This is Part 2 of my response to the LDS Church’s Book of Mormon and DNA studies essay. Part 1 is here.
I want to focus in this part on the DNA claims (or disclaimers) in the essay. But first, let me address one disclaimer.
Disclaimer: “the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon is more spiritual than historical”
For an essay that claims to be defending a book that is “more spiritual than historical” they sure do spend MUCHO space defending it on scientific grounds, but it's a DNA--Does Not Answer anything. Actually, it’s a Defense Now Amorphous essay. As we’ll see, they are willing to morph themselves and cherry pick science with both hands--one picking, one hiding--in order to defend against the mounting evidence.
I feel for them. It must be very hard to work as an LDS apologist. The facts keep stacking up against the centuries old doctrines you’re hired to defend. The amount of patch compound they go through repairing the church must cost a hefty amount at the hardware store.
Claim: “Human cells also have DNA in a component of the cell called the mitochondria.”
Yes. I know, this seems silly to bring up this side-issue, but the essay exploits mitochondrial DNA and its haplogroups to justify its dilution, drift and bottleneck arguments. In the one hand, they cherry-pick with a mitochondrial basket. On the other hand, they actually miss a very important point about mitochondria.
Mitochondria is found in multiple places inside every human cell, and it got there because of early evolution as single cell life (prokaryotic cells) evolved into multicellular life (eukaryotic cells). Mitochondria arrived in our cells long ago in evolution when either a single “bacterium” like prokaryotic cell became “endosymbiotic” inside our larger cells, or from a split during the evolution away from prokaryotic life into multicellular eukaryotic life. (see this paper for more details.)
The point here is, the LDS Church uses mitochondria DNA to explain the absence of the evidence they can’t find, all the while ignoring that mitochondria in human cells is strong evidence that life (and us) evolved from single cell life billions of years ago. This is a fact that is hard for many LDS to swallow—that humans evolved out of the same single cell pathways as all other life and are not specially formed by God’s hand out of the dust of the earth and made alive when he breathed the spirit into them.
Disclaimer: “a 2013 study states that as much as one-third of Native American DNA originated anciently in Europe or West Asia and was likely introduced into the gene pool before the earliest migration to the Americas.”
I’ll quote Dr. Simon Southerton here from his blog:
“The 2013 study in question was on nuclear DNA (not mitochondrial or Y-chromosome) isolated from 24,000-year-old remains recovered in Siberia. It was observed that about one-third of the individuals DNA originated in Europe or West Asia. That is not very surprising for someone living 24,000 years ago in Siberia and it certainly does not challenge any of the conclusions derived from mitochondrial or Y-chromosome DNA.”
In other words, so what? If Amerindians share 24,000 year old DNA with West-Asian/Europeans, that doesn’t help the Book of Mormon case. IT HURTS IT. Why? Because, studies can go all the way back to 24,000 years ago and find a link to older DNA from very slight sources that eventually made their way into multiple parts of the world. However, not a single study can show that specific DNA from 2,600 years ago (about a tenth in time ago) coming from West Asia into America. That should be considerably (probably at least 10x, depending...) easier to find than DNA from 24,000 years ago.
The Topic Essay is purposely misleading in cherry picking this 2013 study by stating “this study paints a more complex picture” without giving the one detail—it was about 24,000 year old DNA—that makes it not relevant to their claim that Hebrews landed in America 2,600 years ago. It’s not complex if you state all the facts. It’s consistent with all the other studies and “does not challenge any of the conclusions” prevalent in science today.
Disclaimer: The Founder Effect – “One reason it is difficult to use DNA evidence to draw definite conclusions about Book of Mormon peoples is that nothing is known about the DNA that Lehi, Sariah, Ishmael, and others brought to the Americas. Even if geneticists had a database of the DNA... it would be impossible to know exactly what to search for.”
Besides being wrong for ending that in a preposition, its argument is utter bullshit. As Simon Southerton has written in another blog on the Swedish Resue.
“It is nonsensical to claim that because we don't know what the DNA of Lehi's family looks like we cannot possibly find Lehite DNA today. We know that Lehi and Mulek were members of two different Israelite tribes and that they and their families lived in Jerusalem. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that both the Lehites and Mulekites were Israelites.”
In fact, the Book of Mormon supports that there should be ample DNA to test against.
Alma 10:3 "Lehi, who came out of the land of Jerusalem, who was a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by the hands of his brethren."
1 Ne:5:14 "Lehi, also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea, even that Joseph who was the son of Jacob"
Mulek was a descendant of royal blood, as son of King Zedekiah, whose genealogy is given in the Bible.
Hel 8:21 "And now will you dispute that Jerusalem was destroyed? Will ye say that the sons of Zedekiah were not slain, all except it were Mulek? Yea, and do ye not behold that the seed of Zedekiah are with us. . ."
Hel 6:10 "Mulek, which was after the son of Zedekiah"
Mulek's city Zarahemla was the largest of the Nephite cities.
Mosiah 25:2 "Now there were not so many of the children of Nephi, or so many of those who were descendants of Nephi, as there were of the people of Zarahemla, who was a descendant of Mulek, and those who came with him into the wilderness."
Given that the BoM claims that Mulek descended from the Royal Jewish line (king Zedekiah) and founded the largest city (Zarahemla), his alleged DNA is or would be very well known. At the end of the blog, I will post some links to Jewish royalty DNA databases and studies, which include both mitochondrial DNA (mother) and Y-chromosome DNA from Jewish ancestry. The apologist can't argue that because we don't know Sariah, the mother's ancestry, we can't match--well, just use the Y-chromosomes then, to match with the male lineage.
Just because LDS leaders and scientists are ignorant to the claims about DNA (descendants) in the Book of Mormon doesn’t support their claim that “nothing is known about the DNA” of the Book of Mormon people. These guys need to read their own scripture. This is pathetic that I have to teach them verses from their own scripture in replying to their ridiculous Topic Essay. I have half of mind to stop here and go watch Leave it to Beaverreruns. Beaver knows a helluva a lot more about life than these guys.
Disclaimer: Population Bottleneck – “In addition to the catastrophic war at the end of the Book of Mormon, the European conquest of the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries touched off just such a cataclysmic chain of events. As a result of war and the spread of disease, many Native American groups experienced devastating population losses.”
Ok, there’s nothing like using the very hypothesis (the Book of Mormon) as evidence to support your hypothesis. The Book of Mormon is true because it tells us that there were catastrophic wars, and that means we can’t find evidence for it. So there!
The idea that disease killed off those with Hebrew DNA in America is a little interesting, since one of the strongest theories for why the Amerindians were so susceptible to European disease is because they never had domesticated sheep, cows, and other farm animals that led to diseases like smallpox and measles. Yet, the Book of Mormon claims the Jaredites and Lehites brought these animals with them (even though not a trace of them are left—a disappearing act even better than the bottleneck magic trick conjured here).
Jared Diamond, highly regarded anthropologist, speaks on this issue:
“Agriculture began in the world about 12,000 years ago. The place where it began was the fertile crescent, the area that today is Iraq, Iran, and Syria….it was also the beginning of the evolution of nasty germs like smallpox and measles that played a key role in European conquest of the new world. It was smallpox and measles and other germs that killed 95 percent of native Americans. But those germs evolved in dense agricultural societies that arose in the fertile crescent and then China 11,000 years ago.”
Now, had the Lehites, who were clearly a part of the agricultural societies mentioned, brought their DNA and their domesticated animals, perhaps they would have been spared the germ genocide. This actually argues against the bottleneck affecting the Lehites as it affected the descendants of Siberian migration who crossed the Bering Strait long before the development of agriculture and farm animal domestication of 11,000 years ago.
Again, on one hand, they cherry picked the idea of the bottleneck, but they hide the relevant facts (from their own BoM) with the other hand.
Here are some of the relevant quotes from their own scriptures they conveniently forgot here.
JS History 1:34 "[Moroni] said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang."
D&C 49:24 “the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose.”
1 Ne 13:30-31 “wherefore, thou seest that the Lord God will not suffer that the Gentiles will utterly destroy the mixture of thy (Nephi's) seed, which are among thy brethren. Neither will he suffer that the Gentiles shall destroy the seed of thy brethren.”
Hela 3:5-8 “Yea, and even they did spread forth into all parts of the land, into whatever parts it had not been rendered desolate and ... they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east.”
Moroni wrote in the BoM Title Page:
"Wherefore, it is an abridgment of the record of the people... who were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, when they were building a tower to get to heaven—Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers."
The Book of Mormon clarifies the bottleneck problem—it’s a nonissue. On the one hand, they use the wars talked about in the BoM to support the bottleneck while ignoring the prophesies and other declarations saying that the house of Israel remnant would flourish.
Disclaimer: Genetic Drift (dilution) – “the effect of drift is especially pronounced in small, isolated populations or in cases where a small group carrying a distinct genetic profile intermingles with a much larger population of a different lineage.”
Much of the essay seems to be written from the words of two apologists: Rodney Meldrum and Ugo Perego. The argument made here is that “genetic drift make it unlikely that [BoM people’s] DNA could be detected today” because they were a small group carrying a distinct genetic profile intermingling in a continent full of Siberian expats.
To support these genetic drift/dilution arguments, the essay references works from 2003 and 2008. However, these are outdated.
DNA testing is much more sensitive than it was a few years ago. And even in 2008, it was sensitive enough that we can find the Lemba. These are a group of people that demonstrate pretty conclusively the claim above is wrong.
The Lemba descended and separated from Jews around 600BC (same time as Lehi and Mulek), they intermingled with the subcontinent of Africa. Yet we can find the small founder moment from their (diluted) Jewish line in genetics studies today. (see http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/israel/familylemba.html for the Lemba story.)
If Mulek were real and had descended from Jewish royalty to found their largest city, then as it is with the Lemba, his DNA should be popping like popcorn on the cherry-picking tree.
In the Lemba case, the sensitivity of the DNA tests are so high that they can identify, 2,600 years later, that the "Buba clan which, in Lemba oral tradition, had a leadership role in bringing the Lemba out of Israel." The Buba clan is a single family line among many in a diluted sea of a sub-continent and searching for Jewish DNA found it.
Even more interesting is that the LDS lead scientist, Ugo Perego performed a study on a founder event from 10,000 years ago. In his haplotypic study, which is Reference 4 of the Topic Essay, Ugo Perego himself contradicts the dilution argument. He writes that there is a "novel X2 branch...named X2g, and its presence in Native Americans most probably indicates an additional and very rare Native American founder..."
Ugo’s study of haplogroups X2g, X2a and the rare D4h3a, as I understand, is used to theorize that a rare founder entered the Amerindian lineage more than 10,000 years ago. This founder entered across the Bering Strait and then in Figure 3, Perego et.al., shows that 10,000 years later (present day) they can map where descendants of D4h3a (the rare founder) reside today, differing from larger group of X2a descendants. This is precise location of a single founder, from 10,000 years ago, that contained a small split in a sub-group of a sub haplogroup of the main gene used to identify Amerindian mtDNA in geo-locations across two continents.
Okay, again, the upshot is: if a 10,000 year old gene inserted from a founder into the American continent can be found and mapped across the two north and south continents today, then why can’t Ugo do the same for Mulek’s DNA?
I'm sure there's a detectable haplotype from the Davidic line that can be seen from entry into a population 2,600 years ago.
When, Ugo, will you get to that study? The Jewish royalty DNA exists in databases (see below). Search, buddy, search! Run, Forest, Run!!
Ok to the essay conclusion--
Disclaimer: “It is our position that secular evidence can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon... the Book of Mormon stands as a volume of sacred scripture with the power to bring them closer to Jesus Christ.”
Well, as I showed in Part 1 of my rebuttal, it seems to dismantle Jesus Christ.
But, let's take the apologists at their freaky theory: Drift, bottlenecks, and dilution have eradicated all traces of Israelite DNA/lineage from the Amerindians. Let’s take their conclusion that in fact the Book of Mormon is scripture meant to bring people closer to Jesus Christ.
Ok, what people? Do they ignore the title page, where Moroni claims it was primarily "Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel...to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers"?
Who are the disappearing remnant Lamanites? Who's blossoming as a rose? Who's like a lion among the beasts? Who will be renewed as a great people?
I’ve seen arguments by the same apologists now say that Lamanites are not physically related to Israel because of dilution and bottlenecks. So now, they’re only spiritually related to Israel.
If that’s where the argument for the Book of Mormon is going, then let’s evaluate it purely on a spiritual level. But that is a treatise for another day.
The Matrilineal Ancestry of Ashkenazi Jewry: Portrait of a Recent Founder Event http://www.familytreedna.com/pdf/43026_Doron.pdf
MtDNA evidence for a genetic bottleneck in the early history of the Ashkenazi Jewish population http://www.familytreedna.com/pdf/Behar%202004%20mtDNA.pdf )
For paternal matching (think of recent advances in admixture studies) see: http://www.familytreedna.com/group-join.aspx?group=Davidic where they've identified Y-DNA12, Y-DNA37, or Y-DNA67 markers as royalty, going all the way back to David. How fortunate for the Mulek searchers!