FARMS Is At It Again

News item: Nov. 16, 2006

The most recent FARMS Review (18:1) contains a screed by Las Vegas surgeon David G. Stewart Jr. regarding “DNA and the Book of Mormon.” Stewart accuses scientists such as Dr. Thomas W. Murphy and Dr. Simon G. Southerton, who have written on the topic, of having demonstrated “a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of science and an ignorance of history and scripture.” Specifically, Stewart says the scientists have concealed the data from the public about Jews and Native Americans sharing a common lineage through the Q haplotype. This alleged commonality, according Stewart, confirms that Native Americans are not of Asian origin but came from the Middle East.

Southerton has posted the following response:

The Q (Y-chromosome) haplotype is prominent among the Kets (93.7 %) and Selkups (66.4 % ) of Siberia and among Native Americans (> 80 %). Lineage Q also appears in European Jews (5 %), but is rare in the Middle East. Scientists suspect its presence among European (Ashkenazi) Jewry is by way of the Khazar people who converted to Judaism in the eighth century. The Khazars inhabited what is now the Ukraine but later migrated into Eastern Europe and mixed with the Diaspora there. It is likely that the Q lineage arose in central Asia thousands of years before the Jews came into existence and it moved into Europe from Asia.

The Native American Q lineage is a unique form known as Q3, a lineage which is absent in European and Jewish populations. Y lineages most closely related to Q3 occur in Siberia among populations also sharing related mitochondrial DNA with Native Americans. The occurrence of the distinctive version of the Q haplotype confirms once again the antiquity of the Native American migration from Siberia into the New World and the population’s subsequent isolation from its founding group. For more information on this, see Ellen Levy-Coffman, ” A Mosaic of People: The Jewish Story and a Reassessment of the DNA Evidence,” Journal of Genetic Genealogy, 2005, 1:12-33.

In Stewart’s scenario, modern Asians are Israelites—the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. His evidence for this comes from patriarchal blessings rumored to have stated as much. In order to defend his speculation, Stewart glosses over the accepted range of dates for the settlement of various regions of the world, rejecting the consensus view of scientists and ironically complaining about the “profound intellectual poverty” of “self-proclaimed experts.” He quotes a letter to the American Journal of Human Genetics in which several scientists argue for “a fairly recent settling of the Americas.” Stewart scandalously leaves readers with the impression the letter must confirm a Book of Mormon time frame. What Stewart neglects to reveal is that the scientists in their letter state that DNA evidence “precludes a time of entry [into the Americas] greater than 20,000 years BP” in favor of a period “closer to 15,00-18,000 years BP” (Mark Seielstad, et al., “A Novel Y-Chromosome Variant,” AJHG 73:3). While Stewart argues for a “recent” peopling of the Americas (apparently 2,600 BP), he adds—only to discredit scientific dating: ”Recent archaeological finds in South America that appear to be older than those in North America have led some scholars to champion the Pacific colonization theory.” The dates are apparently both younger and older than the scientists maintain. It goes to show that Stewart is smarter than the so-called experts, who don’t know much of anything—a complaint one often hears from FARMS.

Dr. Stewart responds on his website:

I appreciate Signature Books and Dr. Southerton once again unwittingly demonstrating the unsupportable nature of their claims, their continued unscholarly denial of genetic possibilities consistent with the Book of Mormon story, and their inability to refute criticisms of their work by competent scholarship.

The following are some of the extraordinary claims by Stewart:

The Ten Tribes:
Nowhere do I state that “modern Asians are Israelites.” … (Curiously, three paragraphs later in his commentary, Stewart states that modern Asians are in fact Isrealites) Stewart continues: If one accepts the Biblical history of the captivity of the Ten Tribes as a historical event – one attested to in contemporary Assyrian records – and the scriptural history of the ten tribes being dispersed to the “lands of the north,” it is virtually inevitable that almost every individual in Asia is a descendant of the “lost ten tribes” of Israel. (Emphasis ours — Stewart responded to this page with: “The Signature editor again is unable to grasp the difference between my statement that most Asians almost certainly have some Israelite lineage, and his erroneous unqualified statement that I claimed that modern Asians are Israelites.” Mia Culpa, we agree that Dr. Stewart’s writings may well be beyond our ability to grasp.)

Mathematical models have presented evidence that the most recent common ancestor of Europeans lived as recently as one thousand years ago. [see Rohde DLT, Olson S, Chang JT (2004), "Modeling the recent common ancestry of all living humans," Nature 431: 562-566.] Rhode [2005] estimated that all living humans are descended from an ancestor living as recently as the first to second millennium B.C.

Patriarchal Blessings as Scientific Evidence:
Any individual who interviews returned missionaries and members from the areas cited can corroborate as much. Lineages from all 13 Israelite tribes (Joseph is a double tribe) were identified among 57 patriarchal blessings given to Siberian Latter-day Saints in 2005 and 2006. 

Dating the Migrations:
The Signature author does not adequately represent the scientific data that he cites. More careful reading of Seielstad’s charts (including the confidence intervals, or 2 standard deviations) demonstrate that Seielstad considers dates as recent as 5400 years ago [contradicting the mathematical models mentioned above] for the settling of the Americas, even before taking error margins into consideration, or new data suggesting more rapid mutation rates. … Nor in fact does the Book of Mormon suggest that the Lehites were the first group in the Americas.

New Data on Genetic Dating: Evidence for my dating arguments has only increased since the article was published. [ click here ]

I stand by my article as written.

Signature Books would like to thank Dr. Stewart for his original and entertaining prose. We encourage him to explore and write a great deal more on the subject.