Academic journal article Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith

The Overlooked Science of Genealogical Ancestry

Academic journal article Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith

The Overlooked Science of Genealogical Ancestry

Article excerpt

It seems such a simple question, but it carries a great deal of subtlety and complexity: Do all humans descend from a single couple?

Genetic science appears to answer with a "no." From genetic data, the population size of our ancestors at different times is estimated. It appears that population sizes never dipped to a single couple in the last several hundred thousand years, during the time in which Homo sapiens arises. (1) This conclusion is robust, based on several independent signals: our ancestors arose as a large population, not as a single couple.

It is a subtle and consequential error, however, to think that these findings demonstrate that there are no individual couples from whom we all descend. For the "no" to be correct, we must have inserted into the original question a genetic notion of ancestry. This insertion of "genetic" into the question neglects a key scientific fact: genealogical ancestry is not genetic ancestry. Genealogical ancestry traces the reproductive origins of individuals, while genetic ancestry traces the origin of stretches of DNA. A question about "descent" can be a question about genealogies, and genealogical questions should be answered with genealogical science. …

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