Adam, Eve and Population Genetics: A Reply to Dr. Richard Buggs (Part 2)


That is a fine article !

I note with some interest these two studies as solid, basic studies of the points in question:

1st Study
"Later pre-HGP papers were in agreement with these early results. For example, this paper looked at allele diversity at the PHDA1 gene, and reports a human effective population size of ~18,000."

2nd Study
"Similarly, studies of allelic diversity at the beta-globin gene [study] found it to indicate an ancestral effective population size of ~11,000, and conclude that “There is no evidence for an exponential expansion out of a bottlenecked founding population, and an effective population size of approximately 10,000 has been maintained.”

Since my brain has evolved to understand math when presented in an Excel spreadsheet (surprisingly rapid evolution I might add), do you think it would be possible to throw some hypothetical numbers into a spreadsheet, and show how the calculations proceed from the raw data to the answer of 10,000 (or 11,000, or whatever the hypothetical numbers generate)?

I agree. It does seem like a weird flip-flop of priorities/first principles for those concerned with a certain “literal” reading of the text. Is an original couple (as sole progenotors of the entire human race) so sacrosanct that all the other (Neolithic) details of the biblical text are simply ornamental? Frankly, I might have more sympathy for the quasi-solipsism of YEC than some odd concordist proposal that puts Adam And Eve that far back in history.


It seems to me that most of the theological energy put behind the “sole progenitor single pair Adam and Eve” concept is being driven by soteriological concerns from the New Testament—mostly in Romans and Corinthians—rather than exegetical concerns about Genesis itself. Whenever I hear about Adam, Paul is not far behind.

Necessary Disclaimer: My view here is my own, there are others in the BioLogos camp who would see it differently.


I am wondering if the driving force is a belief in OEC without evolution. The OEC gets you out beyond 6,000 years but then you need something to safeguard you from the temptation to give in to evolution. A special creation of A&E would do that.

Now, if there was only some book that could describe the OEC position in their own words. Wonder where I could find such a book ? :wink:

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Agreed. For those who feel constrained to read Paul that way, I’d suggest @Swamidass’ “Geneological Adam” proposal as a better option—not that I agree or disagree with it, but it seems more plausible among current (semi-) concordist options that could help those who feel compelled to read Paul a specific way (and, no, I’m not trying to restir some recent controversy).


To me, the standout feature of this post is the clear evidence that scientists have in fact previously investigated the possibility of the human population passing through an extremely small bottleneck, and their conclusion that a bottleneck of even a few individuals has been ruled out by the available evidence.

The reason why this stands out to me is that Dr Buggs has given the very strong impression that no one has ever made such an investigation before, that no scientists have ever tried to model such a small population, that no scientists have ever concluded that there is evidence ruling out such a tight bottleneck. That is the impression I have received from statements such as this.

In contrast, Dennis has shown that several such studies have been done, and that scientists have in fact made the conclusion that a bottleneck as sharp as the one Dr Buggs is proposing has not occurred in the last 500,000 years.

  • “Also suggested is that the population size has never dropped to a few individuals, even in a single generation”

  • “There is no evidence for an exponential expansion out of a bottlenecked founding population, and an effective population size of approximately 10,000 has been maintained”

  • “On the other hand our results also deny the hypothesis that there was a severe hourglass contraction in the number of our ancestors in the late middle and upper Pleistocene”

  • “Moreover, the ancient genetic history of humans indicates no severe bottleneck during the evolution of humans in the last half million years; otherwise, much of the ancient genetic history would have been lost during a severe bottleneck”

What surprises me is that Dr Buggs has never mentioned these studies, and has in fact given the impression that such studies do not exist.

Regardless of the outcome of the discussion between Dennis and Dr Buggs, the only question I have is this (which I have posed previously to Dr Buggs).

Does your understanding of the data support the idea of an Adam and Eve who had no ancestors at all (neither human nor pre-human), as the universal progenitors of every human who has ever lived, with no humans descending from any parallel humans or pre-humans, approximately 6,000 years ago?



Can you clarify the difference between these coalescent methods and the allele frequency analysis Steve was performing? Thanks!

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I see what you did there! :wink:[quote=“vjtorley, post:7, topic:37338”]
This means that in some ways it was less human than we are - which means that if we are to believe in Adam and Eve, we have to give up belief in human equality.

I’m assuming what you mean here is that you consider the Homo erectus of 100 kya as unequal to the Homo sapiens of today. To take this a step further, are you suggesting that Adam and Eve must have been H. sapiens, and thus more recent?

Hi Brad,

I agree with your comment about St. Paul’s theology underlying the endeavor to defend monogenism (or monogenesis, as some prefer to call it). I realize that if you were arguing from Genesis alone, you could make a good case that Adam is meant to represent Everyman. But if Jesus Christ is the second Adam, as St. Paul argues, and if Adam is not a single individual, then why should Jesus Christ be? The symmetry of the metaphor appears to require that if the second Adam is a historical person (as Christians believe), the first Adam should be too.

We seem to be in agreement that if there was a historical Adam, he must have lived over a million years ago. Dr. Ann Gauger identifies him with the 2-million-year-old progenitor of Homo erectus, while Dr. Dennis Bonnette suggests that he was the first specimen of Heidelberg man, around one million years ago. That saves Adam, but as I’ve argued in a recent post on The Skeptical Zone, the point at which modern human behavior appeared seems to be around 100,000 years ago, not one or two million. Homo erectus and Heidelberg man possessed a kind of rationality, but probably not language or symbolism. See here for more: . So if Adam was the first Homo erectus or Heidelberg man, he was a lot dimmer than we are. It is hard to see him as our equal.

I have also been prepared to entertain the notion that maybe Adam was the head of a tribe, whose members agreed to let him decide the spiritual fate of the human race. If so, then perhaps a bottleneck of a few hundred individuals would be theologically acceptable. But if the Fall took place within the last million years, then from what Professor Venema has written, it seems that the lowest we can go is a few thousand individuals - which is far too many for a single tribe.

Other authors (such as Kenneth Kemp) have proposed the notion of ensouled humans interbreeding with virtually identical hominins, thereby accounting for the large bottleneck. But the notion that two individuals might be genetic conspecifics, with one possessing a rational soul and the other lacking it, makes no theological sense. And what would happen to their offspring? It all sounds very ad hoc to me.

Finally, some have proposed a Neolithic Adam. That certainly harmonizes with the Biblical chronology and the data in Genesis 4, but the idea that humans were not aware of God until a few thousand years ago makes no sense. Surely Cro-Magnon man worshiped something. And if he did, then why should a choice made by one of his Neolithic descendants have any negative implications for the human race as a whole?

So it seems we have a bad set of options. Which is the least bad? Search me.



This seems to be an opportunity to clutch straws. One could argue that you have a Jesus as a sacrifice for all historical humanity.

I don’t see people alleging that Jesus has to be a hermaphrodite for his powers of atonement to extend to females.!

Or, even more peculiar, the idea that we should have two messiah’s - - one for each gender. After all, God created first one gender, then the next. Would that logically entail creating a male messiah and a female one?

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This argument strikes me as entirely contrived. If Jesus is the second Adam, which I believe he is, then it is in a symbolic or metaphorical sense. He presumably does not have Adam’s genes, Adam’s form (unless Adam was a non-descript Jewish guy), or Adam’s faults, but Jesus assumes his place in a symbolic sense. Therefore, the argument as to physicality is mute.


moot? :slight_smile: /pedant

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Hi Phil,

I’ll just cite one passage, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22: “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

Now try reading it with Adam as Everyman. “For since death came through Everyman, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Everyman all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” There’s no parallel. Doesn’t make sense.

Whatever the sense in which Jesus is the second Adam, he was clearly an individual who undid the damage done by the first. If there was no first Adam, then why should we need a single individual to undo the damage done by Everyman?


Sorry, my proofreader was on coffee break. Or maybe I meant it is an argument from silence.


Well if you are going to change scripture, why is it not equally valid to say:
“For since death is a common experience to flesh, the resurrection of the dead also comes through flesh (God incarnate). For as in the flesh all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

I simply think you are reading too much into the metaphor, and all metaphors break down if you press them to extremes as that is their nature, even Biblical ones.



@jpm was correct to begin with.

This is a metaphysically contrived argument.

We could say: spirit is spirit and matter is matter, and so a ghost cannot influence matter.
But who made up that rule?

Is the body of Jesus a magic box? He can only atone for people who descend from a real Adam & Eve?

That is completely up to the Lord of the Universe and how he constructed the Soul-needs-Atonement machine.

If Jesus refers to a symbol of humanity, and says he is dying for the symbol, are you saying that only works if Jesus says he is dying for all humanity - - he can’t speak symbolically?

If you want to go around to various sites and make up rules for what God and Jesus can do, by all means, proceed. But to do it here, you need to explain how the machinery of atonement works in such a way as to show why atonement can only work if you don’t use symbols.

The modern literalist reading of this makes less sense than a figurative one. We aren’t “in Christ” literally … as in all of us physically being inside some other giant human body. We are spiritually in Christ, and spiritual children of God; just as we are also spiritual children of the free Sarah rather than the slave Hagar, as Paul writes elsewhere, obviously not caring a whit about biological ancestry as he wrote it. So why do YECs turn this around and inconsistently make only the Adamic side about biology?


Hi Phil, George and Mervin,

The point I’m making with my citation of 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 has nothing to do with biological ancestry. I agree that the passage in question doesn’t prove Adam was the father of us all, and if YECs want to use it for that purpose, then they’re over-egging it. Rather, my argument was that the metaphor of Christ as the second Adam makes no sense unless there was some individual who was the first Adam. That’s all. Whether you want to identify this first Adam with the father of us all or with some particular individual who lied in the Neolithic era and was the first person to whom God revealed Himself doesn’t matter at all for my purposes, here. That’s a secondary issue.

George makes the entirely valid point that Jesus can redeem anyone He wants, regardless of whether they spring from a common father or not. Quite so. But He cannot be the second Adam unless there was a first.

Phil suggests a reading along the lines of: “For since death is a common experience to flesh, the resurrection of the dead also comes through flesh (God incarnate).” That might be a defensible reading if Adam had been named “flesh” in Genesis. But he wasn’t. Adam means “man.” And anyway, it sounds funny calling Jesus the second flesh.

Finally, the Everyman interpretation falls afoul of St. Paul’s assertion in Romans 5:12 that “sin entered the world through one man.” I submit that a fair-minded individual, reading these passages in St. Paul, would conclude that at the very least, this “Adam” figure was believed by St. Paul to have been a concrete individual, whoever he may have been. That was all I wanted to say. Cheers.


I’m not affected by this issue either way the science goes; it won’t affect my personal position. But I am concerned about the issue being misrepresented to other people as something it is not. I would not like Dr Buggs’ theory to be represented as evidence for a historical Adam and Eve who had no ancestors at all (neither human nor pre-human), as the universal progenitors of every human who has ever lived, with no humans descending from any parallel humans or pre-humans, approximately 6,000 years ago, if the data doesn’t actually agree with that, and if that is not what he is arguing for.

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So, if I decide to make a luxury island resort, with all the expensive and dazzling amenities anyone could want … and I name it “New Atlantis” … are you saying:

  1. My resort island cannot exist unless the first Atlantis existed?

  2. Or, that my customers just won’t be able to enjoy my resort, until someone shows them the original Atlantis existed?

  3. Or, better yet, that for some mysterious reasons, all those people who think the original story of Atlantis is real are the ones who most enjoy New Atlantis !!!

All these 3 of these statements are "boundary conditions’ … “rules of engagement” for how people can interpret my new spa. And they are completely arbitrary and without any compelling foundation, or philosophical entailment.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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