Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Extinct Indian Tribe Challenges "Asia Only" Theories for Origins of Ancient Americans

In the heated controversy about DNA and the Book of Mormon, critics have insisted that science has "proven" that the origins of ancient Americans were exclusively from northern Asia via the Bering Strait. Part of the typical LDS response has been to point out that a scientific understanding of the origin of ancient Americans is still in its infancy and far from complete. We have also pointed out that genes from ancient immigrant groups can vanish from the collective gene pool or be overlooked, and that some ancient groups may have come from other places even if the majority of ancient Americans came from Asia. The accuracy of such statements has just been underscored by news about an important discovery: a portion of ancient Americans may have come from Australia, southern Asia, and the Pacific rather than from northern Asia. This is reported in a BBC news story, "Tribe Challenges American Origins" by Paul Rincon on Sept. 7, 2004 (also see First Americans May Have Been Aussies from Reuters). This does not directly relate to Book of Mormon issues, but does underscore the inconclusive state of studies on ancient origins of the Americans, and shows how inaccurate our critics have been in their interpretation of science.

The article discusses evidence for the theory that some of the first inhabitants of this continent came "from Australia via Japan and Polynesia and down the Pacific coast of America." (Say, doesn't that imply boats were used?) A portion of these ancient Americans survived as the Pericues tribe of Baja California, but they died out in the 17th century.

If the claims about Australian origins for the earliest Americans are correct, it would seem that a significant source of genes in the ancient Americas has been missed by DNA analysis. Studies of mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosomes among Native Americans and in remains of ancient Americans have highlighted Australia as a source of origin for ancient inhabitants. How could the Australian connection have been missed in previous studies? It could easily happen. The genes of a minority group may be spread all over a continent without any of the mitochondrial DNA or Y chromosome surviving. These two types of DNA are passed along purely maternal or paternal lines, and can easily be lost due to intermixing, even though other genes from the minority group persist. If you go back 10 generations in your own ancestry, your genealogy tree will have 1024 slots for all the ancestors who contributed to your genetic makeup, but your mitochondrial DNA came from only one woman out of that group, and your Y chromosome (if you are male) came from one man. Testing your mitochondrial DNA or Y chromosome only tells you something about 2 people out of 1024. The others have essentially "vanished" from the test results.

Stayed tuned: there is so much that we have yet to learn about the origins of ancient Americans. One thing is for sure: the fact that many modern Native Americans may have genes pointing to north Asian origins says nothing about the possibility of a man named Lehi bringing a small group of people to this continent around 600 B.C. Book of Mormon critics are making far too much out of the molehill they are dancing on.


8 comments:

Robert Boylan said...

Excellent post Jeff. I have nothing much to offer but that the critics even admit that the Limited Geography model goes unschated by DNA Evidence. Thomas Murphy admits this in his essay "Lamanite genesis, genetics and genealogy" on page 56 of American Apocrypha where he quotes a scientest who claims that the extant DNA evidence does not preclude small scale cultural contacts with the Americas and oceanic seafarers.
This is the reason why so many anti-Mormons must use the straw-man argument that the BOm and the LDS Church 'teaches' the Lehi and his people were the _sole_ ancestprys of _all_ Amerindians, etc.

Mormanity said...

Good point. We need to make it increasingly clear that the DNA attacks are not aimed at what the Book of Mormons actually says, but at a popular unjustified assumption. It is a clasic straw man argument. The critics know this, but that doesn't stop them from holding press conferences to convince an unwitting public that Mormonism has been blown out of the water by science.

Anonymous said...

I get tired of hearing about the DNA evidence that is suppose to prove the Book of Mormon a fake. I look at all of it very logically . Maybe I'm looking at this wrong, and if I am correct me please, but aren't we all related to Noah, since he and his family repopulated the entire earth? So why don't we all have the same make up that would go back to him? Isn't he of Hebrew decent? Please let me know how all of this ties in??!! It just seems that no one could prove or not prove on DNA basis bacause of this.

Anonymous said...

Good brief. Thanks. Thanks for your sites. In re anonymous Sep. 22 2004: You might say Noah was Semitic if speaking regionally, rather than culturally, and that because of where he landed, not because of where he was from. Language issues began with the fall of the Tower of Babel--Presumably, most culture and racial issues sprang from that time as well. (Noah being pre-Babel.)

From Jim's partial digestion of facts by thought.

Mike Smith said...

Take a look at the logical fallacy known as "Moving the Goalposts."

Even if you don't know what it is, you are already very good at it.

For years, Mormons have claimed that the Book of Mormon tells the story of the ancestors of today's Native Americans. They have.

The introduction to the Book of Mormon even said so, before they added a qualifier to it.

The stories of early Church history are LOADED with accounts of pioneers telling Native Americans that they had a book about their origins.

If they never said that Lehi and his crew were the ancestors of ALL Native Americans, they certainly implied it, and did so very strongly.

To deny these claims now is to move the goalposts, and it just looks tacky, just looks like you're desperately trying to cover yourself, to cling to something that's totally contrary to the evidence.

Real science and real history do not support the claims of Mormonism, as anyone who takes the time to examine either will quickly discover for themselves.

Also, Web searches regarding the linked-to articles you cited show no new supporting information in years, and show Dr. Silvia Gonzalez to be a perhaps somewhat dubious researcher, always on the fringe of legitimate research.

Billoutwest said...

Look at the full scope of evidence as to Native American Ancestry.
1) DNA
2) Archelogical
3) Cultural
4) Oral History and or some writings
5) Language

========

It is becoming clear that while most of Native American ancestry came from NE Asia there were some other travelers. However, there is absolutely no evidence of any Middle Eastern influence.

This must be God testing faith.

Billoutwest said...

Look at the full scope of evidence as to Native American Ancestry.
1) DNA
2) Archelogical
3) Cultural
4) Oral History and or some writings
5) Language

========

It is becoming clear that while most of Native American ancestry came from NE Asia there were some other travelers. However, there is absolutely no evidence of any Middle Eastern influence.

This must be God testing faith.

Anonymous said...

That's it. Since there is no other evidence of any other migration to the Americas the verdict is in and conclusive. I'm sure science, archeology and technology, as unchangeable as they ALL are, have now concluded with all the facts that the Book is false and the Church isn't based on truths.

I love the way life works, it's so easy a caveman can figure it out!