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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why the debate about Book of Mormon DNA is FAR from over

Today, during an unrelated Google search session I was doing, I came across an article from the blog of Discover Magazine. The article summarizes (rather lengthily) the research done up to 2010 regarding the tracking of ancient Jewish populations to modern-day locations after the Diaspora.

What caught my eye was the headline: "Genetics & the Jews (it's still complicated)"  That certainly sums up the argument of LDS apologists. They continue to defend the Book of Mormon origins in spite of some of our detractors.  Those seeking to disprove a divine origin for the Book of Mormon insist that because no clear genetic link exists between modern bloodlines of native American populations and any tribe of the Jews, then no link ever existed.

To further expose the logical fallacy that flawed thesis presents, here are some of the concluding statements from the Discover Magazine blog post.
So what’s the bottom line here? I think the bottom line is that there isn’t a bottom line, and that we need to proceed on a case by case basis. I’ve focused on Middle Eastern Jews in this post, but let’s put the spotlight on the Indian Jews, the Bene Israel of Bombay, who were separated from the Jewish Diaspora, and the Cochin Jews, who were more well integrated... 
What likely occurred in India was that generations of admixture between Jews and non-Jews resulted in the elision of differences between the two groups, despite the persistence of a cultural distinction. 
I suspect that it has to do with the relative lack of a special relationship between Jews and the host culture in India as opposed to the world of Islam or Christendom. In India Jews were just another group, not subject to particular exclusion or marginalization. Non-Jews could, and did, move into the Indian Jewish community, while this was taboo in the Islamic or Christian world. A similar process seems to have occurred to the Jews of Kaifeng, who intermarried and eventually lost their identity because of their greater eventual isolation from the Jewish Diaspora in comparison to the Indian Jews, especially those of Cochin.
What anti-Mormon DNA "researchers" often cast aside is the additional complexity of tracking more than just the tribe of Judah. In our case we're tracking mostly the tribe of Manasseh through the house of Joseph of Egypt (his wife was Egyptian, so his offspring were half-Egyptian, and no record exists of all the combinations that likely happened thereafter). We're also tracking a superimposition of the unknown genetic makeup of the people that likely already existed in the Americas upon Lehi's arrival, plus their interbreeding with the even more ancient Jaredite (likely Olmec) population, also of unknown genetic makeup. Now throw in the mind-bogglingly large principles of chance where millions of genes are mixed with mutations, haplotypes, dominant and recessive genes, etc.

As the gene network visualization graph (snapshot above) clearly shows, just for one species of the genus mus (musculusthe common house mouse), the Foxa2 gene that dictates the cell maturation and endocrine system development of this tiny creature exhibits a dizzying array of complexity. There are just way too many variables for anyone to state that the science is settled. I expect it will remain that way for decades, if not centuries, to come.

Extrapolating that level of complexity to the scale of tracking ancient migrations of unknown population sizes of homo sapiens for whom we have no original genetic samples, it appears, as we've stated in the past...that not enough genetic information exists in populations today to make conclusions about populations thousands of years ago. Nobody has the evidence or tools to make a definitive claim one way or the other as to the genetic linkage between modern native American populations and migrations of Jews from the Holy Land.

Again, the Book of Mormon, being a spiritual record, as is the Bible (if one only looks at it objectively as true science demands) challenges us to accept its provenance based on faith and not on external evidences alone.

But that is what God intended for both books. As confirmed by Matthew 16:17...

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

...the act of believing by faith is much more sufficient to create strong conversion that leads one to salvation than is the act of believing by sight alone.

5 comments:

  1. I have been pondering these issues with similar reflections. Nobody has DNA from the time in question on either side of the ocean to make scientificly accurate comparisons.

    Native Americans have since intermarried with those of Chinese and African descent and the Jews were taken into captivity numerous times. The genetic markers that detractors assert nullify the stated origins of the people of the Book of Mormon could well have come from any of these sources. It would probably be productive to research the captivities of the Jewish people just prior to Lehi leaving Jerusalem to see which peoples may have intermarried, but without accurate geneaology and pertinent DNA, there is no way to conduct a failproof scientific assessment.

    "And the wisdom of their wise men shall perish..."

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  2. Excellent! The detractors who need to read what was in Discover Magazine won't, or if they do they won't believe it, or they will say the magazine or whatever is connected to the LDS church.
    My ancestry is very mixed, as it is for most of us here in the United States. My maiden name is Armenian, and it is a rare name. If I could ever afford to do so I would like to get a blood test done to see if the Middle Eastern bloodline will show up, as I also have European and Native American bloodlines. It would show that genetic testing can't tell or show everything.
    The DNA testing of American Natives does not bother me for the very reasons stated. My belief is based on faith. There have been many shows about migration and who could have come to the Americas the past few thousand years, and came across the oceans and not the Bering Straight. There are also Native American tribes who believe their ancestors came from Israel and others who came from other places by crossing the oceans, and not by the Bering Straight.

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    1. One of the few texts that survived the Catholic missionaries' burning of Mayan codices was a transcribed oral history called the Title of the Lords of Totonicapán. The text specifically states that ancient Quiché (key-CHAY) noblemen and kings knew their ancestors came from Israel in boats across the ocean.

      Yet even this is not enough proof for scientists and anti-Mormons, who just can't accept any evidence of Book of Mormon authenticity at face value. Rather than just accepting it as a simple Occam's Razor truth, they contort themselves inside and out trying to find another explanation. Yet there, in front of their lying eyes is direct evidence.

      I was at Cahokia Mounds in southern Illinois a couple of weeks ago (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2082113/The-lost-city-Cahokia-Archaeologists-uncover-Native-Americans-sprawling-metropolis.html). It's been on my "bucket list" because the "Monks Mound" structure is so incredibly similar to what I had observed in southwestern Guatemala. I asked the docent at the Cahokia museum whether any links between Mayan and Cahokian culture had been found. Rather than tell me "no links have been found", the answer was a terse and conclusive "there are absolutely no links". Yet their entire exhibit told the story of how Cahokia was a major trading center for much of North America, including the Aztecs of southern Mexico thousands of miles away. But there's no possible way a group of Yucatan Mayans could have made the short boat trip from the Yucatan peninsula straight north to the mouth of the Mississippi and then followed it northward? Or that Cahokians couldn't have traveled south to the Gulf and across that relatively narrow stretch of ocean to the Yucatan, bringing back with them pyramidal mound building they observed there? We know there was a Cahokian link to the Gulf because recent excavations have found sharks' teeth from there. We know they knew how to hammer copper (and possibly other metals?) into thin sheets. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_aSBfHpytE

      No. "Old Joe" Smith must've just made it all up!

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  3. Food for thought.. The Book of Mormon Narrative describes that Lehi and company went nearly eastward for EIGHT years after they buried Ishmael at Nahom. Most think the set sail for the new world from the south of Arabia. This doesn't make a lot of sense geographically or for the DNA..

    So food for some thought, A friend of mine suggest and I happen to agree perhaps we should think "Shanghai" - Eight years of nearly eastward travel on what would end up being the OLD SILK ROAD.. Shanghai in 600 BCE would certainly be the land of bountiful .. and the trans-Oceanic crossing to the Americas is not such a problem. And as for the DNA, often we have a tendency to presume the BOM narrative told the WHOLE Story.. But that too is not a reasonable belief. So lets assume that in the abridgment some details were left out.. like Lehi's family picking up female companions along that eight years eastward, through Mongolia and China..And these companions would travel to the Americas and bear offspring... Viola.. if that's the true eight years eastword, wouldn't Lehi's descendants carry Asian mtDNA??

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  4. You may be onto something there. I've always felt the Yemen route and launch point was the correct one because of the Nahom connection. However, I've also done some comparison of Mayan writing and glyphs with ancient Chinese glyphs and have noted stylistic similarities that seem not to be coincidental. I've not yet seen a convincing body of research to make a Sino-Mayan connection, but the Chinese did have some contact at one point with the New World before Columbus did. Here are a few summaries. http://chapala.com/chapala/ojo2009/chinese.html
    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/review/?vol=3&num=1&id=68
    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/transcripts/?id=154

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We are happy to discuss any and every topic and question. We will give wide berth to a variety of opinions and ideas. The only thing we ask is that you return the favor by respecting our right to believe as we do and by not issuing lengthy, inflammatory diatribes meant to shock and confuse anyone not familiar with LDS teachings. They can certainly get that elsewhere. :)