Biologos clarifies non-position on Adam and Eve

June 9, 2011 • 6:01 am

BioLogosis still tripping over its underwear trying to deal with the Adam and Eve problem (were they real? were they metaphors?).  The organization has long insisted that they take no official position on the existence of a historical Adam and Eve. Reader Nancy, understandably confused, then asks President Darrel Falk for clarification (comment 62245 on Falk’s post on the issue):

Dr.Falk – I really don’t understand what you mean when you say “BioLogos does not take a position on the historicity of Adam and Eve” if you are  then, as president of BioLogos, endorsing an editorial [a piece in Christianity Today] that insists upon it. Can you please clear this up for me? Thanks.

Falk has further explained their position in a comment (#62248) on his recent post:

I want to further clarify the point of my piece today.BioLogos does not take a position on a historical Adam and Eve.  This means we do not agree with any view which suggests that the gospel hinges on their historicity, just as we do not support any view that non-historicity is the only appropriate view for the Church to take. The editorial in Christianity Today does not represent our position of openness on this question.  However, surely we can all see that the fact that Christianity Today has written such an editorial is a huge step forward…they are seeking various ways of thinking about important doctrines of the faith in a manner that is consistent with the scientific data as it relates to human biological origins.

Well that sure clears it up!  BioLogos don’t agree with Adam and Eve’s Biblical historicity (or with the view that that historicity is important), but neither do they support the view that “non-historicity” is appropriate, either.  This is, of course, a prime example of the intellectual cowardice of theology in the face of science.  Adam and Eve were not historical figures—science has already settled the issue. The rest is pilpul.

This, of course, gives reader Sigmund a prime opportunity for sarcasm at his Sneer Review:

It has come to the notice of those of us on the writing team at the Sneer Review that there exists, at present, a variety of viewpoints within the Sneer community regarding the question of whether the story of Santa is based on a real historical individual or is simply a metaphor.

While many of us are content to view the tale as a comforting fantasy, symbolising the act of giving to others, there remains a committed core of believers, specifically Vincent, aged seven, to whom the literal interpretation remains the most valid. Notwithstanding the recent advances in aerodynamic science and the greatly increased knowledge of the biology of reindeers, Vincent points out that objections to Santa’s ability to deliver presents to every good child in the world on Christmas eve has a simple and rational explanation: Santa is magic. Recognizing the diversity of opinions on this matter we would like to publicly declare that Sneer Review does not take a position on a historical or literal Santa Claus*

*We reserve the right to amend our statement based on future circumstances, such as Vincent spotting his parents ‘helping’ Santa by purchasing, wrapping or placing his present beneath the Christmas tree, or due to Vincent changing his mind in future – due to him not being seven any more.

One quibble with Sigmund here.  Unlike the Sneer Review’s take on the Santa question, BioLogos’s position on Adam and Eve is impervious to future scientific findings.


I haven’t forgotten the Adam and Eve contest. I’ll judge the theological solutions as soon as I feel well enough to wade through the many entries!

56 thoughts on “Biologos clarifies non-position on Adam and Eve

  1. I do have a position on whether the brainchild of the director of the NIH is doing science at all a service, or whether there is a shred of honesty in that organization. The answer is a resounding no.
    They do, however, remind me of republicans “not having a position” on whether President Obama is a citizen.

  2. When I first looked at this post, and there was no space between the first two words, I thought you were making up a new disease description – biologosis – and it made me wonder what the difference was between biologosis and biologitis.

    Seems like either one could be a description of the lack of scholarship evident there. L

  3. enlighten me please anyone

    is pilpul = intellectual masturbation


    pilpul = love of argument

    or both?

    are we breathing, eating and pooping pilpul?

    where is THE SCIENCE?

  4. Okay, I know y’all’re probably sick to death of me pointing out that Genesis is a story about a magic garden with talking animals and san angry giant, but perhaps somebody can help me with an honest question:

    Why is it that so many otherwise-seemingly-rational adults cling so desperately to such obvious faery tales?

    I know there’s the whole “fear of death” thing going on, but you don’t see many adults who still cling to their magic teddybear protectors, either. In all other ways, these people have outgrown childish fantasy, and yet they absolutely simply cannot, no way no how, let go of this one particular storybook.

    I am truly and utterly flabbergasted as to how this is.



    1. People believe what they want to believe, because they want to believe it. Check out Shermer’s new book “The Believing Brain” for a nice survey of the science of belief.

    2. we all are immersed in “goo of institutionalized ignorance”

      it is invisible to us

      and “beiliving” is the basic neurological mechanism – our brain constantly forms and sheds beliefs

      it is all about brain plasticity and integrity of learning we are exposed during formative years

      very few of us retain any sort of brain plasticity when we mmature and the balance shifts from being shaped by the environment to _shaping_ the invironment in accordance with one’s beliefs

      this is how “goo of institutionalized ignorance persists”: we all born into ignorance and “know” nothing for some time

      each of us has “beliefs” that are not supported by PURE SCIENCE

      you do not have to go far:

      ask yourself a question:

      “what is the best form of government?”

      your mind automatically jumps to the answer:


      but is it SCIENTIFIC answer? No.

      why? because the answer depends on how you define “BEST”

      and all definitions of “BEST” floating in the “goo of institutionalized ignorance” that are readily available to you are NOT SCIENTIFIC

      this is why religion will persist for VERY VERY LONG TIME

    3. I think that there are a lot of Christians who realize, not incorrectly, that when parts of the Bible are untrue, and acknowledged as such, it impacts the credibility of the rest. Especially since the stories of Noah, Moses, Adam and David are all referenced in the New Testament, Jesus thought they were real, and the made up people got resurrected temporarily after the crucifixion.

      Its one of the problems that liberal religion has, since, while fundamentalists can get by claiming its all true, liberal religion exists mostly by ignoring all the stuff that doesn’t make sense, and hoping no one will notice. I think its a major reason why people are so bad about knowing their faith… religion’s don’t teach it anymore, because its hard to avoid the contradictions and cherry picking.

      1. Yes, this is the problem with basing one’s entirely life on a set of shaky claims that, when falsified, bring the whole thing down. If Adam and Eve never existed, Christianity seems to fall apart (no original sin, no fall, no need for “salvation”). The folks at BioLogos recognize this, so they claim that the historicity of Adam/Eve is not necessary even though it clearly is.

        Biologos: this claim is absolutely central to our doctrine.
        Me: That claim is obviously false, and here’s why…
        Biologos: Uh, did I say “absolutely central?” I meant “irrelevant.”

      2. Yeah, I understand the “if this goes then that goes” bit.

        What I don’t understand is why any of it is taken seriously.

        Noah is a story about an old man who built a magic boat to escape the wrath of the evil wizard who drowned all the kittens.

        Moses, the reluctant hero, got magic wand lessons from a talking plant on fire.

        Adam ate a magic apple on the advice of a talking snake; the apple gave him a conscience at the price of his immortality.

        Young David killed mean giants with his favorite slingshot.

        And Jesus — all together now — was a zombie with a thing for having his intestines fondled.

        There isn’t a single story in the whole damned book that isn’t a shameless faery tale. The thing is so over-the-top and bleedin’ obvious about it that a modern publisher would laugh you out of the room if you suggested it was for any audience older than mid-teens.

        But adults eat it up — and not as fiction!

        I really, truly, honestly simply don’t get it.


        1. But they believe their SALVATION depends upon faith. And they’ve been told by the people they trust most of all that they can suffer forever if they lose faith (and that they will be tempted often). The facts are just “testing them” from their perspective so that they will have the opportunity to use their “free will” to “win” “happily ever after”.

          This is a powerful meme with heavy enough consequences to ensure that it has staying power and is repellent to reason.

          I think that undoing this insane idea that we have (are?) immortal souls is the key to undoing this mental virus. We also have to poke holes in this assumption that faith is good. People don’t really think all faith is good– just their brand of it.

        2. David & Goliath is probably the most plausible of those stories. It could easily have been based on a historical events. Goliath’s height is “four cubits and a span”, about six feet, nine inches, in the earliest known version, a “giant of a man” rather than a “giant” per se.


          1. I recently read Finkelstein’s book on David and Solomon, and its actually a really interesting bit of history… there is the potential that they did exist, but were no where near as important as the Bible makes them out to be, and as time goes on they gradually became more and more like superheros. The author even suggested that Jesus’s claim to be the “Son of David” actually was more a claim to be Solomon, rather than a descendant, since Solomon by this point had evolved into a Gandalf style wizard in the Jewish mindset.

        3. I don’t think they want to believe it, and I’m fairly sure they’re all embarrassed when asked if they do believe in the fairy tale stuff. I’m quite sure they’d have preferred it if those silly parts had just been left out – in fact, one of the things I least understand (about Christianity at least) is why the heck they didn’t do a better editing job; atheism would require so much more effort if the bible weren’t such an unhelpful, inconsistent, contradictory and downright stupid book.

          But they’re stuck with it because of the parts they do like believing in, i.e. that their god loves them, will forgive them for doing bad things, and will take them up to heaven for eternity rather than just cease to exist.

        4. I’m with you, Ben. It creeps me out. Was at a Catholic memorial service where a few hundred adults simultaneously chanted IDK how many Hail Marys in a row; I felt like I was in a sci-fi movie surrounded by pod people…

    4. Christians believe the adam&eve story because they must. It is quite simple. If adam&eve did not exist then there was no occasion of the “fall of man”. Had there been some other occasion it would have been divinely revealed and it hasn’t been. A&E is the ONLY record.
      Since there was no “fall” there was no need for the whole crucifixion/redemption thing as invented by saul of tarsus and so no basis whatsoever for christianity. CT has it exactly right – “no adam, no eve, no gospel”
      If the christians abandon the literal historicity of scripture they are left with no basis for believing as they do. Surprising that more of the fuzzy progressives in Xtianity don’t get this. You can’t not believe in A&E and still believe in Xtianity.

    5. “Sailor” and “Andrew B” got it exactly right. It’s no use arguing with a fundie – their whole worldview is tied up in the literal existence of Adam and Eve and Original Sin. If the bible isn’t literally true, their world collapses. Science is only useful to them when it produces electronic advances or medical miracles. (Oops, why not just prayer or “healing”. There’s a logical misstep right there.)
      Accommodationists and liberal Christians are the ones struggling to explain why they believe in such-and-such and trying to work science in there somehow. Some just don’t think about it and for others it is a ploy for trying to stay on the right side of an increasingly crazy theocratically-oriented segment of society.

  5. I suspect that the folks at Biologos do not believe in a historical Adam and Eve. Hasn’t Francis Collins publicly rejected that belief on empirical grounds?

    If it’s the historicity of Adam and Eve that is at issue, then I think you are right to point out that the caution is motivated by timidity about the deliverances of science. I don’t see how a reasonable person could deny that. If it’s non-literalism with respect to Genesis that is at issue, however, then we certainly don’t have science to thank for introducing it into the Western theistic tradition. The view that non-literalism emerged as a reaction to the scientific advancements of the last few centuries may be popular (I suspect Sam Harris is among those popularizing it), but it is historically naive. Origen, in the third century, wrote the following:

    “To what person of intelligence, I ask, will the account seem logically consistent that says there was a “first day” and a “second” and “third,” in which also “evening” and “morning” are named, without a sun, without a moon, and without stars, and even in the case of the first day without a heaven (Gen1:5-13)? And who will be found simple enough to believe that like some farmer “God planted trees in the garden of Eden, in the east” and that He planted “the tree of life” in it, that is a visible tree that could be touched, so that someone could eat of this tree with corporeal teeth and gain life…?”

    Augustine also refused to take the Genesis creation account literally. That is not to deny that both Origen and Augustine believed a great number of falsehoods concerning human origins. I suspect that they, along with most in the non-theistic wing of their age, believed precisely those sorts of falsehoods precisely because of their religious texts. That observation, however, coheres perfectly with the historical fact that the Western theistic tradition of non-literalism predates the scientific revolution by centuries.

    1. Wait a minute? Are you trying to say that very few religious people–or church fathers–took the Bible literally until just recently? This is a common position, often justified by Augutine’s non-literalism on a FEW issues, but for crying out loud Augustine took the Bible literally on many more issues, including the young age of the earth and the fact that God sent two she-bears to kill 40-odd children who mocked Elisha’s bald head (see here for more). And anybody who can say that the masses of believers over the millennia didn’t take the Bible literally is simply blinkered.

      I am so fricking sick of hearing about Augustine. What about the many other theologians who took the Bible literally? It seems to me that the main tradition in theology (and among believers) was not non-literalism but literalism. And citing Augustine does not prove otherwise.

      1. Much of what Augustine was doing was not particularly motivated by pursuit of the material truth; but of a the realization that there was a need for a great deal of received “truths” of the Church to be revised in light of the blindingly obvious – for example, centuries on and Judgement Day had still not arrived: new wriggle-room had to be bought.

        He engaged in revisionist history and special pleading – which is not quite as enlightened and liberal an occupation as some like to think.

      2. Of course a lot of people took the Bible literally throughout history. Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, etc. probably all believed in an historical Adam and Eve precisely because of the texts of Genesis and Romans. That cannot be reasonably denied. And, of course, it cannot be reasonably denied that the best evidence tells us that they were all wrong with respect to that.

        However, we know that long before the scientific revolution the Church grew up in an ocean of allegorical and metaphorical interpretive strategies that owe nothing by way of explanation to timidity before the advances of science. There existed, long before Descartes and Newton, a widespread fourfold interpretive strategy of which the “literal” interpretation was only one part. It was precisely the plethora of allegorical interpretations that the reformers of the Protestant Reformation felt the need to combat. No scientific achievement, for instance, motivated Paul to allegorize the law about oxen (see 1 Corinthians 9:9-10), or the story of Hagar and Sarah (see Galatians 3). No experimental results motivated Origen to allegorize portions of the legal codes found in the Torah. No scientific theory motivated all of the church fathers from the third century onwards to reject a literal interpretation of that hateful and pernicious ending found in Psalm 137.

        My point is not that literal interpretations of Scripture are a recent development. They are not. Rather, my point is that it is known on historical grounds that the Church interpreted Scripture both literally and non-literally (they believed texts had layers of meaning of which the literal was only one part) and a great number of the non-literal interpretations of Scripture throughout Church history were not at all motivated by advances in science. It seems to me that there is a popular view that the Church opted for metaphorical strategies primarily because of scientific advances since the Enlightenment (maybe I’m wrong about that). I’m simply giving evidence that that might not be true.

        I recently read your book “Why Evolution is True,” by the way. I thought it was very well-written, entirely persuasive, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

        1. “It seems to me that there is a popular view that the Church opted for metaphorical strategies primarily because of scientific advances since the Enlightenment (maybe I’m wrong about that). I’m simply giving evidence that that might not be true.”

          I’m not certain of the outcome, but I think a persuasive case can be made that the Church and Christians in general have adopted an increasingly non-literalist view because of the advances of science, to the point where it has become predominantly non-literal where before the majority of ideas in the Bible which would not have been questioned now are. I don’t keep track of Sam Harris, so I don’t know how he makes the argument you refer to, but that’s how I see it and I suspect if you asked Harris he would say the same.

          1. Check out the first chapter of Sam Harris’ “The End of Faith” and see if you think he’s sympathetic with the view I’ve given reasons to think is false. If you’re looking for him to give reasons in support of that view, as opposed to merely asserting it as though it were obviously true, then you’ll be pretty disappointed.

        2. Some non human animals are capable of following rudimentary scientific principals and although it seems above their cognitive limits, it could be that some early christians might have had that ability as well. Certainly even to this day christians generally haven’t been able to grasp the significance of methodologically finding answers but, most of them do unconsciously use some basics of scientific principals in their daily lives.

          Unlike christianity, the beginnings of the concepts that have led to a formal methodology for science, don’t have a known born-on-date.

        3. Quoting Augustine to show the historicity of non-literal reading of the old testament is the lamest of all apologetics. Of course church fathers at times took it metaphorically-when it suited their theology-but they also blamed the “heretics” for doing exactly the same thing.
          And is Augustine a more prominent authority than Jesus himself, who said the following in Luke?

          17:26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.       
          17:27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.
          17:28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;
          17:29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.          

          Jesus took the stories of Noah and Lot quite literally.

          1. “Of course church fathers at times took it metaphorically-when it suited their theology-but they also blamed the “heretics” for doing exactly the same thing.”

            Great. Then you concede the fact that non-literal interpretations predate the scientific revolution by centuries, which is exactly my point. The issue of whether those non-literal interpretations were self-serving or absurd, on the other hand, has no relevance to my point at all.

            I am certainly no apologist, by the way (how many times above did I assert that these Church Fathers held false beliefs about origins?).

    2. I don’t think that Origen is the best example of not taking scripture literally.
      He took Matthew 19:12 (For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from [their] mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive [it], let him receive [it].) so literally that he had himself castrated!

  6. BioLogos don’t agree with Adam and Eve’s Biblical historicity (or with the view that that historicity is important)

    Yeah, he’s so slippery!

    BioLogos does not take a position on a historical Adam and Eve. This means we do not agree with any view which suggests that the gospel hinges on their historicity,

    But it doesn’t mean that. The historicity question is the historicity question; its significance for “the gospel” is an entirely different question altogether. I have to wonder if these people recognize their own intellectual dishonesty. Seems like it would be difficult to write like this if there weren’t some conscious intent to mislead.

  7. “This, of course, gives reader Sigmund a prime opportunity for sarcasm”
    It’s not sarcasm.
    It’s sophisticated mockery.

    1. I quote Sigmund from April, 2007:

      I will do my best not to be sarcastic in my posts (like thats really going to happen).

      Sarcasm. Hoist by your own petard.

  8. So their position is: sitting on the fence even when it has collapsed under them.

    They can’t claim neutrality or even agnosticism on the issue when science settled the question a long time ago. So what they are really doing here is taking a politically or perhaps ideologically motivated position. If they are doing this then they cannot claim to be pursuing scientific questions.

    Not that anyone really thinks that they are, but still.

  9. Biologos is unable to fulfill their premise, Science and Faith in Dialogue,” for several reasons:
    1. They are avowed Christians which may make other faiths suspect.
    2. Their declaration, “We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.” locks them into an immobility which limits the free exploration of science.

    The two Genesis creation stories, like the hundreds, maybe thousands of others, are imagined explorations of how the earth, life and human life came into being. Most have some representation of a god or gods participating in the process, but what is god? I like Joseph Campbell’s characterization:

    “Do you believe in God? God is a metaphor for a mystery that absolutely transcends all human categories of thought, even the categories of being and non-being. Those are categories of thought. It’s as simple as that.”

    He continued, ” so it depends on whether it’s doing you any good, whether it’s putting you in touch with the mystery that’s the ground of your own being. If it’s not, it’s a lie.”

    So the question is whether there is a “mystery that transcends all categories of thought,” and then, if there is, what to call it? To believe the Bible is the inspired word of God concretizes a myystery that transcends thought.

  10. BioLogosis still tripping over its underwear

    Would that be magic Mormon underwear ?

    Like most fence sitters, Biologos seems to be afflicted with a case of epistemological hemorrhoids which seems fitting given the product that they deal in.

  11. A tangent:—My very favorite film version of Adam and Eve is David Lynch’s: After Adam comes home and catches his wife in bed with a guy sporting a serpent tattoo, Adam is thrown out of his home. Adam’s wife calls him a “bastard”—Adam has no father—and says, “damn you Adam!” as Adam is expelled from his hilltop home surrounded by gardens. When a mobster sent by the “Godfather” Castiglione Brothers comes looking for Adam and asks if the house is his, Adam’s wife says, “like hell it is.” Adam drives to “Cooky’s downtown”—hell itself, as we are shown later by a signpost. The “Godfather” and a “Cowboy” demand that Adam make the right choice for the “lead” in Adam’s film. Ultimately, Adam acquiesces to the “Godfather’s” demand, and has his heavenly home returned to him by a “judge”. The choice Adam must make, of course, is Camilla Rhodes == Chi Rho == ☧ == Jesus Christ. The “Cowboy” warns that Adam will see him once more if Adam makes the right choice (choose Jesus), and twice if Adam makes the wrong choice (reject Jesus); the “Cowboy” is none other than the horseback riding Christ resurrected of Revelation 19:11–21.

    This is the Christian Gospel, from Genesis to Revelation. Without Adam being thrown out of his home in Eden, there would be no need for Cowboy Jesus to return and kill us with a sword that comes out of his mouth.

    And David Lynch is a great, great filmmaker.

  12. I really don’t understand anymore who the intended audience of BioLogos is. Liberal Christians focus on all the warm fuzzy aspects of their religion, and are typically quite adept at simply ignoring or not caring about the more awkward parts of their holy book. The Biblical fundamentalists, on the other hand, are very concerned about the truth of the literal words of their scripture, and aren’t going to put up with someone saying it isn’t, or even might not, be literally true, even if that conclusion comes from objective science.

    I suppose there is a group of people who worry about the historical accuracy of Biblical events while being open-minded about science, but I can’t imagine that group is all that big. BioLogos seems to me like a thrash metal Christian rock group — sure, there may be some folks who like that combination of things, but the audience is very small, and looked down on by both fans of thrash and mainstream Christians.

    1. Tulse – agreed. The very premise of BioLogos generates significant criticism from the fundamentalist ‘traditional’ Xians as well as from ‘progressive’ Xians, agnostics and atheists. It is clear that they cannot say “here is the science” and let the chips fall where they may, but rather they must develop new theological perspectives to accommodate scientific understandings. It seems to me that in order to be heard by many evangelicals, they are trying to accommodate the traditional theology rather than taking a new path.

  13. “was there a historical Adam and Eve?”

    There was! And they lived in Jackson County, Missouri!

    Here’s a Tony Award nominated song of faith for Biologos to sing while discussing the truth of Adam and Eve, from Parker and Stone’s Book of Mormon:

    I Believe; that God lives on a planet called Kolob
    I Believe; that Jesus has his own planet as well
    And I Believe; that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri
    You can be a Mormon: you’ll feel it
    And you’ll know it’s all true: you just… feel it
    You’ll be a Mormon
    By gosh!
    A Mormon just…

    Hasa Diga Eebowai

  14. Stop the presses! Biologos clarifies again! They do take a position after all.

    See Darrel Falk’s additional comment #62277.

    Someone suggested the following amendment to Biologos’ position:

    However BioLogos cannot agree with any theology which contends that a single, historical couple were the progenitors of the entire human race, as this runs contrary to our acceptance of evolution.

    Falk responded,

    You are correct, Olavi, and I have usually qualified our view in the manner that you have done here. I think I started assuming that people have read what we’ve written previously. Thanks for pointing this out.

  15. Yet, Bishop John Shelby Spong and John Hick find the plan of salvation in that anthology of falsehoods! Do read Michael Shermer’s ” Why People Believe Weird Things” and Theodore Schick,jr. and Lewis Vaughn’s ” How to Think about Wweird Things” and Paul Kurtz’s ” The Transcendental Temptation.” Also see what Digital Bits Skeptic maintains about the Buy-bull and other religous nonsense!

  16. Also, in the case of Santa Claus, it’s moderately well established that Nikolaos of Myra existed as a historical figure, who in turn provided a memetic seed that evolved into the modern myths. Whether the modern myth of Adam has any historical or metaphorical grounding whatsoever is far less clear.

  17. Christianity Today, Issue #1, June 460 AD:

    “Believe in Jesus or go to Hell!”


    Christianity Today, Issue #18612, June 2011:

    “See Issue #1”

  18. However, surely we can all see that the fact that Christianity Today has written such an editorial is a huge step forward

    I think that’s just hilarious. O yes it’s a HYOOOOOOOOJ step forward. Keep it up and in a few centuries maybe Christianity Today will have caught up with where sensible people have been since d’Holbach started shaving.

  19. This reminds me more than a little of the ID creationists, like Philip Johnson, who publicly refuse to take any position on the age of the earth. Like Johnson, Biologos’ profession of ignorance is tactical; they pretend not to know an obvious scientific truth so as not to alienate the anti-science groups they want to ally with.

    And as I’ve said in the past, this makes perfect sense for a political movement trying not to lose the support of creationists of all varieties – but what genuinely scientific movement flat-out refuses to confront such an obvious and important question?

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