PonderIt

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Mormons and DNA

Jonah Goldberg asks a scientific Mormon question on National Review Online's group blog, the Corner:
While sitting around LAX waiting for my plane, I found this interesting story in the LA Times. DNA testing is causing major problems for Mormon theology since it turns out that Native Americans aren't Jewish (I'll leave it to John Pod to come up with some "funny, but they look Jewish" jokes). It's more complicated than that, and this is probably not a new story to lots of Mormons. But I think it's pretty interesting nonetheless. It could also be the sort of thing that creates headaches for Mitt Romney. How does he answer the question: Do you believe science or the Book of Mormon?

This is what I emailed to him:
You are right; this really isn't a new issue for most of us Mormons. Mitt Romney could easily answer your question: "Do you believe science or the Book of Mormon?" with a simple "Yes." Many things are said (even by church leaders) that are not considered doctrine. We do believe that God speaks to the prophet in matters important to our salvation, but He also reveals truth through other processes--including science. Our knowledge is constantly increased in many ways.

Although there have been statements made in the past about the ancestry of Native American Indians being directly (and at least by inference, completely) descended from Israelites, there is nothing in the official doctrine of the church that requires us to believe that the ONLY (or even major) ancestors of Native Americans are Jewish.


The LATimes article is not too bad, although it really relies on Southerton's interpretation of LDS doctrine, and doesn't give a lot of time to those who have accepted this information without losing faith. The only real "fallout" I can see coming from this particular situation is a reinforcement of the notion that Mormons are anti-science. And we REALLY don't need more of that, but oh well.

4 Comments:

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  • Really, this whole thing has been fully vetted by experts and scientists at FARMS and FAIR. Every story that comes out about DNA leans heavily on a few scientific facts coupled with unsubstantiated conclusions that are represented as the gospel truth.

    A whole variety of studies have shown that is is mathematically impossible to *prove* that no group of Native Americans ever had Israelite blood. However, that will not stop this from being a handy tool for anti-Mormons. As for believers, there are two things that help: #1 personal revelation, and #2 knowledge of truth. Check out the manifold articles about DNA at FARMS and FAIR. But I've got to warn you that a lot of them are real egghead stuff that might put the average reader to sleep.

    By Blogger Reach Upward, at 2/18/2006 5:17 PM  

  • The articles at FARMS and FAIR have done more to destroy testimonies that DNA, Kinderhook, BofA, Polygamy, etc ever have...

    ...They are simply spinmeisters doing their best to stanch the flow of evidence that seriously questions historicity of the BofM...

    By Anonymous William, at 2/18/2006 11:10 PM  

  • Thanks for commenting, reach upward. As for the FARMS and FAIR articles, I've skimmed some of them and found them interesting and useful. Thanks for bringing them up!

    William, from your comment, it seems you have serious doubts about the historicity of the Book of Mormon. (Forgive me if I have misinterpreted your comment.) Do you feel you still have a testimony of the Gospel as revealed by Joseph Smith? If your answer is yes, I would be respectfully interested in your understandings and beliefs. Thanks for commenting.

    By Blogger Keryn, at 2/18/2006 11:37 PM  

  • Despite denials, the genetic link between Jews and American Indians has been established fact since 1999 [1]. The Q-P36 lineage group is found in 31% of US American Indians [2], 5% of Ashkenazi Jews [3], 5% of Iraqi Jews [4], and a significant number of Iranian Jews [5]. Q-P36 is thought to be 20,000 years old and to have originated in Central Eurasia [6]. It's spread to the Middle East was inevitable and probably occurred several thousand of years ago. The fact of Jewish Q-P36 is open to various interpretations, and is a fairly common topic of discussion among well-informed Jews. A Jewish perspective of Jewish Q is provided by Ellen Levy-Coffman’s paper, A MOSAIC OF PEOPLE: THE JEWISH STORY AND A REASSESSMENT OF THE DNA EVIDENCE.

    [1] Hammer et al, 1999, Jewish and Middle Eastern non-Jewish populations share a common pool of Y-chromosome biallelic haplotypes.
    [2] Hammer et al, 2005, Population structure of Y chromosome SNP haplogroups in the United States and forensic implications for constructing Y chromosome STR databases.
    [3] Behar et al, 2004, Contrasting patterns of Y chromosome variation in Ashkenazi Jewish and host non-Jewish European populations.
    [4] Shen et al, 2004, Reconstruction of Patrilineages and Matrilineages of Samaritans and other Israeli populations from Y-Chromosome and Mitochondrial DNA Sequence Variation.
    [5] Hammer et al, 1999, 1999, Jewish and Middle Eastern non-Jewish populations share a common pool of Y-chromosome biallelic haplotypes.
    [6] R. Spencer Wells, 2001, The Eurasian Heartland: A continental perspective on Y-chromosome diversity.

    By Blogger Doug Forbes, at 3/21/2006 7:59 PM  

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