Perception doesn’t always match reality. Such is the case when it comes to the question of human origins.
Some Christians perceive that scientific advance affirms evolution and negates biblical creation. But in reality, scientists investigating humanity’s origin have made no discoveries that challenge a biblical understanding of origins. In fact, recent advances in genetics provide compelling support for that perspective.
Geneticists have found new ways to characterize humanity’s origin and expansion by studying human disease. These techniques rely upon genetic analyses of pathological microbes. Intimate association with humans allows these microbes to function as surrogate indicators of their hosts’ origin and migrations.
A team from the National Institutes of Health recently dated the origin of the malaria parasite (Plasmodium falciparum) to coincide with the origin of humanity.1 In a separate study, an international research team showed that the genetic fingerprints of Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria implicated in gastric cancer and peptic ulcers, affirms the migration of humans from east Asia into the Americas about 11,000 years ago.2 This finding dovetails with a prior study based on the genetic profile of the human JC virus. The virus work demonstrated that humans migrated from east Asia to the Americas and the Pacific Islands and dates the origin of the JC virus between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago.3
A new study by an international research team discovered that Helicobacter pylori clusters into seven subpopulations based on genetic makeup that correspond to distinct geographical locations for humans. The Helicobacter pylori population patterns find ready explanation in the view that humanity arose from a single geographical location and then spread globally. Early humans probably established ancestral groups in Africa and central and east Asia, followed by subsequent migrations to Polynesia, the Americas, Europe, and Africa (the Bantu expansion into the sub-Saharan regions of the continent).4
These studies of human pathologies together with other genetic studies add weight to evidence for a biblical account of origins. Genetic diversity, mitochondrial DNA, Y-chromosomal DNA, and linkage disequilibrium (the movement of genes relative to one another) in modern human population groups all combine to indicate a recent origin (in the neighborhood of 50,000 years ago), in a single location, from a small population of men and women. These studies also demonstrate that humanity spread from the Middle East to populate the rest of the world. While this description fits awkwardly within the evolutionary framework, it fits comfortably with the biblical description of humanity’s origin.
Scientists derive satisfaction and a sense of certainty when disparate methods, based on different assumptions, converge to yield the same conclusions. Both genetic characterization of indigenous human parasites and direct genetic analyses of human population groups agree—and, at the same time corroborate the Bible’s account of humanity’s origin.
- Jianbing Mu et al., “Chromosome-Wide SNPs Reveal an Ancient Origin of Plasmodium falciparum,” Nature 418 (2002): 323-26.
- Chandrabali Ghose et al., “East Asian Genotypes of Helicobacter pylori Strains in Amerindians Provide Evidence for Its Ancient Human Carriage,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 99 (2002): 15107-11.
- Hansjürgen J. Agostini et al., “Asian Genotypes of JC Virus in Native Americans and in a Pacific Island Population: Markers of Viral Evolution and Human Migration,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 94 (1997): 14542-46.
- Brian G. Spratt, “Stomachs Out of Africa,” Science 299 (2003), 1528-29; Daniel Falush et al., “Traces of Human Migrations in Helicobacter pylori Populations,” Science 299 (2003), 1582-85.
- Hugh Ross, Fazale Rana, and Kenneth Samples, Who Was Adam? Video (2002) Reasons To Believe, Pasadena, CA.