Becoming Adam: GAE book review

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the chance to clarify. From memory, the now famous paper used available data on many facets of human population and recorded data to simulate the present population, and concluded that the data could be consistent with a genealogy that commenced (presumably) with a couple about 10000 yrs ago. I am not discussing details, but simply asking if anyone has critiqued this method and data, and has provided an alternate approach to account for the data. This does not deal with pop-genetics and bottlenecks and what have you, but records of populations, births, deaths, migrations etc.

If you can provide an analysis of the stochastic approach and/or the accuracy of the data, I would be very interested - or if anyone else has. :sweat_smile:

Best wishes and the season greetings, George.

I sincerely apologize to Joshua for my poor choice of words. “Your boy,” in this case, was equivalent to “Your buddy.”


I have no idea what you mean by special pleading. What I wrote is a statement of fact that science cannot detect or disprove the arrival of just one person (from Adam’s lineage) in Tasmania or anywhere else.

If we were debating a non-religious issue, I can imagine special pleading being relevant as a criticism. But we ARE debating a religious issue; the discussion is unavoidably invoking providential miracles.

Why? Because we aren’t trying to convince atheists that theism is true. Our audience are Christians who already believe God performs miracles, both in and out of the category of providence!

I see you have already realized your poor choice of wording when you referred to Dr. Swamidass as “my boy”… he certainly is nothing of the kind.


I believe your memory is defective here. I don’t believe there is any such article on genealogy demonstrating a 10,000 year time frame.

Simulations have been reported in peer-reviewed articles that using very conservative migration assumptions that show how a single mated pair can become a universal ancestral couple for all the Earth’s human population in 2000 years.

I didn’t say he was “my boy.” I said to you that he was your boy, as in your homey. It’s actually an expression that I picked up from the black men I worked with at juvenile detention. I’ve apologized. Characterize it as you will.

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No, that’s not correct either. Rohde’s paper showed 3500 years to most recent common ancestor. As for the migration assumptions, Rohde allows that the model may permit too much long-distance migration within continents. In one simulation he discussed in his unpublished paper, he tested the effect if migration falls off geometrically with distance (d-2). Long-distance migration fell off drastically, which increased the time to MRCA by 7.2% and ACA (almost common ancestor) by 16%. Also, keep in mind that Rohde’s model runs from 20,000 B.C. to the present, while the “genealogical Adam” model rightfully should end by 12,000 B.C. The horse was domesticated around 10,000 B.C., according to a recent study. Without horses or other domesticated pack animals, long-distance land migration across continents should be eliminated for a historical simulation that ends in 12,000 B.C. How much would that increase the wait time for a hypothetical Adam’s descendants to reach Australia? 15 percent? 30 percent? We don’t know. Rohde didn’t test it, and neither did Swamidass.

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Read your review today, Jay. Will look out for part 2 on original sin.

Maybe I’m missing something but I just don’t get what the GAE thesis actually does for non-ECs. Both YECs and OECs believe A&E to be sole progenitors, but with GAE there were other humans for approximately 190,000 years before A&E showed up…

By the way, your thread was not deleted, Jay. Here it is:


Ah, thanks for letting me know. Still can’t see it when I go to his discourse page. Tucked into a musty corner, I suppose. No worries.

Thanks! I don’t get it either. @gbrooks9 thinks it will bring YEC to accept evolution. I don’t think the book will find that audience. Time will tell.

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It’s in the ‘front porch’ which is essentially where threads go to die and not directly visible in the main forum conversation.

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Thanks for the correction @gbrooks9; the Rohde paper gives a 2000-5000 years time frame.

I would be interested if anyone can examine the methodology and data for this paper (or any similar work) to show why so many appear sceptical regarding the conclusions.

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Yes, yes… of course. Nobody ever suggested that you thought Joshua was “yours”.

You made me go back and check! From the Nature paper:

With 5% of individuals migrating out of their home town, 0.05% migrating out of their home country, and 95% of port users born in the country from which the port emanates, the simulations produce a mean MRCA date of 1,415 BC and a mean IA date of 5,353 BC.

1415 BC is 3415 years ago. I believe GAE uses an “almost IAP,” which brings the 5353 BC figure down a thousand years or so.

Edit: I forgot to mention that Swamidass adds 2000 years to shoot for AD 1 as the target population.


The GAE methodologies are specifically designed to help struggling YECs (as opposed to happy or confident YECs) find a way to reconcile millions of years of fossil evidence with the perceived theological requirement that Adam/Eve are actually historical personalities.

In the early decades of the discussions between groups, instead of reasoning out which parts of human origins could be sussed out with Science (and which parts couldn’t), there was a rush to both ends of the spectrum:

all things must be scientifically rational vs. all things must be Biblically validated.

In truth, and in real life, there are millions of sincere Trinitarian Christians who accept certain one-off miracles as absolutely true - - without trying to subvert the arenas of natural law and scientific investigation:

Including at the very least:

  1. the virgin birth;
  2. the resurrection of Jesus.

But these one-off miracles do not interfere with careers in science or even in the research of mammalian reproduction, or in studies in prolonging human life spans.

GAE introduces two more one-off miracles that are equally unrelated to the validity of Evolutionary science, especially involving primate lineages:

  1. the miraculous creation of Adam; and
  2. the miraculous creation of Eve.

By creating a dialogue that allows for these last 2 one-off miracles, conversations about Evolutionary history can be promoted without endangering Christianity, or the Christians who are fascinated with Scientific investigations of Cosmology and human origins!

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I think this is a profitable area to start discussing. It is no doubt a little on the dry side, but it would go a long way in helping people realize the mundane realities of geometric progression in human ancestries, and the limits of genetic studies.

Please start a new thread for that!


I agree. It should be in another thread. But I won’t be the water-carrier for that thread (unless someone spoon feeds the material right to me).

My only morsel of knowledge in this area of lineage extinction and the related ideas came from my readings on Chinese patriarchal society:

there are a relatively small number of names in Chinese society that have become quite dominant in the numerical sense. It is not because the Lee family, or the Chang family, was particularly wealthy or particularly intelligent. Out of thousands and thousands of patrilineal family names, there is a random game of “fishing” that through chance, or some combination of other factors, inexorably works its “magic”.

Imagine a child’s wading pool, a giant one!; not filled with water but filled with little paper fishes… each paper fish equipped with an iron button on its nose, and one surname written on its side. Each surname has at least 10 paper fish labeled as such; some surnames have up to 20 paper fish. Then bring in a hundred children with toy fishing rods, and a magnet at the end of the fishing line.

Let the children begin to fish! They randomly pull out a fish, but with one rule: every second fish caught is defined as the MALE lineage, and it is stapled to the first fish and thrown back into the pool. This process has the effect of randomly extinguishing a surname, one fish at a time. Overtime, some of the low-numbered surnames experience a run of good luck - - they co-opt an inordinate number of other surnames. While surnames with higher fish counts more predictably begin to systematically extinguish the unluckier surnames.

After weeks, or months, or years of children fishing, the diversity of surnames in the pool of paper fish dramatically decreases. Any random sampling of fish produces an inordinate number of Lee’s, of Chang’s and who knows what else.

This is a mathematical process of co-opting patrilineal groups. In any society where the father’s name is used to name an entire family, at the expense of the mother’s family name, this is natural … and it is inevitable!

If we apply a similar process to the problem of Adam’s lineage - - we can see that it is not surprising that Adam’s lineage (especially if enjoying any special providence in God’s plan) can and will inevitably co-opt the entire human population… whether we use Adam’s last name or not.

:wink: :slight_smile:

I have glanced at the paper, and this caught my eye (@gbrooks9) :

“Unfortunately, the age of our MRCA cannot as easily be estimated on the
basis of genetic information because the relevant genes are not passed from parent to child with only occasional mutations but are, rather, the product of recombination. As a result of recombination, a given gene may not pass from parent to child. In fact, an individual’s DNA may retain none of the genes specific to a particular ancestor who lived many generations in the past. These additional complications make accurately dating the MRCA or reconstructing other details of population history on the basis of our genes extremely difficult, if not impossible (Hey & Machado, 2003).”

It seems a number of approaches may be of interest. It is obvious (to me at least) that before we run to change Genesis or whatever, we should consider the relevance of various models to the question (which itself needs a better articulation then - it is evolution or not!)

Thanks for the explanation @gbrooks9. Again, maybe I’m missing something but I still don’t see how GAE can help any YEC, struggling or not.

If you’re a YEC you think that the opening chapters of Genesis demand a six day creation 6,000 years ago with Adam and Eve specially created as the first ever humans. But GAE only gives you genealogical ancestry, in which case Adam and Eve were not the first humans and the earth isn’t 6,000 years old. I don’t know how that would help a YEC…?


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