This blog was first posted at Nature Ecology & Evolution Community on 4 March 2020
That a single couple could be the ancestors of all living humans is widely seen as an area of conflict between genetics and the Abrahamic religions. Though little detailed attention has been paid to this idea in the scientific literature (see ‘Adam and Eve: a tested hypothesis?’), current models of the history of genomic variation in African populations tend to forbid a bottleneck of two in the human lineage within the last five hundred thousand years (see ‘Adam and Eve: lessons learned’). Thus, belief in a literal pair of ancestors for all humans would entail an older date for Adam and Eve than believers had expected, or a revised understanding of human molecular evolution.
In a recent book, The Genealogical Adam and Eve, S. Joshua Swamidass, an Associate Professor at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, seeks to resolve the dilemma faced by believers. He makes a major contribution to the debate, taking both sides seriously. Swamidass is a Christian himself, and a well-established scientist in chemical bioinformatics and drug metabolism. He has clearly read widely and deeply in evolutionary genetics. He outlines his ideas with caution and many references to the literature. He deserves a hearing by anyone who is interested in a better relationship between science and religion.