We didn’t predict this one and it’s not the story you think. Recently, geneticist Richard Buggs defended the possibility in principle that a human population bottleneck could consist of one fertile couple.
At the Zone (founded by former UD commenters among others), Vincent Torley writes:
Geneticist Richard Buggs, Reader in Evolutionary Genomics at Queen Mary University of London, has just written an intriguing article in Nature: Ecology and Evolution (28 October 2017), titled, Adam and Eve: a tested hypothesis? Comments on a recent book chapter. It appears that Buggs is unpersuaded that science has ruled out Adam and Eve. He thinks it’s still theoretically possible that the human race once passed through a short, sharp population bottleneck of just two individuals, followed by exponential population growth. Buggs disagrees with the assessment of Christian biologist Dennis Venema, professor of biology at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, who forthrightly declared in chapter 3 of his 2017 book Adam and the Genome that it is scientifically impossible that the human lineage ever passed through a bottleneck of two, and we can be as certain about this fact as we are about the truth of heliocentrism.
I would be interested to know what biologists think of Richard Buggs’ article. Is he right? Does science still leave open the possibility of Adam and Eve? Over to you. More.
Population geneticist Joe Felsenstein, among others, replied (“A&E” = Adam and Eve),
ust saying that rates of mutation are high and so the pattern could occur is insufficient. One needs a more quantitative analysis with estimated mutation rates. HLA is a hard case for A&E — it would be even better to find more polymorphisms involving multiple haplotypes and put all that information together. There are coalescent methods that use more information than PSMC, which only uses 2 haploid genomes at a time. Those methods need more development, but when they get it there will be more focused analyses.
Most of the effort in analyzing these data has been to infer the past history of population size, rather than to make statements about A&E. If one poses the problem as whether we can absolutely certainly rule out A&E, that is asking for more than science can deliver. But if we ask whether it is made very improbable, that is not as hard to establish. More.
In other words, we don’t really know because the human race seems very improbable anyway. But it is time the question was liberated from the Sunday armchair of theistic evolution, to say nothing of its occasional personal dramas.
Note: Ann Gauger walks readers through Buggs’s analysis
See also: Geneticist defends possible Adam and Eve in Nature: Ecology and Evolution
Swamidass distances himself from Christian evolution group