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Published on March 23, 2020

Book Review: The Genealogical Adam and Eve

Jeff Hardin, C. John Collins, and Thomas H. McCall review the book, The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry.

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Jeff Hardin, C. John Collins, and Thomas H. McCall review the book, The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry.

In recent years, Christian scholars have been actively discussing whether a “historical Adam” can fit with evolutionary science (for a sample of the diversity of positions, see this 2014 “scorecard” and BioLogos resources on Adam and Eve).  While some say no, others say yes, proposing a variety of scenarios that view Adam and Eve as real historical people and accept the scientific evidence for human evolution. However, in the discussion, some have made premature claims (including some articles at BioLogos, recently updated) that evolutionary science and population genetics rule out scenarios with a recent universal human ancestor or with a de novo created ancestral pair.

Computational biologist Joshua Swamidass’s recent book, The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry, challenges these premature claims. Swamidass argues that when we think about ancestry genealogically rather than genetically, it is possible that all humans existing by the time of Jesus are descended from a pair existing only a few thousand years before. He also makes the case that this couple could have been created de novo and have descendants interbreeding with the surrounding population. Swamidass argues that this new approach allows us to retain many elements of the “traditional Christian view” concerning Adam.

BioLogos has invited three leading scholars to engage these arguments: a biologist, an Old Testament scholar, and a theologian, all working at the intersection of science and Christian theology. We hope their reviews will equip readers to engage the ongoing conversation about Adam and Eve.

Michael J. Murray
Series Editor
Philosopher and Senior Visiting Scholar, Franklin and Marshall College

Deborah Haarsma
President of BioLogos