Well, Duh; Adam and Eve Were Contemporaries
New genetic studies confirm the existence of a “Y-Chromosome Adam” and “Mitochondrial Eve” but, contrary to earlier analyses, place them in the same time frame.
When science journals mention Adam and Eve, they are not thinking along Biblical lines. What they mean is that gene comparisons allow inferences about ancestry that lead to single individuals as parents of all living humans. Careful to distance his thoughts from Genesis, Ewen Callaway writing in Nature (“Genetic Adam and Eve did not live too far apart in time”) explains:
The Book of Genesis puts Adam and Eve together in the Garden of Eden, but geneticists’ version of the duo — the ancestors to whom the Y chromosomes and mitochondrial DNA of today’s humans can be traced — were thought to have lived tens of thousands of years apart. Now, two major studies of modern humans’ Y chromosomes suggest that ‘Y-chromosome Adam’ and ‘mitochondrial Eve’ may have lived around the same time after all.
When the overall population size does not change (as is likely to have happened for long periods of human history), men have, on average, just one son. In this case, evolutionary theory predicts that for any given man there is a high probability that his paternal line will eventually come to an end. All of his male descendants will then have inherited Y chromosomes from other men. In fact, it is highly probable that at some point in the past, all men except one possessed Y chromosomes that by now are extinct. All men living now, then, would have a Y chromosome descended from that one man — identified as Y-chromosome Adam. (The biblical reference is a bit of a misnomer because this Adam was by no means the only man alive at his time.)
Similarly, he continues, “mitochondrial Eve” can be traced back to one woman. The news is that the genetic Adam and Eve were most likely contemporaries, although the secular scientists claim it is highly unlikely they ever met. According to Tia Ghose at Live Science, “Despite their overlap in time, ancient ‘Adam’ and ancient ‘Eve’ probably didn’t even live near each other, let alone mate.”
Our findings suggest that, contrary to previous claims, male lineages do not coalesce significantly more recently than female lineages.
Previous claims had put mitochondrial Eve as much as 3 times farther back than Y-chromosome Adam.
Both papers, published in Science, were discussed in a Perspective article by Rebecca McCann. Both Callaway and McCann recognize that the findings are not conclusive; many assumptions enter into the analysis. The most that can be claimed is that “there is rather little or no disparity with the age our common maternal ancestor,” McCann said. “….a population giving rise to the strictly maternal and strictly paternal portions of our genomes could have produced individuals who found each other in the same space and time.”
Callaway’s article points out the kind of tweaking of data required to get results. Uncertainties can arise from the samples selected, from estimates of mutation rates, from how widespread polygamy was practiced, among other things. Nevertheless, it was a bit embarrassing to have the genetic Adam and Eve so far apart in time. The new papers bring them closer together. Philosophers and sociologists of science may have fun with one paragraph from Callaway’s article:
For most biologists, the analysis of SNPs [single nucleotide polymorphisms, or mutations] simply provides evidence of population subdivision in the branching patterns of our long-dead ancestors, and this can offer an overwhelming sense of our geographical roots that some will find appealing. However, for social scientists pondering the social consequences of such disclosures surrounding biological diversity in humans, there can be instant recoil at past misguided efforts to use genetics to justify racism. While some have looked at genetic basis of disease susceptibility in the context of migrations of human populations, there is always the danger of confusing the effects of selection driven by the environment compared to the genetic history of the populations in question. Indeed, some researchers have concluded that human racial classification is a continuing social construct and not a biological reality at all.
What’s notable about these articles is the effort taken to distance the findings from Genesis. Callaway was quick to emphasize the differences in the Biblical story and the scientific story. He denied that the genetic Adam and Eve were the only people alive at the time. He also pointed to hostile reactions in the scientific community about possible Biblical implications of the findings:
Yet Hammer sees the discrepancy between the age of the Y-Adam and that of the mitochondrial eve as a “red herring”, and he, as many other population geneticists, bristles at the use of biblical names. Because of the random nature of genealogy, he says, two different genetic lineages are unlikely to have common ancestors who lived in the same population at the same time.
Under the subtitle “Adam and Eve?” Tia Ghose was also quick to distance herself from Genesis:
These primeval people aren’t parallel to the biblical Adam and Eve. They weren’t the first modern humans on the planet, but instead just the two out of thousands of people alive at the time with unbroken male or female lineages that continue on today.
That quote included a link to an earlier Live Science story criticizing the Creation Museum based on reactions of some visitors who felt “discomfort” with the Biblical presentation.
For what it’s worth, Iraq is creating a “Garden of Eden National Park” in its southern marsh region, reported New Scientist. While secular scientists will surely deny the existence of such a place, Biblical creationists will assert that it was obliterated in the Flood. Either way, it is presumptuous to think such a place be visited today, with or without an angel holding a flaming sword to bar entrance (see Genesis 3:24).
Let’s cut to the chase: scientists have a competing origins story to the Bible. If the Genesis account is true, one would expect genetic evidence to corroborate it. Genetic studies like this cannot confirm nor deny the Genesis account, but only provide evidence that is more or less “consistent” with it.
Secular scientists, however, do not come at the evidence bias-free. Their conclusions do not leap out of the data unprocessed; both the methods and the conclusions are heavily theory-laden. Secular scientists come at it with visions of millions of years of evolution from ape-like ancestors; that’s why their imaginary Adam and Eve had to live over a hundred thousand years ago (to fit the evolutionary time frame). Because of their anti-Biblical bias (why else would one “bristle” at it), they will never willingly conclude that the evidence supports a recent modern pair, living alone in a newly-created world. Is it not intriguing, though, that the findings are consistent with a real Adam and Eve?
For a different analysis not plagued with pro-Darwin bias, check out the presentation by Dr. John Sanford, geneticist from Cornell University (audio presentation or article by Robert Carter, who has worked with Sanford). The words “Genesis” and “genetics” have the same Greek root, related to origins. So why not Genesis genetics? “Evolutionary genetics” is a contradiction in terms; variations notwithstanding, genes are designed, not products of unguided processes. When you take the Darwin-colored glasses off and look at the data without dismissing Genesis at the outset, it’s pretty amazing just how consistent the data are with the Biblical time frame and recorded history – and how the evolutionary story cannot stand under the same genetic evidence.