New genetic data and mankind's ancestry

Date: Mon Mar 19 2001 - 10:36:53 EST

  • Next message: Antony Bakke: "Re: OPC Presbytery and days of Genesis"

    Hi Glenn,
    (I'll snip the passages I have nothing to add to for the moment, but
    leave the others in the original sequence)

    You wrote:
    > You should look at the data on Bilzingsleben:...
    > "'They intentionally paved this area for cultural activities,' says Mania.
    > 'We found here a large anvil of quartzite set between the horns of a huge
    > bison, near it were fractured human skulls.'" ~ Rick Gore, "The First
    > Europeans," National Geographic, July, 1997, p. 110...
    > The occupant of the site was H. erectus... cf. D. Mania, U. Mania, E. Vlcek,
    > "Latest Finds of Skull Remains of Homo erectus from Bilzingsleben
    > (Thuringia)", Naturwissenschaften, 81(1994), p. 123-127.
    > And while I personally don't claim this as proven yet, there has been one
    > claim in the literature to the effect that H. erectus drew a picture of a
    > vertebrate animal at Bilzingsleben. Since you are German, here is the German
    > that I had translated by a friend for me:...

    I am Swiss - .ch in my e-mail address ;-) -, not German. - The paper by
    D. Mania et al. shows that the paved area has an irregular shape, not a
    circle as Gore wrote. Mania et al. suggest it may have been used for
    cultural activities (not necessarily implying a religious cult). The
    significance of the bison skull at one of the 20 one-man "workshops"
    (which happens to be one of the two found on the edge of the pavement)
    is apparently unknown. It may have been used as a seat by the workman.
    The paper doesn't specify a "large anvil of quartzite" near the bison
    skull, although it indicates a "large travertine slab" about 10 m away.
    The human skull fragments are widely scattered, not just over the paved
    area, but over at least 40 m, and the collection is clearly incomplete.
    Whether these findings have any sacrificial or other religious
    significance is, at present, anyone's guess. There is no recognizable
    altar anywhere. The lines engraved on some bone tools seem to be at
    least decorative. Whether they have a symbolic significance is unknown.
    Feustel (in the German text you sent me) claims some of the lines are to
    be "interpreted" as a representation of "a large vertebrate", but he
    doesn't appear to be sure about it. I don't think there is clearcut
    evidence for a spiritual (as opposed to "soulish") dimension in those
    people. It is possible, of course, that more finds would make a clearly
    spiritual aspect to become recognizable.

    > >mtDNA is just one of the systems considered, its different mode of
    > >evolution, and not just a low diversity, being taken into consideration.
    > >And it's not straightforward to conclude from a lack of a Drosophila
    > >bottleneck to humans.
    > You make unsupported claims like this. WHat different mode of evolution?
    > Drosophila mtDNA is probably under selection just as is human mtDNA. If you
    > have strong selective pressure, then the variation decreases and this gives
    > the appearance of there being a smaller Ne (effective breeding population).
    > One can't claim that reduction in heterozygosity alone means a bottleneck
    > unless one can also show that the system is selectively neutral.

    I was not comparing Drosophila and human, but mitochondrial and nuclear
    DNA. These don't evolve in the same way: mtDNA doesn't recombine,
    evolves faster (as a whole) and is inherited purely through the maternal
    line, Ne is different, mutation rates and selective pressures vary with
    the sequences, even individual nucleotide positions, etc. Polymorphisms
    and their implications are not easy to interpret, especially when you
    want to draw conclusions from one species (Drosophila) to a widely
    different one (human). Even the data about Drosophila alone are not yet
    clearcut regarding their population dynamics and possible bottlenecks in
    the wild, cf. Andolfatto P. "Contrasting patterns of X-linked and
    autosomal nucleotide variation in Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila
    simulans." Molecular Biology and Evolution 18 (2001), 279-290;
    Przeworski M., Wall J.D., Andolfatto P. "Recombination and the frequency
    spectrum in Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila simulans." Molecular
    Biology and Evolution 18 (2001), 291-298.

    > No, I don't accept your H and S definitions. I believe that if a being built
    > an alter, as did H. erectus, then he is spiritually human. Otherwise what is
    > the purpose of the altar?

    No altar was found at Bilzingsleben. The probable altar found at
    Bruniquel was made by Neandertals, not H. erectus, and dates to 47,600
    years BP, according to R.G. Bednarick, "Neanderthal News," The Artefact
    1996, 19:104, whom you quoted in your post.

    > ... and if you are going to have that situation, you need to move it
    > way, way back in time. It can't have occurred within the past 100,000 years.
    > But if we don't have that situation--a single pair, then how on earth can we
    > say that the Bible is true? Jesus' genealogy goes through Adam.

    You can have Jesus' genealogy go through Adam in a biological sense even
    if there were 10,000 pre-Adamites living at the time of Adam. But
    presumably you were thinking that all fallen humans (and this includes
    all humans except Jesus) must have their biological genealogy go through
    Adam. But the Bible does not imply the doctrin of the biological
    inheritance of the so-called "original sin" (supposedly Adam's). Romans
    5:12ff contrasts Adam the head of the fallen humanity with Jesus Christ
    the head of the new, spiritual humanity. In both cases, it is definitely
    not biological inheritance that is in view. All believers, including
    Abraham and many other Old Testament believers, belong to the new
    humanity - but none of them descends from Jesus biologically; similarly,
    all humans before, contemporaneous with, and after Adam belong to fallen
    humanity, because "all have sinned", not because some of them
    biologically descend from Adam. The text emphasizes the correspondence
    between the old humanity and the new humanity, implying that the
    relationship of fallen humanity to Adam is taken in the same spiritual,
    not biological way as that of the new humanity to Jesus. The
    significance of Jesus' genealogy is also (partly) biological, but its
    primary impact is spiritual: it shows the fulfillment of prophecies
    given to Adam, Abraham, and David, and Jesus' right to the throne of
    David and his being the Messiah. Else why would the genealogy in Matthew
    1 go through Joseph (who was not Jesus' father in a biological, but in a
    legal sense)?

    > As to supposedly ruling out multiregionalism, one must explain why Mungo man
    > had a pre-anatomically modern human mtDNA---meaning that he had to have
    > gotten it from a maternal line that goes back at least 300,000 years
    > according to my calculations. His mother was not your Eve, yet he himself
    > was anatomically modern.

    Adcock G.J. et al. determined the sequence of just 354 (of the over
    16,500) base pairs of mtDNA of the anatomically modern Mungo man (LM3)
    of ~60,000 years ago ("Mitochondrial DNA sequences in ancient
    Australians: implications for modern human origins".
    Proc.Natl.Acad.Sci.USA 98 (2001), 537). Their mtDNA tree indicates that
    it branches earlier than any of the modern human mtDNAs but closely
    groups with a nuclear insert (on chromosome 11) which survives in all
    modern humans. Adcock et al. don't give a time for the branching, though
    they think it challenges the recent-out-of-Africa model. But Svante
    Pääbo (as quoted in Holden C. "Oldest human DNA reveals Aussie oddity",
    Science 291 (2001), 230) doesn't agree. Adcock et al. concur that their
    analysis "did not reliably establish an early divergence of the
    LM3/Insert lineage". Relethford J.H. ("Ancient DNA and the origin of
    modern humans", Proc.Natl.Acad.Sci.USA 98 (2001), 390), commenting on
    Adcock et al.'s work, says: "Although the fossil evidence provides
    evidence of the continuity of modern humans over the past 60,000 years,
    the ancient mtDNA clearly does not, providing an excellent example of
    why the history of any particular locus or DNA sequence does not
    necessarily represent the history of a population." It is unknown when
    LM3's ancestors got to Australia, and we don't know when the ancient LM3
    mtDNA sequence was lost from the other human populations. The belief
    that LM3 proves multiregionalism is not warranted.

    > You must explain the characteristically Neanderthaloid muscle attachements
    > in the Lager Velho child from Portugal. The supposed replacement don't have
    > those types of attachements yet this kid did, and yet he too was mostly a
    > modern human. There was interbreeding.
    > You must explain why the earliest humans in Europe resemble the Neanderthals
    > more than the supposed Out-of-Africa invaders. In fact, I never see anyone
    > like you really discuss the evidence below...
    > In order to account for this data and still believe that there was no
    > mixing, you must believe that the mere fact that the Africans invaded Europe
    > made them look like the Neanderthals. That of course is a silly idea. But no
    > OoA people I know of really deal with this data at this level of detail...
    > "We do not doubt that many prehistoric groups were replaced by others, but
    > we conclude that the hypothesis that all living humans descended from a
    > single geographically isolated group during the Late Pleistocene is false,
    > and that the replacement explanation for the origin of these early modern
    > Australians and Europeans can be ruled out." Milford H. Wolpoff, John Hawks,
    > David W. Frayer, and Keith Hunley, "Modern Human Ancestry at the
    > Peripheries: A Test of the Replacement Theory," Science 291(2001):293-297,
    > Wishing this data away, doesn't make it go away. It is contrary to your
    > claims.

    Paleoanthropologists are still divided about the amount of genetic
    mixing between early and late humans outside of Africa, the extremes
    being the multiregionality and the out-of-Africa models, and occasional
    migrations between groups in and out of Africa might have provided for
    any amount of genetic mixing. Such mixing would prove these
    (contemporary!) groups to belong to the same species, but it doesn't
    prove everyone from H. habilis of 2 million years ago to today's H.
    sapiens belongs to the same species. I'm no specialist in this field and
    therefore suspend my definitive judgement. For the moment, I tend more
    towards the OoA end of the continuous spectrum of biological models. My
    theological model of time points "H", "S", "A" is independent of how the
    paleoanthropology debate turns out, as I have no way of confidently
    dating "S".
    > Why, it says that Eve is the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20). She isn't
    > under your view. Pure and simple that makes that statement wrong. I don't
    > know how else to define a false statement other than as wrong, wrong, wrong
    > or false, false false. Either she is the mother of all living or she isn't.
    > And with your view, she isn't.

    What does Genesis 3:20 imply? Jesus is the representative of the new
    humanity (both before and after his time). Adam is the representative of
    the old, fallen humanity (both before and after his time). Abraham is
    the father of all genuine believers (Gen.12:2-3; Rom.4:16), both
    Israelites and gentiles (gentiles presumably both before and after his
    time). Could Eve be the "mother of all living" in a similarly spiritual
    sense (both before and after her time)? Probably, it should be related
    to God's "proto-gospel" in Genesis 3:15, predicting that one of Eve's
    descendants will be the Messiah, through whom all will live who believe
    in him, without any consideration of inheritance.

    After I wrote this previous paragraph (and before I sent it to him),
    Armin Held drew my attention to the fact that the Hebrew original of
    Gen.3:20 doesn't read "mother of all living", but "mother of all life"
    (not "ghayim", but "ghay"). If all humans were meant it would be
    "ghayim", thus the usual translations and interpretations are wrong.
    Furthermore, Adam didn't give his wife this new name after her first
    child was born, but after God's judgement which contained the wonderful
    prophecy of "her [Eve's] seed" (Gen.3:15) who would provide for
    redemption. The very unusual concept of the "seed of the woman"
    apparently indicates the birth of the Redeemer out of Mary as a
    descendent of Eve, but without a human father. In this way, God's Son
    would provide "life" for all believers in God's redemption, by his
    victory over Satan and death. Thus, Eve need not have been the
    biological progenitor of all humans. But God emphasises human
    participation (the line from Eve to Mary) in his work. Thus,
    independently of each other, Armin and I came to the same conclusion
    that v.15 is the key to the understanding of v.20, pointing to a
    spiritual, rather than biological interpretation of v.20.

    (start of farming and population expansion at the end of the last ice
    > >Yes, this is a major reason usually associated with it. It may not be
    > >the only one. And what caused those people to begin farming?
    > Economic necessity, certainly NOT spirituality. The populations had risen to
    > the point where it was more and more difficult for huntering to support
    > them. Plants became a bigger and bigger part of the diet. And they
    > gradually began to do things to make sure that next year the wild plants
    > they liked were plentiful. Things like scattering seed around. But this
    > made the food more plentiful and thus the population even more plentiful...

    Everyone agrees that there was an increase in population size between
    about 2 million years ago and about 100,000 years ago, although opinions
    differ about the time, sharpness, and size of a bottleneck (if any)
    during this long interval. Somewhere in this epoch, we have to place
    time point "S" characterized by God's creating the spiritual dimension
    and commanding humans to fill the Earth. I agree with you that finds
    indicating a spiritual capacity will be determinative for choosing this
    point. I am just not yet convinced we have found it as early as you
    place it. And everyone agrees that there was a bottleneck at the end of
    the last glaciation, when agriculture began. Somewhere around this time
    we presumably have to place time point "A", Adam and Eve, and the
    special divine dealing with them. Clearly, Adam and his sons were
    farmers. But why can't an economic necessity be part of a development
    connected with spiritual significance, or an indirect consequence of
    spiritual events? God works through all natural events and uses them in
    his dealings with humans whenever he sees fit. And his spiritual dealing
    with humans may have consequences which are visible in archeology.

    > As to the bottleneck: The mechanics of fly mtDNA is apparently similar to
    > that of humans. Assume that both started in 100,000 BC. Humans have had then
    > about 5000 generations, but flies have had 100,000+ generations. Surely we
    > would expect more variation in their mtDNA than we see, yet they have the
    > same 'bottleneck appearance as do the humans. Why? Probably selection. Yet
    > you want to say that the lack of mtDNA diversity in humans means bottleneck
    > but the lack of mtDNA diversity in flies has nothing what so ever to do with
    > the situation. It has everything to do with the situaation.

    Why should mtDNA mutation rate depend on generation length? And as soon
    as you have selection, you can have any mutation rates. I agree that
    bottlenecks are not the only possible explanation for lack of diversity,
    but I don't remember having claimed this. About the fly-to-human
    comparison see above.

    > Then I would say that you have just admitted that you can't prove anything
    > about your thesis and that it is mostly speculation as to where you draw the
    > adamic, spiritual lines in the anthropological record. If you can't define
    > the theological status of the species, then what you offer is a speculation
    > based upon no data! So why exactly are you arguing so strongly that Adam was
    > late if you can't really define their theological status? Upon what basis do
    > you think you have a logical ground upon which to stand?

    I don't think it is possible to prove scientific matters from theology -
    or spiritual matters from science. What kind of proof are you seeking?
    As God wants our decision for him to be free, we cannot expect to be
    able to prove him scientifically. We have data from creation/nature,
    interpreted by science, and we have data from the Bible, interpreted by
    theology. We can expect that the data don't contradict each other, but
    the interpretations may. In this case they need revision. Also, it is
    clear that scientific interpretations of nature (if correct!) may
    indicate the need to revise theological interpretations. In my opinion,
    theological interpretations of the Bible (if correct!) may indicate the
    need to revise scientific interpretations, as well. Of course, the
    correctness of an interpretation is a matter of judgement and is always
    provisional. I want to find non-contradicting interpretations of the two
    sides. The less data we have, the more speculative the interpretations
    become - on both sides. Such harmonizations between science and theology
    are never absolutely certain, they periodically need to be
    updated/revised. Although they never have the character of a proof, they
    are immensely valuable as an apologetic tool. You can never prove God or
    the Bible as his word to a doubter, but you may be able to show him/her
    that belief in God and in the Bible as his word is eminently reasonable
    and attractive. About Adam being recent: unless you insist Adam was the
    first human being (on the basis of a specific Bible interpretation -
    which I don't think is the most reasonable and parsimonious one), you
    don't have much reason for placing him early. Apparently he was a
    farmer, and there are several biblical indications that he wasn't the
    first human being (Jesus the "second man" and "last Adam"; Adam to
    "keep" the "garden" (lit.: "enclosure", against whom?); Eve as Adam's
    "helper" (Hebr. implying protective support in fight, or legal counsel,
    against whom?); Cain's fear of being killed (before Seth's birth);
    sevenfold vengeance on a murderer of Cain; Cain's wife; Cain's building
    a city in distant Nod;...).

    > I define spirituality in the archaeological record via cultural items found.
    > If I find an altar, then I believe that the people were worshipping and thus
    > were spiritual. I have hard evidence that there was spirituality at LEAST as
    > far back as 400,000 years ago.

    I agree that an altar indicates religious worship and spirituality,
    although this would not yet necessarily imply having received divine
    revelation (such as Adam has). But the first problem is the correctness
    of a religious interpretation of the archeological findings. And as I
    discussed above, there is no evidence for an altar at Bilzingsleben
    400,000 years ago, but there may have been one at Bruniquel 48,000 years
    ago. So, apparently, spirituality is much older than Adam, but perhaps
    not as old as you think it is.

    Peter Ruest

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