Study of Languages Supports Biblical Account of Human Origins

This is an article from Reasons to Believe that was put out on 08/24. For you science type people, this ministry is a good resource to show that science is NOT disproving God.

Speaking of Adam and Eve: Study of Languages Supports Biblical Account of Human Origins

By: Dr. Fazale (“Fuz”) Rana

Adam named his wife Eve because she would become the mother all the living.
Genesis 3:20

Did Adam and Eve exist? A number of evangelical Christian are now arguing that they didn’t. But I disagree. I think Adam and Eve did exist, and not just because I believe what is recorded in Scripture. In my opinion, good scientific evidence backs up belief in a literal, historical Adam and Eve.

Recently, a scientist from the University of Auckland in New Zealand used linguistic analysis of language to trace humanity’s origin. In doing so, he provided independent confirmation of the Out-of-Africa model for human origins, and with it, support for the biblical creation model.1

Numerous studies of genetic variability indicate that humanity originated recently (around 100,000 years ago) in east Africa (near where some theologians think the Garden of Eden existed) from a small population. Mitochondrial DNA studies suggest that all humanity traces back to a single woman. In like manner, studies of Y-chromosomal DNA indicate that all men can trace their origin to a single man. (See Who Was Adam? and the New Reasons to Believe e-Zine, pages 4 –6, for previous discussions on this topic.)

Anthropologists tend to view these data from an evolutionary perspective (coining the term “Out-of-Africa model”). Yet, the data are provocative from a biblical standpoint. They reveal the type of pattern one would expect if Adam and Eve really existed and gave birth to all human beings.


The sounds of language vowels, consonants, and tones — are referred to as phonemes. Linguists have discovered that languages spoken by larger populations tend to possess more phonemes than languages spoken by fewer people.

Quentin Atkinson at the University of Auckland wondered if phonemes could be used to study humanity’s origin. What further motivated his idea is the phenomenon in genetics known as the serial founder effect. When a subpopulation breaks off of the main population, that smaller group displays much more limited genetic variability than the parent population. If the subpopulation, in turn, spawns another subpopulation, that resulting group of “break-a-ways” will display an even more reduced genetic variability.

When people began to migrate around the world, a small group left the point of humanity’s genesis. Serial fracturing of the migrating population took place, consequently generating the serial founder effect. According to Atkinson’s hypothesis, this phenomenon should be evident in the phonemes of the world’s languages.

The Results: Something to Talk about

Atkinson analyzed 504 languages and discovered that African languages displayed the greatest number of phonemes. (African populations are the most genetically diverse and thought to be the oldest people groups.) He also determined that languages of people groups in South America and Oceania possessed the fewest number of phonemes. (These people groups are believed to be the youngest.) Atkinson also noticed a cline in phonemes (a gradual decrease in phoneme numbers) as the languages moved away from Africa and into Europe and Asia.

The phoneme patterns Atkinson discovered closely match the genetic diversity data, and independently support the Out-of-Africa model. It is encouraging that a number of separate lines of evidence (genetic, archeological, and now linguistic) harmonize with the biblical account of human origins. The scientific case for Adam and Eve is stronger today than it has ever been, in spite of what some evangelicals might think.


Quentin D. Atkinson, “Phonemic Diversity Supports a Serial Founder Effect Model of Language Expansion from Africa,” Science 332 (April 15, 2011): 346-49.



Filed under Bible, Christianity, Religion

9 responses to “Study of Languages Supports Biblical Account of Human Origins

  1. Good grief, Xander. This shows linguistic migration. That’s it. That’s all. (Mind you, the Irish anomaly is interesting, n’est pas, as is the neolithic Basque?)

    The scientific case for Adam and Eve is stronger today than it has ever been? What colour is the sky in your world, Xander?

    Jerry Coyne explains why your claims about a literal Adam and Eve are factually wrong:

    “Unfortunately, the scientific evidence shows that Adam and Eve could not have existed, at least in the way they’re portrayed in the Bible. Genetic data show no evidence of any human bottleneck as small as two people: there are simply too many different kinds of genes around for that to be true. There may have been a couple of “bottlenecks” (reduced population sizes) in the history of our species, but the smallest one not involving recent colonization is a bottleneck of roughly 10,000-15,000 individuals that occurred between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago. That’s as small a population as our ancestors had, and—note—it’s not two individuals.

    Further, looking at different genes, we find that they trace back to different times in our past. Mitochondrial DNA points to the genes in that organelle tracing back to a single female ancestor who lived about 140,000 years ago, but that genes on the Y chromosome trace back to one male who lived about 60,000-90,000 years ago. Further, the bulk of genes in the nucleus all trace back to different times—as far back as two million years. This shows not only that any “Adam” and “Eve” (in the sense of mitochondrial and Y-chromosome DNA alone) must have lived thousands of years apart, but also that there simply could not have been two individuals who provided the entire genetic ancestry of modern humans. Each of our genes “coalesces” back to a different ancestor, showing that, as expected, our genetic legacy comes from many different individuals. It does not go back to just two individuals, regardless of when they lived.

    These are the scientific facts. And, unlike the case of Jesus’s virgin birth and resurrection, we can dismiss a physical Adam and Eve with near scientific certainty. ”

    Sorry, Xander. On this issue your beliefs about what is true (aka: The scientific case for Adam and Eve is stronger today than it has ever been) and what actually is true (A literal Adam and Eve are factually wrong) are in direct conflict. Only one is correct and (just as hint ’cause I think you could use one) it’s not biblical creationism. I’ll let you find the other one on your own.

  2. Xander

    I forgot to link the post to the above article so you could compare

  3. I actually read this article quite some time ago (it’s an apologetic fluff piece that offers no reasonable criticism of the DNA data) so I knew what you were presenting is a christian version of trying to obfuscate the genetic data enough so that people who wish to continue to believe that which is not true in reality can remain unsure what the genetic data actually means. To be clear, it means that the literal notion that we derive from a single couple is not true in reality because it does not fit the genetic data in your DNA no matter how some other believer writes about trying to cast doubt and uncertainty about genetic data sets.

  4. Xander

    So you dismiss it as a fluff piece since it supports the Christian version, but the atheist version must be correct because it supports your position on religion?

    When the science is trying to disprove the possibility of two originating people, does it consider the flood as the source of the bottleneck, since that is when the current population would have started. Of course there would have been 12 people then starting what we consider the current population instead of just two, so obviously that could not be the scientific approach to disprove a literal Adam and Eve.

    The biblical account is supported by the fact that humans originated from Africa, but I am sure that was more of a lucky guess by the original biblical writers right?

    According to Dr Coyne, mitochondrial DNA can be traced back to one woman and one man, but at different time periods. So he agrees that one woman is the source and one man as well, but how does that occur when there is a difference of at least 50,000 years between the two? The DNA doesn’t evolve as fast for women as it does for men? I am trying to keep up with the science here.

    And some time between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago, population was decreased to somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 people. Where all of these people in one area still or spread out through out the world? Trying to understand how much inbreeding would have affected DNA mutations during that time frame. I am sure there is a formula to take that in to consideration.

    How fast does DNA mutate or evolve? Does it stay the same if the parents are younger when they reproduce compared to when they are older in age? My understanding is that the older a couple is, the more likely it is to mutate from the original. If a couple were to continue having children considering how long the Bible states people lived, would not that provide more combination possibilities which would change the scientific theory. Maybe the science assumed how long people lived back then since the Bibical account could not possibly be correct.

    “The idea of the “greatest theological minds” working on this issue should make us laugh and cry at the same time. What a waste of human effort! But, in the end, this palaver about Adam and Eve shows the incompatibility between not only science and faith, but between BioLogos and true evangelical Christianity.” Dr Coyne doesn’t mind showing his biased opinion against religion does he. I doubt that his understanding of the data would ever be affected by personal views on it.

    • Yes, it supports one kind of christian theology and this alone should give you pause. BioLogos is the site created by Francis Collins and the articles there attempt to align what is true about evolution with biblical creationism not by altering reality as you are trying to do (there was no global flood and the evidence is clear) but by re-interpreting scripture to be metaphorical in the same way that a flat earth and geocentrism is re-interpreted to align with what is true.

      The problem you must face is not me or Jerry Coyne or the theory of evolution; the problem is reality and you will have a very difficult time overcoming it through faith. All the questions you raise have been most assuredly addressed but it is up to you to find out how thoroughly and in what ways this has been done. I suspect you won’t endeavor to find out because anything contrary to what you believe to be true will be defined in your mind as ‘anti-religious’. This makes becoming knowledgeable about current states of science – whether in biology or geology or cosmology or whatever – very difficult if not impossible for you as long as cling so tightly within your cocoon of beliefs. It impedes the spectacular view of what’s true out here that the rest of us can see.

  5. Here’s a relevant 17 minute video about Genesis and fatal problem to evangelical christianity it causes.

  6. The creationist challenge is laid out very well here and shows just how incredibly absurd is the notion so many believe in about the reality we all share. And they do so because they think themselves pious rather than ignorant. It’s not pious; it’s nonsense. (The fact the the Republican frontrunners share this belief in such a blatant absurdity as young earth creationism does not bode well for their abilities to deal with reality in any other matters we share, which is why belief in creationism is a political litmus test that far too many politicians fail.) In what other area of life is intentional ignorance considered a virtue… except in religion?

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