Some Latter-day Saints might be getting overly excited about a valuable new finding regarding the DNA of Native Americans. For an overview, see “‘Great Surprise’—Native Americans Have West Eurasian Origins” at National Geographic‘s Daily News, Nov. 20, 2013. The leading paragraph, though, certainly seems like the kind of thing that would excite Book of Mormon fans:
Nearly one-third of Native American genes come from west Eurasian people linked to the Middle East and Europe, rather than entirely from East Asians as previously thought, according to a newly sequenced genome.
Yes, intriguing. Read the report, and then realize that while there may be a significant chunk of Western Eurasian / Middle Eastern DNA among modern Native Americans, the genetic ties may be too ancient to be of direct value to Book of Mormon studies. But the study does remind us of several important things:
- Scientists have not yet figured out the origins of all Native Americans based on DNA and other evidence.
- Using DNA to trace the origins of people is complex and tentative.
- Abandoning the Book of Mormon due to the alleged lack of Middle Eastern DNA in the Americans may be a bit premature.
- DNA science does not rule out the possibility of ancient migrations of small groups from Western Eurasia or the Middle East to the New World.
Science is forever tentative, with many surprises yet to come. This “great surprise” should at least open up some interesting new topics for debate and further discovery regarding the complex genetic roots of Native Americans.