Note from Editorial Team, 2022:
In 2014, BioLogos asked Dennis Venema, our Fellow for Biology, to teach us about population genetics as it relates to views on Adam and Eve, leading to the series below. In the years since, scholarship on this topic has exploded, with many new books and proposals from theologians and scientists. In 2021, as part of our process for keeping content current and accurate, we revised the first article in the series (see those links for details on the changes) and archived the remaining articles as outdated.
BioLogos affirms the inspiration and authority of the biblical account of Adam and Eve. We explore multiple ways to uphold this alongside the scientific evidence, including historical models. See our Common Question, Were Adam and Even historical figures? and links therein.
The series below focuses on the scientific side of the question. Was there a time in history when only two individual Homo sapiens were living? Since 2009, Dennis Venema and the rest of the BioLogos community has consistently answered No, and we still do. However, we have not always been precise in how we make this claim and have sometimes claimed more than the data show. The work of several scholars has helped to sharpen our thinking about population genetic models and how to interpret them (see Truth-Seeking in Science).
As of 2021, our precise claim is: Modern Homo sapiens first appeared in Africa about 200,000 to 300,000 years ago. All the genetic evidence to date says that the average breeding population of our ancestors has been larger than a single couple for at least the last 200,000 years, and there is no plausible model affirming a single, unique pair of genetic progenitors less than 500,000 years ago that also accounts for the data we see in the genes of people alive today. Dennis Venema affirms this, alongside population geneticists like Steve Schaffner (see Schaffner’s 2021 article What Genetics Says About Adam and Eve). Again, the genetics findings do not preclude a historical view of Adam and Eve, since they could have been two individuals within a larger group (multiple options here).
For more from Dennis Venema, see his excellent Evolution Basics series, a 2021 podcast interview on his recent book with Michael Peterson, and many other articles.