Christians, Jews, and Muslims have the firm belief that all of humankind came from two individuals: Adam and Eve. From these two individuals, all of humankind as we know it are all related to one another. Many people consider the notion of every human being on the planet being related to just to individuals to be realistically absurd, but what if there were scientific evidence to show that such a statement were true, at least in part? Studies stretching back as far as the 1980’s have employed genetics to determine a source, via DNA, for the root of all humanity as we know it today. To do this, scientists travel back in time using mitochondrial DNA and the Y-chromosome to find where all genetic materials meet. Who were Mitochondrial Eve and Scientific Adam?
It should be made clear from the start that the genetic material has many areas through the generations where genetic populations meet. However, the genetic lines of those even more ancient common ancestors would have changed or died out as the genetic diversity dwindled. Mitochondrial DNA is passed on from mother to daughter and through the maternal line. Having no children or not bearing daughters would therefore end certain mitochondrial lines (Discovery, 2012). The same could be said of Scientific Adam (Y-Chromosome Adam), as the Y-Chromosome is passed down from father to son paternally in each generation (National Geographic, 2013). In both cases, scientists are able to find a common female ancestor and a common male ancestor, but not specifically when the two genetic lines came together at once. It is thought that our most recent common female ancestor would have appeared perhaps about 80,000 – 100,000 years ago (Discovery, 2012). The most recent male would have appeared roughly 60,000 years ago (National Geographic, 2013). So, while scientists can generally state there was a sort of Adam and Eve for humanity, they would not have existed at the same time, nor mated. Unlike the Biblical accounts, Mitochondrial Eve appears to have appeared long before Scientific Adam.
There is a misconception that the most recent root Adam and Eve not only would have existed at the same time, but that they would also be the only two human beings on earth. Scientists working on this genetic documentation, however, agree that both “Adam and Eve” were dark-skinned Africans. Following a set of markers in the Y-Chromosomes, scientists have found certain super ancestors to contribute to the genetic line in different areas, such as a great number of Asians tracing lineages back to Genghis Kahn (National Geographic, 2013). Further research on Scientific Adam led scientists to Pate Island, a small area in Africa considered to be one of the earliest trade routes. From there, the genetic lines were narrowed down to two. At first glance, the appearance of two lines could disprove a Scientific Adam, but scientists probed deeper and found that the most common line, M168, a line found in almost 3 billion men, is actually descended from the second line, making the latter line the most recent Scientific Adam (National Geographic, 2013). Scientific Adam would have likely lived in the Great Rift Valley in either Ethiopia or Tanzania. As if able to take a step into the past, scientists have traveled to Tanzania to meet a tribe known as the Hadzabe. It is believed that this tribe lives virtually an unchanged lifestyle to that of Scientific Adam. A more controversial theory is that, despite there being many men in his day, Scientific Adam may have had the essential skills to outdo his genetic competition, via ingenuity, foresight, and abstract thought (National Geographic, 2013).
With Eve coming out of Africa and into Yemen and Adam coming much later out of Tanzania, it becomes very clear that while these are common ancestors from each genetic standpoint, they are not the very root of humanity (Dawkins, 2013). The mitochondrial line, after all, only determines a matriarical timeline and the Y-Chromosome showing only paternal; no actual intersections have been found between them yet, aside from eventual genetic mixing (Ghose, 2013).
So, scientists found a common female and common male ancestor. How does that really connect to anyone outside of Africa? For this, we would have to look at the Out of Africa theory. There is evidence of modern man moving north from the Red Sea and back upwards. Old genetic populations exist throughout Africa to show this venture, but it is thought that the first successful venture was across the Red Sea and into Yemen. At this time in history, human beings would have numbered only in the few thousands (Discovery, 2012). Some suggest about 15,000 human beings alive on the planet in total (Clark, 2008). Due to climate conditions, a northern escape into the Middle East would have been too dangerous, and unsuccessful populations seem to verify just that. Eve’s group would have lived in southern Africa during a time where sea levels were very low. A push for surviving a growing population would have pushed a few groups into the fertile lands of Yemen (Discovery, 2012).
Over the next several thousand years, Eve’s mitochondrial line would eventually have dominated the generally isolated populations. As the population grew, the descendants began to move further and further away from Yemen and into areas of the Middle East. It would be at this point where the human line would take two separate paths (Discovery, 2012). Some of the oldest out of Africa populations venture from the Middle East and into parts of Asia. As the generations lived and adapted to new environments, they began to take on different pigmentations and survival habits. One of the oldest populations in Asia have been found in a small tribal group in Malaysia (National Geographic, 2013). The genetic information from this group also shows a common male ancestor through their men around the same time as the volcanic eruption of Mount Toba in Sumatra. It is theorized that this event is what would have pushed modern man from Asia into Australia (Clark, 2008). It wasn’t until about 20,000 years when modern human beings hit Europe only to discover an earlier human branch ancestor, Neanderthal (Discovery, 2012). The Americas were thought to be the last to be populated by modern humans through crossing the bridge between Russia and America, allowing the new populations to follow their game and fertile lands all through the whole of the American continents (Discovery, 2012).
Where does this put Biblical accounts of Adam and Eve? The answer is still unattainable. The study of a genetic Adam and Eve is still relatively new. Despite some findings that could be considered shocking to many, it does show that all human beings today are the surviving lineage of a single modern man and a single modern woman (though at different times in our history) and came from what was once a paradise in Africa (in the case of Adam) and Yemen (in the case of Eve). Both lines would have crossed at some point to become the whole of the human race (National Geographic, 2013).
While most scientists consider this simply a part of genetic evolution, with the modern human genetic connections being placed on the most recent members of the human family, the theory has been embraced by several creationist groups. While not every group can agree, the general research being done for Adam and Eve genetically can lend credence to books of scripture, especially though linking specific people to specific nationalities at specific times. A good example of this is the royal family of Ethiopia who claim to be descendants of Solomon. It is said that Solomon’s son brought the Arc of the Covenant to Ethiopia and the royal family has claimed relation since (National Geographic, 2013). Testing on an Ethiopian prince did show that such a relation was possible, though with no genetic information on the exact family line of Solomon, it’s impossible to tell if the actual line is genuine or if the Middle Eastern bloodline is all the two families have in common. Creationists (and the Ethiopian royal family) believe that, if the line is genuinely that of Solomon in Ehtiopia, then the royal family would be direct descendants of the line of the Biblical Adam (National Geographic, 2013). With that sort of information to speculate, science and spirituality are equally intrigued.
There are countless scientific studies that seem to disprove Biblical events from evolution to Big Bang, and much, much more. It’s fascinating and perhaps even a bit refreshing to see Biblical studies and science coming together on those few occasions to come to a common conclusion about certain events. While most involve archaeological sites, the topic of Genetic Adam and Eve is perhaps the most controversial topic in which both sides and both believers and non-believers in the Bible or in evolution can come together and find a common interest and try to come to a common solution to better understand the human beings that we are and where we came from in a way that can please both and either side of the spectrum.