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The Crazies

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Autor:   •  January 5, 2011  •  3,820 Words (16 Pages)  •  230 Views

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Science and Mormon Doctrine

Soon after completing my study I read an article on the Flood and the Tower of Babel in the January 1998 issue of the Ensign magazine. According to this article faithful Latter-day Saints believe in a universal flood that killed all animals and presumably most plants, besides those on the ark. Those who believed anything less were lumped in with the unbelievers. It was claimed that these unbelievers were persuaded in their belief by the way that they interpreted geological evidence. There could not have been another time in my life when I would have reacted more strongly. I had come to accept that Noah was a real man, but that the Flood was a localized event. I strongly suspected that other LDS scientists thought the same way. If there was a major extinction in the last 5 to 10 thousand years then the biological and geological evidence has been removed. I didn’t know any scientists who considered that there was evidence of a universal flood. I accepted that God had power to do many things, but covering, creating or distorting evidence to test His children was not a characteristic of the God I worshipped. I was deeply disappointed at this article. As a bishop I was sacrificing a large amount of my time serving in my ward, at the expense of my family. It hurt deeply to be labeled an unbeliever by an ignorant BYU scholar on the Church payroll.

While I was greatly troubled by this article, my testimony was unaffected. I had known for some time that things that are written in the Ensign are not necessarily doctrine. I had over the years, however, grown tired of the fact that modern biology was frequently an easy target for ignorant attack by uninformed Church leaders. About the only book in my limited LDS library that mentioned the Flood was Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie. This was a relic from the black and white days of Mormonism from my youth. I was already acquainted with McConkie’s ignorant position on evolution so I was not interested in what he had to say about the Flood. Like many Mormon scientists I saw no conflict between my religious faith and an acceptance of the principle of evolution. Evolution is simply one of the firmest facts ever to be validated by science. Despite this, it is surrounded with controversy and widely condemned by large numbers of people who generally haven’t taken the time to carefully examine the evidence. In my experience in the Mormon Church, public criticism of evolution was acceptable while vocal support was frowned upon.

I felt a need to talk to other members about my concerns but when I made an attempt a member in my ward, who overheard a private conversation, reported me to the stake president! From that point on I became very reluctant to talk to members about things that troubled me. I soon felt quite alone in my thoughts at church. I could only discuss things with my wife, my friends at work and some of my family. I concluded that the Internet was the quickest and most readily available avenue for me to find out what other Latter-day Saints thought about the Flood. Or so I thought. I found material written by Mormons on evolution, Book of Mormon archaeology and many other subjects but after two weeks I had made no progress. Without doubt the article that had the most impact on me was a statement published by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. concerning the Book of Mormon. In very strong language this statement spoke of a complete lack of evidence for any connection between the Old World and the New World. The strength of this statement jolted me. Scientists rarely make such dogmatic statements unless they have plenty of evidence (or none in this case) to back them up. I had been told in seminary that the Smithsonian had been known to use the Book of Mormon in their research. The statement utterly refuted this claim. In fact the Smithsonian has grown tired of responding to Mormons who regularly contact them to see how the Book of Mormon is helping them out. I believed the Book of Mormon was true and that Hebrew civilizations had occurred on the American continent. I firmly believed that there was a connection between the Old and the New World, however, I had never taken the time to seriously examine this. I was confident that somewhere in the scientific literature there must be some reliable research that supported this. There is an abundance of Mormon literature that claims strong links between the two worlds. With this in mind I decided to look for myself for research that supported Old World migrations to the Americas.

I began searching for research papers having some connection with American Indians or Polynesians. Because I was familiar with plant genetics I became interested in recent research on the DNA of American Indians. The principles of DNA analysis are applicable to all living things so it was relatively easy to jump from the plant to the animal kingdom. I rapidly accumulated many scientific papers comparing the mitochondrial DNA of American Indians from numerous tribes with the mitochondrial DNA of other populations around the world. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mother to child each generation. It is essentially a female genealogical lineage, or a maiden name if you like, stored in the mitochondrial DNA sequence. This part of the total DNA genome is used for population studies in many animal species. It is very simple to study because the mitochondrial genes don’t get rearranged each generation like most genes, which are inherited as a mixed bag from previous generations. I was equally interested in more recent Y-chromosome DNA studies. Male lineages, much like DNA surnames, are passed from father to son and clearly reveal male genealogical lineages.

In the last decade scientists from several research groups had tested the mitochondrial DNA of over 2000 American Indians from about a hundred tribes scattered over the length of the Americas. It soon became apparent to me that about 99% of their female lineages were brought into the Americas in excess of 12,000 years ago. Almost all of these lineages are most closely related to those of people in Asia, particularly in southern Siberia near Mongolia. Several tribes in Mesoamerica (which included Aztecs and Mayans) had been tested and all but a couple of individuals out of about 500 had mitochondrial DNA of Asian origin. The small fraction of Native American lineages that were not from Asia appeared to originate in Europe, most likely Spain. DNA studies also showed that the female ancestors of the Polynesians came from South East Asia and not the Americas. Y-chromosome studies, which trace male migrations, strongly support the mitochondrial work, except that the European influence is higher (about 10% in the Americas).

For two weeks I wrestled with the

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