Saturday, April 27, 2013

Comments from our DNA Series – Part IV

Continuing with the comments received after our recent eight-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, as well as the American DNA controversies.
Comment #1: “Obviously, because Joseph Smith did not know about DNA when he wrote about the Nephites coming from Jerusalem, he painted himself into a corner now that we know through DNA testing that there is no Jewish blood among the Native Americans” Mathieu G.
Response: Other similar comments have been received. Perhaps the following might surprise you. In an interesting article written by Dr. Joseph S. Amussen several years ago regarding the resurrection from the scientific point of view, he wrote: “There is a “star-dust” in our bodies. A glorious substance that is an inheritance from the divine past. It is a material that is immortal and links the eternity of the past with that of the future. It is a “star-dust” which forms the intelligent and organizing principles which compose our real, individual bodies, and which clothes itself with the food substances we assimilate and use temporarily.” According to Joseph Fielding Smith, the prophet Joseph was the first to call attention to these particles of matter. He called them the fundamental parts of our bodies.
Of course, Deoxyribonucleic acid was unknown during Joseph Smith’s lifetime, and was not even on its way to discovery until 1869 when Swiss physiological chemist Friedrich Miescher (left) first identified what he called “nuclein” inside the nuclei of human white blood cells, but it was more than 50 years later before the significance of Miescher’s discovery of nucleic acids was widely appreciated by the scientific community, and eventually led to the discovery of DNA as we more-or-less know of it today by Francis Crick and James Watson in 1953. It is interesting to note that what scientists are just now learning about what Joseph gave to the world more than a hundred years ago.
Elder Orson Pratt (left) once remarked in Joseph Smith’s presence that the human body changes every seven years, to which the prophet Joseph said:
“There is no fundamental principle belonging to a human system that ever goes into another in this world or the world to come; I care not what the theories of man are. We have the testimony that God will raise us up, and he has the power to do it. If anyone supposes that any part of our bodies, that is, the fundamental parts thereof, ever goes into another body, he is mistaken” (History of the Church, Vol 5, p 339).
J. Arthur Thompson once wrote in The Romance of Chemistry: “Some  biologists hold the view that there is an ‘ultimate molecule’ of life hidden in the protoplasm, which holds the secret of endless building up and breaking down. Sir Ray Lankester gave this “supreme life stuff’ the name of plastogen, and said in regard to its workings that while they can be grouped with the chemical and physical qualities of other bodies, they so far transcend them in complexity and in immensity of result that their appearance constitutes in effect, a new departure, a sudden and to us unaccountable acquirement” [regarding the whole creation of plant and animal life].
Joseph Fielding Smith, in reading the Thompson quote, said, “This corroborates the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and indicates that men of science are beginning to recognize the doctrine of a fundamental principle of matter in our bodies, and some, to give it a name, refer to it in such terms as “the ultimate molecule of life,” “supreme life stuff,” and “plastogen” (Improvement Era, Vol. 30, p.701).
Consequently, it might be concluded that Joseph Smith (left), like many prophets before him, knew about matters that had not yet been invented or not yet known in his time, but spoke of them anyway—the problem is, the terms they used to describe future matters were never the terms actually known in the future events. Take Ezekiel trying to describe a helicopter firing missiles nearly two millennia before any such thing had even been considered, let alone designed or flown.
The point of all this is simply that while DNA became known long after Joseph Smith’s time, he, like many prophets, knew of matters other men did not, and knew their effects and purposes. Thus, we might conclude that Joseph Smith did not paint himself into a corner, he simply spoke of matters, as yet, still beyond the knowledge of science and men.
Comment #2: “It is ridiculous that when LDS apologists claim you cannot know the DNA of ancient peoples, you set up an impossible situation and use that as a defensible position as opposed to using and analyzing the DNA evidence we do have for Native Americans. As an example, if you were to take a look at all the DNA evidence we have for Native Americans (meaning people here in America before Columbus) and had to make a conclusion based on that evidence if the Book of Mormon were true then what are they going to conclude?” Pierce W.
Response: The geneticist, Ugo A. Perego (left), who is involved in population genetics and DNA, molecular genealogy, etc., answered this type question best when he said, "If somebody took a look at all the DNA evidence we have for Native Americans (meaning people here in America before Columbus) and had to make a conclusion based on that evidence if the Book of Mormon were true then what are they going to conclude?" the answer is pretty simple. We don't know what the DNA of Native Americans before Columbus is. That evidence does not exist and cannot be created very much like we cannot access the DNA of someone like Lehi, Nephi, or Captain Moroni. Why? Because the people living in the Americas today are not a true representation of those that lived before the Europeans arrived to this continent. Within a couple of centuries, the demographics of the Americas changed drastically and the extermination process that underwent through warfare, slavery or disease was not random. Genetic lineages disappear naturally overtime due to a natural force called genetic drift. This is easily observable when comparing Native American lineages of Asian origin in the Americas with those existing in Asia tofay. There is a lot more variation in Asia than there is in the Americas and one of the explanations is that many lineages in the Western Hemisphere disappeared overtime. This was accentuated and accelerated during the European contest. In population genetics terms, the clash with Europeans resulted in a tremendous bottleneck, which changed drastically the genetic background of the Americas. So, the DNA we observe in modern Native Americans (using classic population genetic markers found on the Y chromosome, autosomal DNA or mitochondrial DNA) does not represent the pre-Columbian history of the people of this continent, but of those that survived the encounter with Europeans—which is a population reduction that has been estimated to be but 1/25 of the original source population.
Comment #3: “How exactly can DNA be used to determine the accuracy of the Book of Mormon or of any past population?” Carrick O.
Response: Under certain circumstances, the process is quite simple. All you need is a sample of the DNA of the past population that lived at the time of your inquiry group—if the Book of Mormon, then you would need the DNA sampling of Lehi (left), or some of the Nephites, or some of the Lamanites of that era. All you do then is take a sampling of that population today, and compare the Y chromosome haplotypes for the two groups—those of the past and those of today. If the values match, then you probably have a biological relationship. If they don't, then you can be 100% confident that you are looking at two non-related individuals. As you can see, this is easy in determining present comparisons, such as paternity suits, or other relationships since the DNA of both parties can be obtained. But when you try to determine the DNA of a people 2000 years ago, whose DNA is not available, with the DNA of people today, you can see where the problem lies. The point is, you simply cannot determine the historical presence of an Israelite family arriving in the Americas 2600 years ago based on the genetic sampling of modern-day Native American populations. If we knew what Lehi’s DNA was, then we could compare it with current Amerinds to see if there was a connection—however, we do not know and cannot find out what Lehi’s DNA was. The sad thing about all this is that critics claim the lack of evidence is evidence, but the fact is that lack of evidence is simply lack of evidence.

No comments:

Post a Comment