Dishonesty and DNA

Disclaimer: I have no expertise in DNA of any kind, so I will not be discussing the legitimacy of certain scientific assertions. I do, however, know how to check sources against how they are being used, which is the focus of this post.

Recently, Simon Southerton, a DNA scientist and former Mormon, posted some thoughts on the state of DNA evidence for or against the Book of Mormon. In response, someone referred to a FAIR article by David Stewart, an orthopedic surgeon, entitled DNA and the Book of Mormon.". I will say up front that I have had no interaction with David Stewart, and he is only known to me for his epic debate with DNA researcher “The Dude” on the now-defunct “Mormon Apologetics and Discussion Board.”

Stewart begins by discussing the “traditional LDS position” regarding Native American ancestry before discussing Thomas Murphy’s “challenge” to that position.

He begins by telling us that “Critic Thomas Murphy” is hanging his hat on two types of evidence: Native American mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is passed through females, and Y-chromosome “Cohan Modal Haplotype,” which is passed through males. Stewart says, “Murphy writes that ‘some of the most revealing research into Native American genetics comes from analyses of mtDNA,’ and presents mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) data to support his conclusion that Native Americans could not possibly have an origin in ancient Israel.” The direct quote is accurate in that Murphy right says that mtDNA has revealed a great deal about Native American genetics. That said, Murphy does not conclude that “Native Americans could not possibly have an origin in ancient Israel.”

Here’s what Murphy actually says. In the first cited article, Murphy writes:

Quantitative scientific methods can now test the claims of an Israelite genetic presence in ancient America. So far, they have demonstrated that nearly all Native Americans can trace their lineages to migrations from Asia sometime between 7,000 and 50,000 years ago. Latter-day Saints who prematurely pointed to haplogroup X as the best hope to salvage Mormon claims were mistaken—indeed, the timing and destination of that migration is inconsistent with either a hemispheric or limited Mesoamerican geography for the BoMor. Moreover, the most recent studies have identified haplogroup X in Siberian populations which share a common ancestry with Native Americans. While molecular anthropologists have demonstrated a technological capability to use DNA to identify descendants of ancient Hebrews, no such evidence has turned up in Central America or elsewhere among Native Americans. Ultimately, as Sorenson has noted, these findings may not matter to Latter-day Saints who have a spiritual witness of the “truth” of the BoMor, yet they caution against confusing a spiritual witness with scientific evidence. Spiritual witnesses may reach beyond science but they should never be confused with it.

Note that Murphy acknowledges that evidence of Hebrew origins “so far” has not “turned up in Central America or elsewhere among Native Americans” and nowhere insists that such evidence cannot possibly be forthcoming.

In the second cited piece (a PowerPoint presentation, I might add), he states:

Lamanites could not possibly be “the principal ancestors of the American Indians” as claimed in the current introduction to the Book of Mormon.

This is hardly controversial, as the church itself has changed the wording of the introduction to “among the ancestors of the American Indians.” More importantly, however, Stewart dramatically exaggerates Murphy’s statement to make it seem as if Murphy believes that the case for Nephite migration is over and has been, metaphorically speaking, pretty much thrown into Mount Doom, with Mount Doom being then dropped under the continental plates. With this strawman firmly in place, Stewart takes on mtDNA evidence.

Over 98% of Native Americans tested to date carry mitochondrial DNA haplogroups A, B, C, or D. Outside of the Americas, these haplogroups are most commonly found in Mongolians and south Siberians, and are rarely found in modern Jews. Another 1% carry haplogroup X, which is found in south Siberian, European, and Near Eastern populations.

So far, so good. We know that these haplogroups appeared in the Americas some 16,000 years BC, indicating that nearly all Native Americans originate in south Siberia or Mongolia some 18,000 years ago, at least.

Murphy’s arguments are based on the assumption that modern Jewish mtDNA accurately represents the mtDNA of ancient Israel.

This is another misstatement. Here’s Murphy’s discussion of “Israelite DNA”:

Researchers have uncovered distinctive genetic markers on the Y-chromosome that can be useful in establishing linkages between ancient Hebrew and contemporary populations. Within the modern Jewish religion there are three patrilineal castes that genetic anthropologists Neil Bradman et al. describe thus: “the Priests (Cohanim, singular Cohen), non-Cohen members of the priestly tribe (Levites) and Israelites (non Cohanim and non-Levites).” As they use the term Israelite, it constitutes a subgroup of Jews “who are neither Cohanim nor Levites.” While Cohanim and Levites are present in most Jewish communities, one becomes a Jew through matrilineal heritage (being born to a Jewess) or through conversion. Thus “Israelite” haplotypes are very diverse, with only the Cohen modal haplotype appearing more frequently than 0.1 (14 out of 119). The Cohen modal haplotype is much more frequent in both Ashkenazic and Sephardic Cohanim (0.509, n = 54) and relatively rare in Levites (0.037). Despite different understandings of the terms Jew and Israelite than those commonly held among Mormons, Bradman and colleagues date the origin of the Cohen modal haplotype to 2,100 to 3,250 years ago (putting it within the historical range of alleged Lehite and Mulekite migrations to the New World). They conclude that it may “be useful for testing hypotheses regarding the relationship between specific contemporary communities and the ancient Hebrew population.”[68] Markers on the Y Chromosome are not the only genetic linkages between descendants of ancient Hebrews. Numerous nuclear DNA polymorphisms and various types of mtDNAs have been used to cluster and chart genetic relationships among Jews in Europe, Asia, and Africa. They have even provided evidence of Jewish connections among probable Spanish American descendants of conversos (Spanish Jews forcefully converted to Christianity in the 15th century).[69] Yet, they consistently fail to produce the linkages one would expect to find if Native Americans descended from ancient Hebrews as the BoMor suggests.

Once again, when Murphy does mention mtDNA, it is simply to note that mtDNA has been used successfully to “cluster and chart genetic relationships among Jews in Europe, Asia, and Africa” and point out that there are no such linkages among Native Americans.

Next Stewart tells us that “Findings that Jewish groups share little mtDNA commonality, but closely reflect the mtDNA of their host populations, flatly contradict Mr. Murphy’s assumptions. Mitochondrial DNA studies have had little success in linking different Jewish groups, leading geneticists to discount mtDNA as being notoriously unreliable in ascertaining ‘Jewish’ roots.” Does the cited study suggest that? Here’s what it actually says:

Previous low-resolution RFLP studies of the maternally inherited mtDNA of Jews, using five or six restriction enzymes, have also revealed patterns interpreted both in terms of common origin and local admixture. Ritte et al. (1993b) found that genetic distances among seven Jewish communities and Israeli Arabs were comparable to those found among five globally dispersed populations, with Ethiopian Jews appearing more as an outgroup than Israeli Arabs. Tikochinski et al. (1991) and Ritte et al. (1992) found that genetic diversity within Jewish populations was generally lower than in populations with a geographically extensive distribution, such as whites, Asians, Australians, and Africans, but was greater than that found in geographically restricted populations such as New Guineans, a pattern they attributed to an unusually polymorphic ancestral Jewish population, a high rate of growth in Jewish populations, or introgression events from neighboring populations. Ritte et al. (1993a) compared mtDNA and Y-chromosome haplotypes in six Jewish communities and found consistently lower genetic diversity in the mtDNA than in the Y-chromosome haplotypes, although differences in mutational processes between these two marker systems make it very difficult to ascribe such differences with certainty to demographic effects.

mtDNA is used in the study cited to show that groups of diaspora Jews tend to have descended from a small group of presumably local women. However, this does not apply to groups such as the Samaritans, who can be traced geographically and genetically (using mtDNA) to ancient Near Easter sources. So, the similarity of the mtDNA to local host populations is irrelevant, as I will discuss.

The University College London study found that that while separate Jewish communities were founded by relatively few female ancestors, this “process was independent in different geographic areas” and that the female ancestors of different communities were largely unrelated.

Coupled with the statement that “the female ancestors of different communities were largely unrelated,” Stewart makes it appear that, because the “founding process” for Jewish communities was “independent in different geographic areas,” one cannot possibly use mtDNA to trace Jewish ancestry.

Next Stewart quotes a summary of the UCL study by New York Times reporter Nicholas Wade:

Nicholas Wade wrote: “A new study now shows that the women in nine Jewish communities from Georgia… to Morocco have vastly different genetic histories from the men…. The women’s identities, however, are a mystery, because…their genetic signatures are not related to one another or to those of present-day Middle Eastern populations.”

This sounds pretty devastating to the suggestion that Jewish ancestry can be traced through mtDNA. But here Stewart ignores a key finding in the UCL study:

We have analyzed the maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA from each of nine geographically separated Jewish groups, eight non-Jewish host populations, and an Israeli Arab/Palestinian population, and we have compared the differences found in Jews and non-Jews with those found using Y-chromosome data that were obtained, in most cases, from the same population samples. The results suggest that most Jewish communities were founded by relatively few women, that the founding process was independent in different geographic areas, and that subsequent genetic input from surrounding populations was limited on the female side.

The last part is important. The study is talking about the founding of a Jewish community outside of Israel/Palestine. An “earlier study, led by Dr. Michael Hammer of University of Arizona, showed from an analysis of the male, or Y chromosome, that Jewish men from seven communities were related to one another and to present-day Palestinian and Syrian populations, but not to the men of their host communities.”

So, what this study shows is that Jewish males (probably traders) settled in non-Jewish communities, and of necessity married local women. However, because the Jewish communities are traditionally insular, further intermarriage with locals was, in the words of the study, “limited.” According to Dr. David Goldstein, one of the study’s authors:

The men came from the Near East, perhaps as traders. They established local populations, probably with local women. But once the community was founded, the barriers had to go up, because otherwise mitochondrial diversity would be increased.

This is important because, according to Mormon proponents of a limited geography theory (LGT) of Nephite/Lamanite population, intermarriage with existing Native American populations caused the genetic traces of Middle Eastern ancestry to vanish with time. There are a couple of differences that are worth noting:

1. The study shows that these diaspora communities were founded by men, who intermarried with local women, thus the lack of Middle Eastern mtDNA, but
2. The Book of Mormon emigrants were both male and female, and there are three separate migrations from the Middle East mentioned. Thus, unlike the diaspora communities studied, there should be both mtDNA and Y-chromosome evidence of Middle Eastern ancestry among Native Americans.

Moving on, Stewart states

Dr. Mark Thomas and colleagues reported: “In no case is there clear evidence of unbroken genetic continuity from early dispersal events to the present…. Unfortunately, in many cases, it is not possible to infer the geographic origin of the founding mtDNAs within the different Jewish groups with any confidence.” (MG Thomas, ME Weale, AL Jones, et. al. “Founding mothers of Jewish communities: geographically separated Jewish groups were independently founded by very few female ancestors.” American Journal of Human Genetics, 70:6 (June 2002), 1411-1420.)

The statement before the ellipses (mind you, the ellipses represent four pages in the original) makes it appear that a scientific study found no “clear evidence of unbroken genetic continuity” from early Jews to today’s Jewish population.

Is that what the original source claims? Here is the citation in context, which is an introduction discussing the difficulty in establishing historical evidence to substantiate claims of descent from Israel and Judea (you can find the entire article here):

Before the Second World War (1939–1945) and the founding of the modern state of Israel (1948), there were many long-standing separate Jewish communities in Europe, North Africa, and Asia. All of them claimed an origin in one or another dispersal from Israel and Judea.However, the origins of small minority communities founded before the 16th century are rarely well documented. For some Jews (e.g., the Babylonian Jews and modern Iraqi Jews), evidence exists of ancient Jewish communities in the same locations as in present times, but gaps often exist in the records of intervening centuries (Rejwan 1985, p. 143). In no case is there clear evidence of unbroken genetic continuity from early dispersal events to the present (de Lange 1984, p. 15; Encyclopaedia Judaica 1972).

Note that the first citation tells us that “gaps often exist in the records of intervening centuries” and that the last two support that original statement. None of these citations is from a scientific article: The first is from a book published by the Theodore Herzl foundation entitled “The Jews of Iraq: 3000 Years of History and Culture”; the second is from the “Atlas of the Jewish World”; and the third is from a 1972 edition of the “Encyclopedia Judaica.” None of these sources discusses DNA issues; rather, they discuss gaps in genealogical records. Stewart’s piece picks up on the word “genetics” and presents the quote as if it suggests that there is no DNA evidence of genetic continuity, which is a gross distortion of the original source.

After the ellipses–which of course suggests a relationship between the two statements–we are told, “Unfortunately, in many cases, it is not possible to infer the geographic origin of the founding mtDNAs within the different Jewish groups with any confidence.” Stewart appears to be linking gaps in genealogical records to an inability to determine the geographic origins of Jews. Again, since the study finds that the mtDNA comes from non-Jewish women, the statement is irrelevant to a discussion of Jewish mtDNA. Rather the authors suggest that “an indigenous origin is certainly possible, given the data,” and that two of the groups (Bene Israel and Ethiopian Jews) are most likely the result of intermarriage by “local recruitment.”

Next comes more from the New York Times:

Dr. Shaye Cohen of Harvard University observed, “The authors are correct in saying the historical origins of most Jewish communities are unknown.”

Again, Stewart makes it sound as if the genetic origins of Jewish communities are unknown. Here are Dr. Cohen’s remarks in context:

Most of those founding narratives do not have strong historical support. Dr. Lawrence H. Schiffman, professor of Hebrew and Judaic studies at New York University, said the new genetic data could well explain how certain far-flung Jewish communities were formed. But he doubted that it would account for the origin of larger Jewish communities that seemed more likely to have been formed by families who were fleeing persecution or making invited settlements.

Dr. Shaye Cohen, professor of Jewish literature and philosophy at Harvard, said the implication of the findings and the idea of Jewish communities’ having been founded by traders, was ”by no means implausible.”

”The authors are correct in saying the historical origins of most Jewish communities are unknown,” Dr. Cohen said. ”Not only the little ones like in India, but even the mainstream Ashkenazic culture from which most American Jews descend.”

In a recent book, ”The Beginnings of Jewishness,” Dr. Cohen argued that far-flung Jewish communities had adopted the rabbinic teaching of the matrilineal descent of Jewishness soon after the Islamic conquests in the seventh, eight and ninth centuries A.D.

One part of the Goldstein team’s analysis, that matrilineal descent of Jewishness was practiced at or soon after the founding of each community, could fit in with this conclusion, Dr. Cohen said, if the communities were founded around this time.

So, Dr. Cohen is not talking about genetic evidence but rather the “founding narratives” of these various communities; in other words, we do not know how or why these Jewish men settled in various locations, but we know they did. But Stewart distorts his source to make it seem damning to Murphy’s paper.

Next Stewart dismisses the relevance of mtDNA entirely from a study of Jewish ancestry:

Even close mtDNA homologies would not necessarily prove an Israelite origin, but the conspicuous absence of such homologies provides strong circumstantial evidence of non-Israelite origins for the mtDNA and much of the other genetic makeup of most modern Jews. With no evidence that modern Jewish mtDNA constitutes a valid control of the genetics of ancient Israel–and considerable evidence to the contrary–claims of Israelite lineage cannot be either confirmed or denied based on mtDNA data.

A couple of things:

Every study I have consulted suggests that the oldest Jewish communities, those of Iran and Iraq, which were formed around the time of Lehi (500-600 BCE) can be traced to Near Eastern origins through mtDNA analysis:

The Jewish communities of Iraq and Iran constitute the oldest non-Ashkenazi Jewish communities outside the Levant and were established during the 6th century B.C.E. For the Iranian (Persian) Jewish community sample set, we found that 41.5% of the mtDNA variation can be attributed to 6 women carrying mtDNA genomes that belong to sub-branches of Hgs H6a1b1, H14a1, T2g, T2c1, U1a1a, and J1b1 (Table 2), all known to be present in West Eurasia. In this regard, it is noteworthy that though Hg H is the dominant European mtDNA Hg (40-50%), its sub-Hgs H6 and H14 are largely restricted to the Near East and the South Caucasus [12]. Similarly, we found that about 43% of the Iraqi Jewish community can be traced back to 5 women whose mtDNA belongs to Hgs T2c1, J1b’e/J1e, U3b1a, H13a2b and W1d (Table 2), all frequent in the Near and Middle East. Again, Hg H13 is typically the Near Eastern, not European variant of Hg H [12]. Consistent with our findings, an independent sample of Iraqi Jews reported in a previous study [7], contained eleven out of 20 individuals who carry mtDNA variants, that can be assigned to the five founding lineages identified in the current study. (Behar et al., Counting the Founders: The Matrilineal Genetic Ancestry of the Jewish Diaspora, Molecular Medicine Laboratory, Rambam Health Care Campus, Haifa, Israel, 2008).

So, whether an “Israelite origin” can be proven is again, irrelevant. Jewish populations from the time period of Lehi show Near Eastern mtDNA. That Native Americans do not have such mtDNA suggests that there is no evidence for Near Eastern ancestry, Israelite or not.

Other studies have used combinations of Y-chromosome evidence, mtDNA, and identity by descent (IBD) to show that “This study demonstrates that the studied Jewish populations [“European/Syrian and Middle Eastern Jews”] represent a series of geographical isolates or clusters with genetic threads that weave them together. These
threads are observed as IBD segments that are shared within and between Jewish groups.” (Atzmon et al., “Major Jewish Diaspora Populations Comprise Distinct Genetic Clusters with Shared Middle Eastern Ancestry,” American Journal of Human Genetics 86, 850-859, 2010).

Stewart finishes his discussion of mtDNA with this paragraph:

Joseph’s wife Asenath, daughter of Potipherah priest of On, is the ancestral mother of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 46:20). While her genealogy is unknown, there is no reason to believe that her mitochondrial lineage or that of her descendants, including the Lehites, would have matched that of the tribe of Judah. The presence of mtDNA types in Native Americans that do not match those found in modern Jewish groups is fully consistent with both Book of Mormon and Bible accounts.

This is mind-boggling. In essence, he’s saying that, because we don’t know exactly what the mtDNA of Asenath would look like, we cannot determine a Near Eastern connection to Native Americans. As I mentioned, we know what the mtDNA of Near Eastern peoples looks like, so all it would take to make Israelite ancestry plausible would be the presence of one marker from Middle Eastern DNA. A good analogy would be to the Samaritans, who trace their lineage back to those Israelites who

did not go into exile when the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 721 BC, but married Assyrian and female exiles relocated from other conquered lands, which was a typical Assyrian policy to obliterate national identities. This is in line with biblical texts that emphasize a common heritage of Jews and Samaritans, but also record the negative attitude of Jews towards the Samaritans because of their association with people that were not Jewish. Such a scenario could explain why Samaritan Y chromosome lineages cluster tightly with Jewish Y lineages, while their mitochondrial lineages are closest to Iraqi Jewish and Palestinian mtDNA sequences.

In short, the older the lineage, the greater affinity in both Y chromosome and mtDNA with other groups founded at the same time. That the Jews exiled to Iraq at the time of the Assyrian conquest are closely related by mtDNA to Samaritan communities founded at the same time suggests that we do know what kind of mtDNA evidence would support the claim that Near Eastern immigrants were assimilated into Native American populations.

This is just one section of Stewart’s paper, but it shows that Murphy’s statements are correct: so far, there is no evidence for Israelite origins among Native Americans. I could go through the rest of the article, but this ought to be sufficient to show that Stewart has built up a strawman and then manipulated sources to knock it down.

If nothing else, I conclude, first, that Stewart’s article is not a trustworthy response to Murphy, and second, that FAIR does not source-check their publications.


17 Responses to Dishonesty and DNA

  1. Odell says:

    The “scholarship” of Stewart is dishonest because he puts his premise before any research data. People like him, as you noted, will find lines of text or statements from unrelated sources to shore up their preconceived position. It is not honest.

    I write legal briefs. Stewart’s article reminds me of shoddy brief writers who pick and choose certain statements from legal opinions without understanding the entire opinion itself. On the face of it, the opinion seems to the point and convincing until the cases cited are read in their entirety. Such writers hobble together seemingly persuasive citations to reach a frail legal position that they are forced to defend.

    Stewart was forced to do a hack job because he is arguing for a losing proposition. There will be no DNA evidence for an Israelite contribution to the Native American peoples. That theory rests on a book of scripture that has already been proven to be a product of 19th century religious thinking – religious thinking that desired to find a Biblical origin for all the peoples found on the earth.

    • Doug Forbes says:

      Your criticism of Stewart is totaly un justified. The arguments of both Murphy and Southerton were based soley on MtDNA. It was quite appropriate for Stewart to point out other instances of Jewish populations where MtDNA does not provide a link to ancient Israel. The most glaring example being the Lemba who look like Bantus, speak a Bantu language and have Bantu MtDNA and 0% Israelite MtDNA. Yet, Y-chromosome unmistakenly mark them as non-African paternal ancestors; almost certainly Israelite. Because Native Americans and Jews are acknowleged to have common ancestors via the Q lineage it has been difficult to prove a direct link between the Middle East and America within the last 2600 years. Yet Murphy and Southerton have presented their evidence as proof of “no possible link”. An example of this can be found in a video put out by a religious group that includes Southerton and Murphy called “DNA and the Book of Mormon”.

  2. Tim says:

    The Bible isn’t the only thing that can be proof-texted

  3. Doug Forbes says:

    Y-Chromosomes are inherited from father to son without recombination with maternal genes. Consequently, they provide proof of paternal ancestry. A son will inherit an exact replica of his father’s Y-chromosome except for the occasional mutation. Y-chromosome mutations have been observed to occur in 28 of every 10,000 births (Kayser) in father son pairs studied in Germany and Poland. Using Canadian pedigrees, a mutation rate of 21 per 10,000 has been observed (Weber & Wong).
    In 1996, Peter Underhill, PhD of Stanford University, attempted to calculate the age of a mutation known today as M3. His calculations which used a mutation rate of 21/10,000 and a generation length of 27 years indicated that Native Americans with the M3 mutation (66%) all descended from a male who lived 2147 years prior to 1996 or about 151 BC. Underhill rejected this as the age of the M3 mutation. However, the age of the M3 mutation and the question of whether Native Americans living today with the M3 mutation descend from a man who lived in 151 BC are two separate questions.
    A discovery in 2005 (On Your Knees Cave Man) indicates that the M3 mutation is at least 10,000 old. However, it is quite possible that all men today with the M3 mutation descend from a male who lived in 151 BC because other paternal lines of descent could have been broken. If a man has no male children, his particular Y-chromosome haplotype, assuming it is unique, dies with him. Similar situations are known to exist. For example, cheetahs have been on Earth for 800,000 years. Yet all cheetahs living today are descended from one or two females that lived about 10,000 years ago.
    The fact that a majority of Native American males may descend from one man who lived in Book of Mormon times offers the possibility that settlers from the Near East who lived during that time may be included among the ancestors of the majority of American Indians because all ancestors of that single male are also ancestors of the majority of American Indians.

    Over 60% of Native Americans, 5% of Iraqi Jews, and 15% of Yemenite Jews as well as small percentages of Norwegians, Saudis, and East Indians share a common paternal lineage designated as haplogroup Q. Shen et al 2004 The Q haplogroup is the predominant Native American Y-chromosome lineage group and is perhaps the most widely distributed lineage group on Earth. The particular strain of Q found in Native Americans is the Q1a3 subclade which is defined by the M346 mutation. The M346 mutation is found in the Middle East, India, and Europe. Haplogroup Q1a3 As yet it has not been detected in East Asia or Siberia with the following exceptions. The M346 mutation has been detected in the Khanti who live in the western edge of Siberia, just east of the Ural Mountains and in the coastal areas of Siberia adjacent to Alaska where most scientists believe it spread from Alaska via “back migration”. Since the Q haplogroup is only about 15-20 thousand years old and the M346 mutations is presumed to be thousands of years younger than Q, this mutation narrows the field of near relatives of American Indians in the Old World. The absence of M346 in places that would provide a genetic trail consistant with long held theories about the first colonization of America is a problem for the sientific mainstream.

    • runtu says:

      It’s nice to see that you know how to cut and paste from Wikipedia. Brilliant.

      • Doug Forbes says:

        Thanks. I also wrote that section in wikipedia. Educating the masses is hard work. So I try to avoid duplication of effort.

  4. Doug Forbes says:

    Murphy is no expert on DNA. I once emailed him an article from the Christian Science Monitor that pointed out that Jews and Greeks are routinely told they have American Indian ancestry when, in fact, they don’t have American Indian ancestry. They have ancestors in common with American Indians.

    • runtu says:

      You seem to have entirely missed the subject of my post.

      • Doug Forbes says:

        I posted that prematurely. I intended t say that the article was about a woman who had been told in correctly that she was 13% Natvie American. Murphy suggested that she was perhaps haplogroup X and that was the cause of the mistake. Of course, it is nonsense to say a person is 13% haplogroup X. Obviously the markers were autosonal DNA not MtDNA. The point is Murphy is not a geneticist, nor is he particularly knowlegable about the genetics of American Indians.

      • runtu says:

        If Murphy or DNA evidence had been the topic of my post, you might have a point. The post was about Stewart’s manipulation of sources, which in my view is quite obvious. I said up front I don’t know much about DNA and don’t care either way, but I can spot academic dishonesty when I see it. If you want to critique Murphy or Southerton, be my guest, but that’s not my concern, as long as you do so honestly.

  5. Doug Forbes says:

    OK. Perhaps this is more to the point. Southerton wrote the followin on the Signature Books website in answer to Mormon apologists. “There is compelling evidence to show that Native American Q-P36 lineages came from Siberia, not from Jewish populations.”

    No. There is no such evidence. Almost all Native American Q includes the M346 mutation. The M346 mutation is not found in any Siberian group that scientists believe is closely related to Native Americans except for the coastal regions of Siberia adjacent to Alaska where most scientists believe it spread from Alaska.
    The reason they believe this is that the other DNA (like G MtDNA) of this region is profoundly different from that of Native Americans.

    American Indian Q is Q1a3a or Q1a3a1. Yemenite Jewish Q is Q1a3b. Norwegian Q is Q1a3a. Saudi Q is Q1a3a. Most East Asian Q is Q1a1. The M346 mutation that defines the Q1a3 subclade has not been detected in Altaians or Selkups or Ketts who were not long ago thought to be the closest relatives of American Indians in the Old World. Now it turns out that Yemenite Jewish Q is more closely related to American Indian Q. Has Southerton or Murphey aknowleged this finding?

  6. Doug Forbes says:

    The fact that you had to use over 3700 words to make your argument that Stewart was “manipulating sources” indicates how strained the assertion is. Stewart din’t manipulate anything. Southerton made claims based 99% on MtDNA and Stewart pointed out that MtDNA is irrelevant in determining the Israelite origins of numerous Jewish communities around the world. Stewart made a good point. In fact he made hash of Southerton’s assertion. …and while we’re at it, was it not less than forthright for Southerton omit Underhill’s finding that, using observed mutation rates, that most American Indians descend for a single male ancestor who lived around 150 BC? This was an aknowleged problem for years until Underhill and Zhivotofski developed the “effective rate”. In fact its still a problem because because the “effective mutation rate” gives ludicrous dates in other studies. For example, using the “effective rate” gives a date range of 34,000 to 75,000 years ago for the entrance of the Q haplogroup into India. Q has only existed for 15,000 to 20,000 years. Where is the honesty in Southerton’s writing when he does not address these facts and for all practical purposes conceals them from his rather ignorant audience.

  7. Doug Forbes says:

    Despite your insistance that your post is not about DNA you make the following statement. “We know that these haplogroups appeared in the Americas some 16,000 years BC, indicating that nearly all Native Americans originate in south Siberia or Mongolia some 18,000 years ago, at least.”

    No we don’t. The whole basis of an East Asian or Siberian or Central Asian origin for the first Americans is that the MtDNA haplogroups A, B, C, and D are distributed mainly in those areas. However, the M346 Y-chromosome mutation is nowhere to be found in those regions. At this point Namtive American origins are more mysterious to scientists than they were before DNA technology. DNA technology has NOT confirmed earlier theories. DNA technology has left the scientific mainstream scratching it’s collective head.

  8. JT says:

    I have been reading Stweart’s “DNA and the Book of Mormon” from FARMS Review: Volume – 18, Issue – 1.

    While I have no expertise in this field, I can use common sense to
    address the following passage.

    “Studies seem to demonstrate that Native Americans have less mitochondrial DNA diversity than found among any other large group of comparable size and even less diversity than the much smaller modern Jewish population. The mtDNA research of D. Andrew Merriwether suggests that the mitochondrial genetics of Native Americans could be explained by a single migration [9], while others believe that there may have been two or three migrations from closely related groups. One writer insists that “most Indians of North America, and all Indians of Central and South America seem to be descended from this first wave of migrants. . . . Similarities in Amerindian languages, as well as in DNA, point to the conclusion that a very small group of migrants gave rise to this enormous, farflung assemblage of peoples in a relatively short time.”[10] Genetic evidence of one or a few closely related founding groups serving as the ancestors of the overwhelming majority of Native Americans is consistent with traditional Latter¬day Saint views of Native American origin from the Lamanites, Nephites, and Mulekites.

    I see problems with the argument Stewart is making here.

    First, reference 10 is simply a class handout written by Dr. Edward Vajda, a language professor at Western Washington University (Bellingham WA) for his “Introduction to Nomadic Cultures” class (East Asian Studies 200). It cites no research. It’s a weak citation.

    What is more important, Vajda begins with the statement: “Virtually all scholars agree that the aboriginal populations living in North, Central and South America at the time of Columbus’ voyages originated from small groups of prehistoric immigrants from North Asia.”

    Second, and similarly, the abstract to the Merriwether paper (reference 9) states:

    “This overall [haplogroup] distribution is most parsimonious with a single wave of migration into the New World which included multiple variants of all four founding lineage types. … Alternatively, there could have been multiple waves of migration from a single parent population in Asia/Siberia which repeatedly reintroduced the same lineages to the New World.”

    I just don’t see how these references support Dr. Stewart claim about consistency with “traditional Latter-day Saint views of Native American origin[s].” Rather, he seems to be selectively drawing on the “very small group” single/few migration idea and hiding the very large disconfirming idea.

    This is unsettling to me. Give me one good reason why I should not take his omission of Asia/Siberia as disingenuous misdirection. The alternative is very weak scholarship.

    FAIR recently posted the audio of Stewart’s lecture based on this paper. Toward the end he has the audacity to call into question the qualifications of Murphy’s thesis advisors – that they did not meet the standards of a peer reviewed journal. I find this terribly ironic.

    Stewart also refers to Douglas Forbes a few times in the paper, but cites no publications in peer reviewed journals only a “dougsaythis.blogspot…” website. I found him Doug at this blog when I went looking for a reason to consider his opinion. I would have liked to have found someone more qualified than a software engineer personal blog.

    I haven’t finished Stewart’s article but it is starting to smell fishy … as in full of red herrings. But I will still read it carefully and with an open mind.

    The biggest surprise up front is that he is trying to support the traditional LDS position concerning Lamanite ancestry. I thought FARMS were going completely with the small geography “Lamanite of the gaps” argument.

    • runtu says:

      Note that Doug Forbes has posted above in the comments about how “strained” my argument was because I ” had to use over 3700 words” to make the argument. I thought I was being thorough with a couple of paragraphs, though I certainly could have found more, as you did. As I said to Brother Forbes, I’m not arguing about DNA evidence, as I am no expert on that subject (and neither is Doug), but I do know manipulation of sources and dishonesty when I see it. Your comment simply gives more evidence of Stewart’s shoddy piece.

      • JT says:


        Yes, I read Doug’s comments.

        You ought to watch a couple of minutes of Stewart’s video lecture (see the link I just posted). He has memorized 28 pages of text. Very impressive … and very strange. The video cuts out the question period.

        The Q&A portion is included in the podcast

        It starts at about 55 minutes in. He reads the questions.

        He claims there exists no ancient DNA data for study … “and even if it were …” (gap argument follows)

        He responds to the question of whether DNA patterns can be used to establish migration patterns within the Americas by saying that without a knowledge of ancient Israelite genetics it is impossible to know what an ancient [American] proto-people should look like. He skirts the north/south migration that HE REFERENCES, again not mentioning the Siberian/Asian origins and goes on to say something geographic bottlenecks in Central America and South America and then adds comments that seem to contradict this … and then begs off by saying “we have very few data points (more gap argument).

        When asked whether he means to say that all Native Americans are descended from Book of Mormon peoples – that they came to an empty continent – he answers:

        “Ah, I did not say that, and ah … I would say that it’s not clear. I believe as LDS prophets have taught that Native Americans are in fact descended from Book of Mormon peoples, but as far as the proportionality, that is more of a religious question than a scientific question, which I will defer judgement”

        He is then asked to comment on what the approval of Murphy’s PhD dissertation at the University of Washington says about his dissertation committee. When he begins his response with “Well …” the audience starts chuckling – I sensed smugness in this.” As I said he goes on to call into question “intra-institutional review standards” and says it “is more difficult to get something published in a prestigious national journal than it to pass muster with local faculty and, of course, his committee is not knowledgable about LDS things or LDS theology and probably has a fairly limited genetic or molecular biology background since his background is as an anthropologist, so I can’t comment beyond that.”

        It is amazing that he can actually say such a thing.

        In the last question he again avoids making any mention of Asia/Siberia origins and falls back on the “this is more a scientific question than a scientific one.”

        This is very sad. I feel sorry for the guy. He likely has more than half a brain that isn’t hijacked by his Mormon loyalties/commitments, and so he must be feeling squeezed by the tiny gap he’s trying to squeeze his faith into – a gap for which there is no longer any room for intellectual integrity.

  9. JT says:

    I just found link to Dr. Stewart’s video on the FAIR wiki site (

    When I listened to the audio podcast I assumed he was reading the talk, which, because of it’s relentless speed (especially through the technical parts) made it very difficult to follow and an unpleasant aural experience – and also why I guessed I could find the transcript.

    I must say I am impressed by his feat of memorization, though at the same time I it strikes me as a bit unusual.

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