Genealogical Adam and Eve

Three days late (to miss the rush) I need to remind you that on 10th, Joshua Swamidass’s book The Genealogical Adam and Eve was published, and has already attracted a number of reviews including one at BioLogos (they got the title wrong initially, like Francisco Ayala did reviewing Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell there back in the day – read more carefully, chaps, if you want to appear sincerely interested).

I’ve not yet held the book in my hands, as IVP have not fully organised distribution here in the UK, and although the release day was the same over here, I won’t get my copy for a while, presumably from America. I have read most of it, though, from a pdf Josh sent me primarily in order that I could reference his work fully for the proofs of my own forthcoming follow-up book, The Generations of Heaven and Earth.

There’s not a lot of point in my reviewing GAE fully, partly because anyone who has been reading The Hump for any length of time should be pretty familiar with the Genealogical Adam hypothesis already. And partly because I contributed significantly to a few aspects of the book myself, so it might be considered bad form. There’s a page linking to the reviews at Peaceful Science.

Suffice it to say that Josh has done a very good, interesting and comprehensible job of introducing Genealogical Adam (and his wife) to the wider world, both in the actual book, and in the networking that has given it more of a splash than anything I could do for my own writing.

As others have said, apart from presenting the paradigm itself, the particular strength of the book is in Josh’s remaining aware of the scientific spirit of sceptism suitable to his profession. As a result, though he does offer some tentative theological conclusions, the book manages to show how the idea can provide a platform for exploring the whole range of theological possibilities arising from the consideration of Adam as an historical figure.

To put it bluntly: if Darwin’s Origin of Species was the book that made an historical Adam problematic for 160 years, Swamidass’s Genealogical Adam and Eve is the book that puts him back on the table, for all one can tell permanently.

In this regard it’s worth considering that, before the discovery of deep time in the late 18th century, a broad range of theological reflection was done on the near-universal assumption of Adam’s historicity. Much of that, including all the core traditional Christian doctrines, remains valid under Genealogical Adam. But making the one big adjustment, as GAE does, that Adam and Eve existed alongside other so-called “biologicaly-modern humans,” provides the basis for much fruitful work in future years.

Without attempting to steal the thunder of Josh’s big moment, my own forthcoming book is an attempt to show how such more specific attempts might be conducted, by applying the paradigm to recent developments in the field of biblical theology, including refinement of the “temple theology” made famous in “origins” circles by John Walton (but actually now a mainstream idea in biblical studies), and to a christological understanding both of history and nature.

There is no doubt that, one way or another, Swamidass’s book is a game changer, and so you ought to read it, and not just the reviews. Agree with its thesis or not, you’ll need to understand its arguments to take part in useful discussion on the theology of human origins in future.

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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One Response to Genealogical Adam and Eve

  1. Robert Byers says:

    any book that attracts attention to origin issues is welcome by biblical creationists. The attrition of truth only needs attention to continue the attrition.
    YEC obviously does not accept or respect conclusions about any people other then those from a real Adam and real Eve both not born. there was no other peopleish beings.
    So YEC rejects these ideas and the evolutionists and so the , at the moment, science establisment rejects any need or reality of two people not born and related to the genesis account.
    So whom to persuade? it shows that too much confidence is placed in the 150 years of a small number of evolutionists conclusions about mans origins. they too easily got away with dismissing christian teachings. it was because they were from the absurd arrogant upper class elite that presumed to know better about whether the bible was true. everything else they believed in has now been rejected. so why not this?
    Deep time in the universe has not been proven except by the same suspects who say evolutionism was proven. We need a book there too.

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