The Genealogical Adam and Eve by S. Joshua Swamidass — Book Review

Yes, you can “have your cake and eat it too.”

I have long been fascinated by science, particularly the biological sciences. I remember in college, sitting in science classes and thinking, “There is nothing new left to discover. Everything of any importance has already been studied.” The structure of DNA and the interpretation of the genetic code had long since been worked out. Organic chemistry was a series of well-characterized reactions that I just had to memorize. And physics — well, Einstein and some other guys had done a pretty good job of solving those problems.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11211
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Increasingly in recent months I have come to believe that Adventists have mistakenly tried to have a specific answer for everything. And that those answers have been permanently fixed in concrete.

I’ve wondered how early Adventists, many of whom barely had the equivalent of a high school education (or possibly a Bachelor’s degree) could know so much with certainty. It seems that, as understanding and research have increasingly shed “new light” (as EGW mentioned) on these issues, the GC has refused to grow, learn, or accept new understanding.

Oh how I wish Adventists could embrace that “eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither have entered into the hearts of men…” Why can’t we embrace mystery and learn to “walk by faith and not by sight”? I believe our Adventist “ancestors” thought they were doing the right thing by finding answers to every issue - but that has turned out to be a mistake and actually a threat to the good of our church.

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I heard Swamidass present the ideas in this book a few years ago at the American Scientific Affiliation meetings. I found the idea fascinating. I too have read through most, but not all, of this book. While I find the ideas fascinating and even compelling at times, I too found the writing a bit repetitive and not all that well organized at times. I think part of the reason for that is that the topic is highly mathematical at its core, but to make it accessible to general readers Swamidass had to struggle mightily with ways to simplify the complex population and evolutionary genetics behind the ideas.

I keep wishing that SDA theologians would at least take notice of work like this, since, if God actually did use evolution as a part of His creative process, we are sorely in need of theologians that can help keep the Bible relevant, in spite of that. I have to believe that whatever is ultimately true about geology and evolution, there are ways to maintain the relevancy of the Bible’s messages about origins. We need to encourage more work like this.

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Sounds like a very interesting book. The old saying ’ we don’t know what we don’t know’ still rings true. Will add this book to my reading list. The Covid crisis has increased my personal book library!!

A few years ago I ran across The Science of God by Gerald Schroeder. Schroeder is an “applied theologian” with a doctorate from MIT. He, too, writes about God using evolution to create.

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There are quite a few theologians who have done this, Schroeder being a good example, but such approaches appear to be anathema within SDA theology, only YEC positions being considered acceptable. Admitting that our current YEC stance might need revision is DOA.

This seems like another last ditch hail Mary pass to find some way, no matter how contrived, to rescue some authority for the Genesis stories. Such proposals do not arise from evidence; rather they are imagined fixes for faith searching for the “possible” rather than the probable. No data whatsoever gives rise to this proposition. It is imagination fueled by desperation. Wouldn’t it be easier and more honest to allow evidence and the scientific method to guide the study of human origins? Not a search for confirming evidence, but simply examining the data and allowing the facts to lead to conclusions.

The book of Genesis, likely compiled between the 7th and 5th centuries BC, contains folklore and legend forming a founding-myth for the Jewish people. It is not history and a disservice is done when attempting to force it into a category in which it doesn’t belong.

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Honestly, what person raised in the church, and having even a smidgen of scientific curiosity and integrity hasn’t pondered this issue! So many of us started out learning the creation story in Cradle Roll and Kindergarten. Then as we grew older, and began to absorb the enormity of God’s creation, we found too much evidence of a 15-billion year universe to ignore. Conflict! What do you do to resolve it? I’m perfectly willing to believe in the ancient universe - and with that acceptance, my ideas about God change and grow. But what about the human origin story? How can we harmonize the reasonable position of genetic science with the story of salvation? How did man - made in the sinless image of God - fall into sin, thus requiring a savior? I can’t see back into time and part the clouds that conceal our origin, but I can look back far enough to see a historic Jesus, and can read his radical words promising a restoration to the family of God.
With Jesus as my historic anchor point, and my eye to the promised future, I am willing to set aside my questions about the past. But I continue to be uneasy about it.

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