Two researchers who published a groundbreaking study on evolution in May are still pushing back against a creationist interpretation of their work.
In the study, published in Human Evolution, the researchers analyzed gene sequences in 5 million humans and animals from 100,000 different species and concluded that all modern species, including humans, originated from very small groups of ancestors—maybe as few as a single pair. It also showed that all species on earth were about the same age and emerged about 100,000 years ago.
Creationists who believe in a young Earth would dispute the 100,000-year hypothesis, but the research could support the Biblical truth that humans all descended from a solitary couple. The finding that all modern species emerged at about the same time could also point to a catastrophic event that wiped out nearly all life, such as the flood found in Genesis.
Thaler and his co-author, Mark Stoeckle, have since insisted their study does not support the conclusion that many are making, which is that Darwin’s theory of evolution cannot explain the genetic material found in today’s animal kingdom.
Shortly after the Daily Mail published its article under the headline “All humans may be descended from just TWO people and a catastrophic event almost wiped out ALL species 100,000 years ago, study suggests,” Thaler and Stoeckle sent out this clarification: “Our study is grounded in and strongly supports Darwinian evolution, including the understanding that all life has evolved from a common biological origin over several billion years. Our study follows mainstream views of human evolution. We do not propose there was a single ‘Adam’ or ‘Eve.’ We do not propose any catastrophic events.”
On Dec. 4, the authors added the same statement to the top of the published study on the website of The Rockefeller University, where Stoeckle is a senior research associate. I attempted to contact Stoeckle through the university to ask how, exactly, the study supports Darwinian evolution. A university representative sent a copy of the statement published by the Daily Mail and did not respond to further requests for an explanation.
Ann Gauger, a research scientist at the Biologic Institute and an intelligent design proponent, said the study does not prove there were only two humans on earth at one point. The research is not thorough enough, she wrote on Discovery Institute’s Evolution News and Science Today blog, and overplays the reliability of mitochondrial DNA analysis.
But an important part of the study that has been largely overlooked, Gauger noted, is that the authors clearly support the existence of distinct and biologically recognizable species, not the Darwinian descent from common ancestry.
“This view of species as discrete entities goes against the modern grain,” she said.