Question: Can science determine if tracing back to the Biblical Adam and Eve is plausible via DNA?
This is a very important question for Christianity because a significant number of critical doctrines such as Original Sin and Atonement rest on the validity of Adam and Eve.
Analysis of mitochondrial DNA (which provides insight into the origin of the maternal lineage) indicates that humanity traces back to a single ancestral sequence that could be interpreted as a single woman. Likewise, characterization of Y-chromosomal DNA (which provides insight into the origin of the paternal lineage) indicates that all men trace their origin back to a single ancestral sequence that could be interpreted as a single man.
Others have challenged this interpretation, arguing that the genetic data shows that humanity arose from thousands of individuals, not two. The chief basis for this claim comes from estimates of the ancestral population size of humans based on genetic diversity.
It is possible to estimate the effective population size of any ancestral group from genetic diversity of present-day populations if the mutation rate is known. A number of these types of studies do indeed indicate that humans stem from a small population, on the order of a few hundred to a few thousand.
Skeptics of the traditional reading of the biblical account of human origins uncritically accept these results. They argue that the data indicate humanity experienced a genetic bottleneck, with the population collapsing to a relatively small number of individuals. Consequently humanity arose from the thousands of survivors, not a primeval pair.
In the face of this challenge, it is important to recognize that population sizes generated by these methods are merely estimates, not hard and fast values. The reason: the mathematical models are highly idealized, generating differing estimates based on a number of factors. As a case in point consider two studies discussed in Who Was Adam? One, reported in 2003 by a Russian and U.S. research team, examined DNA sequence elements called short tandem repeats at 377 locations in the human genome for 1,056 individuals that represented 52 population groups. On the basis of this analysis, they concluded that humanity originated from a single point of origin (apparently Africa), from a small population (~2,000 or less) between 71,000 and 142,000 years ago. Although this conclusion was consistent with that of an earlier study of short tandem repeats, the population size estimate from the earlier study was around 500 individuals. The reason for the difference (of about 1,500) was due to a varying sample size and number of locations in the human genome that were studied.
The primary reason to think that humanity arose from a single pair does not rest on population estimates, but the fact that the Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA sequences sampled from humans alive today trace back to single ancestral sequences. Again, these can be understood as reflecting an origin from a single man and single woman.
Even though the genetic data traces humanity’s origin back to a single woman and man, evolutionary biologists are quick to assert that mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam were not the first humans. Rather, according to them, many “Eves” and “Adams” existed. Accordingly, mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam were the lucky ones whose genetic material just happened to survive. The genetic lines of the other first humans were lost over time.
While this explanation is not out of the realm of possibility, it is highly contrived. It would work if only a few of the first humans reproduced, or were allowed to reproduce. If the data is simply taken at face value, the biblical model is the more parsimonious explanation.
Although you can find a significant number of links on the Internet with information that indicate there is no scientific evidence for Adam and Eve, there are an equal number of links with information available that indicate there is scientific evidence that validates the Biblical Adam and Eve OR calls into question the scientific accuracy of methods used to determine if there is scientific evidence for Adam and Eve. The following links support the latter supposition.
“Truth be told, we have no idea when the first true humans appeared. The fossil records don’t record things like the emergence of intellect and will, so inferences about fossils and dates are indirect at best. And the further back in time we go, the more confounding factors can intervene. As we have seen, population bottlenecks, changing selection, nonrandom breeding, mutational hotspots, changing mutation rate, or migratory behaviour—all these can affect population genetics calculations. Parallel mutations or back-mutations can obscure evolutionary trees. Because of complications like these, it is an open question whether present genetic diversity is sufficient information from which to draw solid conclusions about ancient populations. A recent paper has acknowledged that significant migration in or out of a population can make it impossible to estimate effective population sizes in the distant past, based solely on current genetic diversity. Another researcher has admitted that drawing conclusions about events in deep time, before true humans arose, may be impossible.”
“My point here is that there are limits to what can be proven about past events, based on population genetics models and current human genetic diversity. A little caution and humility is called for. Given the potential number of unknown variables, and the limitations of the models involved, no one should be making claims of certitude about what happened in humanity’s distant past.”
Ann Gauger, Ph.D. is senior research scientist at the Biologic Institute. Her current work challenges the credibility of Darwinian explanations of life, ranging from protein evolution (www.bio-complexity.org), to butterflies (Illustra Media’s movie Metamorphosis), to human origins.
“Such calculations rely upon many assumptions about mutation rate, recombination rate, and other factors, that are known to vary widely. All of this entails retrospective calculations about events in the far distant past, for which we have no directly verifiable data. For such reasons, some experts have concluded that effective population size cannot be determined using DNA sequence differences alone (Sjödin 2005; Hawks 2008).
These genetic studies, based on many assumptions and use of computer models,do not tell us how the origin of the human race actually took place. But, they do show (1) that methodological limitations and radical contingency are inherent in such studies, which are employed to make retroactive judgments about deeply ancient populations that can never be subject to direct observation, and (2) that present scientific claims against the possibility of a literal Adam and Eve are not definitive (Gauger 2012, 105-122).”
“A literal Adam and Eve remains rationally, scientifically credible.”
plus PDF of the book Science and Human Origins http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=download&id=9031
“But one thing is clear right now: Adam and Eve have not been disproven by science, and those who claim otherwise are misrepresenting the scientific evidence.”
Douglas Axe is Director of Biologic Institute, a research organization that develops and tests the scientific case for intelligent design in biology and explores its scientific implications. Dr. Axe’s research uses both experiments and computer simulations to examine the functional and structural constraints on the evolution of proteins and protein systems. After receiving his Ph.D. from Caltech, Dr. Axe held postdoctoral and research scientist positions at the University of Cambridge, the Cambridge Medical Research Council Centre, and the Babraham Institute in Cambridge. His work has been reviewed in Nature and published in several peer-reviewed scientific journals, including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Journal of Molecular Biology, BIO-Complexity, PLoS ONE, and Biochemistry.
Ann Gauger is Senior Research Scientist at Biologic Institute. Her work uses molecular genetics and genomic engineering to study the origin, organization and operation of metabolic pathways. Dr. Gauger received a B.S. in biology from MIT and a Ph.D. in developmental biology from the University of Washington, where she studied Drosophila embryogenesis. As a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University, she cloned and characterized the Drosophila kinesin light chain. Her research has been published in such peer-reviewed journals as Nature, Development, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, and BIO-Complexity.
“Even though evolutionary biologists offer ways to explain away the implications of the human population genetic data, these explanations—entrenched in naturalism—are not necessarily superior to an interpretation that fully squares with the biblical account. The scientific case for the biblical Adam and Eve stands firm.”
Dr. Fazale Rana discovered the fascinating world of cells while taking chemistry and biology courses for the premed program at West Virginia State College (now University). As a presidential scholar there, he earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry with highest honors. He completed a PhD in chemistry with an emphasis in biochemistry at Ohio University, where he twice won the Donald Clippinger Research Award. Postdoctoral studies took him to the Universities of Virginia and Georgia. Fuz then worked seven years as a senior scientist in product development for Procter & Gamble. Today Fuz travels widely, speaking on science-and-faith issues at churches, business firms, and universities. Fuz also lectures for the Master of Science and Religion program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University.
“One of the most compelling genetic evidences for an original human couple created by God is mitochondrial DNA research done by creation geneticist, Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson. He clearly shows that the common human female ancestor of us all (biblical Eve) lived within the biblical timeframe of several thousand years ago.”
Quoted by Dr. Georgia Purdom who has a PhD in genetics from Ohio State University, was a biology professor and wrote a number of published papers in scientific journals including Journal of Neuroscience, and the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. Dr. Georgia Purdom recently released a documentary entitled “The Genetics of Adam and Eve” , a snippet of which can be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSp1P4FkEfc
“Christians should be aware of the scientific proof for creation because Genesis is the most hotly debated book among evangelical Christians,” she said. “We need to show people that science supports and confirms the history presented in Genesis.”
Dr. Georgian Purdom also has an excellent video on YouTube entitled “Wonder of DNA” which can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1_pOc1tYlc
Daniel Zadik of University of Leicester said, “We must take the numbers with a pinch of salt. Small changes in the assumptions made for the calculation can end up varying the result by a large margin.” Hammer added, “These estimates need to be interpreted with great caution with respect to what they tell us about human history or evolution.”
“There is no reason to expect that the ancestor of all Y chromosomes and the ancestor of all mitochondrial genomes lived at the same time. But events like a strong population bottleneck or an isolated population would make that more likely. Figuring out a narrower date for these two ancestors could help us understand the history of modern humans.”
AKSHAT RATHI has a PhD in organic chemistry from Oxford University and a BTech in chemical engineering from the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai.
Conclusion: I am not a scientist. I’m just an ordinary Christian that tries to be factual about my faith. My investigation shows me that there are different schools of thought. Evolutionary biologists who support naturalism say there is no scientific evidence to support the reality of Adam and Eve while some other scientists who support the Christian faith say there is no scientific evidence that disproves the reality of Adam and Eve and there is evidence that supports it. The science of evolutionary biology is far from an exact science when based on unproven variables and assumptive computer models. Based on what I have learned about common misconceptions pertaining to evolution over the years and the naturalists refusal to accept supernatural occurrences, it is not difficult for me to see how assumptions on results pertaining to evolutionary biology can and are swayed by one’s beliefs. Scientists who adhere to the Christian faith tell me that I can logically have confidence in God’s Word as it explains Adam and Eve and I see no logical reason to doubt their recommendation.