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Thursday, 27 February 2014

DNA vs the Mesoamerican Limited Geography




The 20th century saw an explosion in scientific understanding of the prehistoric colonisation of the Americas. There is now broad scientific agreement Native Americans essentially all descend from Siberian big game hunters who walked to the New World over 15,000 years ago. Coincidentally, as the science blossomed, LDS scholars have steadily shrunk claims about the footprint of Book of Mormon peoples. First they acknowledged the presence of "other" native people in the Americas who probably arrived after the Book of Mormon period. They then conceded native people probably arrived first. Recently, apologists have begun incorporating large numbers of native people into the scriptural history. These dwindling apologetic claims have mostly centred on Mesoamerica, in particular the complex civilisations of the Maya. Their populations were large, they lived at the right time, and most importantly, they were the only New World culture with a system of writing. 

Scientists have failed to uncover genetic links to the Middle East among Native Americans in general and Mesoamericans specificallyThe latest whole genome marker studies have revealed in high resolution the complete absence of Semitic DNA in the Maya. At least 99.99% of the pre-Columbian DNA of the Maya is of Siberian origin. The same technology, now accessible from Ancestry.com, allows ordinary Mormons to explore their ethnic origins. Many Native American and Polynesian Mormons will soon be wondering where their Semitic DNA has gone. Its time that these futile, damaging and untrue ethnic claims were laid to rest. The Maya, just like other Native Americans, are unrelated to Semitic peoples and their cultures and major civilisations owe nothing to the Old World. 


The shrinking geography 

The most substantive response to my book Losing a Lost Tribe (2004)and the DNA issue in general, is The Book of Mormon and DNA Research (2008), a collection of essays previously published in The Farms Review and The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. The editor of the volume is non-scientist Daniel Peterson, a once prominent Mesoamerican apologist who is Professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic at Brigham Young University. Peterson was removed from his position as editor of The FARMS Review within the Maxwell Institute in June 2012 and now runs an independent online apologetic journal known as Interpreter

For years Daniel Peterson has been claiming that my criticism of the Book of Mormon, in light of DNA, has relied on a hemispheric interpretation of the book. That is, that the Book of Mormon people arrived in a vacant land and went on to colonise both hemispheres. If Peterson had taken the trouble to read my book he would have found that I spent far more time addressing the limited geography theories than the hemispheric geography. Like most apologists, Peterson has found it much easier to dismiss me based on things I never wrote.

But there is something that I said back in 2006 that Peterson has latched on to and repeated often, including in his introduction to the DNA research essays. He repeats it to make it look like I have carefully avoided addressing the limited geography theory.
"In a very real sense, this debate is (or should be) over. Just two or three years ago, the Signature Books Web page still featured an admission from Simon Southerton, an Australian plant geneticist and former Latter-day Saint who is now the most vocal critic of the Book of Mormon on DNA grounds, that "In 600 BC there were probably several million American Indians living in the Americas. If a small group of Israelites, say less than thirty, entered such a massive native population, it would be very hard to detect their genes today." This confession effectively concedes a major portion of what several in this volume argue regarding Amerindian DNA and the Book of Mormon." 
– Daniel Peterson, Introduction, The Book of Mormon and DNA Research, 2008

Peterson is particularly selective with his quotations. In order to keep up the pretence that I don't address the limited geography (which I did in 2004 and 2006) he has consistently avoided mentioning what I said in the remainder of the paragraph.

"However, such a scenario does not square with what the Book of Mormon plainly states and with what the prophets have taught for 175 years. The Book of Mormon records that soon after their arrival in the Americas, the descendants of Lehi “multiplied exceedingly and spread upon the face of the land” (Jarom 1:8). By about 46 BC, after which time they had joined with the Mulekites, they had multiplied until they “covered the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east (Hel. 3:8). By the time of the final conflagrations around 400 AD, the Israelite populations numbered in the many hundreds of thousands if not millions. There is not a single mention in the text of groups of people living in ancient America, other than the Jaredites, Lehites and Mulekites. All three population groups had very large populations. It is hardly surprising then that Joseph Smith and all other church leaders have regarded Native Americans to be the descendants of the Lamanites. The God speaking to Joseph Smith in 1830-31 referred to the “borders of the Lamanites” when talking about missionaries being sent to teach Native Americans who had been relocated to Missouri (D&C 28: 9; 54: 8)." (http://archive.is/yphHS)

The comment I made in 2006 was correct at the time, given the extent of the mitochondrial and Y-DNA studies that had been carried out. But the statement I made then is now wrong. Whole genome population studies were not feasible in 2006 but that is not the case today. It is now possible to scan entire genomes for hundreds of thousands of DNA markers and to detect traces of historical mixing between ancient populations with incredible clarity. 


DNA vs the Mesoamerican Limited Geography

Peterson summarises the Limited Geography in his inimitable style in the introduction to the DNA essays (see Fig 1).
"The broad consensus of serious Book of Mormon researchers, however, remains today what it has been for many decades: Book of Mormon events took place chiefly within a relatively small area in Mesoamerica. This consensus, reflected in a large number of scholarly publications, is scarcely to be overturned by the appearance of a handful of self-produced books and videos or an engaging fireside speaker or two."
Figure 1. Adapted from John L. Sorenson
An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon p 37.


For decades "serious" or "careful" or "diligent" Book of Mormon researchers have devoted almost all of their attention on Mesoamerica, the relatively small region encompassing southern Mexico and northern Guatemala and Honduras. Numerous scriptural contortions are required to fit this geography with the narrative of the Book of Mormon, which I review in another post on my blog. However, shrinking the geography to Mesoamerica has done nothing to reduce the gulf between mainstream archaeology and the views of LDS scholars. Non-Mormon scholars have found no material evidence of pre-Columbian contact between Mesoamerica and Old World cultures.  

A limited geography isn't the magic cure-all for the DNA problem as the apologists have loudly proclaimed. By shrinking the geography the apologists also shrink the size of the indigenous population the Lehites/Mulekites allegedly entered. They merely increase the proportion of Semitic DNA one would expect to find in the smaller territory. You can't have it both ways. So it is perfectly reasonable to expect genetic studies in Mesoamerica to reveal some evidence of pre-Columbian migrations from the Middle East...if they occurred. 

In this post I focus on DNA research on Mesoamerican populations. There are two key factors to consider when looking for the presence of Semitic DNA. First, what percentage of Mesamerican DNA is not derived from Asians? This is DNA that arose from "admixture" or by mixing with other non-Asian populations. This is the only putative Semitic DNA. Second, what percentage of that admixed DNA is likely to have originated in the Middle East? 


Admixture in Mesoamerican DNA

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) studies have proven to be particularly useful for revealing where pre-Columbian Native American DNA originated. MtDNA genealogies have been preferred to Y-DNA studies for ancestry studies because they largely avoid the confounding admixture due to the male-dominated early colonial parties. Additionally, the people who donated blood for these studies were interviewed to exclude people who are close relatives and those with non-native ancestors. When I published Losing a Lost Tribe in 2004, mtDNA lineages had been determined for just over 500 Central Americans. Just 4 individuals had a mtDNA lineage that didn't belong to the Asian A, B, C, D and X lineage families. Clearly, essentially all natives in Central American populations are descended from Asian ancestors.

In the years since the publication of Losing a Lost Tribe much more research has been published specifically on Mesoamerican populations, which are a subset of Central American populations. We now know the mtDNA lineages of over 1700 Mesoamericans (see table below). The mtDNA evidence suggests that Native Mesoamericans, like all other Native Americans, are largely descended from Asian ancestors. The very small number of non-Asian lineages that are found are almost certainly the result of post-Columbus admixture as they belong to lineage families that are most common in Europe or Africa. 




Only sixteen out of 1727 Mesoamericans (about 0.9%) possess a mtDNA lineage that didn’t originate in Asia. Of the non-Asian lineages, three have been found to be African L lineages, and two match mtDNA lineages found in Spain and Portugal. The remaining 11 lineages are either insufficiently characterised or most likely European lineages as the lineage family they belong to is found at high frequencies in Western European populations. 

The next question is what proportion of admixed DNA present in Mesoamericans could possibly be derived from Middle Eastern populations. 

Origin of Mayan admixture

If we assume 0.9% admixed DNA in Mesoamericans, is it possible to estimate what percentage of this admixed DNA could come from the Middle East? That question was answered in a paper published in the February issue of Science (Hellenthal et al. 2014), which outlines sophisticated methods for identifying evidence of historical interbreeding between populations. In contrast to mtDNA studies, which trace maternal lineages using a few dozen markers, the Hellenthal study examined over 400,000 DNA markers on 22 pairs of chromosomes. This is almost the entire human genome.

When people from different populations interbreed, their offspring's DNA becomes a mixture of each of the "admixing" groups (see Fig 2). As the admixed DNA is passed down the generations the size of the segments (on the chromosomes) become smaller and smaller due to reshuffling of the DNA in each generation. By studying the size of the segments it is possible to estimate how long ago the admixture event occurred. In addition, each population has a distinctive genetic "palette" of chromosomal segments that is essentially unique. By detecting many of these unique population-specific segments in modern populations it is possible to detect where interbreeding populations came from.

Fig 2. Admixture results in reshuffling of donor 
   DNA and a reduction in the size of segments 
derived from each donor.

Hellenthal et al. (2014) have also developed an interactive global map that details the genetic histories of 95 different global populations and allows us to track admixture events in the last 4,000 years. 


Five Native American populations were included in the study, including the Pima from northern Mexico, the Maya from Mesoamerica, and three South American populations. Its a fortunate coincidence that the Maya were included in the study because for several decades LDS Mesoamerican apologists have directly linked the Maya with the Nephite/Lamanite civilisations. Pictures of Mayan ruins are very familiar to Latter-day Saints and commonly appear in church manuals and artwork. This includes a series of twelve paintings by Arnold Friberg included in numerous editions of the Book of Mormon.   
  

For the Maya, Hellenthal et al. (2014) observed two "donor populations" that participated in an admixture event that occurred in the Maya between 1642CE and 1726CE (see Fig 3). For convenience they called the recent admixture donor "Spanish-like" and the other "Pima-like" to reflect the largest contributing population. The Spanish-like donors (orange circles) largely comprised Western European and African populations. The Pima-like donors (blue circles) largely comprised closely related Native American populations and more distantly related Eurasian populations. No donor DNA originated in any Middle Eastern populations. 
   
Fig. 3.  Western European and African sources of admixture identified in the Maya. The area of each circle reflects the proportion of the donor population's contribution to admixture in the Maya. Source: Chromosome Painting Collective / February 18, 2014

Interestingly, small proportions of some East Asian populations (Daur and Yakut from northern China and Siberia) appeared as "Spanish-like" recent donors to the Mayan population. If this genuinely reflects post-Columbus admixture it may be linked to the importation of Asian slaves during the early Spanish colonial period. It is also possible that it came across the Bering Strait in the last 4-7 thousand years with the Eskimos. The Apache and Navajo Indians are closely related to Eskimo populations in Canada and Alaska and are known to have migrated as far south as northern Mexico by about 1400CE. More detailed admixture studies on more Native American populations may shed more light on this.  

If we exclude the putative East Asian admixture, the level of admixture in the Maya is about 16% (see Table). The largest proportion of the admixture (88%) is derived from European and North African populations. The remaining 12% of donor DNA among the Maya is derived from Sub-Saharan African populations. It is probable that most of the Africans were imported as slaves by early Spanish colonists to use as labourers in New World plantations. Most of these African slaves were likely to have been purchased in North Africa by the Spanish from Arab slave traders.   




Has Semitic DNA been overlooked?

One thing that makes the detection of Semitic DNA in the Maya particularly straightforward is the fact that Native American and Semitic populations are very distantly related. In fact they have been completely separated from each other for close to 30,000 years. This means that there are many thousands of DNA markers that can be used to distinguish each group. The same is true for African and European populations. We can estimate the maximal proportion of Semitic admixture that may have escaped detection in the admixed DNA. It is somewhere between zero (what was observed) and 0.6 percent; the lowest amount of donor admixture detected in the Maya (the African San Kohomani). We can estimate this by multiplying the observed level of admixture (0.9%) by the lowest detected proportion within that admixture (0.6%). By my calculations the maximal proportion of Semitic DNA that may be present in the Maya, but escaped detection, is 0.009 x 0.0062 = 0.000056, or 0.0056 percent. 


In the past some LDS scholars have attempted to downplay the contribution the Lehites and Mulekites made to Native American populations. Some have argued the two parties may only have comprised 50 people at most and their DNA would be impossible to detect after being diluted in the large native populations. But even if small Semitic groups arrived 3000 years ago their genes would have spread widely through adjacent populations, and it would be almost impossible for their Semitic DNA markers to disappear.    

The very small percentage of admixture that has been detected in Mesoamericans essentially all stems from the very early Spanish colonial period. Admixed DNA has been shown to have entered Maya pedigrees around 1670CE and Semitic DNA has escaped detection. The DNA studies support the conclusion that greater than 99.994% of the DNA of the Maya is derived from Asian migrations over 15,000 years ago.

Contrast this with what the Book of Mormon says about the Semitic people who arrived in the Americas. Their crops thrived and wildlife (cow, ox, ass, horse, goat, wild goat) were found in abundance (1 Ne. 18:24-25). In 588 BC the Lehite populations were prospering “exceedingly” and “multiplying” in the land (2 Ne. 5:13) and by 399 BC they had “multiplied exceedingly, and spread upon the face of the land” (Jarom 1:8). In about 120 BC the “exceedingly numerous” descendants of Mulek (who had also sailed from Israel) joined the Nephites (Omni 1:17). At this time there were so many people in the Book of Mormon civilisations that they couldn’t number them because they had “multiplied exceedingly and waxed great in the land” (Mosiah 2:2). By 46 BC they had spread until they “covered the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east (Hel. 3:8).

Clearly, if the events described in the Book of Mormon 
took place anywhere, they did not take place in Mesoamerica. 


Let's lose the Limited Geography Model

The apologetic response to this devastating evidence will likely be the same as it always has been. Nit-pick the science, reinterpret scripture and demonise the messenger. We only have to look at Peterson (2008) to see this approach on full display. These are some of the pessimistic views Peterson's colleagues held about the power of DNA studies to trace genealogical ties to Israel:

"... given the present state of science, such an experiment is impossible to design and would not be taken seriously by the scientific community." – Michael F. Whiting

"...although it may be possible to recover the genetic signature of a few migrating families from 2,600 years ago, it is not probable. However, the data suggest that there has been a trickle of gene flow to the Americas from non-Asiatic source populations. Though far from verifying or proving the Book of Mormon, these data do allow for the plausibility of its story line." – David A. McClellan 
"... the insurmountable difficulties in identifying the genetic heritage of the chief ancestors of the Lehite peoples." – John M. Butler

"...the chance of scientifically tracing a person's genetic heritage by DNA alone is highly remote." – D. Jeffrey Meldrum and Trent D. Stephens

"Given...the extremely limited picture that contemporary genetics offers of our distant ancestral tree, it is unreasonable to insist that DNA studies alone can prove or disprove an Israelite connection." – Matthew Roper

To be fair to these apologists, their negative (albeit unjustified) comments, were primarily directed at the mtDNA and Y-chromosome research published before 2008. They would have been largely unaware of the whole genome marker research described above. But they will be sorely disappointed if they think sniping about the limited power of DNA technology will buy them much time. For just $99 Ancestry.com (Provo, Utah) will now test your autosomal DNA at 700,000 markers, almost twice the number of markers used in the Hellenthal study. Ancestry.com will then compare your DNA to samples from around the world to reveal your genetic background and ethnic history. Using the methods published in the Hellenthal study they could tell you exactly where your ancestors lived during the past 4000 years. The power of DNA to reveal human genealogies will be glaringly obvious to thousands of ordinary Mormons, and many Mormons who believe they are descended from the Lamanites are going to be in for a big surprise.


For $99 Ancestry.com will generate an estimate of your 
ethnicity based on 700,000 markers

LDS apologists will have few other options but to assume what should be the prophet's role and reinterpret scripture. And based on past performances we are in for some painful scripture twisting in the coming years. All bets will be off. Most of the apologists have grown to adulthood worshipping at the feet of Hugh Nibley, and as far as Nibley is concerned, the Book of Mormon is begging for some serious reading between the lines. 

"The first rule of historical criticism in dealing with the Book of Mormon or any other ancient text is, never oversimplify. For all its simple and straightforward narrative style, this history is packed as few others are with a staggering wealth of detail that completely escapes the casual reader. The whole Book of Mormon is a condensation, and a masterly one; it will take years simply to unravel the thousands of cunning inferences and implications that are wound around its most matter-of-fact statements. Only laziness and vanity lead the student to the early conviction that he has the final answers on what the Book of Mormon contains."
—Hugh Nibley, 1952


Here is a small taste of the "cunning inferences" that Nibley-inspired apologists have already dredged from scripture (see Peterson, 2008).

Everybody is a Lamanite! 
Sorenson and Roper argue that the term Lamanite lost its hereditary connotation and instead refers to a broad societal segment. It could be that the term referred to “all those” who were “led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord” (2 Ne 1:5). They argue that the “expression refers not only to the eventual Gentile (European) settlers of the 16th through 21st century but also to those ancient peoples whom the Lord brought as well.”  Apparently Gentiles who inhabited the Americas before, during, and after the Book of Mormon period are potential Lamanites. So who exactly isn’t a Lamanite?

Lamanites are like leaven
According to Meldrum and Stephens, genetic traces of the House of Israel could be thought of as leaven in bread. Since too much leaven can be tasted in bread and decreases its quality, one should not expect to find genetic markers for the children of Lehi or even for the children of Abraham.

Lamanites are unmentionable
In 1992 Sorenson argued that references to Native Americans are vague because they were outside the focus of the Book of Mormon and because the Nephite record keepers thought them too insignificant to mention. As they were not Lehi’s descendants, they were beneath mention in a book devoted to a favoured branch of the House of Israel. Sorenson speculates that acknowledging them would have been seen by Nephite chroniclers as a waste of space on their precious plates.

Interestingly, Roper (Peterson, 2008) argues the complete opposite of Nibley! He believes that the scriptural evidence for Native American “others” being present when the Lehites arrived, is “abundant,” while evidence against the presence of others is “sparse and unimpressive”. Yet since the book was published virtually all of its readers have missed any reference to these "others". One has to wonder if Roper has even read the Book of Mormon or if he has only searched it for evidence to back up his pre-conceived ideas.

Native Americans didn't have real “nations”
Roper also twists references to an unpopulated New World, “kept from the knowledge of other nations (2 Nephi 1:8–9).
” According to Roper, Indian tribes “did not yet merit the description 'nations.'” Ouch.

Come on guys, enough is enough. Its time to do what is right and let the consequences follow. It is insulting to Native Americans to pretend they were an unmentionable peasant underclass recruited into Lehite societies to build Nephite temples and fight in the Nephite-Lamanite wars. The Maya were already well on the road to developing complex civilisations by 800BCE. Why would they hand over the reigns to a small band of Semites who they vastly outnumbered? Why would they adopt Lehite names, and familial hatreds and carry on a pointless 1000 year-long brotherly feud? Its high time that the honourable and decent thing was done and these futile, damaging and racist arguments were laid to rest. 


References

Peterson, D (2008) The Book of Mormon and DNA Research: Essays from The FARMS Review and the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.

Sorenson L. John (1992) When Lehi’s Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There? Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 1:1-34.


References to Mesoamerican mtDNA table
1. Bortolini MC et al. (1998) Diversity in protein, nuclear DNA, and mtDNA in South Amerinds - agreement or discrepancy? Ann. Hum. Gen. 62, 133-145.

2. Gonz├ílez-Oliver A et al. (2001) Founding Amerindian mitochondrial DNA lineages in ancient Maya from Xcaret, Quintana Roo Am. J Phys. Anthrop 116, 230–235.

3. Kemp, B. M. et al. (2005) An analysis of ancient Aztec mtDNA from Tlatelolco: Pre-Columbian relations and the spread of Uto-Aztecan. Biomolecular Archaeology: Genetic Approaches to the Past, ed Reed DM (Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL), pp 22–46.

4. Kemp BM et al.(2010) Evaluating the farming/language dispersal hypothesis with genetic variation exhibited by populations in the Southwest and Mesoamerica. PNAS USA 107, 6759-6764.

5. Lorenz JG & Smith DG (1996). Distribution of four founding MtDNA haplogroups among native North Americans. Am. J Phys. Anthrop. 101, 307-23.

6. Merriwether DA et al. (1994) Genetic variation in the New World – ancient teeth, bone and tissue as sources of DNA. Experientia 50, 592-601.

7. Sandoval K et al. (2009) Linguistic and maternal genetic diversity are not correlated in Native Mexicans. Human Genetics 126, 521–531.

8. Schurr TG et al. (1990) Amerindian mitochondrial DNAs have rare Asian mutations at high frequencies, suggesting they are derived from 4 primary maternal lineages. Am. J Hum. Gen. 46, 613–623.

9. Torroni A et al. (1994a) Mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome polymorphisms in 4 Native American populations from Southern Mexico. Am. J Hum. Gen. 54, 303-18.

10. Torroni A et al. (1994b). Mitochondrial DNA 'Clock' for the Amerinds and its Implications for Timing Their Entry into North America. PNAS USA 91, 1158-62.

11. Salas A et al. (2009) Mitochondrial echoes of first settlement and genetic continuity in El Salvador. PLoS ONE 4(9): e6882. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.00068

12. Gorostiza et al. (2012) Reconstructing the history of Mesoamerican populations through the study of the mitochondrial DNA control region. PLoS ONE10.1371/journal.pone.0044666

63 comments:

  1. Outstanding work Simon.

    Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  2. No doubt this excellent work will elicit yet more Monty-Python-Black-Knight-type responses from certain apologists while the leadership of the LDS Church remains silent. Dr. Southerton has laid out the scientific case very well, however, and further attempts at obfuscation and deflection by apologists will only serve to confirm their status as science deniers.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I enjoyed this comment on another blog.

    "At least 99.99% of the pre-Columbian DNA of the Maya is of Siberian origin."
    Only 99.99%? To quote Howard from the Big Bang Theory: "So you're sayin' there's still a chance!!!"

    ReplyDelete
  4. Simon,

    Very interesting article. I'm curious, though, about DNA from ancient sources. DNA from people living now is a great resource, but what does DNA from people who lived closer to the time period in question tell us? I realize there are probably fewer examples of ancient Mayan DNA, but surely there are some examples. If so, how does that DNA compare with what we're seeing in these newer studies?

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Simon,

    Very interesting and well written document. I sincerely appreciate the work and effort provided to further educate those of us who are occasionally confronted with the notion that the maternal DNA methods used in 2006 provided insufficient evidence to debunk the Book of Mormon. This will be very useful in kindly conversing with our friendly and often un-informed neighbors and friends who would have us re-convert to incorrect and faulty religious histories and values. I always find it interesting that the apologists are constantly stating that there is "new evidence" being unearthed or a new archaeological dig occurring somewhere that is "proving the Book of Mormon to be true". Not surprisingly the new evidence never appears or contradicts the very kind of information these people are hoping for. It's a constant theme. This evidence is difficult to refute. I'm always amazed at how far Mormon leaders go to stretch truth to the finest thread in trying to maintain some semblance of credibility. I am equally amazed at how tenuously members hold onto their faith despite evidence against it. It's not difficult to understand on an emotional level, but very difficult to comprehend on a factual evidence-based level.

    Thank you again for communicating and updating myself and others on this excellent science.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Why do you assume that the people in the BOM were Palestinians? It would seem that you make a lot of assumptions that are exactly that, and not fact. For example, this study...

    http://gbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/12/14/gbe.evs119.full.pdf

    seems to indicate that some Jews are not genetically Palestinian. Could some Palestinians not be genetically Jewish? If someone claimed to be from Jerusalem, does this mean they are genetically related to their surrounding companions? I am not sure the issues is as cut and dried as you make it. You have evidence that some people are from some areas, and then trying to pain with a broad brush. I know you do not like Mormons, but I wonder if this has colored your efforts?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The study you reference was designed to explore Jewish ancestry during the last millennium or so AFTER they left the Middle East. We all know they have mixed with Europeans and other groups. The study shows that. So it’s not really relevant.

      The Hellenthal study focused on native populations that haven’t moved nearly as much as the Jews. We know Jews are closely related to their Semitic neighbours (Palestinians, Druze, Bedouins), so these populations are representative of Semitic DNA BEFORE it left the Middle East.

      I make the assumption that BOM people are related to other Middle Eastern populations, because that is obvious from the text. Lehi was Jewish. Mulek was Jewish. Jewish populations in 600BC had not been wandering through Europe, Asia and Africa.

      All the admixed DNA comes from Spain, Ireland and Africa and it came to the Americas in the last 500 years. What we should expect to see is evidence of Semitic DNA entering Maya populations roughly 2000 years ago. The Hellenthal study was designed to detect population mixture within the last 4000 years, but it found none. I am just presenting the facts that the science has uncovered.


      Delete
    2. Did you read the Oxford paper? When you say "know Jews are closely related to their Semitic neighbours (Palestinians, Druze, Bedouins)" what you mean to say is that you assume...."

      That is the point, there is some debate that Jews themselves are not always related to their Palestinian brethren (not sure why you lumped the Bedou in here since they are a lifestyle, not an ethnic group. They are still Arabs...?). This debate exists and we are referring to something that is several hundreds of years old, not over a millennia and a half.

      Whether or not the events described in the BoM are historically provable is simply a canard. It will never be proven, it could only be possible. Your counter insistence that it is proven impossible is not correct either. You are abandoning science because of a grudge.

      Delete
    3. Yes, I read the paper. Did you?
      This is a quote from the paper you sent me!! "Palestinians were considered proto-Judeans because they share a similar linguistic, ethnic and geographic background to the Judeans."

      Palestinians, Judeans, Bedouin Arabs, Druze, Lebanese, etc are all closely related groups. They are Semitic. Common language common genes. Sure, Jews got mixed up with other European populations after they left but that is not relevant to Lehi. He lived in 600BC. So, as the paper you sent me states, the Palestinians are a good proto-Judean population. This means they are a good representation of what Jewish groups were like before leaving Israel.

      Delete
  7. "a Lamanite is a descendant of one Lehi who left Jerusalem six hundred years before Christ and with his family crossed the mighty deep and landed in America"

    "Now the Lamanites number about sixty million; they are in all of the states of America from Tierra del Fuego all the way up to Point Barrows, and they are in nearly all the islands of the sea from Hawaii south to southern New Zealand."

    "The term Lamanite includes all Indians and Indian mixtures, such as the Polynesians, the Guatemalans, the Peruvians, as well as the Sioux, the Apache, the Mohawk, the Navajo, and others. It is a large group of great people."

    One of the revelations that came to Joseph said: “But before the great day of the Lord shall come [the Second Coming], Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose.

    "Today we have many Lamanite leaders in the Church. For example, in Tonga, .... we have three large stakes. Two of them are presided over wholly by Lamanites and the other almost wholly by them. There are three stakes in Samoa and another is to be organized in those small Samoan islands. Four more stakes with Lamanite leaders! There are three stakes of Zion in Mexico City with Mexican leaders—Lamanite leaders. The stake presidencies, the bishops, the high council, the auxiliary leaders—everybody, with one or two exceptions—are Lamanites. In Monterrey, Mexico, in Guatemala, in Lima, in New Zealand, and elsewhere we have stakes of Zion with all their appropriate leaders."

    That is in direct fulfillment of the prophecies that were made, and it is a great change. A dozen years ago there was not a single Lamanite stake in the world. There were no Lamanite bishops; there were no Lamanite stake presidents. In a period of a few years all of this has come about.

    Every Lamanite who reads the Book of Mormon with a sincere desire to know its truth will get a testimony that those are his ancestors, that it is his record, and that he is one of them.

    “And for this very purpose are these plates preserved, which contain these records—that the promises of the Lord might be fulfilled, which he made to this people; And that the Lamanites might come to the knowledge of their fathers, and that they might know the promises of the Lord, and that they may believe the gospel and rely upon the merits of Jesus Christ, and be glorified through faith in his name, and that through their repentance they might be saved.” (D&C 3:18–20.)
    In 1963, 23 percent of all the baptisms in the Church were Lamanite baptisms. There were twenty-five thousand in one year. In 1970 there were even more. All this indicates the responsiveness of the Lamanites to the truth.

    We have probably thirty thousand Lamanite members in Central America, and I remind you this is the result of only a relatively few years. There must be about one hundred thousand Polynesians in the Church, so that we have now approximately a quarter million Lamanites.

    It is pleasing to know that we have hundreds of Lamanite missionaries who are out for two years …. of nearly one hundred missions, the four highest of all are Lamanite missions. That is, the Mexico North Mission, the Guatemala-El Salvador Mission, the Mexico Mission, and the Tonga Mission. …. It means the Lamanites are accepting the gospel as no other people. They recognize something for which they have been waiting for a long, long time, and now they are receiving the gospel.

    You are of royal blood, the children of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Lehi.

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    1. Seriously, what planet are you on? what's with all the Lamanites? Haven't you read the article that Simon published? they don't exist!!

      Delete
  8. I just shared 11 quotes above from an important sermon given by Spencer W. Kimball, 12th president of the church, when he was acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve. Never has any church leader denounced what Kimball taught. It amazes me how the apologists will try to say anything at all on this topic without fairly and adequately addressing what the church has taught throughout its history.

    Exhibit A (and there are thousands more)
    https://www.lds.org/ensign/1971/07/of-royal-blood?lang=eng

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  9. Don't forget how Assistant LDS Church Historian Richard E. Turley has answered this issue in the past.

    http://simonsoutherton.blogspot.com/2013/07/swedish-rescue-official-church.html



    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.


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  10. The problem with all of this is that it is anti-apologetics, out to disprove something that cannot really be disproved, in direct opposition to apologetics, which is out to prove something that can never really be proven. The motivating force here is animus for the LDS Church. Apologists are acting out of faith, desire to reinforce their faith. Anti-apologetics is based on anger, resentment, and in many cases hate.

    Southerton's premise, that there were no Jews in the Americas, cannot be proven. This does not mean that the Mormon apologists can prove that there were "Jews" in the Americas. Nevertheless, Apologists have an advantage, since all they need to show is that there is a possibility. There is no evidence of the Exodus either, but Judaism has an entire system of life based around it.

    At the end of the day, both sides are tilting at windmills. At least for apologists, they are tilting because they believe in something. For the anti-apologists....imagine spending your whole life angry at something you do NOT believe in. That really is sad and pathetic.

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    1. So Anonymous at 28 February 2014 12:28, I'm hoping you can help me out on a couple of points regarding your post?

      First could you to demonstrate with evidence why you think Simon makes his case because of anger? I don't understand how you can make that conclusion. I would assume you're not claiming a supernatural power like clairvoyance. It seems that Simon might be doing this out of love for his fellow being and because he values the truth and understands that evidence and rational thinking are the best way to get at the truth. How is it that you believe you can discern Simon's intent?

      Secondly, you've attempted to shift the burden of proof to Simon, "since all they [the apologists] need to show is that there is a possibility." Since it is the Church's (and therefore the apologists') claim that is extraordinary and contradicts the vast majority of experts in all fields possibly related to the claim, aren't the apologists actually left with the burden of demonstrating why their belief should be accepted? As Carl Sagan said, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Put another way, if the Church and its defenders offer no evidence for their claim, can we not be comfortable in rejecting their claim without providing any further evidence than that which provides the basis for the scientific community's conclusions on the matter?

      Thanks for your help!
      Zack Tacorin

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    2. Anonymous (the one who posted on February 28th).

      You are projecting your view of the situation, the idea that it is "sad and pathetic", onto reality. When, in fact, that may not be the case. Our minds can only process a limited amount of information, which is only a fraction of the information that actually exists for any given situation. The variables that you have factored in have lead you to create a model in which, the only way someone would be an 'anti-apologist', is because they are angry. That is just silly. I get it, I do. But it is just silly. Really the only honest answer is that you don't know, and not because you're stupid, but because you simply cannot factor in the thousands of bits of information that would give you a complete picture. Plus if you are a believer, or have had an issue with an 'anti-apologist' in the past, then you are even less likely to make a rational judgement about the situation due to a hijacking of the amygdala.

      Lets take a hypothetical example. What if I, or an organization that I am a part of, claim that there is a giant purple monster that lives in the Great Salt Lake, and it eats salt to stay alive. First off, the burden of proof is on me to demonstrate some evidence for such a creature. But if there is a person, or group, that chooses to come out and say, "This claim simply cannot be true, for one, an organism cannot live off of only salt, in fact, it would kill it. The Great Salt Lake would cause this creature to be visible due to the buoyancy of the water. Etc Etc.."

      Should I, or apologists for my cause, assume that this person is angry? Would it be 'really sad and pathetic' for this person to make a statement like that?

      --Or could it be that this person has knowledge that I did not have when making this claim? Maybe they are simply making a matter-of-fact statement in regards to reality? Maybe this person is motivated by truth, or they find it amusing, or entertaining to debunk faulty claims? Maybe they want to point out the faulty reasoning so that it doesn't affect others who may be influenced by such a statement? Maybe they are angry...but at what? Maybe they are angered by nonsense? Maybe if I am receiving donations based off of my faulty claims, they want to inform people so that they aren't cheated based on a faulty premise?

      ...Who knows? ...I don't.

      Just because taking a simplified black & white view of reality doesn't make it an accurate reflection of reality. In other words, it doesn't make it true.

      The model you are working with is undoubtedly flawed and limited. In forming the model, it has been filtered through your assumptions, special pleadings, biases, prejudices, up-bringing, current mood, etc.

      Why not just be humble enough to admit you do not know the reasons behind others actions, and realize that making straw man arguments and generalizations are strictly hypothetical--and like any hypothetical, it exists only in your head? As does the model in which you compare 'reality' to?

      I'm sorry to tell you, you don't know. But that is okay, because I don't know either.

      Delete
  11. So the apologists should be free to twist science to back up their faith? And everyone else should just shut up?

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  12. Simon, thank you for the excellent summation.

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  13. Anonymous 28 February 2014 12:28
    I have just deleted one of your comments because you got personal. One more and I'll delete everything you post here.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    2. You should put it back up (odd you would jest about it elsewhere but not follow through with it here). Your vendetta here is not about science, it is about the personal nature of being shamed and wanting to hit back. And for the record I'm not a Mormon apologist. I have no role in your vendetta, on either side, but it is easy to see your fight for what it is. I have never met a group more mentally unbalanced than the ex-Mormon. Sure, Mormons believe in some quirky things, but ex-Mormons have an unparalleled hate for something they do NOT believe in. It is like you are all mentally unbalanced.

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    3. Sensing a bit of hatred here. But I guess if it righteous hatred its OK. Right?

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    4. I am certain you lack the self awareness to see all of this, but...

      I was curious about Mormons, I have a few friends who are Mormon, and they have been in the news a lot, so I decided to read some online. Yes, Mormons are quirky. They believe in some weird stuff. They also tend to be fairly sincere, and unlike most, they live their religion in most cases, so I respect that.

      Then there are ex-Mormons. In most cases these people are like any other group, they go on with their lives and do something else. Some do not, however. This is one of the weird things, the obsessive nature of some ex-Mormons. Take Simon Southerton. According to Ex-Mormon Scholars Testify, Simon resigned from the Mormon church in 1998. You know this because he said "I resigned from the LDS Church in 1998...". Except this is not true. He never resigned. Simon was kicked out in the mid 2000's for adultery. He does not want anyone to know this, it is all over the internet, but he will suppress it.

      It is currently 2014.

      So for almost 16 years, Simon has not believed in the religious claims of the LDS Church. But he is still here.... This is not healthy. I do not believe in the claims of, well...., a lot of people. But I am not losing sleep over it either. I browsed a lot of ex-Mormon communities on the internet and there are people there who have been ex-Mormons for decades, who are still obsessed with the Mormon church.

      Something is very wrong with these people.

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    5. To Anonymous2 March 2014 08:23,

      You've stated that it "is not healthy" that Simon "is still here." This sounds like the assertion of a trained professional with clinical observation of the subject in question. Not being professionally trained in the social sciences, I would appreciate it if you could explain how you know it's not therapeutic and actually healthy to demonstrate the scientific evidence that contradicts extraordinary claims? Not being as trained as you seem to be, and being a former Mormon I get confused by this. I mean, what if I had been able to read Simon's analyses prior to joining the LDS Church? It seems that could have helped me avoid a lot of pain and unnecessary strain on familial relationships. Don't Simon's analyses provide potential help to many? Why is that unhealthy in your expert opinion?

      Also, someone of your ability has probably also noticed that it's not just many of the former LDS that seem to think and write a lot about their former religion. What do you make of all the former JWs, Scientologists, Moonies, etc., that continue to show the evidence contrary to the claims of their former religions? This seems so common, that it makes me think it is a product of the religions in question. Is it really unhealthy for these individuals to warn others?

      Thanks for any light you can shed on this!
      Zack Tacorin

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    6. Also to Anonymous2 March 2014 08:23

      You wrote, "I am certain you lack the self awareness to see all of this, but..."
      To the untrained like me, that seems a little mean spirited, judgemental, etc. Is that some kind of healthy, tough-love type of therapeutic approach to helping Simon?

      Thanks again!
      Zack Tacorin

      Delete
    7. Certitude is an emotion. And like any emotion, it can function independently of reality.

      Delete
    8. The "anonymous" who's taking potshots at ex-Mormons is putting on a display of what Simon and others including myself have termed "burn the straw man" tactics in order to avoid addressing the factual science being reported. There's a misrepresentation of Simon's actions; he resigned his church callings but retained his membership.

      His excommunication was widely reported in the media, and Simon commented on it himself. The grounds for the church court were "improper relationship" (while he was separated from his wife) and were brought after he reconciled. Simon took the fight to his persecutors, essentially noting that they weren't charging him with apostasy. That would've permitted him to bring his DNA science into the "court of love"; the irony is noted in that one since they are hardly "loving actions." That is tantamount to blaming Dr. Southerton for the fact the LDS Church is a historical fraud. I've known dozens of members whose marriages have encountered the rocky shores of disbelief; some have foundered and some have survived, and to bring this sort of smear into the discussion is particularly odious.

      Finally, if past experience is any indication, it's at least an even money bet this poster is being dishonest and is, in fact, a believing Mormon. The underlying acrimony directed at "wicked anti's" generally betrays them at some point.

      Delete
    9. The "anonymous" poster who clearly is an active Mormon is calling all ex Mormons bitter and twisted. I left the church over 10 years ago and as a result my family didn't want to know me, my siblings think I'm an Apostate, my wife left me and took the children, purely on my inactivity. I see them at weekends now. My Parents pray for my soul. There are serious implications when leaving the Mormon church, that's why so many are just there for the ride, they don't want to upset family and friends. So who is sad and pathetic, it certainly isn't me. But I hope you see my point, it's hard to let go when all around you see you as "different and weird" for not believing.

      Delete
  14. woolybruce@hotmail.com. This article is interesting. I had long abandoned the concept of Gold Plates. My observation to an orthodox LDS member is why is it that the Church is always on the other side of independent scientific evidence. And more evidence distances the church from reality. Made even more difficult in that the Church has tied its validity to the reality of Gold Plates. Since my roots were the Utah pioneers, the original Mormons, my family for generations is intertwined with the Church. Point being I am not going to become an Evangelical (they have bigger problems than Mormons), or move to Australia to explore the outback. Besides the Colorado Plateau is in the heart of Mormon Country, and the Colorado Plateau is where my interest is. So how does one exist peacefully in the middle of Mormonism? Since most Mormons are vastly more interested in the number of Missionaries and the number of Temples than Central American DNA or LDS History, one can co-exist by not having intellectual discussions. Even without Gold Plates, doesn't Mormonism have something relevant to maintain existence?

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  15. Whitethunder2 March 2014 11:51

    Thank you Simon for your great work. It was Armand Mauss who recently claimed that LDS geneticists had fought critics to a stand-still on the DNA issue (http://www.reddit.com/r/exmormon/comments/1x9wd0/ama_series_armand_l_mauss/cfczv90). Yet you continue to smash through their arguments with the hammer of science. A better way of saying what Mauss was saying is the LDS apologists have conceded more ground such that we are at a temporary stand-still from time to time, until science rolls forward again and dismantles more of their arguments.

    It seems to be you alone battling dozens of apologists and geneticists, and you keep coming out on top. Such will always be the case when you have the truth on your side.

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  16. Thanks Simon. Seems these experts always work very hard to make the discussion fit their pre conceived ideas. I am a sixth generation member of the proud heritage, but a fifty year apostate of the first order. It is sad to see good friends continue to defend the defenseless, especially with all the great work you have done with DNA. The above comment by Anonymous rings slightly familiar except that living on the Paunsagunt Plateau here on the Grand Staircase reveals more important things than Missionaries and Temples. Maybe I might eventually try to discuss DNA with them but on second thought I won't.

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  17. Simon, I have a question for you. Setting the Book of Mormon aside for a moment, how watered down would someone's DNA need to be in order to escape being detected in a population?

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    1. Its difficult to give a meaningful answer to your question. Are we talking about one person or a group and what is the size of the population? See my answer to your second question(s) below.

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  18. Mormonism has caused much more harm than good. That's why we continue to warn others about it.
    Kent W Gomm

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  19. I have an additional question (see my comment above). From what I can tell of the study, the genetic ethnicity analysis (i.e. the map you posted with lines drawn from the maya to all the other peoples) is limited to the DNA which was part of the admixture event. And, they only include the two most recent admixture events. For instance, in one Mayan admixture event, the Maya are linked to the Pima - however, in the other Mayan admixture event, the Maya are not linked to the Pima. So, this is not a breakdown of the entire Mayan genome even though that is precisely what you appear to be implying in your post. My question is, then, do you know of a study which has broken down the entire Mayan genome and found that none of it resembles DNA found in people of middle eastern origin?

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    1. In the second event analysis, the authors were interested in seeing where the African populations originated. So they asked their model to assume Native Americans and Europeans were one mixing population (that is why these populations are blue) and African populations (orange) represent the other mixing group. The authors already knew that the Pima and Maya are closely related from the first event analysis (an abundant other evidence) so they excluded them and just used the two South American populations, which have no detectable admixture. The only admixture events that they detected occurred around 1670AD, and included Europeans and Africans.

      In short, for the first event the Hellenthal model inferred that Europeans (best represented by Spanish) and Native Americans intermixed. For the second event, the model inferred that – at approximately the same time – individuals from Africa intermixed with this mixed group of Europeans + Native Americans. The African mixture becomes clearer in the second event analysis.

      Finally you asked… “My question is, then, do you know of a study which has broken down the entire Mayan genome and found that none of it resembles DNA found in people of middle eastern origin?”

      About 15 million SNP markers have been identified in the human genome. The Hellenthal study focused on a subset of these markers (474,491 SNPs) because they are the most informative for distinguishing populations. It's a pretty comprehensive study of most of the genome and they found no evidence of a Middle Eastern admixture event.

      How little Middle Eastern DNA would satisfy you Ryan? If you are prepared to accept vanishingly small admixture then please explain how such an insignificant group managed to assume the leadership of large indigenous populations in Mesoamerica. LDS apologists never clearly describe how this absolutely remarkable non-hostile, silent takeover could have been accomplished. The Book of Mormon tells us nothing about it. Scholars have estimated the Maya population was approximately 200,000 in 600BC. Their ancestors had been living in Mesoamerica for thousands of years prior to 600BC. Please explain why they would allow white-skinned foreigners who couldn’t speak their language and had no knowledge of their customs and government to just waltz in and take over?

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    2. Simon,

      Thank you for replying - I really do appreciate the time you are taking to help answer my questions. I think I understand what you are saying with regards to the Hellenthal study, and that makes sense.

      In my first comment, I asked how watered down someone's DNA would have to be in order to escape detection in a population. You asked for clarification, so let me put it another way. My ethnic genetic origin is 99% Scandinavian. If I could go back in time to 600 B.C. Mesoamerica and manage to be accepted by the people and I marry a native woman and have an average number of children with her, and those children in turn marry among the natives and have children, and my grandchildren in turn marry among the natives and have children with them, etc. - would you expect the Hellenthal study in 2014 to be able to find that admixture event? If so, then how far back in time would I have to go and how large of a population would I have to travel to in order to cover up my admixture event?

      Now in answer to your question, let's start by breaking down the three barriers you present.

      First, the language issue. I'm not sure the Lehites would have ever fully mastered the native language, but if their initial encounter was with a friendly group of natives then I don't think it would have necessarily taken long for them to pick up the essential elements.

      Second, white skinned. This may actually have worked in the favor of the Lehites, as it may have generated interest among the natives. You seem to be assuming that all the natives would be prejudiced against people who are different, when in fact they may just as easily have been prejudiced in favor of new, different people.

      Third, customs and government. Well, I think they were mostly broken down into small villages with little central government in 600 B.C. And I see no reason to believe they would be offended by foreigners with different customs.

      Now, let's move to your central question: "please explain how such an insignificant group managed to assume the leadership of large indigenous populations in Mesoamerica."

      Well, the LDS Church gained about 10,000 converts between 1830 and 1840. So, it's not impossible for a peaceful religious movement to grow at an exponential rate. As for Laman and Lemuel, it sort of sounds like they broke off from the main church and took many of the converted natives with them. Perhaps this is comparable to the "protestant reformation" or the "FLDS movement" or whatnot. I don't think it's impossible that Laman led his small group to align with other native groups and that Laman wasn't necessarily "the leader" over all the "Lamanites" but that the "Lamanites" were called such for convenience, as a way of identifying hostile native groups. Indeed, Jacob used the word "Lamanite" to describe everyone who sought to destroy the people of Nephi (Jacob 1:14). But Laman was prominent, at least as a historical figure to his progeny, as seen in Mosiah 10:12-16. Although by that point so many events had transpired and the Nephites and Lamanites had inter-mingled to such an extent that the Lamanites may have learned the stories, about their origins and about Laman, from Nephite defectors trying to stir them up to anger and/or to manipulate them. Or course, this is speculative. And you probably have more questions or objections, which I hope you will share and talk about.

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    3. Ryan,

      Do you think you might be trying to shift the burden of proof in this discussion inappropriately? You're positing possibilities, not evidence. Yet the claims of the LDS Church are extraordinary. Shouldn't we all demand extraordinary evidence before believing such claims?

      On the other hand, Simon's general conclusions have already been made in other scientific fields like linguistics, anthropology, paleobotany, paleozoology. He's pointing out that in addition to all the evidence for conclusions that are already accepted (in other words they're not extraordinary), there's more evidence from the field of population genetics making the case even stronger for the ordinary conclusion that there were no pre-Columbian Semitic migrations .

      Where is the evidence for the Book of Mormon claims?

      My best,
      Zack Tacorin

      PS. I think you may have missed the point on the language issue. But then again, maybe I missed Simon's point. Without a firm grasp of the native language(s), how could the Nephites and Lamanites have had such a remarkable cultural takeover as suggested by some apologists? Another thought is that with such a remarkable takeover, wouldn't you expect at least some influence of Hebrew or Reformed Egyptian among the natives and in the records they left behind?

      PSS. About the small communities. Have you ever lived in one. They tend (not always, so don't accuse me of over-generalization on this) to lack diversity and be more closed to outsiders and foreign customs.

      PSS. I think Simon's point is that it's highly unlikely that a group of about 200,000 natives would have been completely taken over by group that contrasted the natives in very fundamental cultural and genetic ways. On top of that, isn't it just about impossibly unlikely that such a takeover could occur with absolutely no evidence found of the Semitic culture or DNA? I mean, look at the evidence for a small group of Vikings of L'Anse aux Meadows in about the 1000 CE that stayed only a short time especially compared to the claims about Lehites.

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    4. I think Zack made several excellent points.

      The published limit of detection that Hellenthal used was roughly 1 in 1000. That is probably because they didn't want to publish long lists of populations contributing insignificant amounts of admixture. Considering that they used 470,000 markers, 21,000 per average chromosome, I am certain the detection limit could be pushed a couple of orders of magnitude lower, approaching 1 in 100,000 or even lower. Its possible to do the admixture analysis on all the chromosomes individually. If their detection limit is 1 in 1000 per chromosome, and they don't detect Semitic DNA on any chromosome, then that would suggest that the amount of "missed" Semitic DNA was substantially less.

      Focussing on the limits of the technology is all well and good. The big problem is fitting a vanished DNA theory with what the Book of Mormon plainly says. You do untold damage to the book by inventing numerous highly implausible possibilities to accommodate the science. Who is leading who?

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    5. Zack Tacorin,

      You asked me if I think I "might be trying to shift the burden of proof in this discussion inappropriately?" Your question implies that I have a burden of proof on me, and that you think I'm trying to make it look like I don't have one. Your question also implies that Simon does not have a burden of proof on him but that I'm trying to make it appear as though he does.

      The answer to your question is that when Simon treats a claim as though it is objectively proven, he then has a burden of proof. And when I treat a claim as though it is objectively proven, I then have a burden of proof.

      Yes, the LDS Church makes extraordinary claims. And to the extent that it treats those claims as objectively proven, it then has a burden of proof. But it doesn't treat those claims as objectively proven, so it actually doesn't have a burden of proof.

      If you want to reject the LDS Church on the grounds that it makes extraordinary claims without objectively proving them, you are free to do so. However, this is quite different from a person claiming to have objective proof that those claims are false. If a person claims to have such proof, then they are creating a burden of proof for themselves.

      Yes, I posited a possible way in which the Lehites could have interacted with natives, and I did so without proving that it actually happened that way. But I didn't have a burden of proof on me, because I was simply responding to Simon's request for an explanation of how it "could have" happened. At issue was whether it could have happened that way, not whether it actually did.

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    6. Simon,

      In response to my question, you seem to be saying that the Hellenthal study would not be able to detect my Scandinavian DNA in the scenario I presented. And if I understand you correctly, you are saying that one person's DNA diluted among a different ethnic population of 100,000 people would approach the limits of what available technology can find.

      Do I understand this correctly?

      I'm not denying there are scriptural implications to factor in as well, but I'd really like to make sure I understand your answer to my question. Thank you for taking the time to respond.

      For reference, here was my question:

      In my first comment, I asked how watered down someone's DNA would have to be in order to escape detection in a population. You asked for clarification, so let me put it another way. My ethnic genetic origin is 99% Scandinavian. If I could go back in time to 600 B.C. Mesoamerica and manage to be accepted by the people and I marry a native woman and have an average number of children with her, and those children in turn marry among the natives and have children, and my grandchildren in turn marry among the natives and have children with them, etc. - would you expect the Hellenthal study in 2014 to be able to find that admixture event? If so, then how far back in time would I have to go and how large of a population would I have to travel to in order to cover up my admixture event?

      Delete
  20. Ryan (to your post on 5 March 2014 20:09),

    You wrote, “But it [the LDS Church] doesn't treat those claims as objectively proven, so it actually doesn't have a burden of proof.”

    Keep in mind that we’re talking about truth claims here, not claims of preference, taste, or desire.

    So as long as a truth claim is not treated as objectively proven, there is no burden to provide any evidence for the claim? Are you sure you want to stick with this claim? Would it be fine to declare to the world that God wants them to give me ten percent of their interest without evidence for the claim? If someone were to publish in a newspaper that she knows a specific LDS apostle has embezzled millions of dollars from the Church, just because she knows, the person has no burden to provide evidence? Do you think a court of law would see it the same way in a libel suit? What do you think the implications might be if I were to start telling everyone in my ward that I know the Bishop is molesting little boys during his interviews with them, though I have no evidence for my claim? You don’t think it even the least bit irresponsible to assert that subjective truth claims have no burden of evidence, especially when the claims are expressed as certain knowledge and have deep implications on many important decisions of millions?

    And yes, you did provide an explanation of how it "could have" happened.’ I submit it is also possible that by means of force, purple Martians assisted the Lehites in taking over indigenous peoples all the while meticulously genetically engineered the Semitic DNA right out of the populations. Which of the three possibilities (yours, mine, or Simon’s) is the most parsimonious?

    By the way, I don’t think I’ve ever read any of Simon’s writings in which he indicates his conclusions regarding population genetics and Book of Mormon claims are proven—let alone in this latest blog post. Is there actually evidence for this claim. He did write, “Clearly, if the events described in the Book of Mormon took place anywhere, they did not take place in Mesoamerica.” He’s expressing great confidence, but not based on proof. Given the context of the rest of his article, he’s basing the conclusion on the ever mounting evidence (not proof as you reframe the matter) supporting the idea that there is no pre-Columbian Semitic immigration to the Americas. But, I guess by your standard, if you’re not treating your declaration about Simon as objectively proven, then you have no burden of evidence to demonstrate that Simon has asserted his claims are proven, right?

    You really don’t see any danger in asserting that subjective truth claims require no evidence?

    Thank you for your response!
    Zack Tacorin

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  21. Zack Tacorin,

    You wrote, “Keep in mind that we’re talking about truth claims here, not claims of preference, taste, or desire."

    If someone claims to have a "sexual preference" for their same gender, then you're saying that claim would be neither true nor false since it is a subjective experience they are claiming?

    You wrote, "So as long as a truth claim is not treated as objectively proven, there is no burden to provide any evidence for the claim?"

    It is a testimony. If Sam says that he saw Ted pull Sally's hair, then that is Sam's testimony. Sam is not obligated to "prove" that his testimony is true, but his testimony is in and of itself a piece of evidence. Others can try to find holes in Sam's testimony, or find conflicting evidence, but Sam doesn't have to prove anything. At the same time, no one is obligated to accept Sam's testimony.

    You wrote, "Would it be fine to declare to the world that God wants them to give me ten percent of their interest without evidence for the claim?"

    That depends on what you mean by "fine."

    "If someone were to publish in a newspaper that she knows a specific LDS apostle has embezzled millions of dollars from the Church, just because she knows, the person has no burden to provide evidence?"

    If she tries to use that claim as a premise in an argument which she is putting forth as sound, then she would have a burden of proof on her. If she just makes the statement to stand on its own without any explanation for why she believes it, then it would be a very weak testimony but a testimony nonetheless.

    "Do you think a court of law would see it the same way in a libel suit?"

    That depends on how the law is written. But law does not dictate logic.

    "Which of the three possibilities (yours, mine, or Simon’s) is the most parsimonious?"

    In that instance, Simon was questioning the validity of the Book of Mormon narrative. In other words, he was saying that if the Book of Mormon were true then some explaining would be required. So your question here doesn't really relate.

    "By the way, I don’t think I’ve ever read any of Simon’s writings in which he indicates his conclusions regarding population genetics and Book of Mormon claims are proven—let alone in this latest blog post. Is there actually evidence for this claim."

    What claim specifically are you referring to? If you could quote the claim, it would help.

    "Given the context of the rest of his article, he’s basing the conclusion on the ever mounting evidence (not proof as you reframe the matter)"

    I believe you framed the discussion in terms of "proof," and I merely responded to your question. How exactly did I reframe anything then?

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  22. Ryan,

    Your question about sexual preference tells me I wasn’t clear enough about my statement. That someone is attracted to one gender or another is either true or false. I was referring to the idea that in this discussion no one is claiming a particular preference, taste, or desire is right, wrong, or best.

    So testimony is the evidence you offer for the veracity of Book of Mormon claims. The problem is that such evidence is so subjective as to be rendered useless as far as evidence for the claim is concerned. I have an acquaintance that converted from being a devout Mormon to Catholicism because (as he explains it anyway) the Spirit undeniably testified to him that the Catholic Church is God’s one true church on earth. That’s one example of probably millions. Start googling conversion stories to various religions if you don’t believe it. If we’re considering spiritual testimony, I’d have to conclude that such testimonies do not serve as evidence because there are so many contradictory spiritual testimonies, including those that contradict LDS claims.

    And let’s not forget things like the Adam God doctrine being taught in the temple. Surely Brigham Young would not have had that done without a testimony of the truthfulness of the doctrine. That would indicate that Brigham had the philosophies of men mingled with scripture taught in the temple. Yet since that time my understanding is that this doctrine has been denounced by other prophets, seers, and revelators. Surely these latter revelators wouldn’t contradict the teaching of the Lion of the Lord without a testimony of their correction. I could go on, but I think you get my point. Spiritual testimony does not rationally justify a conclusion.

    On libel depending on the law, good point. But it’s beside the point. My primary point is to get at whether you think such a subjective claim against the prophet would have no burden of proof or evidence.

    Regarding your response to my question about the most parsimonious conclusion, are you saying how parsimonious your suggested possibility has of no relevance? It sounds to me like you’re saying any response on your part supports and justifies your belief.

    I used the phrase “burden of proof” but did not frame the discussion in terms of “proof.” From http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Burden_of_proof: ‘"Burden of proof" or in Latin, onus probandi, is the obligation that somebody presenting a new or remarkable idea has to provide evidence to support it.’ So I’m sorry if that was confusing, but it’s about evidence, not proof per se. To which you responded in part, “The answer to your question is that when Simon treats a claim as though it is objectively proven, he then has a burden of proof.” I pointed out that Simon did not treat any claim as proven--that he's making conclusions based on the evidence.

    I thought you might be attempting to shift the burden of proof (evidence) onto Simon to the extent that your questions led me to believe that you wouldn’t be satisfied with Simon’s conclusions until he had disproven every conceivable possible alternative explanation (like purple Martians). Maybe it’s not a burden of proof (evidence) issue, but rather the principle of parsimony. Your questions led me to believe you’re using Moroni’s razor (Moroni 10: 3-5) instead of Occam's razor. One question that comes to mind was about the 400,000+ SNP markers as if a comparison base of only 400,000+ SNP markers were a material problem for the conclusions Simon made from the evidence.

    By the way, you never answered my question.
    You really don’t see any danger in asserting that subjective truth claims require no evidence? Especially in the context of the authority claims that demand everything (actually everything if you consider the endowment covenant of consecration) of LDS adherents?

    Thanks again!
    Zack Tacorin

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    1. Zack Tacorin,

      Here's a quick response.

      - "in this discussion no one is claiming a particular preference, taste, or desire is right, wrong, or best."

      What was your original purpose in trying to tell me that?

      - "So testimony is the evidence you offer for the veracity of Book of Mormon claims."

      Where did I do that? Can you quote me?

      - "My primary point is to get at whether you think such a subjective claim against the prophet would have no burden of proof or evidence."

      You might have missed this:

      If she tries to use that claim as a premise in an argument which she is putting forth as sound, then she would have a burden of proof on her. If she just makes the statement to stand on its own without any explanation for why she believes it, then it would be a very weak testimony but a testimony nonetheless.

      - "are you saying how parsimonious your suggested possibility has of no relevance?"

      Not sure what you're trying to ask here.

      - "I used the phrase “burden of proof” but did not frame the discussion in terms of 'proof.'"

      Proof is simply "evidence or argument establishing or helping to establish a fact or the truth of a statement." This is "proof" in the sense of "burden of proof," which you made an issue of, thus framing the discussion.

      Burden of proof is only relevant if the person making a claim is using that claim as part of an argument (i.e. a premise). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophic_burden_of_proof

      For instance, if someone were to say, "The Book of Mormon is true, so therefore you are wrong," they would be creating a burden of proof for themselves. But simply bearing their testimony does not create a burden of proof.

      - "you responded in part, 'The answer to your question is that when Simon treats a claim as though it is objectively proven, he then has a burden of proof.'"

      That doesn't mean objectively proven beyond all doubt. It means treating something as proven to the point where he feels comfortable using it as a premise upon which to base further argument.

      - "One question that comes to mind was about the 400,000+ SNP markers"

      And what specifically did I say that you object to? Will you quote my exact words? Thanks.

      - "You really don’t see any danger in asserting that subjective truth claims require no evidence?"

      That depends on what you mean by "require."

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  23. Ryan...you are an interesting dude with a view of the world I just don't share...just sayin' I'm glad that we all have the freedom to think and act as we will and follow the dictates we choose. If I had to live my life under the convolutions which you so freely submit to, I would be just as far from center line thinking as you. Cheers to you on your journey of "faith" while dismissing objective research and science.

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    1. Where did I dismiss objective research/science? Please be specific.

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    2. To specifically address where you dismiss objective research/science lies with your trying to prove the historicity of the Book of Mormon - which by objective measures, has been shown to not actually be historical.

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  24. Simon,

    With all the other comments, you may have missed this request for clarification. So I hope you don't mind if I repost it. Thanks.

    In response to my question, you seem to be saying that the Hellenthal study would not be able to detect my Scandinavian DNA in the scenario I presented. And if I understand you correctly, you are saying that one person's DNA diluted among a different ethnic population of 100,000 people would approach the limits of what available technology can find.

    Do I understand this correctly?

    I'm not denying there are scriptural implications to factor in as well, but I'd really like to make sure I understand your answer to my question. Thank you for taking the time to respond.

    For reference, here was my question:

    In my first comment, I asked how watered down someone's DNA would have to be in order to escape detection in a population. You asked for clarification, so let me put it another way. My ethnic genetic origin is 99% Scandinavian. If I could go back in time to 600 B.C. Mesoamerica and manage to be accepted by the people and I marry a native woman and have an average number of children with her, and those children in turn marry among the natives and have children, and my grandchildren in turn marry among the natives and have children with them, etc. - would you expect the Hellenthal study in 2014 to be able to find that admixture event? If so, then how far back in time would I have to go and how large of a population would I have to travel to in order to cover up my admixture event?

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    1. Hi Ryan,

      The scientific evidence has convinced me that the Maya, and all other Native Americans, are unrelated to Middle Eastern people. In my view this is an undeniable fact. I am sorry, but I have no interest in helping you formulate yet another apologetic argument that will perpetuate the lies that Joseph Smith told. An objective analysis of scientific research from multiple disciplines has revealed the TRUTH that Native Americans built their own civilizations with absolutely no input from Semitic people. You want to perpetuate a myth that Semitic people entered, and soon ruled, native populations. You diminish native cultures in your attempts to impose Mormon mythology. I don't want to help you. I wish you the best on your journey to truth. I hope you get there. Signing off.

      Delete
    2. Simon,

      I do appreciate the time you've given me. I hope it didn't seem otherwise. I think you are a sincere and honest man, and it is not my intention to slander you or to make this personal in any way.

      You simply know a lot more than I do about DNA. And I want to work with facts as much as possible.

      No one likes to give up ground in an important dispute. So, I won't ask you to. But please be aware that your blog post does leave the impression that all cases of very, very small admixture can be and were detected and accounted for in the Hellenthal study.

      Delete
  25. Ryan,

    My purpose for bringing up preference, taste, and desire was an ineffectual attempt to preempt a potential red herring.

    Here’s your quote offering testimony as evidence for subjectively based claims:

    ‘You wrote, "So as long as a truth claim is not treated as objectively proven, there is no burden to provide any evidence for the claim?"’

    ‘It is a testimony. If Sam says that he saw Ted pull Sally's hair, then that is Sam's testimony. Sam is not obligated to "prove" that his testimony is true, but his testimony is in and of itself a piece of evidence. Others can try to find holes in Sam's testimony, or find conflicting evidence, but Sam doesn't have to prove anything. At the same time, no one is obligated to accept Sam's testimony.’

    If you do not think this also applies to the Book of Mormon claims, then would you agree that there is no evidence for Book of Mormon claims?

    You indicated that a person making a subjective claim that an apostle had embezzled money would have a weak case if using only this claim as a premise. That didn’t really answer my question about whether there’ a burden of proof. But, with this assertion, don’t you essentially admit that the case for the Book of Mormon is, at best, weak?

    Regarding the principle of parsimony, I had some typo issues. The question should have been, “are you saying how parsimonious your suggested possibility is, has no relevance?" In other words, are you saying that no matter how implausible the possible explanation, we are not justified in pointing out how useless the explanation?

    You equate the terms “proof” and “evidence.” However, “Journalists often write about "scientific proof" and some scientists talk about it, but in fact, the concept of proof — real, absolute proof — is not particularly scientific.” (http://undsci.berkeley.edu/teaching/misconceptions.php#b10 and there are plenty of other sources for this idea.) That’s all I was saying, and from your clarification on the idea of “proof, it appears that we agree on this point.

    You wrote that “Burden of proof is only relevant if the person making a claim is using that claim as part of an argument.” And you stated that if someone were to say, "The Book of Mormon is true, so therefore you are wrong," they would be creating a burden of proof for themselves. The thing is, that is exactly how the LDS leaders and missionaries use their testimonies. I think that concedes my point that the LDS Church (or anyone asserting the Church’s truth claims) does have the burden of proof. Or are you saying that testimony is not evidence of the veracity of the Book of Mormon? What evidence of this veracity is there then? If none, why should anyone even listen to any claim that the book is true?

    Your question regarding the 400,000+ SNP markers was, “do you know of a study which has broken down the entire Mayan genome and found that none of it resembles DNA found in people of middle eastern origin?” Presuming you had already read Simon’s article, you already knew of the 400,000+ SNP markers.

    To my question, "You really don’t see any danger in asserting that subjective truth claims require no evidence?" you responded, ‘That depends on what you mean by "require."’ To spell it out, don’t you think asserting subjective claim requires evidence if the maker of the claim expects to be taken seriously?

    Thanks once again for your response,
    Zack Tacorin

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  26. Ryan,

    Here's a quote from an author that I think supports my belief that if someone accuses an apostle of embezzling money, that accuser has the burden of proof.

    "The burden of proof is on the accuser. That’s because he’s the one making a claim."
    (Ryan Larson as found 09 March 2014 at http://mormonpuzzlepieces.blogspot.com/2014/03/apologetics-pizza-and-philosophy.html)

    My best regards,
    Zack Tacorin

    PS. You're really good at arguing. And by arguing, I am not referring to the idea of "contention" as in "spirit of contention." I mean you're quick witted and very adept at using logical argumentation. In all sincerity you seem very gifted. Peace to you my brother!

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    1. Hi Zack. Thanks for the compliments. I'll try to get around to responding soon.

      Delete
  27. I posted this elsewhere on your blog and am re-posting it make sure it hopefully reaches you:

    Here's a newly-posted study which analyzes the extent to which the internet has contributed to the decline of religious affiliation in the U.S.:
    http://www.technologyreview.com/view/526111/how-the-internet-is-taking-away-americas-religion/

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  28. I am Mexican and my roots are native American and European. My European ancestors arrived in Mexico on or around 1556 and since they were converted Spanish Jews running away from the Inquesition and they didn't fit in with the Hidalgos of central Mexico, they were sent to the frontier right away. By 1636, only 80 years later, many had intermarried with the native populations and had migrated north to the Nuevo Reino de Santender, ( just south of the present border with the USA ) where they were able to continue some old world customes without prying eyes.
    I have heard much about the writings above, and I can prove to you that I have Jewish and Aztec DNA, but the mixture occured 500 years ago not 3,000. I do not wish to argue with anyone or hurt anyone's feelings but, I think this is all rubish. It is certainly easy to assume that the native Americans could not have developed their cities without the help of the old world. Pretty good ego I think.

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  29. OK Mr. Genetics Expert, I have a question. My family makeup is primarily Scandinavian/English; however, according to Familysearch.org (I have an extensively documented pedigree) I have a jewish ancestor that shows up about 800 AD. If you figure that a generation is about 30 years,this ancestor shows up about 40 generations ago. If you figure that the number of you progenetors in any generation is a mathematical function of two raised to the power of the number of removed generations (Progenitors = 2^(#generations ago), this ancestor would be one of a total of a trillion available slots. Would you be able to locate this semetic ancestors presence by analyzing my DNA? (I highly doubt it).

    This is similar to the task you have in finding original semetic DNA in American natives. By my calculations, Lehi showing up in about 600 bc is about 90 generations ago. The Book of Mormon states that before the time of Christ the Nephites no longer distinguished themselves by race but by religion. Seems to me that finding Semetic DNA heritage in an interbred society that was likely 70 generations removed has odds aof about 1 in a quadrillion. Consequently, all of your careful analysis is valueless since you did not consider the consequence of generational dilution. Add to that the fact that Lehi and his party were not Jewish, and some scholars (Hugh Nibley) believe that Ishmael was likely Arab (No Isrealite would have ever named his son Ishmael), I think that your demand of finding pure genetic evidence of a group of people who died out 70 generations ago is incredibly simplistic.

    If you disagree, I'll send you a vial of my DNA and you prove the presence of my Semetic ancestor who lived 1200 years ago.

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  31. It is not my responsibility to find evidence to support your beliefs. That's your job. I merely report the science which shows no pre-Columbian Israelite DNA in Native Americans.

    Also, you said "Lehi and his party weren't Jewish". If Lehi wasn't Jewish what was he?

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  32. I'm amazed at how these Mormon Apologists work these sites. Well done Simon, very good article. Even if the apologists can manipulate your data there's still all the other inaccuracies to deal with.

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  33. I appreciate people like Simon, who analyze different lds claims. Is his research/analysis an outright proof. No. But that's not what I was looking for. There are hundreds, probably thousands, of claims that can be individually looked at. It's the sum of many of them that I made my decision on.

    For DNA, I've read a bunch of articles from various people and publications. My conclusion is essentially this:
    'No DNA support for BOM has been found. Current consensus from every article I've read (both lds and non-lds) indicate it's unlikely to be found. As this field is rapidly progressing, check again in a few years'

    For me this is just one of many sources that is weighted in with the rest. Personally I think the evidence overwhelmingly favors the 'lds church not true' category, but certainly other people may draw different conclusions or weight different pieces of information differently that I do. This is to be expected. One of the most 'obvious' and yet profound changes in my life after no longer believing in the church was the realization it's ok for people to believe different things.

    Spent my whole life believing there is only one proper way to think and act and believe and that any deviation is to my eternal peril. That's just messed up :-)

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