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Sunday, 28 July 2013

Swedish Rescue: Official Church Responses to DNA


Leaders of the LDS Church rarely have the courage to directly answer difficult questions. Instead, they hide behind apologists and increasingly their well funded PR department. If someone raises a question they simply refer them to these unofficial sources for an explanation. This is a common tactic large corporations use to avoid having to answer difficult questions. Its a form of "plausible deniability". The leaders pretend or don't know the answers and refer questioners to the apologists. The apologists can give utterly outrageous answers (e.g. horse = tapir; two Cumorahs; Vanishingly Small Geography Theory, etc) and the church can distance itself from them because the apologists don't officially speak for the church. 

On November 28, 2010 a special fireside was held in Stockholm, Sweden for members of the LDS who had doubts. The fireside was attended by Elder Marlin K. Jensen (LDS Church Historian) and Richard E. Turley Jr. (Assistant Church Historian). Our attention was drawn to the occurrence of this meeting by Hans Mattsson, who had recently retired as an Area Authority of the Church in Europe. You can read Hans' interview with the New York Times hereA full transcript of the fireside can be found at the Mormonthink website.


Hans Mattsson
This fireside is notable for several reasons, but in my view the most significant thing that occurred at this fireside was that LDS general authorities who had been sent by the First Presidency actually gave answers to difficult questions. Consequently, we can regard those answers as official church responses. And just as many of us suspected, those answers are exactly the type of answers being given by the church's "unofficial" apologists, most of whom are/were based at the Maxwell Institute at Brigham Young University.


Swedish Questions

At the beginning of the fireside members were invited to submit questions. Once a list had been gathered, answers were given and further questions taken. Given that the audience were the descendants of seafaring vikings it was not surprising that the following question was asked.


QUESTION: We had some Vikings visit North America about 1000 years ago, and today we know exactly where they lived actually, there are archeological evidence that they leave there, etc. So what about all the millions of people who have been Lamanites or Nephites … What kind of evidence can you show that actually exist? Every single small Indian tribe in the whole of America we know about today because they all leave buildings and tombs and anything which we can prove that they are there, have been there. And as far as I know there is nothing prove there have been Lamanites or Nephites in America.
If we have time also could you comment on the American Indians and the DNA, and the connection to Lamanites, Nephites, and then back to the Jewish people. Interesting to hear.



It is a well-established fact that the viking Erik the Red reached the New World in about 1000 AD. There is unmistakable archaeological evidence of his trip as well as written records. So why can't we find the remains of massive Nephite and Lamanite civilizations? I made a similar observation a decade ago in my book Losing a Lost Tribe. 

“Ten centuries ago a handful of Norse sailors slipped into Newfoundland, established small colonies, traded with local natives, then sailed back into the fog of history. In spite of the small scale of their settlements and the brevity of their stay, unequivocal evidence of their presence has been found, including metalwork, buildings, and Norse inscriptions. Just six centuries earlier, the Book of Mormon tells us, a climactic battle between fair-skinned Nephites and dark-skinned Lamanites ended a millennial dominion by a literate, Christian, Bronze Age civilization with a population numbering in the millions. Decades of serious and honest scholarship have failed to uncover credible evidence that these Book of Mormon civilizations ever existed. No Semitic languages, no Israelites speaking these languages, no wheeled chariots or horses to pull them, no swords or steel to make them. They remain a great civilization vanished without a trace, the people along with their genes.”


—Southerton, Losing a Lost Tribe, 2004

Official Answers


Richard TURLEY: Quickly. Archeology and the Book of Mormon. Why isn’t there all this specific evidence of Nephites and Lamanites. You know, I’m going to combine it with Indian DNA because the answers are really quite similar. You may be able to find some evidence of Viking culture on the coast, but if Vikings went to the new world many, many times, you probably wouldn’t be able to find evidence of all the people who went there.
QUESTION: I´m sorry, ??- I mean there were millions of people building cities and creating wagons with wheels, and horses, and had so many things, weapons destroying things, so I guess there should be some traces, somewhere, in the whole of Americas if they ever existed.
[Turley missed the point of the question, hence the frustrated follow up question above. He moves on to talking about DNA.]

TURLEY: As you know, there are cultural ruins all over the Americas. The question is, were these Book of Mormon peoples or not? Some people have tried to answer that using the DNA to say maybe these were Book of Mormon people, maybe they were not. Are there any DNA experts here? I’m gonna give you my best short answer on DNA.
QUESTION: Is it the same as FAIR and FARMS?
TURLEY: Um. It may be. Let me just—if you have a family tree that goes back like this, and so on, you get the idea, it’s way out here. DNA cannot tell us about all of our ancestors. I was the president of the genealogical society of Utah, which oversees the collection of family history records , the Church’s family history records. We were very interested in DNA for genealogical purposes to find out what it could tell us. What we learned is that DNA can tell you about this line here. OK? The Y chromosome. And DNA can tell you about this line here, which is mitochondrial DNA. So through DNA, you can learn about the line that is all males down through here. If there’s a female in this line, it’s stuck and it can’t go any further. Now, here you can tell about the line that is female all the way down. OK? But what’s in the middle here you can’t discover through DNA with today’s technology. OK? Now, if you think this out further, like this, what basically happens is let’s say you’ve got one person here down to maybe 10 million or whatever. 
How many of those 10 million people have DNA that we can discover this way? If the lines don’t intertwine, the answer is just these two. The first one and this one. What actually happens is that as people intermarry and you shift from male to female here or from female to male there you lose the opportunity to trace their strand. So what happens over time is that you lose—you lose DNA identity as you work your way down through time. It’s not always possible to be able to identify peoples who were there. 
Turley's answer about the limitations of mtDNA and Y-DNA studies comes straight from the apologetic work of several LDS scholars. It appeared in a 2003 FAIR article by D. Jeffrey Meldrum "The Children of Lehi: DNA and the Book of Mormon". The same argument appears twice on the BYU Maxwell Institute website in articles by Brian Stubbs and D. Jeffrey Meldrum, and Trent D. Stephens

MtDNA and Y DNA Population Studies 

Turley is quite correct that mtDNA and Y chromosome DNA analysis does not reveal much about an individual's ancestors. They reveal only two out of about a million ancestral positions in a person's family tree going back 20 generations. So how on earth can they tell us anything useful? The reason is that human geneticists studying Native Americans are NOT studying the genealogy of individuals. They are studying the genetic relationships of entire populations. And MtDNA and Y-DNA studies have been spectacularly useful for tracking human population migrations around the world. Closely related people tend to have the same mtDNA and Y-DNA lineages, particularly before the modern age of transoceanic voyaging. As related groups of people have migrated around the world they have taken their genes with them.  



Virtually all mitochondrial lineages found throughout the world can be grouped into less than twenty-five major family groups represented by letters A, H, X, and so on. Essentially all Native American mitochondrial lineages fall into one of five major families: A, B, C, D, or X, none of which were derived from a recent migration from Israel. If we could go back twenty generations in an American Indian’s pedigree chart, it is extremely likely that those same five lineages occupied virtually all the million-odd ancestral slots. Even those mitochondrial lineages that end up in males and are not passed on to the next generation came from the same five sources. It is possible that some lineages may not have been detected yet or have been lost in time through chance, but these would have been very rare mitochondrial family lines. 

Turley is also unaware of the recent work on nuclear genes that essentially fills in the large numbers of ancestral slots in a person's pedigree chart. Work on nuclear DNA has confirmed that Native American DNA is derived from Asia. For a description of the nuclear DNA research see my post entitled "Could Generations of Lamanite DNA Just Disappear?" 
TURLEY: But there’s a bigger problem. The bigger problem is this: in order to capture DNA, in order to make a comparison, you need two things. One, you need to know, what was the DNA of Lehi’s family? And then two, what is the DNA of ancient American peoples? We know some but not all the answers here. We’re continuing to learn over time. The body of types of DNA for these people is growing. With this one, we have no way of knowing the answer. We do not know what Lehi’s DNA was. The place where they were living at the time was a place that had immigration in and out. The kind of DNA they had is impossible to determine. So that’s the basic answer. You can’t tell because you don’t know both the DNA of Lehi’s family history.
QUESTION: So there are people in the Americas now might have DNA from Lehi? You don’t know the original.
TURLEY: They might be—they could easily be descendants of Lehi for the reason I explained at first with that chart. They might have the DNA of Lehi, we just don’t know what DNA Lehi’s family had.
QUESTION: You don’t think that he was from the house of Israel?
TURLEY: Yes, but so is most of the world today.
[It is astounding how poorly informed this last statement is. It is sheer nonsense to think that most of the world's populations are descended from the House of Israel...even partially. All of Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas were heavily populated many thousands of years before Israel even existed. China sustained massive populations well over 10,000 years ago, as did much of the rest of Eurasia. It is a myth that the House of Israel has played at centre stage of world affairs for the last couple of thousand years.] 
QUESTION: [01:53:07-01:53:22]
TURLEY: No but if, but if his area is a crossroad, we have immigration coming in, it doesn’t take very many generations before that DNA is, as I was showing you here earlier, it only takes one marriage for that to stop.
QUESTION: [01:53:39-01:53:46] I actually don’t think that’s correct according to scientific evidence today. I think you actually can trace back to with DNA and tell for instance where the Swedish people are coming from or where the Asian people are coming from. I think you can do that quite well according to reports I have seen. I’m very, very surprised that you’re [playing] that there is no evidence at all.
TURLEY: You can follow this.

All I said was if, if these people don’t intermarry, it’s one. But if they intermarry what happens is this line—let’s pose that this person has a child and that child marries here. 
OK? Then this DNA gets connected here and goes in along the male line all the way through. They have a daughter and that daughter marries and they have a line of daughters that could come in like this. But the original DNA batch from here? They don’t replicate down.



QUESTION: I’m not an expert but that’s your opinion and you know much more about this than I do. If you look at the tests they’ve done now with the DNA they’ve found with your mind it’s, you know, statistically, do you see that it’s very probable, the outcome compared to, you know? It would be easier if they found maybe some indication that would be stronger there would be some trace. What’s your opinion on it? Do you feel, would I lie to you? It’s statistically probable the way we see it?



TURLEY: I grew up with a PhD father who was a scientist, OK, he was a nuclear engineer and I was taught scientific method and statistics and the importance of recognizing the limitations of the science. What I’m saying about DNA is its an extremely important tool for finding our where peoples come from. Its limitation is, it can’t tell us about all the people who used to exist, it can only tell us about some. Now, maybe someday, the technology will improve. But today, it can’t. So, because of these limitations, for anybody who claims one position or another on Lehi’s families is inconsistent with the science. That’s all I’m saying.
Turley's claim that we need Lehite DNA in order to be able to detect his ancestors today is an argument that has been presented over and over again by several apologists including Jeff LindsayMichael R. Ash, FAIR, Brian Stubbs, Daniel Peterson and Matthew Roper to name a few.

We Don't Need Lehite DNA, We Need non-Asian DNA

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, or at the very least closely related to people living in the Middle East. We know a considerable amount about the DNA lineages of living people whose ancestors were Israelites reaching back 2600 years ago. Israelite DNA lineages belong to the same family groups found in European populations: the H, I, J, K, N, T, U, V, W, and X groups. Other Middle Eastern populations such as the Syrians, Egyptians, Lebanese, and other Arabic groups have similar mitochondrial DNA lineages belonging to these families. Essentially all Europeans and Middle Easterners possess one of these lineages.

LDS apologists didn't need ancient Asian DNA to be convinced that American Indians are essentially all descended from Asian ancestors. So why do we need ancient Israelite DNA? John Butler has loudly trumpeted the missing Lehite DNA argument; yet he was persuaded “that almost all Native Americans tested thus far possess genetic signatures closely resembling modern-day Asians”. 

One of the attractions of working with DNA is that it carries its own history within its sequence. People who are related to each other carry DNA that shares common spelling changes that have accumulated throughout time. Anthropologists don’t need an ancient DNA sample to confirm relatedness because related DNA lineages by definition share common DNA spelling changes that occurred in their ancestors. Modern populations carry everything we need because these informative DNA spellings are rarely lost over the generations; rather, they are inherited down the generations.

The other obvious problem is that we don't have any Native American DNA lineages that are even candidate Israelite DNA lineages. Those that don't belong to the five lineage families (A to D, X) are derived from Western European or African populations and arrived after Columbus. This is especially true for Mesoamerica, a place where many apologists believe the Book of Mormon was played out. Virtually 100% of Native American DNA lineages are Asian in origin. They belong to large lineage families that have common ancestors with Asian lineages going back about 15,000 years. 

Even if Asian lineages miraculously found there way to Israel 3,000 years ago and were picked up by the Lehites, they would be distantly related to the Asian lineages that found their way to the New World over 15,000 years ago. For the same reason contemporary Asian A lineages, for example, are easily distinguished from contemporary Native American A lineages.

BYU Apologetics is as official as it gets

Almost everything published by FARMS, FAIR and the Maxwell Institute at Brigham Young University appears with the following sort of disclaimer.
"The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
Now we know the truth. When Church leaders are in a corner and are forced to respond to difficult questions they assume the exact same position as LDS apologists at BYU. The church can no longer plausibly deny that the views of the Maxwell Institute do not represent the position of the church. When push comes to shove the church's unofficial apologists are pretty much as official as it gets.  






29 comments:

  1. Very helpful, Simon. I understand the motivations of those who want it all to be true, but evidence is what it is. God bless.

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  2. I might have a bit of respect if the prophets said they had prayed and not yet received answers. But it's like they aren't even trying, and there can be only one reason to not even try.

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  3. Well done Simon. You are the only one who can hold their feet to the fire on this issue.

    Tom

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  4. Thank you Simon. Are you familiar with this study that was published this month? It ties a population of living Native Americans to more than 5,000 years of ancestry in the same geographical region.

    Ancient DNA Analysis of Mid-Holocene Individuals From the Northwest Coast of North America Reveals Different Evolutionary Paths for Mitogenomes
    http://www.plosone.org/article/fetchObject.action?uri=info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0066948&representation=PDF

    "Those belonging to sub-haplogroups A2ag and A2ah exhibit temporal continuity in this region for 5000 years up until the present day."

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  5. Great work, Simon!

    Simon wrote:
    >> We Don't Need Lehite DNA, We Need non-Asian DNA
    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 BoM claims exactly this:

    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, and they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem? But behold, this is not all"

    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."

    There shouldn't be any question about DNA if you believe what the BoM says. Apparently, Turely and the GAs don't believe their own BoM anymore.

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  6. In the March 1, 1842 Times and Seasons Joseph Smith wrote that, ". . . the principal nation of the second race [i.e., the Nephites and Lamanites] fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century [A.D.]. The remnants are the Indians that now inhabit this country [America]."

    In 1833 Joseph Smith wrote to Rochester, New York, newspaper editor N. C. Saxton that "[t]he Book of Mormon is a record of the forefathers of our western Tribes of Indians ... By it we learn that our western tribes of Indians are descendants from that Joseph that was sold into Egypt…"

    It baffles my mind that for over 150 years the church could point to any one of millions of Native Americans and say…"look there is a descendant of Lehi". Yet in the last 25 years every so called known decedent has simply disappeared from off the face of the earth. The boundaries holding the descendants of Lehi has shrunk in direct proportion to our expanding knowledge in genetic genealogy to the point that today in 2013…the Mormon church cannot point to a single living human being living on the face of the entire earth and say…”Look, there is a Lamanite”

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  7. Would you help me out? I've been thinking about the DNA question for a couple of years, but not being a DNA expert find it hard to answer the following question. If a group of ~20 Israelites emigrated to a land populated by ~1 million Asian-descended Native Americans, and intermarriage ensued, would there be a DNA record of the 20 Israelites in modern Native American DNA populations?

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    Replies
    1. Putting this in the context of the Mormon story, there are a lot more points to add to the equation.

      1) There is no direct reference in the Book of Mormon to any population that originated anywhere but Israel, so the "land populated by ~1 million Asian-descended Native Americans" is already inconsistent with the narrative itself (feels like a pretty big storyline, doesn't it?).

      2) Even assuming that for some unimaginable reason the enormous indigenous population was left out of the direct narrative, remember that this people supposedly arrived with plants, animals, seeds, and a written and spoken language in addition to their DNA. And they were introducing themselves to a population that sure could have benefited from these things (not many animals that could have been domesticated in the Americas vs. Eurasia). The reality is there is no sign that ANY of these things were introduced to the native population, not just DNA.

      3) These 20 Israelites kept a written record that clearly demonstrates an awareness of their heritage that was passed from generation to generation for more than 1,000 years! They had Biblical sounding names for both people and locations. Yet in spite of keeping this written record and entirely Biblical-based naming convention that lasted for 1,000 years(!), there is no indication that it rubbed off on the native population.

      I could go on, but even surfacing those few points shows that answer should clearly be "yes"! Their impact on the existing population should have been far reaching far beyond just DNA - yet their is no indication on ANY front that these Israelites armed with civilization-altering information and knowledge ever made it to the Americas...

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    2. 30 yea-old Dad asked "If a group of ~20 Israelites emigrated to a land populated by ~1 million Asian-descended Native Americans, and intermarriage ensued, would there be a DNA record of the 20 Israelites in modern Native American DNA populations?"

      Yes, using mtDNA or Y-DNA studies it would be challenging but not impossible. But it is quite possible to detect their nuclear DNA. See this post.
      http://simonsoutherton.blogspot.com.au/2013/05/could-lamanite-dna-just-disappear.html
      I'm not sure how your question relates to the Book of Mormon. There is nothing in the Book of Mormon that suggests Lehi arrived in a Promised Land that was heavily populated.

      The Lemba are a good example of a small Jewish group that colonized a place in Zimbabwe. Their DNA showed clear links to Israel.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemba_people

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    3. Hi Simon,

      Thanks for not immediately dismissing my question (ahem, anon) and for being willing to admit it would be challenging. I believe the Book of Mormon is historical, and I believe my question is consistent with the Book of Mormon narrative. The Book of Mormon describes ~20 people that landed at an unknown location. Given that it took Europeans hundreds of years to map out and explore the Americas when they arrived ~1500, I find it unreasonable to expect that Lehi and/or Nephi could know the extent of native populations during their lifetimes.

      Additionally, as I read the Book of Mormon, both the description of wars during Nephi's lifetime and the description of Lamanite children having darker skin than their parents suggest the Lehite population must have encountered indigenous peoples. Mormon repeatedly states that he is lumping large, culturally (& I would surmise, genetically) disparate peoples under the two names "Nephites" and "Lamanites".

      I'll check out your links. Thanks again.

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    4. In 1976 Jeffery Holland taught the traditional hemispheric model for the setting of the Book of Mormon including the traditional view that the Americas were a land devoid on humans due to the effects of the universal flood.

      Here is what he then taught...

      "Two generations later the Lord was so pained by that generation “without affection” (Moses 7:33) that he opened the windows of heaven and cleansed the entire earth with water. Thus, the “everlasting decree” (Ether 2:10) was first taught that he who will not obey the Lord in righteousness will be swept from his sacred land. The lesson would be tragically retaught in dispensations yet to come.

      Holy scripture records that “after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof.” (Ether 13:2.) Such a special place needed now to be kept apart from other regions, free from the indiscriminate traveler as well as the soldier of fortune. To guarantee such sanctity the very surface of the earth was rent. In response to God’s decree, the great continents separated and the ocean rushed in to surround them. The promised place was set apart. Without habitation it waited for the fulfillment of God’s special purposes.

      With care and selectivity, the Lord began almost at once to repeople the promised land. The Jaredites came first, with stories of the great flood fresh in their memories and the Lord’s solemn declaration ringing in their ears: “Whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them.” (Ether 2:8.)
      Despite such counsel, however, the Jaredite civilization steadily degenerated into a violent society which forced a man to keep “the hilt of his sword in his right hand” (Ether 14:2)—until finally he “ate and slept, and prepared for death on the morrow.” (Ether 15:26.)

      But even as the last light flickered on Jaredite civilization, a bold new sun rose to illuminate a thousand years of Nephite-Lamanite experience on the same soil. Despite periods of war and rebellion, these people nevertheless had great moments of power and purity, including the personal ministry of the resurrected Christ, who walked and talked and prayed with these New World inhabitants for three indescribable days. There in the meridian of time the land enjoyed three generations of peace and perfection, which it would not know again until the Master’s millennial reign. June 1976 Ensign, Jeffrey Holland.

      30 year-old dad…you’re not old enough to remember the days when Holland’s views were the gold-standard within the church…I find it interesting that your generation has had to adopt an entirely new worldview from that of your parents generation in order to support the new reality that there is no evidence of any Israelite DNA in pre-Columbian Amerindians…belief in the Book of Mormon now requires that one reduces Lehite involvement in the Americas to a mere drop of Jewish DNA that has disappeared in a vast ocean of Asian inhabitants. From “principal ancestors to among”. Despite what the Book of Mormon and leaders such as Holland once taught. What a change from the days when Holland first delivered his address. Truly…we have lost

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    5. I didn't dismiss your question, 30 year old dad. I just jumped ahead a step to answer it in the context of the Book of Mormon narrative (which is exactly where you took it). The reality is that the Book of Mormon doesn't explicitly refer to any indigenous population in the Americas. Ever. In 1,000 years of building civilizations of great range, size, and scope. I didn't make it that way, I just acknowledge that as the fact that it is.

      This is why Simon said in his original response "I'm not sure how your question relates to the Book of Mormon. There is nothing in the Book of Mormon that suggests Lehi arrived in a Promised Land that was heavily populated."

      Your response ("Given that it took Europeans hundreds of years to map out and explore the Americas when they arrived ~1500, I find it unreasonable to expect that Lehi and/or Nephi could know the extent of native populations during their lifetimes.") is still inconsistent with the Book of Mormon narrative (as Simon then pointed out). This isn't about "knowing the extent of native populations" - this is about a complete lack of recording any mingling with the natives.

      And although it took Europeans hundreds of years to map out and explore the Americas, how long did it take them to record that an native population already existed?

      I, like you, once believed in the veracity of the Book of Mormon. But after a prolonged and painful process of study and soul searching, I finally realized that far and away the most likely explanation why the Book of Mormon isn't supported by reality is because it didn't happen! When you look at it from that angle, you don't need the myriad of apologetic theories that are spun to try and explain away reality.

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    6. Craig Paxton,

      I am also too young (as are you, I'm guessing) to remember when Orson Hyde thought the Book of Mormon narrative took place across the whole western hemisphere. I have no problem with men (even apostles) misunderstanding the BoM. My testimony of the BoM doesn't rely on either what Hyde or Holland once thought of the book.

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  8. 30 year old Dad,

    I have problems with so much of what you just said. There is not a single clear comment in the Book of Mormon that suggests the Lehites were surrounded by a large native civilisation. The Americas were widely populated when they allegedly arrived and they would have encountered them immediately. Why didn't anybody state the bleeding obvious? Read the Book of Mormon mate. Why were the Nephites referring to the Lamanites as "their brethren" 1000 years after arriving in the New World, if virtually all of those "brethren" were dark-skinned non-Israelite natives?

    And you think the dark skinned race weren't Lamanites. Instead, they were people that were absorbed by the Lamanites and happened to have a dark skin? So were any Lamanites cursed with a dark skin?

    I get the feeling you have your conclusion utterly and totally fixed. You will see what you have to see in the Book of Mormon in order to salvage your testimony. Rather than cherry picking the science you are cherry picking scripture.

    Wouldn't it be nice if you didn't have to believe the BoM is historical. Then you wouldn't have to believe things that are not true.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Simon,

      Are you aware of population maps for the Americas covering the time periods in question? I would be very interested in that information. Also, Hardy in "Understand the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide" gives reasons to believe that the Book of Mormon does mention indigenous peoples.

      I don't think skin color is a barometer of God's favor. I don't think it ever has been. With that said, I'm aware that plenty of Europeans and Americans in the 19th century thought that it was. Therefore, it's not surprising to me that some Nephites thought that as well. Joe Spencer has done a wonderful treatment on Jacob's condemning of Nephite racism, showing that at least one Nephite did not.

      I recognize that I, as a 21st century American view, the world very differently than a 7th century BCE Israelite. Would I reach the same conclusions about causality as Nephi or Hezekiah (2 King 19:35) given the same evidence? Probably not. That doesn't mean I can't appreciate what they thought or learn from their life experiences and religious views of the world. To me, that's not cherry picking.

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    2. Hi 30 year-old Dad said

      quote: "Are you aware of population maps for the Americas covering the time periods in question? I would be very interested in that information."

      If you are talking about the period 3000BC to 400AD then I doubt there are any reliable maps. Clearly the largest population centres were the three major civilizations, Aztecs, Incas and Maya. The only estimates I am aware of are the estimates of populations sizes just before Columbus.

      quote: "Also, Hardy in "Understand the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide" gives reasons to believe that the Book of Mormon does mention indigenous peoples."

      This is where we differ markedly in our approach. I am not looking for reasons to believe and picking and choosing. I have weighed the evidence on either side. The book is either historical or it isn’t. Even as a member my main concern was the truthfulness of the BoM.

      quote: "I don't think skin color is a barometer of God's favor. I don't think it ever has been. With that said, I'm aware that plenty of Europeans and Americans in the 19th century thought that it was. Therefore, it's not surprising to me that some Nephites thought that as well. Joe Spencer has done a wonderful treatment on Jacob's condemning of Nephite racism, showing that at least one Nephite did not."

      Any being of infinite intelligence who cares a jot about skin colour ceases isn’t worth spending any time with. The BoM is filled with references to skin colour. The Nephites who made these skin colour links did it in communication with their God. Apologists have found “reasons” to reinterpret those scriptures but again, those reasons are not enough for me. The evidence points to a 19th origin of the story.

      quote: "I recognize that I, as a 21st century American view, the world very differently than a 7th century BCE Israelite. Would I reach the same conclusions about causality as Nephi or Hezekiah (2 King 19:35) given the same evidence? Probably not. That doesn't mean I can't appreciate what they thought or learn from their life experiences and religious views of the world. To me, that's not cherry picking."

      I certainly wouldn’t put you in the class of Rodney Meldrum. Meldrum openly uses scientific evidence he likes and dismisses evidence that conflicts with his viewpoint. But I think you are very selective in the scriptural verses you use to support your view (which I suspect is fixed) and are prepared to dismiss many others that don’t. Why is it that for 1000 years the Nephites referred to the Lamanites as their brethren, if the Lamanites were almost exclusively not related? It is just unfortunate that when you weigh up all of the evidence it is entirely consistent with a 19th century origin. Its just the small number of Mormons with already fixed views that see something else.

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    3. "Also, Hardy in "Understand the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide" gives reasons to believe that the Book of Mormon does mention indigenous peoples."

      "Gives reasons to believe..." What a great quote! It makes me think of Blake Ostler in 2005: "There is another strong indication that there were indigenous others present in the Book of Mormon area, though it requires a careful reading to detect them."

      I always love these types of quotes, which only reinforce the central point of criticism: the Book of Mormon does not EXPLICITLY mention any indigenous people (after all, if it did mention them, no "careful reading" would be required!). People can "carefully read" anything they want into the text, it still doesn't mention what would be a monumental fact: there were other people already there when the Israelites arrived...

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  9. Hi Simon,

    I was wondering if you could take a look at a post from the RfM board directed toward you.

    http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,974985

    Basically, I'm curious to hear about your opinion on John Butler and his arguments to explain away the DNA problems. Do you happen to know what that part of the scientific community thinks of him in general?

    Thanks

    Joseph (UtahStateAgnostics)

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  10. I'm Anonymous 2.
    Simon, nice try. I'm just going to take on your very first map of the "Viking's voyage to the new world". Much literature (check Google Scholar) points out Vikings were in the Midwest, all the way to Minnessotta. Many say they came through the Mississippi river, but it seems more clearly they came inland. They were many of them, and that is as late as from the 1300s. We found several traces, but not DNA or Germanic languages in the Native Americans neither they picked their names, etc. Thus the DNA can not really tell us.
    I agree with 30 year dad (I guess I'm a 35 year dad :) . Summing up, of course the VAST majority of Native Americans came from Asia. But research suggests that many people from Africa, Europe and Asia visited the Americas, and there is not DNA evidence of that.
    In the BoM they said there was not anyone in the land, does it refer to the whole Americas??

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    1. I guess I can go by Anonymous 1 for this thread since I've been responding to 30yo Dad so far! I'll let Simon respond to the DNA for the other groups, but I don't get how people who believe in the Book of Mormon can't present their points of view in "apples to apples" scenarios consistent with the narrative of Book of Mormon.

      From the BofM we know that:
      1) Lehi's group was of Israelite descent and would have had non-Asian DNA markers of some form.
      2) There is NO explicit mention of contact with any other group of people of non-Isrealite descent.
      3) There IS explicit mention of their direct descendants (which by definition would include their DNA markers) in sizeable #s.
      4) There IS explicit mention of a continual presence of these direct descendants (with DNA markers) over the course of 1,000 years.

      If the BofM were a real history of a people with non-Asian DNA markers that had DIRECT offspring that populated in ANY area of the Americas consistently for 1,000 years then their DNA markers would be spread far and wide. Those DNA markers would be clearly evident even if there were other people in the land of Asian descent that they also had offspring with. That's not an unreasonable expectation and it certainly isn't consistent with real DNA markers in these populations today.

      If, however, the BofM were a real history of a people with non-Asian DNA markers that immediately encountered a sizable indigenous population and were immediately absorbed into that population with virtually no direct descendants having the opportunity to pass on their DNA markers - then the BofM narrative as it is written is fairly nonsensical. Points 2, 3, and 4 would need to be completely reversed in the narrative for it to be consistent with real DNA markers.

      Unfortunately, the BofM isn't a story of a group of people that came from Israel to a land populated with millions of natives who immediately absorbed the Israelites into their culture and caused their DNA to be so diluted as to be "lost". If the story did read that way, then at least your examples would be somewhat more "apples to apples" with the narrative of the book itself.

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  11. I'm anonymous 2. I think sometimes there is a little bit of arrogance on people doubting the BoM, and of course the believers of the BoM, don't get me wrong. In this occasion I would like to address the doubters again.
    In the website of MormonThink they introduce Simon as an "DNA expert", then Simon tells us he read a book on DNA. You read a book and a couple of websites and you are an expert?? Then folks here over and over say that there is only Asian DNA in the Native American. "This is just a fact" they suggest.

    What if a real DNA experts would tell you that they have found Hispanics in the USA with Jewish Y chromosomes, or indian chiefs (Native American) with almost not Asian DNA? Check Sykes (2013) http://www.amazon.com/DNA-USA-Genetic-Portrait-America/dp/0871403587/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1377363672&sr=1-2&keywords=sykes+dna Well guys, breaking news. Even if they would find Jewish DNA in Native Americans, or whatever, most of the doubters will still have be dedicated to attack the book. What is clear is that strong DNA studies are revolutionizing everything, and the movie is starting. Just for clarification I am not an expert, but I have a PhD though :)

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    1. I'll switch from Anon1 to xtbm so we don't have to keep identifying ourselves. :)

      You take a familiar approach - and one that I never cared for even when I was still an active believer myself - of Mormon apologists when you attempt to discredit Simon by making a statement such as "You read a book and a couple of website and you're an expert??" Why make light of his credentials like this? I would suggest if you have an issue with anything Simon has written, then provide a critique of the argument itself. That is much more difficult to do than to throw out an unsubstantiated critique on the validity of his credentials.

      It wouldn't surprise me at all if DNA experts were to tell me that they have found Hispanics in the USA with Jewish Y chromosomes, Native American Indian chiefs with non-Asian DNA. That is how DNA works - it gets rapidly diffused through populations after people from diverse genetic backgrounds intermix! So, in today's populations in the Americas I would fully expect to find all sorts of varied DNA markers in people who would least expect it (probably a lot of people, including Mormons who supported the ban on people of African descent, have recent African ancestors without even realizing it).

      But the real question is who were the Native Americans' ancestors prior to the documented arrival of the Europeans? Is there any genetic evidence to suggest that a group of Israelite people arrived in the Americas even somewhat close to 600bc? In the book that you provided a link to, is Sykes presenting a point of view that is even remotely compatible with the Book of Mormon story? Clearly not. And the dominant scientific point of view is still that the natives to the Americas who populated the continent until the arrival of the Europeans were of Asian descent. I'm not making that up, I'm just accepting it as the reality that it is.

      As it stands today, NOTHING in the DNA markers of native populations is consistent with the BofM narrative. If you are aware of any such publication or scientific-based findings that are even remotely consistent with narrative, please post it.

      And I agree with your statement that people would still have issues with the BofM even if genetic markers consistent with the narrative were eventually found. As I mentioned in my original post, DNA is only one of many scientific fields that fail to provide even an ounce of support the BofM narrative. Until several fields combine to provide some sort of supporting evidence for a very detailed, expansive history that covers two different migrations spanning thousands of years - well, the book will have plenty of people that find its claims of authenticity lacking.

      The fact that Mormon apologists are split into two camps on where these people supposedly lived tells you all you need to know about the state of hard, factual evidence in support of the story!

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    2. Hi Anonymous 2.

      In studies where scientists are trying to determine the origin of Native Americans they deliberately avoid people of mixed ancestry. They typically interview the candidates for the study and rule out people who are aware of any Europeans or Africans in their ancestry. When they do that they rarely find non-Asian DNA. But this method isn't foolproof. Its been many generations since Columbus and very early admixture would be difficult to avoid. A study that is focussing on Hispanics is clearly not asking the right question. The authors are not trying to determine where Native Americans originate from. It is aimed at determining the proportions of Hispanic DNA derived from various ethnic groups.

      I will allow you to judge my credentials. Just go to http://scholar.google.com/ and search using my name.

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  12. Hi Simon, thanks for your answer. I see now you are a DNA expert, for plants, but that is good enough. So I apologize. Searching your name in Scholar as you suggest is nice. Also searching your name in Wikipedia, FARMs site which answer to your book and Google in general is enlightining. I would like to read your 2013 publication one of these days. Anon2

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  13. Simon, I would like you opinion and what you know about the issue of the Joseph Smith's Book of Abraham. I believe the Mormon's apologists are having a tougher time with this issue since there is strong circumstantial and direct evidence in this case. Oh by the way I read you book "Losing A Lost Tribe" it really made me think about the Mormons , it convinced me that they have lost the DNA issue long time ago. How do I know this? When they give answers that are out context with the questions. l Thank You

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    1. The Book of Abraham is as blatant a fraud as they get. The church is very lucky that the papyri were not discovered in the Internet age. It would have done enormous damage to the church.

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  14. I just came across your post. Simon, I appreciate you talking about these things; keeping people accountable for their words. I'm not a scientist, just a lover of science, and it was the lack of evidence and consistency for/in the BOM, gathered from non-related (and non-"anti") sources that led me out of the church. (In other words, from reading science/archeological articles unrelated to the BOM.)

    This DNA issue was a big factor for me in my exodus from the church: the fact that MANY independent archeological studies have shown NO evidence for Jewish ancestry in the DNA of pre-Columbian human remains is a major "tell" about the fiction factor of the BOM. Church sanctioned "explanations" are so convoluted and strained that I knew they were just pulling stuff out of their butts, and using the science jargon to make their lies sound plausible. I believe it's called "lying for God." (Here's a hint: if God IS God, he wouldn't need or want people to twist truth to suit things. A valid God would want people to follow the evidence.) A series of articles that sums up the problems nicely was written about the "evidences" portrayed in the film "The Lost Civilizations of North America." ("Sums up" being relative since there are three long parts to this expose.) Here is the link to the last article for those interested (you will find the first two parts linked in the body of the third): http://www.csicop.org/si/show/civilizations_lost_and_found_fabricating_history_-_part_three_real_messages/

    Keep up the good work, Simon.

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  15. For those who believe there is good reason to think that there was a large pre-existing population present during the Book of Mormon time period, please explain to me why a book which is all about converting people to Christ never mentions any teaching of the native people?

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