How big was the human population bottleneck? Another staple of theology refuted.

Why Evolution Is True

A new paper in Nature by Heng Li and Richard Durbin contains estimates of the “effective population size” of our ancestors at different points in evolutionary time. (Effective population size isn’t the same as census size, as it reflects things like unequal sex ratios—unlikely in our ancestors—or variation in family size, but it’s probably not too far off.)  These are the best estimates of our demographic history to date, as they rest on fewer assumptions than previous methods, and have been validated by computer simulation studies.  They bear not only on what happened when early humans were in Africa and then left Africa, but also on our recurrent discussion of the scientific evidence that absolutely rebuts the Adam and Eve story.

The data come from “coalescent” models—estimates of the time in the past at which two copies of genes from different people, or from the same person, last shared a…

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