Can someone explain like I'm 5 yo, what's wrong with this refutation of Biologos?

I should also add that some estimates of MitoEve and YAdam are…

Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam have been established by researchers using genealogical DNA tests. Mitochondrial Eve is estimated to have lived about 200,000 years ago. A paper published in March 2013 determined that, with 95% confidence and that provided there are no systematic errors in the study’s data, Y-chromosomal Adam lived between 237,000 and 581,000 years ago

This range means that even they could have been anatomically modern humans (which arose about 200,000 years ago. In fact, it is entirely possible, given our current understanding, that Adam and Eve were among the first modern humans.

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In my opinion, and your mileage may (probably will) vary, it’s worth looking at how the Eastern Orthodox view Adam and Eve. Somehow, they have managed to reject Augustine’s interpretation without rejecting Paul for a good millennium and more. Granted, their positions on several key doctrines are at quite a bit of variance with traditional Protestantism. Nevertheless, it may be at least possible to consider elements of their position on Adam and reflect on how they might better integrate with an EC position than Augustine’s teaching has. Perhaps this direction is anathema to you, but I felt compelled to bring it up given the near-fusion in your discussions of Paul with Augustine.

Very good question. This cuts to the core of the confusion about this topic. It turns out that MitoEve and YAdam are in all likelihood are NOT our MRCA. This is a very subtle point that I will attempt to demonstrate an image that I will try and construct for everyone in the few days.

Do not feel bad about being confused about this point. It is very subtle, in a way that even experts get confused on this point. Essentially, it is entirely possible that we have a MRCA couple within 10,000 years ago, while at the same time MitoEve and YAdam were from >200,000 years ago, and never met each other. Both things can be true at the same time.

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(also for @Swamidass)

For everyone’s handy reference, I dredged up a Forum comment from Dennis Venema about four months ago where he was going back and forth with GJDS over this very issue. (I was hoping to find a more elaborate blog post, but this’ll do. It’s what Google brought me first when I searched for “Dennis Venema” and “most recent common ancestor.”) I thought it’d be easier than trying to wrangle Dr. Venema in by tagging him.

My comments at that time were aimed at showing there were more models than one, and each could account for a particular data set - my recollection is that some are so invested in trying to render Adam and Eve into a fictitious story, they refused to discuss the merits and de-merits of the various models discussed. I even mentioned Europeans descending (if you wish to use this notion) from royalty during the Middle ages - as an example of ways models may be used. The rest of the comments from various sources were not what I consider gracious dialogue and I have chosen to ignore them.

Fair enough, and thanks for the clarification. My point wasn’t really to offer the whole dialogue as a great example of how to discuss these things, but just because Eddie kept referring to positions about the MRCA that had been presented by BioLogos science writers, and this particular comment seemed to me to be a fairly clear explanation of what MRCA means to one of BioLogos’s primary science writers, in his own words.

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Hi Eddie,

Chiming in from the peanut gallery to clarify your question,

Do geneticists today allow that a couple such as this could have existed? Neither the MRCA scenario (for any population of humans, past or present) nor the “MitoEve / YAdam” scenario permits unique ancestors, correct?

My nonspecialist’s understanding is that vanishingly few species have a truly unique ancestral pair, since (with the possible exception of two same-species life forms set adrift on a log that just happen to colonize a distant island) evolution tends to act upon populations.

@Jonathan_Burke, perhaps these texts find the middle ground?: Mankind, without God’s intervention, is mortal.

The Bible makes it clear that mortal man doesn’t have immortality. “God alone is immortal“, 1 Tim.6:15-16
". . . the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only [alone] hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto…"

Those who seek immortality will get it, Rom.2:6-7:
"Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life. . . "

Jesus brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel, 2 Tim.1:10.
“But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…”

1 Cor 15 discusses the spirit and resurrection, but doesn’t quite equate the spirit to a soul, or equate resurrection with immortality:
1Co 15:42-44
"So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body."

But if we take this text with the other texts, can’t we confidently say that while the soul might not be inherently immortal, the appearance of Jesus gives immortality to the believers?

You are correct. The evidence we have supports a large population, around 10,000 or more, back to 18 million years ago at least.


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Eddie, you are saying that you’ve seen the “6 million years ago” figure for Adam and Eve as unique ancestors on various EC blogs, etc. Can you be more precise? Where are you seeing this? A link would help as well.

I know for myself I have not written this, so if you’re thinking this is coming from me, that is not correct.

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Do you still have your hopes up for that? I personally don’t see it happening as things stand now. It seems that Western Christian theology has to “evolve” too somehow… Don’t get me wrong, I’m all up for historical continuity of the Church. But maybe having some cross-over occur between “Western” and “Eastern” theology would be a wholesome trajectory for the Church overall. That some of the momentum for such change might come from the corner of population genetics shouldn’t be a problem in and of itself, right?


Hi Eddie,

I’ve not made that argument, no - nor has anyone else here at BioLogos, to my knowledge. I’m not sure where you saw it, sorry.

The population genetics evidence we have shows us that our ancestral population actually gets bigger as we go back in time, not smaller. The ~10,000 bottleneck comes after we part ways with the lineage leading to chimpanzees.


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So here is my image of a genealogy, going from a population in the distant past (at the top) forward (to the bottom).

Squares are men.
Circles are women.
Lines show parentage.
Blue squares trace the lineage of the Y-Chromosome Adam.
Red circles trace the lineage of the mitochondria Eve.
Dark lines mark all individuals that are common ancestors of the youngest generation.

This should make clear that mitoEve and YAdam are separate concepts from the MRCA. It makes no difference how long ago mitoEve and YAdam lived, and if they ever met each other. This tells us nothing about our MRCA.

I am asserting that Adam and Even could have been common ancestors of us all (any couple in the thick line group), and this would largely leave orthodox theology intact. This does not make them our unique common ancestors (but that isn’t the case in the orthodox account either). Remember, we see clear textual evidence that humans are not a pure line to Adam.

In fact, it is possible that God created Adam and Eve de novo (among a population of other humans with whom they were genetically compatible). So we can still hold to the story of the dust and rib if we want to too.

The one thing this account challenges is the “sole progenitorship” of Adam, which I would argue is an extra-biblical claim altogether. It tells us no where in scripture that Adam and Eve are our sole-progenitors. In fact it tells us the opposite, that we are not pure, in the Nephalim story.

Does that clarify some more the distinctions I have been making?

Evolution does not rule out a historical couple in the distant past who are common ancestors of us all, or even that they were de novo created. It does, however, seem to contradict the notion that they are our sole-progenitors. However, if I just let sole-progenitorship go, this does not seem to impute error on scripture in any way, and this is clearly a model with a historical Adam. So that is why I say evolution does not rule out a historical Adam.

Remarkably (and I only recently learned this from the literature), in this model Adam and Eve could have been very recent, within the last 10,000 years. So this model might even be consistent with the geneology counting chronologies that YECs do with Genesis. That does not even need to be abandoned in this model, especially if we take @JohnWalton’s temple inauguration seriously. That could have taken place 6,000 years ago, over 6 literal days, with a literal Adam and Eve that are ancestors of us all. None of this would contradict what mainstream science tells us about evolution.

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