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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.