The proliferation of humankind beginning with just two

Hi everyone,

If the story of Adam and Eve is to be taken literally, which I have always believed it is, how are we to understand the proliferation of humankind? Cain took a wife and went into a city (populated by whom?) and Seth took a wife and their descendants continued to marry and have children. Where did all these wives and people come from if not directly from Adam and Eve? Secondly, how did so many races develop from one original couple? Sometimes it seems the more I study the Bible the more questions I have. I know this is not a salvation issue, and isn’t a stumbling block for me, but it is a question I’ve been asked by nonbelievers. Just wondering how others would answer these questions.

Thank you!


@Laurieb75 Those are great questions. Cain married a family member and, as Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe points out below, two individuals could generate the genetic diversity required for there to be many different races. Also, while geneticists have claimed there must have been 10,000 individuals that generated the current population, that number has been decreasing in recent years in the scientific literature.

Cain’s Wife

In the following thread, I point out that Cain likely married one of his relations. Remember that Adam and Eve lived around 800 years. According to population studies, even 2-300 years would be more than long enough for additional cities to have been built in surrounding areas by Adam / Eve’s descendants.

Hugh Ross On Proliferation of Humanity from 2 Individuals and Genetic Diversity

We also point to research papers in the peer-reviewed scientific literature written by leading geneticists that conclude that genetics models are useless for determining ancestral populations. Furthermore, we cite conservation biology field experiments that demonstrate that a pair or small population of individuals in a mammal species always generates more genetic diversity that what current genetics models would predict. Therefore, these field experiments establish that Biologos’ conclusion that the ancestral population of humanity was at least ten thousand individuals must be an inflated upper limit.
Personally, I have observed the ancestral human population derived from genetics models decline over the past fifty years. Fifty years ago, geneticists were claiming an ancestral human population of about one million individuals. Thirty to forty years ago, that number declined to about one hundred thousand. Ten years ago, Biologos’ Francis Collins wrote that it was about ten thousand individuals. When my colleague Fazale Rana debated the Biologos geneticist Dennis Venema, Venema said the number was 1,200 individuals. When i had a public dialogue with the president of Biologos, Deborah Haarsma, she said the Biologos biologists could go as low as 132 individuals. I suggested in that dialogue that we should plot a graph and that the graph would indicate that geneticists will be done to the biblical two in less than two decades.


Thank you Sean! That is all so interesting! I did not realize that Adam and Eve lived so long, 800-1000 years. An awful lot of children could be born during that span (poor Eve) and I can see that because there were no genetic mutations to inherit as yet, marrying a sibling or niece wouldn’t contain the dangers it does today.

I love having a place to ask our deepest questions.

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Interestingly enough, there is some new evidence from the genetic sciences that it is at least possible for all human persons to have come from an original homo sapien pair; at least genetically. I don’t understand these issues that well, because there is a lot of modeling and also a lot of math involved, but there was a long series of exchanges between BioLogos advocates and ID advocates on this last November. Some of the folks involved in that were Dennis Venemma from BioLogos, Richard Buggs, Joshua Swamidass, and Ann Gauger (from the Discovery Institute). The issue had to do with a claim that was made in Venema and Scot Mcknight’s book on Adam. As far as I know, right now things stand that there could have been an original genetic pair, but that pair would have had to exist, at the latest, around 500 million years ago or earlier.

Here is an article relating to that conversation of several thousand posts between Venema, Buggs, Swamidass, et al.

Note, I’m not saying that this is the view I hold (i.e. that there was an original pair some 500 million years ago that just was Adam and Eve), but the backing away from the claim that there could only have been a population of at least 1000 or more, I think does illuminate how scientific results are never really as fixed as we think they are. Who knows where the “consensus” will be in 50 years?

Also, I think that the argument from common design over common descent is also getting stronger; so that the genetic similarities between us and apes, gorillas and chimpanzees might very well be better explained not by ancestry, but by common design plan. Here is a good video on that:

in Christ,


@anthony.costello Yes, scientific opinion is helpful because people are, in theory at least, meant to hold each other accountable for doing thorough work. And that does bear a lot of good fruit. But science is still limited by the data and methods available to it, as well as the biases and abilities of the people doing the science. So scientific results and conclusions may alter - but our God is the same yesterday, today and forever! Thank you for sharing that information - it will be interesting to see how this field progresses over the next few decades.

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