Evolutionary science teaches that humans arose as a population, sharing common ancestors with other animals. Most readers of the book of Genesis in the past understood all humans descended from Adam and Eve, a couple specially created by God. These two teachings seem contradictory, but is that necessarily so? In the fractured conversation of human origins, can new insight guide us to solid ground in both science and theology?

In The Genealogical Adam and Eve, S. Joshua Swamidass tests a scientific hypothesis: What if the traditional account is somehow true, with the origins of Adam and Eve taking place alongside evolution? Building on well-established but overlooked science, Swamidass explains how it's possible for Adam and Eve to be rightly identified as the ancestors of everyone. His analysis opens up new possibilities for understanding Adam and Eve, consistent both with current scientific consensus and with traditional readings of Scripture. These new possibilities open a conversation about what it means to be human.

In this book, Swamidass

  • untangles several misunderstandings about the words human and ancestry, in both science and theology
  • explains how genetic and genealogical ancestry are different, and how universal genealogical ancestry creates a new opportunity for rapprochement
  • explores implications of genealogical ancestry for the theology of the image of God, the fall, and people "outside the garden"

Some think Adam and Eve are a myth. Some think evolution is a myth. Either way, the best available science opens up space to engage larger questions together. In this bold exploration, Swamidass charts a new way forward for peace between mainstream science and the Christian faith.

"Dr. Swamidass's contribution is extremely significant, reshaping our understanding of the theological implications of evolution and population genetics. There is a recurring pattern in the history of science and religion. First, a scientific discovery and its seeming implications are treated as settled science and demands are made for a radical departure from recognizable Christian theology. Second, a sober corrective recognizes the legitimacy of the discovery but clarifies the real implications, and in so doing provides breathing room for real theological reflection, development, and genuine intellectual progress. Dr Swamidass, in this book, offers just such a sober corrective."

Clinton Ohlers, intellectual historian of science and religion, University of Hong Kong

"It is unusual to find a professional scientist with a keen interest in theology, but Joshua Swamidass, a computational biologist, is just such a person. The Genealogical Adam and Eve is a scientifically informed and biblically engaged study of human origins. Many will find shocking its claims concerning universal common ancestors in the relatively recent past. Agree or disagree, the reader will find this to be a stimulating and thought-provoking book."

William Lane Craig, professor of philosophy, Talbot School of Theology and Houston Baptist University

"Swamidass proposes a genealogical Adam as a way to help resolve conflict among the competing creation and evolution models for human origins. He is to be commended for exhorting us all to 'find that better way together' to resolve our differences with patience and humility."

Hugh Ross, president and founder of Reasons to Believe, astronomer, pastor, and author

"I am one of the many scientists who have maintained that the existence of Adam and Eve as ancestors of all people on earth is incompatible with the scientific data. In this book, Joshua Swamidass effectively demonstrates that people like me, stuck in a specific genetic paradigm, were wrong. Ironically, it was Richard Dawkins who first pointed to the key calculation fifteen years ago in The Ancestor's Tale. In explaining the results, Dawkins wrote, "I don't know about you, but I find these dates [for the last common ancestor] astonishingly recent." I read Dawkins's book soon after it came out but failed to appreciate its biblical ramifications. However, in writing this book Swamidass helps us remove our blinders. He shows in a clearly written, highly accessible style how a traditional understanding of the Genesis narrative, including the sudden creation of Adam and Eve, is fully compatible with science. Although creation through the evolutionary process is still central to the story, the existence of two individuals—ancestors of us all—is now freed from what seemed like scientific inconsistency and placed, once again, purely into the realm of theology where it belongs."

Darrel R. Falk, professor of biology emeritus, Point Loma Nazarene University


Part 1: Fracture
1. Courage, Curiosity, Empathy

Part 2: Ancestor
2. A Genealogical Hypothesis
3. Genetics Is Not Genealogy
4. Ancestors of Everyone Today
5. Genealogical Adams and Eves
6. The Mythology of Isolation
7. Direct and Miraculous Creation

Part 3: Human
8. Humans in Science
9. Humans in Theology
10. The Error of Polygenesis
11. Humans of the Text

Part 4: Mystery
12. The Splintering of Traditions
13. Recovering Many Traditions Together
14. A Narrative Experiment
15. Falling into Exile
16. Justice, Mercy, and Ancestry
17. Ending at a Beginning

Part 5: Crossroad
18. Tolerance, Humility, Patience
Appendix: Evidence and the Resurrection Bibliography Bibliography
General Index
Scripture Index


S. Joshua Swamidass (MD, PhD, UC–Irvine) is a scientist, physician, and associate professor of laboratory and genomic medicine at Washington University in Saint Louis, where he uses artificial intelligence to explore science at the intersection of medicine, biology, and chemistry. He is a Veritas Forums speaker and blogs at Peaceful Science.

Watch him discuss what it means to be human with a secular scientist.

Watch him talk about if there is truth behind science.

BY S. Joshua Swamidass

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