The Publisher’s Report

The Genealogical Adam and Eve is now available for pre-order. The final manuscript is with my publisher, and requests for endorsements are out. We are wrapping up final reports on the grant, which funded two workshops this last year to revise the book. Pictured above, Jon Boyd from IVP Academic is my editor, and he provides this summary of the progress so far. Soon, there will be more opportunities to connect with Peaceful Science as we launch the book and as an organization. Come join the fun!

The channels to recruit, acquire, and digest peer feedback on Joshua Swamidass’s book manuscript of The Genealogical Adam and Eve were unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the developmental phase of a book’s lifecycle. And now, further down the line, I can say that the face-to-face workshops, as well as the additional readers who read and commented on the manuscript, have made a dramatic impact to both shape and improve the content of the book. This was possible because Josh worked his own and others’ networks to invite a range of participants with diverse disciplinary expertise. He demonstrated openness to challenging feedback as well as assessment of the strengths of the project, its research basis, and the various theological implications. Onsite during the workshops, he kept the conversation on-topic and afterward he remained open to written feedback from participants and other readers.

As I commented toJosh and Walter Rogero in an earlier report, I was impressed by the huge volumeof input provided by workshop participants (and other readers who couldn’t makethe face-to-face sessions). This came both in the form of both overarching,structural feedback as well as discipline-specific, “nitty-gritty”corrections and affirmations from various specialists. Response includedtheological, biblical, scientific, and (last but not least) rhetoricalsuggestions, and I believe the reading team left no stone unturned, nor did Josh.

Much of that feedback I had the privilege of seeing myself. More importantly I’ve seen the quantum improvements such input made in the manuscript at each stage of its development: from the initial submissions to me at IVP Academic, to the complete drafts that were sent to workshop participants in advance, and ultimately to the fully revised manuscript. His final revisions after our production-copyediting phase have been far more than the small “corrections” typical from most authors, since Josh has continued thinking about and digesting both feedback and new ideas. Frankly, since he has proven so open apt at refining the final product, I’m looking forward to the moment when I can tell him, “Stop! That’s it! We have to lock this down.”

The manuscriptthat’s now being readied for layout and the press bears little resemblance tothe earliest version–and it’s obvious to me how much of what Josh has beenhearing has made it into the book. That, in addition to being a very good thing,represents the great opportunity he’s taken advantage of to make this bookimmeasurably more helpful for readers than if he were operating alone. It’samazing to me the volume of notes he received via one channel or another andthe way he’s been able to digest them rapidly for inclusion in one form oranother for the book.

Needless to say, the proof is in the pudding, but the final, published product is now just a few months away, and we at IVP Academic have been encouraged to see the truly unique, communal development process that Josh has embraced for this project.

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  1. The (semi-open) communal process of getting this book together is indeed unique and unprecedented. The process advances the discussion much more with this face-to-face, real-time feedback before publication. Even if there were no blatant errors in the original manuscript, having such feedback gives the opportunity to temper, clarify, and/or make slight adjustments to one’s views in light of potential concerns and objections. After words are committed indelibly to ink, I would imagine that for most people, there’s reluctance to revise what has been published. Views become crystallized and we become engaged in attack and defense instead of dialogue. The process is drawn out and costly, but worth it. I hope that this will set a new standard for similar books about science and theology in the future.

  2. The forum has been an entirely open component of this process too. I’m very grateful to the countless conversations, critique, and correction everyone here gave me. The PS forum is acknowledged specifically in the book for this reason.

  3. Was the book peer reviewed? Or would you say that these workshops accomplished the purpose of peer review? I haven’t followed the process, so I apologize in advance if I am missing a big part of the story.

  4. Yes, this book was peer reviewed. This was peer review on steroids. IVP Academic is an academic press.

  5. I’m not sure that’s appropriate given my position but I’d consider it. Do you have a plan for having it reviewed (as in a book review) by geneticists? Perhaps by your colleague Alan Templeton at WashU? Or one of the experts in Leipzig like Mark Stoneking? I assume the book is based heavily on human population genetics.

  6. I’ll let @swamidass answer your questions specifically, but I was at one of the workshops (sat 2 rows behind Alan Templeton) and I would say the peer-review was pretty extensive on the draft we had. I would say for sure that the workshop participants were very involved with critiquing all aspects of the book (science and theology, overall structure and the details). It was not a group of people who were already in favor of Josh’s thesis, in fact, quite the opposite.

  7. Excellent! That sounds like some intensive peer review. I’m glad to hear it, because a subtitle like “The surprising science of universal ancestry” should give knowledgeable scientists pause. Put it on a book published by an evangelical press that trumpets values like “prophetic” and… well, I’m professionally obligated to be skeptical.

    But if Alan Templeton was part of the vetting process, that’s good news. I don’t know him, but I know he is the author of a textbook on human genetics/genomics.

  8. Are you familiar with IVP? My broad impression is that the science-related books they publish tend to be relatively “mainstream”. Yes, there are some ID titles in their catalog, but they seem to be published a long time ago. The majority of their more recent books on science and theology are of the Biologos variety (and things like John Walton’s Lost World of Genesis series).

    Additionally, my impression at the workshop is that the science in Josh’s book is relatively uncontroversial compared to some of the theological issues discussed there. The core of the genetic and genealogical science can already be obtained from the PSCF article and other articles/blog posts that have been made on the Genealogical Adam.

  9. Yeah, I get it. I think Shaping Science with Rhetoric gives some idea as to how to think about the genre. Also, after talking with Josh’s editor over dinner and seeing him at the workshop, I was very impressed with the desire for true scholarship (even if the subject is a little unusual for scientists). So, I can understand the skepticism for sure, but from my tiny peak behind the curtain I’m pretty happy with the value the editor placed on real scholarship. Not that my opinion matters much :slight_smile:

  10. Yep. I thought my reference to “prophetic” would reveal that I was browsing the site this hour.

    It was a lot of books, and not that long ago. It looks like they’ve turned it around, and that’s great.

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