Scientists, even devoutly religious ones, have long thought of Biblical Genesis, and in particular the part about Adam and Eve being the single progenitors of the entire human race, nothing more than a “nice story.”
However, just as in recent years, quantum physicists have found that when analyzed correctly, the Big Bang and other scientific theories on the creation of the universe line up pretty well with Hebrew Genesis, a researcher has just published a paper that provides a scientific rationale for Adam and Eve. Joshua Swamidass, a physician and genome scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri — is making a bold new attempt to reconcile the biblical story of Adam and Eve with what we know about the genetic ancestry of the human race.
His “genealogical hypothesis” arrives at a time of great cultural upheaval when facts are open to interpretation and the gulf that divides our “red” and “blue” tribes is reminiscent of another biblical story — the parting of the Red Sea. But maybe that chasm can be closed a bit with some good science, and just a modicum of faith!
Not New Age Pseudoscience
Conventional science says with as much certainty as scientifically possible, that our species could not have descended from a single “human” couple as described in Genesis, but instead originated in Africa around 300,000 years ago. Before emerging as the first species recognized as “human,” we have evolved through a long line of ancestry that connects with all other living things, going back nearly 4 billion years.
And yet, in his upcoming book, “The Genealogical Adam & Eve,” Swamidass makes an audacious claim – that, there could be an “Adam and Eve,” the first humans, as the result of that evolution, who could very well be universal human ancestors who lived in the Middle East in the last 6,000-10,000 years. This is not the first attempt to reconcile the Garden of Eden story with science, but rarely does someone with Swamidass’ credentials do what most scientists would deem unthinkable — take the story seriously, and apply scientific research methodology to the question.
However, some scientists are taking Swamidass seriously. Swamidass is not peddling pseudoscience and unprovable whacky theories. “The Genealogical Adam and Eve” went through a rigorous process of open peer review, involving scholars from many diverse disciplines and even some secular scientists, including Nathan H. Lents, a professor of biology at John Jay College, who worked with Swamidass in the past, and reviewed the book for USA Today, and Alan Templeton, a giant in the field of human population genetics.
The two were invited to find fault in Swamidass’ analysis, and could not, according to Lents, “partly because the hypothesis is so narrow, but also because it appears to be correct.”
Lent went on to say, surprising though it seems, it is scientifically tenable that, among our billions of other ancestors, we could all be descendant from a single human couple who lived in the past 10,000 years. In fact, as Swamidass carefully explains, this is almost certainly the case according to current estimates of the so-called identical ancestors point — a time in the past when all family trees converge into one common pool of universal ancestors.
Swamidass’ theory is a plausible one, because like many religious scientists, he does not take the story of Genesis as literal, nor one that denies evolution, but sees the patterns of evolution defined within Genesis, just taking place considerably longer than 6 days – actually about 4 billion years longer! But, with that in mind — that the story of Adam and Eve is not a substitute for evolution — but a reflection of it, then, a scientific rationale, as described by Swamidass emerges.
The Genealogical Adam and Eve
Swamidass’ theory of the “Genealogical Adam and Eve,” goes like this. According to the book, “Adam and Eve could have been a special creation whose progeny slowly interbred with the human population that already existed outside the Garden of Eden — people who had descended through the normal evolutionary process. Some scholars have claimed that the Bible itself hints at the existence of these people when it speaks of the ‘Nephilim.’ As interbreeding between the Nephilim and the offspring of Adam and Eve continued, the ‘seed of Adam’ could easily spread to all of humanity over thousands of years, and this universal ancestry would leave no genetic footprints.”
To be clear, Swamidass’ theory does not prove anything about the Adam and Eve story. It doesn’t even offer positive evidence for it, but that is not his goal. Instead, he provides a bridge for those whose religions insist on the real existence of Adam and Eve, a possibility, if not proof, that they did exist, and isn’t that what faith is all about?