Thursday, January 07, 2010

Notes on Genetics and the Book of Mormon

Some people out there still falsely claim that modern Native American mtDNA studies absolutely refute and entirely disprove the Book of Mormon. Unfortunately, these claims arise from the incorrect interpretation of scientific data and then inappropriate application to the Book of Mormon.

mtDNA stands for mitochondrial DNA. Turns out that mitochondria contain a small bit of DNA and the cool thing about this DNA is that it is entirely maternally derived. There is no recombination with paternal DNA at all because sperm doesn't have mitochondria, only the egg does. The consequence of this is that you can more easily trace genetic ancestry back through time to its origins.

Normal Chromosomal DNA in the nucleus of each cell is a mixture of mom and dad's DNA which occurs during miosis through a process called recombination. Recombination is the mechanism that makes us all genetically unique. Conversely, maternally derived mtDNA and paternally derived Y-Chromosomal DNA are passed on from parent to child virtually unchanged except for the occasional random mutation. This makes things much easier to track. Even the random mutation is useful as it serves as a sort of biological clock which allows geneticists the ability to determine who came before who. Assigning a specific date is quite another challenge.

Some early geneticists were interested in using mtDNA techniques to determine the origins of the Native Americans. So, a group of scientists gathered data from different groups of Native Americans as well as from a collection of pre-Columbian mummies. These scientists also collected mtDNA from other groups in Siberia, Mongolia, and around the world and determined that the Asian groups and the Native American groups shared common mtDNA sequences which they named haplogroups A,B,C, and D. Geneticists consider these 4 Haplogroups to be founding Native American mtDNA haplogroups from Asian origin and not from the Middle East. A handful of people looked at this data and said "ah ha, this proves once and for all the Book of Mormon is a fraud!"

But then other researchers who together with the first researchers really could care less about the Book of Mormon, and continued to do mtDNA studies. And, it soon came out that the original work missed an important mtDNA founding haplogroup. This founding haplogroup is more rare but definitely there and definately important. Geneticists gave this rouge founding mtDNA haplogroup the name Haplogroup X (X2e to be specific). This mtDNA is found around the Great Lakes Region in Canada to a high percentage and it just so happens that there is another population in that exhibits Haplogroup X2 to a very high percentage. This group is known as the Druze, and it just so happens that this group lives in none other than Northern Israel. Now the Druze are not the source of the X2, but are considered a refugium or repository of X2 which is believed to have been derived from the people of Northern Israel at the time the Druze settled the area about 1000ad. X2 is found in a very high percentage among the Druze because of a more modern tradition and practice of intermarriage (not inbreeding).

There is a problem with making a link between Great Lake Native American mtDNA and Druze mtDNA, and that is that some scientists think that the genetic information left the Middle East and arrived in America almost 10-15,000 years ago. However, if your a Christian, I hope you would never use this argument because you would have to explain why you suddenly believe that man lived on the Earth before Adam and Eve who lived only 4000bc.

But then again, scientists at MIT who could care less about Adam looked at the assumptions built into how other geneticists determine time via random mtDNA mutation and created a new model correcting for non-random mutation and determined that the Earliest Common Ancestor or Mitochondrial Eve could have lived just 2000bc.

Another problem with assuming random and constant mtDNA mutation is the same problem that C14-Dating has. Thanks to recent Global Warming and Evironmental Science, we now know what some of us always knew that C14-Dating is wrong and that the rate of C14 isotope generation is not constant. The C14 isotope is a product of the amount of Cosmic Rays striking the Earth from Interstellar Space. And the rate of Cosmic Rays striking the Earth is inversely proportional to the strength of the Solar Wind and Solar Cycle. Since we know this is a cycle, we now realize, I hope, that C14/C13 ratios are not static nor are they at a steady state. Therefore, the way C14 and other radio-isotopic dating techniques determine dates is wrong. The important thing here with regard to mtDNA mutation is the same Cosmic Rays that make C14 and other isotopes are the same particles that are responsible for a majority of mtDNA mutation.

Now, I don't want to make the same mistake as Book of Mormon critics do by using mtDNA data to support the Book of Mormon. The Data doesn't. My point in bringing this up is to explain the complexities involved in the data, and many of the assumptions behind the conclusions. As I see it, at this current time, mtDNA data shouldn't be used at all for or against the Book of Mormon. If you want to know if the Book of Mormon is Holy Scripture by God about Jesus Christ, then you must read it and pray and ask God seeking spiritual enlightenment via the Holy Ghost. This is the only way God has given to know at this time.

1. When the Nephites arrived there were Jaredites already here.
2. Jaredites came from the Middle East but likely passed through Asia on the way.
3. The barges could have followed the land up the coast of Japan and Siberia along the Bearing Straight to Alaska and then down the California Coast.
4. We know that Coriantumr lived to see the Mulekites.
5. Mulek from Judah likely hitched a ride on a Phoenician boat and who knows what DNA came along with him.
6. We really don't know what ancient 10 Tribes of Israel DNA from 600 bc looks like. modern Jewish mtDNA and Y is mixed from Europe and Khazar Russia (Altai Republic), and even the Cohen Haplotype is suspect.
7. We dont know what ancient Nephite DNA looks like
8. All we know is what current Jewish DNA looks like compared to several pre-Columbian Mummies and modern native americans which tells us nothing about a comparison of ancient American to ancient Israel.
9. The Book of Mormon itself says only a "remnant of [the Nephite] seed" would persist into the Last Days. Therefore, we should not expect a majority of Native American DNA to come from the Middle East. Additionally, the Nephites as a people were destroyed by genocide and the Book of Mormon refers to Native Americans as Lamanites not Nephites. The significance of this title as Lamanites is that the Book of Mormon infers that the Lamanites intermarried with the natives from the beginning and were never genetically pure.
10. Haplogroup X comes from Northern Israel and not via Asia. Altai Republic X got there a different way, maybe the by the Khazars?
11. Iceland study shows us that modern mtDNA can be the product of just a few mtDNA sources just a few hundred years ago.
12. Jewish geneticist state that if 1 intermarriage happens every 10 years among 100 persons, then the admixture of DNA would represent >30% DNA in just 800 years.
13. Native American populations went through a severe bottleneck event upon the arrival of Europeans and smallpox and other infectious diseases.
14. When the Book of Mormon says the Jaredites were destroyed, it means their civilization was destroyed, it does not mean very last person was annihilated such that they became extinct.
(read Hugh Nibley's "There Were Jaredites")


maclouie said...

Very well stated. Human understanding, whether based on science or not, is limited and is based on assumptions, many times incorrect assumptions such as used in carbon dating (and dont get me started on evolution).

Although I now firmly believe, as Rod Meldrum presents, that the land of the Book of Mormon is NOT South nor Central America based on recent DNA and the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, neither that nor barley nor steel proves the doctrines and truthfulness contained in the Book of Mormon. Only personal revelation will do that.

Clifford said...

This is important information to share. Every generation seems to produce a new crop of critics with a new toy gun to shoot at the Church. Once it was the supposedly ridiculous notion that ancient Americans built with cement and that a Hebrew man would have the Latin name Alma. Today, it is DNA.

Anonymous said...

"Every generation seems to produce a new crop of critics with a new toy gun to shoot at the Church"

The same way LDS produce new revelation to explain doctrinal difficulties.