Joshua Swamidass’s book on the Genealogical Adam and Eve Hypothesis is doing pretty well on the Amazon bestseller list. I guess that might bode well for my own book on the hypothesis once it comes out, if folks are interested in the possible applications as well as the science of the idea.
The thesis is simple: genealogical population genetics makes possible a universal pair of ancestors such as Adam and Eve arising, in relatively recent times, within the kind of human populations known to archaeology. That being accepted, Christians (and Jews) can work out the theological implications knowing that such a history is not anti-scientific.
Reasons for rejection of the paradigm ought to be pretty straightforward too. From the science side, the work done by Swamidass on the original thesis of Rohde and his associates might be argued not to show that a recent genealogical ancestor of the entire human race is, after all, possible.
On the theological side, it might be argued that even if such recent universal common ancestry is plausible, it does not deal adequately with the biblical data on the origin of humanity, the origin of sin, and so on.
Fair dos – theology, like science, is a matter for reasoned discussion of evidence. And so far, GAE has attracted positive regard from all sides of the origins question, and indeed many strands of Christian tradition.
But that, nowadays, appears not to be how things are done in parts of academia. It is not enough to be mistaken on controversial science – you must be shown to be immoral too. Scientific arguments against multiple sexes are fascist – arguments against cobbled-together hockey-sticks graphs are all financed by Big Oil.
Joshua (far more than I, despite my working with GAE for a decade now) was from the start tarred with the dreaded brush of racism at BioLogos. In the first instance, this arose from a simple lack of comprehension of the GAE argument, decrying the possible division of the present human race into Adamic humans and some kind of subhumans who might suffer discrimination. This would presumably come from bands of marauding Christians brandishing copies of Rohde’s Nature paper as clubs.
But of course, the entire theory is about the current genealogical unity of humanity (a requirement of Christian theology) despite the special character (in some way open to discussion) of a recent Adam and Eve. So far the only flag waved for actual non-Adamic humans in our time has come from postulating that Tasmanian aborigines were uniquely isolated when discovered, and so might be seen by some as non-Adamic.
This is entirely academic, as far as the risk of “Non-adamophobia” goes, because it’s likely that the last pure-bred Tasmanian died in 1876. If there happened to be any today, they would be indistinguishable from those having mixed aboriginal and European (and therefore Adamic) ancestry. It’s hard to imagine bands of racist GAE supporters organising DNA testing in order to be able to discriminate against the handful of non-Adamic people they conceived might exist in Tasmania if GAE is wrong!
It’s true that the Tasmanians suffered terribly both from malicious and unintended genocide (and the story is more complex than often described), but not only did that occur a couple of centuries before the GAE hypothesis ever arose, but long after the 1656 non-Adamite theory of La Peyrère had ceased to have any traction on anthropologists or colonial powers. The Tasmanians were abused by those who, presumably, believed they too were children of Adam, probably even uninfluenced by the evolutionary racism of Galton or Haeckel at that early time.
Yet at Peaceful Science yesterday a skeptic (“atheist trending agnostic”) couldn’t resist playing the race card to smear the theory by commenting that in a previous GAE discussion: “some shockingly racist opinions [were] being expressed about non-Adamic humans.”
Now, I’ve not checked if that’s true or not, but that’s irrelevant. Think about how entirely insubstantial it is as a moral accusation. This person does not believe in a historical Adam and Eve, and so does not believe there can ever have been any non-Adamic humans. Had there ever been, GAE theory suggests they were entirely assimilated into the Adamic line a millennium or more before the time of Christ. They are, to the skeptic, non-existent people who would have ceased to not exist 3,000 years ago anyway under GAE theory.
So how, in 2020, is it possible to practise racial discrimination against these supposedly fictional people? How would it be possible to engage in racism towards them even if they existed, but are long dead?
The first case would be like exhibiting racism towards Fred Flintstone – can you imagine the Hate Speech court hearing centring round offensive remarks made on Facebook about Fred’s stupidity or mysogyny? Isn’t there some kind of statute of limitations on crimes against fictional prehistoric characters?
The second case would be the equivalent of casting aspersions on the intelligence, hygiene or morals of Neanderthal man. This has, we all know, routinely been done in the history of anthropology, and still is, but if one disagrees with downplaying Neanderthal man’s attributes it is on the basis of fact, not of “anti-racism.” Evolution being accepted, there would have to be some ancestor of humanity considered sub-human – an admission that scarcely indicates “racism.”
But suppose someone were irrational enough to develop an unwarranted hatred of real prehistoric people? At a party, perhaps, someone says to you, “The only good Cro-Magnon is a dead Cro-Magnon – lynch the whole lot of the bastards.” The issue would surely not be a question of racism, but of mental health.
Now, part of the process of assessing the theological significance of a genealogical Adam and Eve is to speculate on how they (we, in other words) might differ from those outside the garden of Eden, who have also become us over the millennia. Some of those speculations may be more secure than others, but all are based on inadequate knowledge when that class of people has long past into pre-history (and the Bible’s concern is almost entirely for the race descended from Adam). Nobody can even establish that they were a “race,” and what that means in the context.
If somebody were to conclude that they were reprehensible in every possible way, accusing them of “racism” is just a cheap trick to thwart the discussion, as such accusations usually are in more contemporary situations. It’s a good sign you’ve run out of good arguments.
But if it is racist to speak ill of pre-Adamic humans (and I have quite the reverse attitude – sin came into the world through Adam, not the others), then make sure you never raise the possibility that interplanetary aliens may ever turn out to be worthy of criticism. Otherwise nearly every Sci-Fi film and book ever created will need to be burnt.