Ann Gauger's latest salvo against Dennis Venema's arguments against an original pair of human beings

Hi Dennis, you and Dr. Gauger may not be so far apart on the science. She has, after all, stated that the hypothesized 2 individuals would have lived several hundred thousand years ago–in the H Erectus time frame.

That said, I fail to see how the hypothesis would provide even faint support for the theological assertion that all of humanity is descended from the Biblical Adam and Eve. The reason is that Genesis portrays Adam and Eve as agriculturalists. And the practice of agriculture goes back no more than 10,000 years.

Grace and peace,


Buggs didn’t state a timeframe in his critique. I’m working with humans. Homo erectus is not human. If Ann is open to Adam and Eve being another species (or chronospecies leading to humans) then I suppose it becomes increasingly possible to shoehorn a pair in there somewhere. I think it runs afoul of ILS patterns with other primates though (chimp, gorilla, orangutans).

Why don’t you respond to Buggs? He’s the one who wrote the letter.

Sorry that wasn’t clear. Yes, the response will be to Buggs.

A post was merged into an existing topic: Criticisms vs. Attacks: Where’s the line?

@Jay313. Just to be clear, you claim:

Discovery Institute “attempts to push intelligent design into schools.”

I then wrote “You are aware that Discovery Institute opposes teaching ID in public schools?” and quoted their policy statement explaining this.

You then wrote:

Oh, yes, I’m well aware of it.

So if you are “well aware” that Discovery Institute opposes teaching intelligent design in public schools, then why did you write claim that Discovery Institute “attempts to push intelligent design into schools”?

A post was merged into an existing topic: Criticisms vs. Attacks: Where’s the line?


You are funny.

My problem with Behe does not concern his discussions of loss of functions. Happens all the time. Tetrapods lost their gills. Whales lost their legs.

My problem is any attempt to distinguish between Evolution and some spurious notion of Devolution!

I understand. Ken Ham sees the same trend and reads the same book you just bought and comes to this conclusion in his AiG blog:

Our research from my co-authored book, Already Gone, showed that one of the reasons that young people are leaving the church is precisely because they aren’t being given answers to their questions! They have questions about science and the Bible but, instead of getting solid, Bible-affirming answers, they are getting no answers or the message that you can believe in millions of years, evolution, and the Bible at the same time. The issue of millions of years was a primary issue we uncovered behind why so many young people are leaving the church. We need to reach these young people with solid, biblically based answers!

So, you tell me. Can a person believe in millions of years, evolution, and the Bible at the same time? That is the actual dichotomy that young people who grow up in such churches face.

Since you are not an evangelical, you should know that about 57% of evangelical Christians don’t accept evolution. In many evangelical churches, this is exactly the sort of teaching that kids receive. Others want to make belief in the de novo, special creation of Adam an “essential” that we must believe about creation. Kids are being unnecessarily forced into a corner, as @DanielK noted in closing, and many of them are drifting away from the church because of it. One of the problems for ID is that its arguments about science and the scientific method have been co-opted and turned into this (from the same blog post):

So, of course young people are going to see a contradiction between much of the modern “science” (really historical science interpreted through the lens of naturalism and atheism) they’ve been taught and the teachings of the Bible! But sadly very few youth leaders, pastors, and parents are dealing with this indoctrination.

So, the answer is to double down. More of the same. Here is where that is getting us:

Notice that from 2006-2016, a mere 10 years, the number of religiously unaffiliated among 18-29 year olds has risen from 23% to 39%. I find that alarming. Simply doing more of what we’ve been doing obviously isn’t working.

On an organizational level, it means to stop pursuing cultural change by political means. Seek to win the battle of ideas, not the battle of the ballot box. On a personal level, it means what you showed it means. It means learning to empathize with the “other,” and caring for the least among us.

Pope Francis perhaps has a lesson to teach evangelicals here. The Catholic church has not changed its dogma, but the pope nevertheless experiences soaring popularity. Why? In my judgment, it’s because he is preaching the gospel to the poor. There is a lesson here …

I showed up here a little over a year ago because I was researching the trend of young people leaving the church. Since controversy over evolution was one of the reasons that I discovered, I came here to learn what I could. I honestly could care less about the historical disagreements between the various groups and positions. I’m more concerned with the effect that they have on our youth.


Official policy and actual results sometimes vary. And then there is the law of unintended consequences. Once the self-serving politicians in the legislature and the State Board of Education got “on board” with Discovery’s push to change the science curricula, they went hog wild. They changed social studies standards to highlight the fact that America was founded as a Christian nation, and mandated history books to detail the accomplishments of Ronald Reagan. The resulting textbook was mocked nationwide for, among other things, implying that slaves “immigrated” to the United States.

You lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas. The moral of the story is: don’t get in bed with politicians. Discovery opened this can of worms long ago. Will they, like Ken Ham, simply double down for more of the same? Obviously, I can’t answer that question. I can only ask it and hope the organization rethinks its political entanglements.


The argument against Edge of Evolution has a lot more to do with the science than the philosophical or theological outlook that Behe may have. Further study of the very system he outlined in his book, quinone resistance in Falciparum, turned out to be quite different than what he described in his book. On top of that, his basic idea seems to fall into the trap of the Sharpshooter fallacy.

Buggs did quote this section from what I am assuming is your book:

"If a species were formed through such an event [by a single ancestral breeding pair] or if a species were reduced in numbers to a single breeding pair at some point in its history, it would leave a telltale mark on its genome that would persist for hundreds of thousands of years— a severe reduction in genetic variability for the species as a whole”

Therefore, he has accepted the time frame of a few hundreds thousand years, which I am presuming would refer to about 200,000 years which is the current estimate for the start of H. sapiens. If Ann Gauger thinks that the evidence allows for a bottleneck further back in H. erectus (i.e. millions of years) then that would seem to be a tacit admission that there isn’t evidence for a more recent bottleneck, although I certainly don’t want to put words in Dr. Gauger’s mouth.

For that reason, I think the LD evidence would certainly counter what Buggs’ criticisms.

1 Like

According to what I’ve seen, there is evidence of two bottlenecks in H. sapiens: the “out of Africa” event, and the crossing of the Bering Strait. If someone has seen something more recent that contradicts this research, I would be interested to hear about it.

Evidence that two main bottleneck events shaped modern human genetic diversity

Inference of human population history from individual whole-genome sequences

Hi everyone,

I have a couple of quick questions.


It is my understanding that you believe the number of individuals in the human line has never dipped below several thousand, since the human-chimp split. Is that your view?


You believe that Homo erectus was the first true human. You might want to have a look at this paper:

(The acheulean handaxe: More like a bird’s song than a beatles’ tune?)

Briefly, the authors argue against the commonly received view that the techniques for producing Acheulean handaxes were acquired by social learning and that handaxes are therefore cultural. They argue that language need not have been involved in showing another individual how to make them.

Finally, they write: “A further problem facing the cultural transmission hypothesis is the much more rapid pace of change after Acheulean handaxes disappeared at 300‐200 Ka. If the behaviors involved in the production of both handaxes and post‐Acheulean artifacts were culturally learned, how do we explain this very marked increase in the speed of change?”

I should add that the average brain size of Homo ergaster / erectus specimens in Africa, dating from 1.8 to 1.5 million years ago, is a mere 863 cubic centimeters, while that of Georgian specimens of Homo ergaster / erectus (also known as Homo georgicus) dating from 1.8 to 1.7 million years ago is even lower, at 686 cubic centimeters (see the chart by Susan C. Antón and J. Josh Snodgrass, from Origins and Evolution of Genus Homo: New Perspectives, in Current Anthropology, Vol. 53, No. S6, “Human Biology and the Origins of Homo,” December 2012, pp. S479-S496). By comparison, the brain size of early Homo specimens (excluding 1470 man) is 629 cubic centimeters. These fall well outside the modern human range. Also, there is no evidence for a sudden jump in brain size from Australopithecus afarensis (whose average brain size was 478 cubic centimeters) to Homo ergaster / erectus. The brain size of early Homo (who lived around 2.3 million years ago) is intermediate between the two.

It seems that the first unambiguous signs of cultural transmission in the human fossil record don’t appear until about 300,000 years ago - by which time there were three species of rational human beings: Homo sapiens (who emerged around then), Neandertal man and Denisovan man (who was presumably rational). This is troubling, as recent analyses suggest these species diverged around 800,000 years ago, long before the advent of human culture. So, did God ensoul three distinct species of hominins?


I’d like to ask you about your suggestion that Adam may have been a genealogical common ancestor of all living humans, who lived only a few thousand years ago. What do you make of this article?

"What’s particularly fascinating about this is that we in the present day can actually change who our most recent common ancestor was. After all, the estimate that the MRCA lived only two or three millennia ago, long after humans became isolated on far distant continents, only works because of the globalization of the last 500 years. The theory is that enough European explorers intermarried with the various indigenous populations of the places they colonized so that, over time, even the most isolated groups become linked into the overall family tree.

"This is a controversial theory, particularly since there are still thought to be a handful of uncontacted groups in South America and southwest Asia. If these peoples - each group of which only numbers about two hundred or so - really have remained completely cut off from other humans for millennia, then that would force the most recent common ancestor back to the Upper Paleolithic, anywhere from 40,000 to 10,000 years ago.

“We can at least say this: in 2011, it’s possible but not proven that the MRCA dates back to a surprisingly recent date, anywhere from 8,000 to 2,000 years ago. In 1511, before European exploration had really begun in earnest, the MRCA was still unquestionably an individual who lived in the Upper Paleolithic. And, by 2511, the current trends in globalization suggest that everyone will definitely share a recent MRCA…and one that gets more recent with each passing generation as more and more lineages mix.”

Is the author right here, in your opinion?

I look forward to hearing everyone’s answers. Cheers.

1 Like

Thank you for sharing from the heart.

It reminds me of when when Paul writes of needing no law because it is acted out through righteousness (Romans 2:14, 1 Tim 1:9). This is absolutely the way forward together. As Jay has pointed out, the largest disagreement comes from how this is acted and lived out.

Some want to destroy social institutions so that there is room for a top-down version of “colonial” Christianity (coming from a place of supposed superiority and being able to evangelize and serve from that perspective). This has been historically attempted in previous generations within Christendom and did not result in many of the changes that people are now seeking.

Some see social systems as interference and potentially limiting the ability to practice faith and worship as they wish. They do not see an issue with its existence but fear forced tolerance or outside intrusions.

Others want to institute systems to not lessen sin but rather ameliorate its affects on a society-based scale but leave room for individuals and organizations to work. This approach focuses on Christians loving and forming relationship in order to evangelize (equal footing approach) as the social safety net meets some needs.

Thanks, Vincent, these are some very interesting articles and thoughts.

Although it seems plausible that there were at least 3 (Homo floresiensis should possibly be added to the list) groups/species of rational human beings, I don’t think we can use anything but conjecture regarding whether or not they were ensouled.

Hi Curtis,

In their review of recent research, titled, “On the antiquity of language: the reinterpretation of Neandertal linguistic capacities and its consequences” (in Frontiers in Psychology, 4:397. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00397), Dan Dediu and Stephen Levinson argue that the Neandertals’ advanced cultural behavior, coupled with their vocal capacity to produce language, suggests that they did in fact use language:

The Neandertals managed to live in hostile sub-Arctic conditions (Stewart, 2005). They controlled fire, and in addition to game, cooked and ate starchy foods of various kinds (Henry et al., 2010; Roebroeks and Villa, 2011). They almost certainly had sewn skin clothing and some kind of footgear (Sørensen, 2009). They hunted a range of large animals, probably by collective driving, and could bring down substantial game like buffalo and mammoth (Conard and Niven, 2001; Villa and Lenoir, 2009).

Neandertals buried their dead (Pettitt, 2002), with some but contested evidence for grave offerings and indications of cannibalism (Lalueza-Fox et al., 2010). Lumps of pigment — presumably used in body decoration, and recently found applied to perforated shells (Zilhao et al., 2010) — are also found in Neandertal sites. They also looked after the infirm and the sick, as shown by healed or permanent injuries (e.g., Spikins et al., 2010), and apparently used medicinal herbs (Hardy et al., 2012). They may have made huts, bone tools, and beads, but the evidence is more scattered (Klein, 2009), and seemed to live in small family groups and practice patrilocality (Lalueza-Fox et al., 2010)…

Neandertal culture, basically identical to modern human cultures before the Upper Paleolithic innovations, seems also to fall within the spectrum of modern human cultural variation in the ethnographic record. Various modern hunter-gatherers have produced archaeological records very similar or even considerably simpler than the Neandertal ones (Roebroeks and Verpoorte, 2009), some well-known examples being the North American early Archaic (Speth, 2004) and the Tasmanians (Richerson et al., 2009), who lacked bone tools, clothing, spear throwers, fishing gear, hafted tools and probably the ability to make fire (Henrich, 2004)…

Like these groups of modern humans with rather simple technology, the relative cultural simplicity of Neandertals compared to European modern humans can probably be best understood in its demographic context… In general, Neandertals had very low population densities, which coupled with the repeated local extinction and recolonization (Hublin and Roebroeks, 2009; Dennell et al., 2010; Dalén et al., 2012), would have inhibited the growth of complex technology….

Thus, we believe there is no argument to be made from Neandertal culture to the absence of language. The paucity of preserved symbolic material is also observed in early modern humans, and many modern ethnographic settings. On the contrary, nothing like Neandertal culture, with its complex tool assemblages and behavioral adaptation to sub-Arctic conditions, would have been possible without recognizably modern language.

If the Neandertals had language, then they were rational and hence possessed a human soul. That would mean that at least two species of humans were ensouled.

Here’s the article:

Briefly, the authors argue against the commonly received view that the techniques for producing Acheulean handaxes were acquired by social learning and that handaxes are therefore cultural. They argue that language need not have been involved in showing another individual how to make them.

Finally, they write: “A further problem facing the cultural transmission hypothesis is the much more rapid pace of change after Acheulean handaxes disappeared at 300‐200 Ka. If the behaviors involved in the production of both handaxes and post‐Acheulean artifacts were culturally learned, how do we explain this very marked increase in the speed of change?”

Hi Vincent,
I am aware that there are different theories about the Acheulean hand axes, and that they remained essentially unchanged for a very long time. I have considered those things in my evaluation of when humanity might have first appeared, meaning ensouled humanity. I have also considered the rapid burst of culture starting 80K to 70Kya, including jewelry, art, and finally agriculture.

There are three time points to choose for Adam in my opinion: roughly 2 million years ago with Homo erectus, 300 kya with modern man (anatomically speaking), and at the time of our emergence from Africa (70-80 Kya).

The degree of sophistication that goes into making an Acheulean hand axe is greater than it might seem. See this paper. And there is evidence the axes were made in one location then transported long distances, in large numbers. Trade?

Look at this image of a handaxe found at Kathu Pan in South Africa 800 Kya.

A description of the site and other materials found there are from a mitigation report (!):
This site, situated between the town of Kathu and the SIOC airport, is a shallow water pan about 30ha in
extent. The site was extensively studied from 1974 to 1990 by Humpreys and Beaumont, amongst others.
Kathu Pan, which has been nominated for National Heritage status is an extremely significant site as it
represents the major industries of the Stone Age, more specifically two phases of the Earlier Stone Age,
two phases of the Middle Stone Age, and more or less the entire Later Stone Age (Beaumont 1990). The
site yielded large amounts of hand axes and faunal remains, including the concentrated remains of large
mammal remains. As such, the site has produced fossils of animals such as elephants and hippos, as well
as the earliest known evidence of tools used as spears from a level dated to half a million years
ago. Research by Jayne Wilkins revealed a hoard of stone points, each between 4 and 9 centimeters long, that they think belonged to the earliest stone-tipped spears yet found. The stone points are the right shape and size for the hunting, and some have fractured tips that suggest they were used as weapons. Since stone points used on spears had been found only at sites that date back no more than 300 000 years, these discoveries in the 500 000-year-old deposits at Kathu is greatly significant. In addition, the site has yielded what is termed, the ‘Master Hand-Axe’ which dates to approximately 750 000 BP rendering it the oldest artifact which is indisputably aesthetic i.e. worked for beauty and symmetry, perfectly oriented, and worked considerably beyond the functional requirements of the hand-axe, which could have been achieved with half or fewer blows (see Figure 4-2). The technology which produced it is known as the Acheulian, and the artifacts are thought to be made by Homo ergaster (Homo erectus in Africa), a diverse grouping of early humans commonly imagined as small-brained, small-jawed and robustly built, with heavy eyebrow ridges.

When I look at that master handaxe, I see aesthetics, painstaking care, and a joy in the materials. I see mind.

As for brain sizes, I don’t find that all that significant. Brain size does not necessarily determine intelligence. I have also seen different ranges offered. It is the range of sizes that matters. From Ian Tattersall:

The reason I place Adam so far back? It is the problem of ensoulment, of monogenism, and of genetics. It’s pretty clear that Denisovans and Neanderthals are derived from H erectus after he migrated out of Africa. It solves the problem of an huge initial population size, and gives pop gen time to work. No, I don’t think ILS is a problem. The sorting was pretty much done by then. Last, I have difficulty accepting that God would have parallel races derived from the same ancestry, and ensoul some and not others. That’s if I accept common ancestry. With a unique origin that is early, everyone is ensouled.

Just as an aside, is it our brain size that grants us souls? No. There are many disabled individuals with smaller than average brain sizes, some quite small. Does that mean they have no souls? You are Catholic, I think. I am too. At least for me, it is impossible that those disabled individuals would have no souls. And God chooses to ensoul us irrespective of our physical or mental condition

Issues? There’s that long wait for technology to develop, and the fact that most people will want a more recent Adam. Chris, I personally don’t see a need to match Adam’s time to agriculture, when we have cave paintings twice as old.

That is, unless you are comfortable denying a soul to the ones who painted those pictures.


I truly do sympathize. It’s heartbreaking when anyone walks away from the faith because they think they can’t have science AND God, or when they think science has removed the need for God. That happens too, in churches that are not YEC. Science points toward God, not away! But you can’t see that from the way science is taught. Just the opposite. That’s why DI continues to advocate for teaching the controversy.

I’m all in favor of serving the poor, preaching the gospel to them, as long as we shut up and listen to what they have to teach us.

There’s one more thing someone said that I’d like to respond to: Why would you think we would be overturning everything in biology if intelligent design were added to the roster? The vast majority of biology does not rely on evolutionary biology for its work. And in cases where it is justified evolution would still be valuable. But the knee jerk attribution of everything to evolution would stop. And (at least in my dreams) the just so stories would stop, about how this was just coopted into that and now we can explain everything.

ID would not stop research. It probably would fuel whole new avenues of research. I can think of several areas ripe for research that would benefit from an ID perspective.

Finally, it would be nice to be able to talk about design as a possibility without being tossed out.

1 Like

Please forgive me for butting into your conversation with Jay here, Ann. Just to submit this thought: This phrasing rubs me the wrong way because it seems to me that science can only “remove the need for God” if God’s only role is to explain things that science hasn’t explained.

Is this how we approach our own individual creation? We know from science that a dad’s sperm and a mom’s egg meet and the DNA recombine and the fertilized embryo grows into a fetus as cells divide, etc. Do we then throw up our hands and say, “Welp, I guess science explained that one, so God must not have had a role in fashioning me in my mother’s womb”? I know I don’t.

I think EC folks like me agree with you on so much here. Yes, science points toward God, and it’s often not taught that way, particularly by anti-theist scientists (a vocal subsection of the atheist community). But I’m afraid that if we needlessly give science the power to “remove the need for God,” why then, it probably will!


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

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.