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BBC: Could two people repopulate Earth?

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Michelangelo’s version, Sistine Chapel

Well, depending on your religious convictions, they did it once …

From Zaria Gorvett at BBC:

The last man on Earth is a common trope in fiction – but what if it actually happened? How many people would it take to save our species?

So how much variety do you need? It’s a debate that goes right back to the 80s, says Stephens, when an Australian scientist proposed a universal rule of thumb. “Basically you need 50 breeding individuals to avoid inbreeding depression and 500 in order to adapt,” he says. It’s a rule still used today – though it’s been upped to 500-5,000 to account for random losses when genes are passed from one generation to the next – to inform the IUCN Red List, which catalogues the world’s most threatened species.

But before you write off our couple, as one scientist pointed out, we’re living proof of the concept’s inherent flaws. According to anatomical and archaeological evidence, our ancestors wouldn’t have made our own population targets, with 1,000 individuals in existence for nearly a million years. Then between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago, we hit another rough patch as our ancestors migrated out of Africa. As you would expect, we’ve been left with astonishingly low genetic diversity. A 2012 study of the genetic differences between neighbouring groups of chimpanzees found more diversity in a single group than among all seven billion humans alive today.

So what of the last man and woman? It’s impossible to say with any certainty, though Stephens is tentatively optimistic. “The evidence for the short-term effects of low genetic diversity is very strong, but all these things are probabilistic. There are stories of incredible journeys back from the brink – anything is possible.” More.

File:A small cup of coffee.JPG Oh well, in that case … back to Genesis 3.

See also: In a pickle about Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve and Ann Gauger


An old painting reminds me of what is at stake in the Adam and Eve wars
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2 Replies to “BBC: Could two people repopulate Earth?

  1. 1
    mahuna says:

    Assuming for a moment that Darwinian Evolution is true, ALL of the discussions I have ever seen are estimating the difficulty/probability of producing ONE member of a new species. The odds of producing TWO identical mutants in the same generation is basically “1 over infinity times infinity”. So EACH new species starts with ONE individual who must then successfully mate with a member of the OLD species to produce fertile young that carry New Guy’s genes.

    At least one you get past reproduction by division or budding.

    Or you can accept a Designer with a Nursery who chooses to start with 1 male and 1 female prototype to test the new designs. But then for humans, or even protohumans, the babies are defenseless and unable to feed themselves until they become adolescents. So unless the new babies are raised by wolves, they need a Nanny. And the Nanny needs to stick around until the original pair become grandparents, or the kids are likely to kill each other during a tantrum.

    But assuming we need 50 to 500 individuals of the new species to appear simultaneously in the same generation. What are the odds of THAT happening randomly?

  2. 2
    jimmontg says:

    I’m an Old Earth Creationist and though I interpret Genesis chapter One on a literary framework basis I do not Gensis two as it doesn’t have the polemic and poetic parallelisms. Adam and Eve were the first and only people created in the Image of God. They were perfect and so were their genes, or genetic makeup. They lived over 900 hundred years, had many children and the reason that humanity has such a tight gene pool is because the race only had one set of parents. Incest wasn’t a sin until the Mosaic law was handed down, even Abraham’s wife Sarah was his half-sister.

    As time passed and we got further from The Fall our genetic makeup started breaking down. Mankind is not evolving, he is devolving. I seem to remember they had an article about it over at ENV. The initial children of Adam and Eve were not contaminated by built up genetic diseases. The inheritable defects just hadn’t started that early and considering the generally brutal nature of most societies back then the babies with defects would have been exposed, left to die. Peter Singer would approve, him and his ilk. Thank God for Christianity coming along and helping to put a stop to the practice.

    To say Darwinism is true, then where did all the genetic diversity come from for not humans, but uncounted species of creatures? There are many fronts where the standard model just doesn’t fit. The example of the parrots gives an example of that. Then there’s this to explain.

    “A 2012 study of the genetic differences between neighbouring groups of chimpanzees found more diversity in a single group than among all seven billion humans alive today.”

    Quite a revelation. It would seem to me that the best explanation for it would be, that God initially created many chimps, but only two humans.

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