A new edition (volume 17) of FARMS Review of Books is out. There you can read an article of great value in the current DNA debates: “Missing the Boat to Ancient America . . . Just Plain Missing the Boat ” by Ryan Parr. This is a review of Simon Southerton’s Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church.
Dr. Parr has a Ph.D. in biological anthropology from the University of Utah and is currently vice president of Research and Development at Genesis Genomics, a Canadian biotech company exploring the use of mitochondrial DNA for the early detection of prostate and breast cancer. He has authored and coauthored mitochondrial DNA studies of Native Americans, specializing in ancient DNA.
Dr. Parr clearly shows the inadequacy of Southerton’s attacks on the Book of Mormon and the scientific likelihood that genetic traces of an individual or small group will be lost in time when there are larger population groups present. See a simulation of the propagation of genes in his Figure 3: “In general, if eighteen unique mtDNA, or Y chromosome ‘names’ are followed through time, by the twentieth generation, only two names will have survived. John C. Avise, Molecular Markers, Natural History, and Evolution, 2nd ed. (Sunderland, MA: Sinauer, 2004), 144 fig. 4.9.” He also discusses some of the scientific evidence of ancient sailing and transoceanic contact that Southerton overlooks in his efforts to assign the origins of all ancient Americans to Bering Strait migrations.
Parr suggests that Southerton would do well to consider Henry Eyring’s perspective:
I have trouble understanding why people drift away from the Church. . . . There are all kinds of contradictions that I don’t understand, but I find the same kind of contradictions in science, and I haven’t decided to apostatize from science.
Here is Parr’s conclusion:
Nothing within the Book of Mormon precludes an Asian ancestry for Native Americans, nor is there any reason to believe that these same people, given geographic constraints, were not part of the events described therein. There are no “chapter-and-verse” genetic requirements for any of these groups, nor should we expect any. This does not mean that genetic markers of an ancient Near Eastern origin will never be found in the genetic record of Native Americans; however, there are compelling reasons to accept their absence. There will always be those who must have every detail before them prior to any acceptance of truth. This view always generates a cascade of doubt that ends in an appeal to the secular judge of science; however, in this particular instance, the insistence that the presence of small groups from the ancient Near East must absolutely be present in the current genetic record of Native Americans, as a means of testing the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, is an unrealistic expectation.