Friday, April 26, 2013

Comments from our DNA Series – Part III

Continuing here with the comments received after our recent five-part series about DNA, which includes the newest developments in MtDNA that has been obtained over the past ten years from studies based on much larger sampling knowledge.
Comment #1: “I read this recently: In 1998 while serving as a Mormon bishop I encountered DNA research that challenged my beliefs and changed my life. My beliefs, based on the Book of Mormon stories of ancient Middle Eastern migrations to the Americas, were at odds with well-established scientific views of Native American origins. DNA research on Native Americans has confirmed their true ancestry and raises serious questions about LDS claims. I’m thinking if a Bishop can question the Book of Mormon over DNA, what about the rest of us?”
Response: In 1998, 4 years before the more recent studies we’ve quoted that were reported in 2002, the DNA family or clan groupings which, since 1987, were based on the belief that mitochrondrial DNA was passed on only from the mother, which is now understood to be completely in error and that the entire concept was wrong—in fact, rather than those earlier results tracing back to 200,000 years ago, they actually traced back only to 6000 years ago when using more accurate information. Having been a bishop, I can only say that bishops are no different than anyone else, each has his own personality, feelings, opinions, etc. They are as fallible as the next person. Some grow considerably in the calling, but some might not. The one you mention obviously didn’t have a strong enough testimony to understand the difference between scientific beliefs, hypothesis, and guesses, which are often proved to be wrong, from the word of God, which is never wrong. I have found over the years that every whit of the Book of Mormon has already, or is continuing to be, proven true in the Scientific World. Give everything time, and it will all be revealed—not as an announcement on high, but as new ideas unfold and studies begin to prove earlier falsehoods in scientific beliefs. After all, true religion and true (accurate) science are very compatible since they originate with the same Being.
Comment #2: “Thank you for your insight and frank responses to everyone’s inquiries. It shows me you are listening to others, know what you’re talking about and not just writing what you like. I have learned a lot from all your posts. Too bad there are so many that haven’t, judged by their responses” Shayne J.
Response: Thank you. We don’t usually list all the nice comments we receive since they don’t require a response and it would appear self-serving. However, criticisms, misunderstandings, and ignorance do require responses since the entire concept of the gospel is for us to learn all we can. And there is much to be learned for all of us.
Comment #3: “Based on a study conducted in 2010 of DNA sampling, it has been shown that not only were there Neanderthals in the past, but that they mated with humans and produced children—us. That sort of spoils your God created Adam theory” Erich V.
Response: It would seem from this that the theories behind genetics using DNA to arrive at conclusions about ancestry are more than suspect! First of all, Neanderthal, a name coined from Neander’s Valley (originally called Gesteins or Hundskipp), a region in Germany, about 8 miles east of Dusseldorf, where the bones of this “species” was first discovered, are known from fossil specimens, and classified as either a subspecies of Homo sapiens, or as a separate species of the same genus. Supposedly, they lived 600,000 to 350,000 years ago, though some dating in other areas show much later dates of 30,000 to 35,000 years ago. These so-called Neanderthals are thought to have been stronger than humans, especially stronger arms and hands, and having larger brains, though their heights were about 66” in men (5’6”) and 61 inches in women (5’1”).
It should be kept in mind that the type specimen dubbed Neanderthal 1, consisted of a skull cap, two femora (thigh bone), three bones from the right arm, two from the left arm, part of the left ilium (upper part of the pelvis), fragments of a scapula, and ribs. The workers who recovered this material originally thought it to be the remains of a bear. They gave the material to amateur naturalist who turned the fossils over to anatomist Hermann Schaaffhausen. The discovery was jointly announced in 1857. To date, the bones of over 400 "Neanderthals" have been found; however, no complete skeleton has been found, nor are these bones connected to single bodies, but just scattered bones claimed to be from a different species or subspecies.
The first draft of the Neanderthal genome, published in the journal Science, took a massive international effort involving more than 50 scientists working for four years. Their work was spearheaded by Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Harvard Medical School geneticist David Reich led the research to understand how modern humans are related to Neanderthals—basically saying that Neanderthals live on today in the DNA of many people because the Ice Age brutes probably mated with prehistoric humans. He also claims that while Neanderthals and modern humans both descended from a common ancestor, Neanderthals evolved separately for several hundred thousand years.
Of course, it should be noted that this discovery stems from researchers’ striking success in extracting and sequencing genetic material from a pill-size amount of crushed bones found in a cave in Croatia. Then another group at Harvard led efforts to compare the ancient DNA with present-day human genomes, revealing that people from outside Africa inherited a small portion of their genes from "Neanderthal" ancestors. Not only did the team find strong support for the controversial mating theory, but the work also produced a catalog of genetic mutations that set humans apart, yielding potential clues about why we succeeded while "Neanderthals" died off. These researchers claim that modern-day people, except for Africans, can trace about 1 percent to 4 percent of their genome back to "Neanderthals." That suggests mating before Asian and European populations diverged, perhaps in the Middle East as humans migrated from Africa around 50,000 to 80,000 years ago.
If you want to believe this stuff, feel free. Personally, I think, and have often stated, that DNA is in its infancy and it will be many years, perhaps generations, before it is understood well enough to make such absolute comparisons. In the meantime, I would invite you to spend a little time reading the actual circumstances and problems associated with Johann Carl Fuhlrott and his difficulty in collecting and preserving the bones found, and Hermann Schaafhausen and his struggle to find a place among humans for his discovery of the heavy-browed skull cap of what became known as the "Neanderthal"—how “learned” men arrive at such nonsense is always a marvel. What is more of a marvel is how gullible humanity is to think that a guess, in time, becomes a hard and proven fact.

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