An oft-repeated claim by skeptics is that geneticists have disproved the possibility of Adam and Eve. Because existing human genetic diversity is so great, there can be no original couple from whom all people are descended.
Or, that’s what we’re told.
Biology professor and author Dennis Venema summarizes this argument in his book, “Adam and the Genome.” In it, he claims that “every genetic analysis estimating ancestral population sizes has agreed that we descend from a population of thousands, not a single ancestral couple.”
Some Christian authors have reacted to this apparent consensus by proposing new ways of reading Genesis that make Adam and Eve either mythological or not really our first parents. The goal has been to accommodate theology and the Bible to what we’re told is “settled science.”
But what if the science on Adam and Eve isn’t so settled? That’s the argument of a new paper by Discovery Institute senior fellow and developmental biologist Ann Gauger and Swedish mathematician Ola Hössjer, recently published in the journal, “BIO-Complexity.”
In order to test whether it really is impossible to account for modern variation in human beings by starting with just two people, these researchers did something that, incredibly, no one had tried before: They started with just two people, and ran the numbers.
Using accepted population growth and mutation rates, Gauger and Hössjer programmed a computer to start with a genetic Adam and Eve and replicate the known distribution of diversity in today’s human population. Their results, to put it simply, fly in the face of the much-touted consensus.
According to their model, a couple who shared some genetic markers could generate all the diversity we see today within about 2 million years—which Venema and others claim is impossible.
However, given two people who share no genetic markers—in other words, two people who weren’t born but were created with four unique sets of chromosomes—that time frame drops to a few hundred thousand, not millions, of years.