Dr. Thomas Murphy describes the strengths and weaknesses of the Church’s DNA essay.
Thomas: To the credit of the Church, the DNA essay acknowledges, basically, that that research that I surveyed back in 2001-2002, plus some more up to date stuff. They summarize that and acknowledge that the evidence clearly shows that the ancestors of the American Indians are coming from North and East Asia, or that’s where the closest affinities are between native DNA and the DNA from the old world. So they acknowledge basically what I got in trouble for saying. They say it. The Church says it.
GT: So that’s a strength of the essay. (Chuckling)
Thomas: Yes. Well, maybe it’s a biased perspective. I’m feeling vindicated myself. So that’s a major strength is that they acknowledge the DNA evidence that exists, and that DNA evidence provides no support for the Book of Mormon. The other strength is, I think it’s the first or second paragraph, but right at the very beginning, anyway, they say basically, the Book of Mormon is more spiritual than historical. That’s where the Church is going to end up. Right? I wish they had gone deeper with that. But, the evidence is just so compelling that that’s the only sustainable position for the Church to take is that the Book of Mormon is scripture, not history. They didn’t quite go that far. They acknowledge that it’s more spiritual than historical. It’s not historical at all. They could have said that, but they don’t go that far.
The Book of Mormon purports to be a record of ancient Native Americans. Have we compared Indian stories to look for parallels in the Book of Mormon? Dr. Thomas Murphy asks that question, and we’ll find out his answer.
It is well-known that Europeans wiped out many Native Americans. The Book of Mormon claims that darker skinned Lamanites killed the white-skinned Nephites. Is it possible that these genocidal killings wiped out all traces of Middle Eastern DNA among Native Americans? Dr. Thomas Murphy is here to answer that question.
Thomas: I think the settlers, long before Joseph Smith came along were developing ways of reconciling that. The ways that they were trying to reconcile that was that they said, well, the Indians around us they look like savages. But we look and we see all these monuments that–this evidence of great architecture, big mounds and evidence of sophisticated culture, couldn’t have been these Indians. It must have been an ancient white race that did this. Now, that’s convenient to suggest that, because if there was an ancient white race that created civilization in the Americas and the remnants of that civilization, then you can say, “Well, the American Indians and their ancestors must have destroyed them. They must have done what we’re doing right now.” So, it becomes a way of solace. It becomes a mythological tradition that helps settler colonists to reconcile their own violation of their own ethics.
Thomas: The essay, on one sense, blames American Indians for an ancient genocide of the Nephites that may have eliminated DNA. It also acknowledges the 16th and 17th century annihilation of most Native Americans. Now notice the timing of that 16th and 17th century. Why is that important? The 16th-17th century suggests that it was Spanish, French and Dutch, not the English. You really look at, the genocide continued in the 18th and the 19th century. Even Mormons themselves participated in it in the colonization of the Great Basin. So that destruction of native populations, kind of at its apex was around 1900. So, the 18th and 19th centuries, the essay ignores altogether. So we’re also critical of the essay for not acknowledging the English and American wrong in genocide. It really overlooks those and suggests blaming the Spanish and the French and the Dutch.
GT: And not the Americans is what you’re saying.
Thomas: Yeah, not the English and Americans who did it just as much, in fact, more so. Because the Spanish and the French–well the Spanish, their kind of colonial system was one where they incorporated indigenous peoples into an economic system at the lower rungs of society, as peasants, compasinos in Spanish. They are incorporated into the society, enslaved for sure, but incorporated into colonial society. The French had a little different perspective. The French kind of more incorporated themselves into the indigenous society and used trade and economics to their advantage but operating within an indigenous system. So, the social structure under the French was largely still indigenous. One of my mentors, Richard White, describes that as a middle ground of the French. Now the English, use a different strategy. The English, initially they were kind of incorporating, as I said earlier, bringing the kids into the homes and stuff. They were a little more like the Spanish in those initial periods, but eventually with what’s called the King Philip’s War, they adopted a different approach and that is to exterminate. They adopted a genocidal approach towards indigenous populations and wiped them out and removed them from their indigenous territories. That English approach is actually the more appropriate analogy for the Book of Mormon, than the Spanish and the French. So, Ugo just gets his history wrong, is what I’m saying.
We’ll look at a story of a 15th century Incan boy as well as some Egyptian mummies to see if DNA can disappear. We also talk about why Viking DNA doesn’t show up in Canada. Had you considered that the Church blames Spanish, French, and Dutch while ignoring American and English roles in destroying Indians. What are your thoughts on the DNA essay? Why don’t LDS let Indians (Lamanites) tell their Book of Mormon stories to corroborate the scriptures?
The Viking DNA question is a good one. We have burial sites and plenty of archeology on them so we know they were here. Why don’t we have their DNA?
I’m looking forward to that discussion.
With general viking pillaging, I would have thought we all had a bit of Viking DNA.
I’m enjoying these interviews. Keep ’em coming. I had not thought of the BOM as blaming the Spanish, French, and Dutch as destroying Native Americans more than the English. I guess it makes sense considering that Joseph Smith was of English stock and people historically are very reluctant to see their own ethnic group as the bad guys. This most certainly applies today as we see the most reluctant to accept continued widespread systemic racism as whites themselves. The BOM certainly does seem to explain away (English-splain?) the mass deaths of Native Americans. The Lamanites rejected Christianity and killed off the Nephites, so their having dark skin and being dominated by Europeans was justified. But hey, the purpose of European colonization was to bring them all back to Christianity. The English-speakers were the best because one of them discovered ancient records of ancient Native American Christians that not only showed that the Native Americans’ ancestors were indeed Christians, but restored the lost parts of Christianity.
As for who did the most destruction to Native Americans, I would say the Spanish did. For they descended on the only two empires extant in the Americans in the 1500s, the Aztecs and the Incas. These empires had the largest populations and the most to lose. The population of the Aztec Empire is estimated to be 19 million when Hernan Cortes arrived in the Yucatan Peninsula. By 1600, the population was reduced to 2 million. The amazing lake city of Tenochtitlan, which was among the largest cities in the world when the Spaniards arrived, was completely destroyed. The Dutch didn’t ever have too large a presence in the Americas. The French, similarly, didn’t not have a large presence outside modern-day Quebec. A handful of soldiers, fur trappers and traders lived in what is now the modern US during the 1700s. The English, in part because of a Little Ice Age affecting the temperatures in England in the 1600s, migrated en masse to the Americas during the 1600s. A population of a few dozens in the early 1600s rose to be 250,000 by 1700. Unlike the Spanish, they did not colonize places that had risen to become densely populated empires. The Native American groups the English interacted with mostly practiced small agriculture at most. There may have been some groups who had formed confederacies (i.e. Iroquois) before their arrival, but no large polities under a predominant ethnic group were ever formed. Additionally, the English, particularly those in the North, arrived in the US with women and children. The Spaniard arrivals to the Americas consisted mostly of men who satiated their sexual appetites with Native American women (probably mostly non-consensually). The Spanish and Portuguese governments also encouraged the men to take Native American spouses.
On Viking DNA, they had a small outpost on the northern tip of Newfoundland, probably for the purpose of repairing boats, that lasted for maybe about 100 years. Vikings didn’t settle inland, since, well, the extremely cold winter weather did not permit such settlements. There have been recent discoveries of another Viking outpost on the southern part of Newfoundland. In the Viking sagas, there is possible evidence that the Vikings had interactions with Native American groups. There is no archaeological evidence of Viking interaction, let alone sexual interaction, that I have heard of.
Stephen, I’m unaware of any Viking burial sites in the Americas. If you know of some recent discovery could you please point me in that direction. Thanks.
I am not a scientist or geneticist but here’s something I know: The Church, via it’s DNA essay, attempts to cast doubt on the reliability of DNA science. The reader is supposed to walk away thinking that DNA proof may or may not be important. It’s like a defense lawyer throwing around just enough theories to give the jury a “reasonable doubt” argument. Think of the lawyer cross examining am expert witness and asking, “is it possible?’ . You know, just promote some doubt in what is otherwise pretty obvious.
And here’s the thing…if anyone in the apologetic community (or the Church itself) discovered DNA evidence that proved a link between Native Americans and a Middle Eastern people, we’d never hear the end of it. I remember a video from Rod Meldrum (heartland apologist) a few years back that said something about Native Americans in the Great Lakes area having DNA traced back to the Middle East. But if that’s true why does the DNA Essay not focus on that?
As for Rodney Meldrum, Ugo says Rodney misrepresents the DNA data. Tom gives the DNA (and Ugo) props for calling into question Rodney’s pseodo-science. For those interested, here is my interview with Ugo talking about both Ugo’s role with the essay, as well as Ugo talking about Rodney’s bad science. https://gospeltangents.com/2017/09/22/perego-write-gospel-topics-essay-dna/
I think it is also important to talk about Ugo’s view of Viking DNA. So, I encourage you to re-visit my interview with Ugo and Vikings: https://gospeltangents.com/2017/09/19/lemba-tribe-vikings-dna-book-mormon-part-2/
When I was in college the Newfoundland site was reported to have a graveyard.
The new developments are interesting too:
And I appreciate the honesty that the reason we don’t have Viking DNA is that anytime we find it, it is just read as from a different source.
The same applies to other DNA evidence that is missing.
The church used to say that all of the Native Americans and all natives of the South Pacific were Lamanites. Now it says they don’t know where the Lamanites are. And the leaders don’t even blush… Then Ballard goes to South America and says “Look at the children of Lehi.” This he says after they say they don’t know where the Lamanites are.
Gwen Stefani “You Make It Feel Like Christmas” I hate Christmas albums but this is wonderful. Forget ****ing DNA for a while and have some eggnog
P, you may enjoy my Jeffrey Chadwick interviews about his theory that Christ was born in December. See https://gospeltangents.com/category/jeff-chadwick/
While I don’t know of any Viking DNA showing up in Canadian First Peoples, thanks to haplogroup C1e found in Iceland, there may be Native American DNA in Viking. Or it may be from Karelia.
Great interviews Rick – keep it up!!
Ugo’s argument seems to be that, one, we don’t know exactly what ancient Israelite DNA looks like so we don’t know exactly what to look for when looking at native DNA. And second, that anytime we do see foreign DNA in natives, researchers always assume it was post-Columbian. And third, that using mitochondrial DNA analysis (Ugo’s specialty), if a small group encountered a much larger group and intermingled, and then there were some bottleneck or genetic drift events, then it is not surprising to see that DNA become undetectable today.
I find all of these arguments a little disingenuous to the actual science of DNA analysis, and especially to the most recent methods of whole genome analysis, something that I don’t typically hear Ugo comment on.
After listening to some Jennifer Raff interviews on the Archeological Fantasies podcast (she’s an expert at DNA analysis in the ancient world), she makes it clear that we do know a lot more than Ugo lets on. Her interviews don’t touch on mormonism but the implications do. While we may not have ancient Israelite samples of Lehi, we actually do know a lot about what that DNA would look like. We also don’t just assume all foreign DNA is post-Columbian – there are specific techniques of analysis that allow researchers to pin-point with reasonable accuracy when DNA was introduced into a population, based on known mutation rates and other things that are above my head. It is these techniques that lead researchers to conclusions of post-Columbian admixture. Finally, whole genome analysis allows us to detect miniscule amounts of DNA, such that even with bottle-necking and genetic drift, that DNA should still be detectable today if it was ever present in the first place.
Ugo is a very smart scientist, but I find his arguments designed to create the plausibility for historicity to create scenarios in which we shouldn’t expect to see Israelite DNA in native populations, when the truth seems to be that our current analytical techniques should be able to detect if it was ever there. The fact that no such traces have been found is a much bigger problem for a historical BoM than Ugo lets on.