There are 15 thoughts on “Is Decrypting the Genetic Legacy of America’s Indigenous Populations Key to the Historicity of the Book of Mormon?”.

  1. Pingback: Methods used by the LDS church to maintain belief in its members – Mormon Scholar

  2. I think the phrase used in the abstract, “in lieu of,” has a different meaning than what was intended to be conveyed there.

  3. A reading of Jacob especially his encounter with Sharem only works if one accepts that there were other groups besides those originally associated with Lehi in the journey that were part of the generalized Nephite society.

    I probably should try digging up some of these studies of Native American DNA. The key question that seems to be generally elided is what percentages of DNA we are actually looking at in isolated, tribalized populations. While it is clear that there were interactions, especially at the level of inter-breading between fur traders and other European men and native women beyond the edge of standard European settlements, as well as escapees from slavery and indentured servitude and the like that create issues.

    For example, it remains unclear to me that we could distinguish convincingly whether an Abenaki with European type Y-DNA is the descendant of a French fur trader in the 17th-century or a Viking raider in the 11th-century.

    In general much of the rhetoric about DNA and populations is still stuck in early 20th-century model of 3 pure races. The very use of the term “Caucasian” to refer to groups of people other than those from the Caucuses reflects a failure to properly dispel past racial myths.

    Ancient and Medieval seafaring was certainly not at the level it reached after 1500, but there is evidence that it existed in limited amounts in some places.

    I think the strongest point in this article was that due to the scale of DNA evidence, it is hard to distinguish strains introduced 400 years ago from those breaking from a European or Middle Eastern origin 2600 years ago.

    This probably becomes even more pronounced when it is realized that the first wave of settlers in the New World, and in some ways the ones who most intermixed with the Native populations and lead to having the most hard to identify groups, were from Spain and Portugal. These countries have large swaths that were long under Muslim rule, and the immigrant populations from those countries included many people of at least some Jewish or Arab ancestry.

  4. Fascinating article. Clearly expressed, well-written and comprehensively thought-out.

    A Southern Baptist friend of mine once tried to use the DNA argument against the Book of Mormon with me. I pointed out to him that by his logic, Eve must have been black and she must have come out of Africa, if he were to resort exclusively to the same narrowed interpretation of current DNA research. He was morbidly offended that I should even suggest such a thing due to his firm commitment to a literal interpretation of the Bible. Yet he could not understand why I would be as equally offended that his reliance on skewed DNA interpretations regarding the Book of Mormon would be as identically deniable and untenable to me, as was his conviction that Eve could not have been black.

    I’ve never quite understood why in his mind, his conviction of the literal interpretation of the Bible had to outweigh my conviction of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. From the neutral standpoint of science, both of our convictions are equally and inarguably based upon our own individual faith.

  5. Where did the Jews originate? For Bennett Greenspan, the founder and president of Family Tree DNA, there’s little doubt, and it can all be proven with a swab of cheek cells.

    The overwhelming majority of Jews living today should be able to trace their roots back to the Middle East with a little DNA testing, he maintains, and all those who claim otherwise, as far as he’s concerned, have their history wrong.

    A test by Family Tree DNA determined that this Arab from Saudi Arabia was 7 percent Jewish, meaning 7 percent of his ancestors were determined to be Jewish.

    So how can they find Middle eastern Jews who left thousands of years ago but not Jewish dna in native Americans? And how can they find 7% Jewish dna in an Arab but nowhere in America?

    • Dear Clark, thank you for your post. Those are all good questions.

      I use FTDNA services all the times and I am very familiary with them. I also know Bennet Greenspan personally. He is not a scientist, but a businessman with a passion for genealogy. I began working with DNA for ancestry about the same time FTDNA was created. Mr. Greenspan uses science developed by others, including findings from research papers that could be used for genealogy. He has Jewish ancestry and takes great pride in it. He works often with the Jewish genealogical community and that is a substantial part of his market. I don’t want to do negative publicity to him, but as it is often the case, we tend to “emphasize” what we would like to believe or make others to believe, especially if there is some sort of personal interest involved. I heard similar strong wording from Dr. Donald Yates (founder and owner of DNAConsultants.com, whose ancestry is Native American) about how Cherokees have Hebrew origins based on his DNA studies. Dr. Yates has a PhD in classical studies.

      My personal opinion based on genetic data I personally analyzed and read in the scientific literature is that Arabs and Jewish are nearly identical from a genetic point of view. In fact, there are very few populations that share as much DNA as the two of them. You can’t tell them apart using genetic data. Even the Cohen marker that was linked once to the Levitical tribe/priesthood is much older than the Tribes of Israel and it has been found amoung other populations in the Middle East.

      When you wrote “A test by Family Tree DNA determined that this Arab from Saudi Arabia was 7 percent Jewish, meaning 7 percent of his ancestors were determined to be Jewish” what it really means is that a 7% estimated Jewish DNA is found in the person’s genetic profile. It does not mean that 7% of his ancestors are Jews but that out of the DNA that has survived through the generations, 7% could be linked to a probable Jewish ethnic background. In other words, if I have 1000 ancestors 10 generations ago, it does not mean that 7% of them were Jews. My total DNA is the result of random genetic transmission from only about 10-12% of these 1000 progenitors. The other DNA was lost due to chance and it did not survive to the present day in me. So 7% is rapported to the 10-12% ancestors whose DNA formed my genome.

      • I appreciate your answer. I’m sure it can be tiresome answering constant questions about this from people who don’t fully understand the science behind it.

      • Not sure if this is relevant or applicable but thought was interesting

        THEY came, they saw, they conquered. But while the Romans, Vikings and Normans ruled Britain for many years, none left their genetic calling cards behind in the DNA of today’s mainland Caucasian population. That’s the message from the most comprehensive analysis yet of the genetic make-up of the white British population.

        The only invaders that left a lasting legacy are the Anglo-Saxons. As well as giving us the English language, the Anglo-Saxons, whose influx began around AD 450, account for 10 to 40 per cent of the DNA in half of modern-day Britons.

        Given the cultural significance of the Roman, Viking and Norman invasions, it’s surprising they didn’t leave greater genetic legacy. For the Romans and Normans, that may be because they were ruling elites who didn’t intermarry with the natives.

        The overall message is that despite their large cultural impact, Britain’s main invaders left no genetic stamp of note. “When you study the past through history, linguistics or archaeology, you learn about successful people,” says Donnelly. “History is written by the winners, so much of current historical information is from a relatively small subset of people. Genetics, by contrast, is the history of the masses.”

        http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22530134.300-ancient-invaders-transformed-britain-but-not-its-dna.html#.VQ1FJUb3bCQ

  6. IMHO, the Book of Mormon is unique as a religious text because it is distinctly provable or disprovable based on how it was produced and the content of the text itself. Although there isn’t quite enough empirical physical evidence for us to justify an answer one way or the other (although I am incline to believe that the evidence is stacking up in favor of its claimed authenticity) it is imperative that we tackle the issue with the highest rigors of scholarship. This means rebutting bad arguments, even if these arguments are made by a faithful member of the church who is trying to defend the scripture. I suspect there is, in the long run, the potential that bad scholarship by faithful members could be as damaging as anti-mormon arguments.

    I appreciate Jayne, Ugo and the countless other scholars who undertake the endeavour of presenting the facts as they are. Let the chips fall as they may. In the end, I am fully confident that it will work out for us all.

    • One should not even self-publish a pamphlet on DNA and the Book of Mormon, if one is not a qualified population geneticist, even or especially if one is a Latter-day Saint. Hence Ike has just set out one of several good reasons for my objections to the claims made about DNA, Book of Mormon geography and other topics by Rodney Meldrum. One of these reasons is supported in this essay by Perego and Ekins.

  7. Ugo and Jayne

    Thanks for the article. I learned a lot about DNA. I recently had my DNA analyzed by ancestry.com. From what I read in your article, if my full sister had her DNA tested it would not be the same as mine, correct?

  8. Some critics of the Book of Mormon refuse to listen to the arguments and evidence, and/or insist on a clearly false reading of the Book of Mormon. Some of these efforts pull the Church from its historical grounding involve an appeal to DNA population studies and also a confused reading of the Book of Mormon. Ugo Perego and Jayne Ekins have carefully set out the issues that have both troubled or puzzled some Latter-day Saints, and also the claims made by critics of the Book of Mormon.

    For me, however, the more troubling problem is illustrated by those how insist that there must be DNA proof of the historical reality of the Book of Mormon, and that they have actually located such a proof. Perego and Ekins cite Rodney L. Meldrum’s Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA (New York: Digital Legend Press, 2009)–see p. 239 note # 2, for a reference to this book, which contains these highly questionable claims. Meldrum, it should be noted, is not a population geneticist. Instead, he makes his living conducting tours and holding conferences in which he sells what amounts to mock wisdom for real money.

    My observation, though clearly personal, is not an ad hominem logical fallacy. The reason is that it is wise to address credentials and hence competence, as well as motivation. Why? If one has cancer, a rational person would not consult a taxi driver for treatment, despite how sincere, nice and pious as they might appear to be, and even though they might be able to get you to a hotel and recommend a restaurant. Instead, they would, I believe, pay very close special attention to the credentials of those they consult for solid evidence that they are properly qualified and have sufficient experience to provide competent, skilled, cautious, expert treatment.

    • Louis, I know Rod Meldrum, and he is a good man. You questioned his competence and motivations. Regarding his motivations, he sells materials and does tours as a way to sustainably spread information that he sincerely believes is true, not as a way to get rich. Regarding his competence, he is not a geneticist but his main DNA arguments do find some support in the scientific journals and are not shown to be wrong in this article — the main area of difference being the validity of the molecular clock. I do appreciate the authors’ work in this article.

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