Does DNA evidence prove the Book of Mormon is false?

Okay people, put on your seatbelts
because we’re about to embark on a complicated journey through the world of
population genetics as we explore what DNA evidence has to say about the
historicity of the Book of Mormon. Here’s the deal. The Book of Mormon tells
the story of a family from ancient Jerusalem that crossed the ocean and
colonized somewhere in the Western Hemisphere where they started an entire
civilization. With that as a foundation, the church has taught for a long time
that many Native Americans were, naturally, descendants of that family. So
from a genetic perspective, you’d think that some portion of Native Americans
should have heritage in the Middle East. That makes sense to me. And here’s where things get
sticky. For a lot of people, DNA research on Native American origins shows that
their ancestry is largely Asian, not Middle Eastern. To a lot of CSI fans,
that’s all the evidence they need to cause them to chuck their Book of Mormon
out the window. “But she doesn’t understand how evidence works. But you
know what? He will.” But I’m afraid it’s not nearly that simple. It’s important to
separate the research from our assumptions about the research. The
research says that Native Americans, at least whatever sample they drew from,
have heritage in Asia and I’m not disputing that. The Assumption critics
pull from that is therefore Lehi isn’t real and the Book of Mormon is false.
Here are just a few reasons why that’s not a safe assumption you can make. First,
the Book of Mormon only tells the story and history of Lehi’s family and
descendants but it does not say that Lehi’s people were the only people in
the Western Hemisphere or the first people or the largest group of people. In
fact, the Book of Mormon also tells the story of two other migrations and
science indicates there were obviously others as well. And no matter what
assumptions people even church leaders made about this in the past, the idea
that there were other people in the Western Hemisphere or when Lehi arrived
is totally consistent with the text of the Book of Mormon. In fact, one could say
that the population growth described in the Book of Mormon necessitates the
presence of other people so that’s one factor to consider. It’s not a problem
that DNA from other parts of the world show up because people from other parts
of the world were there. But then, where the heck did the middle-eastern DNA go?
DNA doesn’t just disappear. Well actually, due to a few different factors, it can.
Changes in a gene pool over time is known as genetic
drift. There are generally two main kinds of genetic drift. First, there’s the
Founder Effect. So imagine you’ve got a bag of Skittles. Okay, you’ve got several
different genetic profiles in there: red, green, yellow, blue, etc. You dump out a
couple of Skittles. These Skittles then migrate to a new land to start their own
skittle civilization but wait! Coincidentally they both happen to be
green skittles! Which means all their descendants are
going to be green Skittles as well which is not at all representative of the
Skittles they came from. So one of the problems with saying that there’s no
Israelite DNA in Native American populations is that we don’t know what
DNA we should be looking for and Lehi and Sariah’s DNA may not be
representative of so-called Israelite DNA. That’s the Founder Effect. The second
factor contributing to genetic drift is called Population Bottleneck. Essentially
this is when a catastrophic event simply wipes out DNA profiles altogether.
So in our skittles example, now we’re in the Americas and we’ve got Lehi and his
greens along with all these other Skittles. Unfortunately your great-aunt
Deborah discovers the bag of Skittles and eats almost all of them. Only a few
are left in the bag but they’re reds and yellows. Blue and green were all
devoured. Can you think of any examples of the bottleneck effect in Native
American history? How about when Europeans arrived bringing along
smallpox and wiping out up to 95 percent of the population or the many bloody
battles between Native Americans and the European colonizers? “Oh yeah” If you want
hear from people smarter than me, read these quotes. On top of that we read in
the Book of Mormon about cataclysmic natural disasters and massive wars that
took countless lives. In Mormon 8, “The Lamanites have hunted my people the
Nephites, down from city to city and from place to place, even until they are no
more; and great has been their fall. And behold also, the Lamanites are at war one
with another and the whole face of this land is one continual round of murder
and bloodshed and no one knoweth the end of the war.” Now a population bottleneck
doesn’t necessarily mean there are no descendants
of these people left, it just means the genetic evidence is gone, phased out, or
diluted and that can be true regardless of what genetic marker you’re trying to
find. Geneticists Hugo Perego said it best, “Population genetics is a
fascinating field with the objective of providing glimpses in the remote past
but it is a complicated discipline with several limitations and the conclusions
are limited to the data that could be gathered and analyzed leaving plenty of
room for additional studies and perhaps more accurate results.” There are
perfectly reasonable scientific reasons for why middle-eastern DNA doesn’t show
up in modern Native Americans. In fact, this kind of scenario has happened
before I’ll put a link in the description to a case described in The
Guardian where historians agreed that Africans lived in ancient Roman Britain
but their DNA is absent in modern Great Britain. The author goes over the same
stuff we’ve just been over and even more factors we haven’t been able to get to.
At this point, DNA evidence simply cannot disprove or prove the historicity of the
Book of Mormon. If anyone tries to tell you differently in either direction, be
very skeptical. Now I’m not a geneticist but if you want to hear a population
geneticist give you the long version of what I just said, check out the links in
the description and have a great day.


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