recognize non-human language as such on hearing it? What about sounds that are outside the human range of hearing?

There are significant differences in levels of complexity too. Pidgins are rudimentary and not sufficient for all the communicative tasks of fully developed languages. But in certain contexts (often among displaced people from multiple groups, like when you had slavery in the Caribbean) where children grow up in an environment where family social bonds and generational continuity are disrupted, a local pidgin can evolve into a creole acquired by the children of speakers of diverse languages as their first language. But in those cases, new grammatical features emerge to accomplish the things speakers need to accomplish in order to communicate.

I don’t think this is true if they have never acquired a first language. Obviously you can’t run experiments, but there are several cases involving extreme abuse and neglect, like “Jeanie.” An infant brain needs exposure to language to develop the pathways that make language processing possible.

Here are some pretty good lecture notes I found, if you are interested:


Right, I was (not very clearly) trying to say that kids, given a pidgen, will automatically add levels of complexity and grammatical features to make it a real language. It’s not something that takes real long, and it’s not the adults making it happen or planning it.

Yes; I would not argue that someone in a ‘linguistic vacuum’ who didn’t have anybody to communicate with would naturally develop language. But if you put a cluster of kids together I think they would. The example of Nicaraguan Sign Language shows that kids can develop a language shockingly fast. The issue of infant development is tricky, and I’ve never claimed anything more than 50%+ “likely,” but two people inventing a language is far from impossible.

Thanks for the resource, will check it out!


It is hard to imagine! I get the feeling that we basically agree, but all these hypotheticals keep getting in the way. In the only example we have of language evolving from non-language, the process required many many thousands of years. I sincerely doubt it could be accomplished in one lifetime by two kids on an island. I also sincerely doubt we’ll have the opportunity to test the hypothesis, so who knows?

Basically all of the above. How do I know? I don’t! I’m just taking the experts’ word for it. Of course, maybe tomorrow they will change their minds, in which case I will change my mind, too. Haha. Here is one expert’s idea of what the evolution of grammar might have looked like:

  1. One-word stage – semantics with no syntax.
  2. 2-word stage – structured, but with none of the other features of language.
  3. Hierarchical structure, much like a basic phrase structure grammar, but without recursivity. (A language lacking subordinate clauses and other forms of embedding.)
  4. Recursive syntax. (Flexibility could precede or follow.)
  5. Fully modern grammar.

Each step corresponds to a functional communication system, although not as elaborate and rich as the modern one. They roughly resemble the stages of child language acquisition, where recursivity and flexibility are late additions.

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