Over the last year I’ve been learning more about what genetics can tell us about human history. Who were the first people to populate Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, and North and South America? Where did they come from, and where did they go? We have evidence from archaeology and ancient historical records, but genetics is a relatively new branch of science we can utilize to piece together clues and answer these questions. Remarkably, scientists can pull degraded DNA from old bones and use it to map out human history.
As a Christian, I accept the Biblical account of Genesis as historical, so I believe Adam and Eve were the first two humans, and we are descended from them. Later there was a global flood, and only Noah and his family survived. Thus, all humans are descendants of Noah’s children: Shem, Ham and Japheth.
This, of course, is in contrast with evolutionary beliefs, which deny the Biblical Adam and Eve, as well as a global flood. Interestingly, evolutionists do believe in what’s called a “Y-Chromosome Adam”, but one that is different from the Biblical Adam. Their version of Adam is considered to be the father of all men alive today, but he lived hundreds of thousands of years ago and came out of Africa.
So which view is the correct one of human history?
Dr. Robert Carter put together a short presentation on the Historical Adam, and I wanted to highlight some of his main points. He began by explaining the importance of believing in a historical Adam, and it hinges on theological implications. Not only is Adam introduced to us in the book of Genesis as a historical person, but he is found throughout the New Testament (Romans 5:12-21) and paves the way for the life of Jesus, his death on the cross, and his resurrection. Jesus (based on his human nature) is a descendant of Adam as recorded in Luke 3:23-38. Therefore, it stands to reason that Adam was a real, historical person, and without this understanding, the foundation of Christianity is lost. That’s one reason why atheists and evolutionists are invested in denying a Biblical Adam.
Despite the fact that evolutionists and creationists disagree on the historicity of Adam, there’s no conflict between science and the Bible. According to Dr. Carter, we can see Adam in the data derived from genetics.
Whichever side one agrees with, it’s important to note that the science is complex and filled with assumptions, and if the assumptions are incorrect, then the conclusions will be incorrect. Evolutionists assume we evolved from monkeys, so this assumption drives how they interpret the genetic evidence and draw conclusions about human history. Christians come with Biblical assumptions, and those assumptions provide a different interpretation of human history based on the same genetic evidence.
Thus we can point to Noah as our Y-chromosome ancestor. He is the father of all people alive today, so Dr. Carter says it would be more accurate to refer to a “Y-Chromosome Noah”. Mutations would have started accumulating in the Y-chromosome Noah inherited from his father, dating all the way back to Adam. And since fathers pass a Y-chromosome on to their sons, scientists can trace these mutations back in time like a clock.
Dr. Carter made some interesting points worth considering. It’s possible that Noah didn’t acquire very many mutations from his ancestors because there was still plenty of diversity available prior to the flood. But after the flood Noah’s grandchildren would have had no other option but to marry their close relatives, so perhaps this led to increased mutation rates.
Another possibility is that all three of Noah’s children- Shem Ham and Japheth- may have inherited identical Y-chromosomes from their father. Or perhaps two of them had the same cell line, but only one was different.
We also know that fathers who are older will pass along more mutations to their children than young fathers because every time a cell divides, there’s an opportunity for more mutations to occur. Noah was 500 years old when he started having children, and his children may have been having children hundreds of years after the flood, so all these considerations should factor in to our conclusions.
Every possibility is important when examining the family tree of all the Y-chromosomes in the world. Therefore, we shouldn’t necessarily expect to see all three branches. Mathematically speaking, it’s possible that one of the lines of Noah’s children died out.
Dr. Carter’s family tree is different from others I’ve seen because it doesn’t have the three branches we might expect, but he does a nice job explaining why we shouldn’t have that expectation.
I appreciate how he incorporated the Table of Nations found in Genesis 10, Neanderthals, hunters and gatherers, a giant wave of Anatolian farmers from Turkey, and even considered how invasions, migrations and wars influence populations over time.
As a result of all this intermixing, people groups have been blended and blurred over time, so it’s incorrect to look at a person’s race. Modern genetics has destroyed all concept of race. Europeans, for example, are an amalgamation of many people groups.
One example Dr. Carter provided is a group identified as R1B who share the same Y-chromosome. Some representatives of this lineage are found in Ireland, while others are found on the African island of Cameroon (some of the darkest-skinned people on the planet). These two lineages are more closely related to one another than some Irishmen are to their fellow Irishmen or other Europeans.
I think this is one of the most important conclusions. Today we can see how racism infects practically every culture around the world in some way or another. But if we understand the Bible and how genetics works, we can begin to see that all people on earth are more closely related to each other than we think. We’re all members of the human race.