The kingdom long has been known to grab rambunctious princes or opponents abroad and spirit them back to Riyadh on private planes. The disappearance also peels away a carefully cultivated reformist veneer promoted about Prince Mohammed amid the kingdom allowing women to drive, instead exposing its autocratic tendencies. Nor has Turkey fully explained why officials fear Khashoggi has been killed.
The discussion has centered on the field of population genetics and developments in DNA science. Some have contended that the migrations mentioned in the Book of Mormon did not occur because the majority of DNA identified to date in modern native peoples most closely resembles that of eastern Asian populations.
The conclusions of genetics, like those of any science, are tentative, and much work remains to be done to fully understand the origins of the native populations of the Americas. Nothing is known about the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples, and even if their genetic profile were known, there are sound scientific reasons that it might remain undetected.
For these same reasons, arguments that some defenders of the Book of Mormon make based on DNA studies are also speculative. In short, DNA studies cannot be used decisively to either affirm or reject the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Consequently, most early Latter-day Saints assumed that Near Easterners or West Asians like Jared, Lehi, Mulek, and their companions were the first or the largest or even the only groups to settle the Americas.
Building upon this assumption, critics insist that the Book of Mormon does not allow for the presence of other large populations in the Americas and that, therefore, Near Eastern DNA should be easily identifiable among modern native groups.
The Book of Mormon itself, however, does not claim that the peoples it describes were either the predominant or the exclusive inhabitants of the lands they occupied. In fact, cultural and demographic clues in its text hint at the presence of other groups. Ivins of the First Presidency cautioned: The Book of Mormon … does not tell us that there was no one here before them [the peoples it describes].
It does not tell us that people did not come after. Finding and clearly identifying their DNA today may be asking more of the science of population genetics than it is capable of providing.
Understanding the Genetic Evidence A brief review of the basic principles of genetics will help explain how scientists use DNA to study ancient populations.
It will also highlight the difficulty of drawing conclusions about the Book of Mormon from the study of genetics. DNA—the set of instructions for building and sustaining life—is found in the nucleus of almost every human cell.
It is organized in 46 units called chromosomes—23 received from each parent. These chromosomes contain about 3. Any two individuals share approximately Genetic variations are introduced through what geneticists call random mutation. Mutations are errors that occur as DNA is copied during the formation of reproductive cells.
These mutations accumulate over time as they are passed from generation to generation, resulting in unique genetic profiles. The inheritance pattern of the first 22 pairs of chromosomes called autosomes is characterized by continuous shuffling: The 23rd pair of chromosomes determines the gender of a child XY for a male, XX for a female.
Because only males have the Y chromosome, a son inherits this chromosome mostly intact from his father. Human cells also have DNA in a series of cell components called the mitochondria.
Mitochondrial DNA is relatively small—containing approximately 17, instructions—and is inherited largely intact from the mother. Mitochondrial DNA was the first type of DNA to be sequenced and was thus the first that geneticists used to study populations.
As technology has improved, analysis of autosomal DNA has allowed geneticists to conduct sophisticated studies involving combinations of multiple genetic markers.
Population geneticists attempt to reconstruct the origins, migrations, and relationships of populations using modern and ancient DNA samples.
Examining available data, scientists have identified combinations of mutations that are distinctive of populations in different regions of the world.
Unique mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome profiles are called haplogroups. From this evidence, scientists conclude that some Europeans or West Asians migrated eastward across Asia, mixing with a group that eventually migrated to the Americas millennia before the events described in the Book of Mormon.
Scientists do not rule out the possibility of additional, small-scale migrations to the Americas. Even if geneticists had a database of the DNA that now exists among all modern American Indian groups, it would be impossible to know exactly what to search for.
It is possible that each member of the emigrating parties described in the Book of Mormon had DNA typical of the Near East, but it is likewise possible that some of them carried DNA more typical of other regions.
This phenomenon is called the founder effect. Consider the case of Dr. Perego, a Latter-day Saint population geneticist. In the case of the Book of Mormon, clear information of that kind is unavailable. Population Bottleneck and Genetic Drift The difficulties do not end with the founder effect.
Even if it were known with a high degree of certainty that the emigrants described in the Book of Mormon had what might be considered typically Near Eastern DNA, it is quite possible that their DNA markers did not survive the intervening centuries.
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