By Mark Nolte
DNA evidence suggesting the Book of Mormon is false is not concrete, says a BYU scientist.
Michael Whiting, assistant professor of integrative biology, said Wednesday in the HBLL auditorium that the DNA evidence that attempts to disprove the Book of Mormon was not attained through scientific methods.
“We didn”t think the arguments were good enough to respond to,” Whiting said.
Whiting said the Book of Mormon was not written as a scientific book, and therefore cannot be wholly proved or disproved using scientific methods.
“If Joseph Smith turned it into the National Science Foundation, he would have received no funding,” Whiting said. “DNA analysis can neither refute or corroborate the lineage history as put forth in the Book of Mormon.”
Tom Kimball, a publicist, said when Whiting referred to those who didn”t understand the scientific method he was talking about his client, Thomas Murphy.
Murphy contributed to the book American Apocrypha. In the book, Murphy, a professor of anthropology at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Wash., presents DNA evidence that questions the validity of the Book of Mormon.
Recent attempts at disproving the Book of Mormon center around the idea that a population”s movement and history can be traced using certain genetic markers within that population.
Whiting put it this way: Imagine that a store has four gumball machines, and each machine carries only one color of gumball. If the store manager arrived in his shop one morning and found a blue gumball on the floor he would assume it came from the machine carrying blue gumballs.
This simple principle can be applied to population genetics.
Suppose a scientist identifies a genetic marker in a source population. The scientist could then assume that other populations carrying that same genetic marker were related to the source population.
Thus, to disprove the Book of Mormon one would only need to prove that genetic markers found within Middle-Eastern populations are not present in American Indians, since the introduction in the Book of Mormon says Lamanites, “are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.”
Lamanites, according to the Book of Mormon, descended from Middle-Eastern populations.
DNA evidence suggests, however, that American Indians are related to populations of Asian heritage.
Whiting does not deny DNA analysis links American Indians with Asians, but he said such evidence is no reason to disbelieve the Book of Mormon.
Whiting said there are several reasons genetic markers that would link American Indians with Middle-Eastern ancestors cannot be found.
Genetic drift and the Founder”s Effect, two theories that can account for the loss of genetic markers within a population, were probably at work over the last 1,600 years since Lehi and his family came to the American continent, he said.
According to Whiting”s presentation, it is no surprise that DNA analysis could not find a genetic marker that links American Indians to a Middle-Eastern population.
“I would be skeptical of someone standing up and saying, ”I have DNA evidence that the Book of Mormon is true,”” Whiting said.
After the presentation the audience was able to question a panel of BYU scientists about Whiting”s remarks.
The audience reacted to the presentation and the question and answer session in a mixed way.
“I thought it (the presentation) was very effective,” said Chris Richardson, 23, a senior from Rolla, Mo., majoring in microbiology. “It was very easy to understand even if you did not have the background.”
Others, however, said Whiting treated the subject to lightly.
“I had higher hopes,” said Brent Metcalfe, co-editor of the book, American Apocrypha. “I was taken back by his flippant responses.”
At the close of the question and answer session many people stayed in their seats or in the hallways and continued discussion among themselves.
Whiting”s agreement with the Lamanite”s Asian heritage and disagreement with DNA evidence that disproves the Book of Mormon left many people wondering what questions had and had not been answered.
“What I hope comes of it, is that the President of the Church will make a definite decision of who the Lamanites are,” said Steven Clark, president of the Salamander Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to the exhibition of Mormon art and culture.