The following are short notes from a lecture given by Dr. Alan Rogers, professor of Population Genetics and Evolutionary Ecology at University of Utah's Department of Anthropology. The lecture was given on January 27, 2011 in the Gould Auditorium (Marriott Library) on the UofU campus.
- It is because of the concept of species changing?
- Or, changing into a new species?
- Can a species undergo significant changes?
Few people still doubt it based on micro-evolution examples such as resistance to penicillin and pesticides developed by bacteria and insects respectively.
However, what about new species?
- Doubling, tripling genomes (see the example with Primrose)
It is becoming harder and harder to argue that evolution is limited to only small changes.
Dr. Rogers used the example of the eye to discuss complex adaptation.
- lens vs. retina
- retina useless without lens
- how would selection favor a partial eye?
Charles Pritchard (1866)
- He was the first one to argue that the eye could not evolve.
Charles Darwin (1872)
- He was the first one to refuse Pritchard's argument. However this argument would last.
Weakness of Pritchard's argument:
- The claim is about plausibility. To refute such claim you need to invent a plausible story.
- There is no need for evidence.
- There is no need for the story to be true.
Hypothetical steps in the evolution of the eye:
A. Eye spot - simple eye, but very sensitive to light from all directions
B. Eye cup - light prevented from extreme angles.
C1. Pin-hole camera eye - forms image, not much light, very dim.
C2. Primitive lens - secrete mucus (easy to produce), denser than H2O, will refract light, only sensitive to direct light found straight ahead of the eye.
Next: improvement of the eye --> Need a vertebrate eye.
Are the steps plausible?
- Yes, they are all found in living organisms today.
- Eye evolution is possible. Pritchard was incorrect.
How did the eye evolve?
- Darwin's prediction: retina evolved earlier then came the lenses --> we can test this hypothesis by looking at living animals.
- We all share common characteristics because we have inherited genes from common ancestors.
We need to start at the basis, the protein level. Opsins are light sensitive proteins. Every animal that sees does so because of the presence of opsins. Similar species have similar opsins.
When cells divide, DNA duplicates. Sometimes the machinery stutter and the DNA is duplicated twice. When you have two copies of the same gene, the new copy may provide new functionality.
We need to observe what humans have in common with their closer relatives, the apes and old world monkeys. We have one opsin that adapted to dim light and three for color vision. Most mammals only have two for color and this is why they are colorblind. The reason humans, apes and monkeys have three for color is due to the fact that our common ancestor experienced a duplication in the DNA sequences thus resulting in one extra copy for that particularly opsin.
Evidence of common descent in opsin: closely related species have similar opsin molecules. Humans have similar opsin proteins to insects and cephalopods.
Crystallins: transparent proteins used in lens and cornea.
- If lenses evolved early, humans and insects should have similar crystallins. But they don't because the lens came later. Insects and cephalopods have very different crystallin proteins from humans.
What about eye morphology?
Vertebrates have eyes that work like cameras. All arthropods have compound eyes (including trilobites). Snails however have a great variety of eyes (they evolved in different varieties). Heteropod sea snail has eyes like slits, with a field vision of 180 degree wide, but just few degrees high. Eye scans are done with rapid movements up and down.
A few years ago, I was invited to attend a presentation about a proposed setting for the Book of Mormon in North America (more specific in the Great Lakes area). The speaker was Rod Meldrum. I never heard of him before, but the theory of the Great Lakes, particularly with reference to the narrow neck of land (see for example Ether 10:20 and Alma 22:32) in connection to Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, was not entirely new to me. The presentation was nearly four hours long and it was being videotaped. I have to admit that it was an interesting proposition and the speaker made reference to numerous historical and scientific citations to corroborate all his points. I took considerable notes with the purpose of checking those references myself later, then at the end of the presentation, I introduced myself to Rod Meldrum. It appears that he already knew about me and asked for a personal meeting, to which I agreed. In the following few months, I had the opportunity to visit with him at my office with the purpose of discussing the genetic component of the theory he was so passionately promoting. At that time, I was working on my PhD in human genetics with an emphasis on reconstructing the origins and migrations of America's indigenous inhabitants using mitochondrial DNA as a population expansion marker. I thought that the main reason Meldrum wanted some time with me was to explore in greater details the validity of a possible connection between Book of Mormon people and North America. I showed him all the flaws, shortcuts, limitations, and exaggerations involved with such assumption, assuming that he was honestly seeking for truth and understanding. Later however, I learned that he was trying to recruit me as a scientist that would endorse his work and, because I was not willing to embrace his plans, I eventually became the bad guy (see for example Rod Meldrum's 5-star endorsement to his OWN volume "Prophecies and Promises: The Book of Mormon and The United States of America" at Amazon.com, where he refers to me as a "puppet geneticist").I have already addressed several of the problems with considering DNA as evidence against OR in favor of Book of Mormon historicity in an essay that was published last year in FARMS Review, a publication by the LDS Church's endorsed Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Two important reviews about Meldrum's DVD "DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography" and book "Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA" are found HERE and HERE, respectively. Today, I learned about an official statement made by a number of anthropologists that have been contacted and interviewed with the purpose of sharing information about the history and culture of ancient North America inhabitants for the DVD production "The Lost Civilizations of North America." This material was later deceitfully edited to sound as if the individuals interviewed were confirming the evidence of a cultural and genetic contribution to New World civilizations in the Great Lakes area that originated from the Old World. Glenn Beck recently featured this documentary in his show and due to Beck's popular following, the DVD also became a hot item to support the theory of a North American setting for the Book of Mormon. Rod Meldrum is using this material to support his work and recruit more followers. The statement from those that were invited to contributed to the making of the DVD reveals the true nature of the work promoted by Meldrum and his associated. The original text is found at The Hidden Archaeology Blog and it is reported in its entirety here:STATEMENT ABOUT "THE LOST CIVILIZATIONS OF NORTH AMERICA" DVDThe following is a statement jointly authored by myself and the several other scholars indicated regarding our participation in the recent video production, “The Lost Civilizations of North America.” Given the notoriety this video has received (it was discussed by Glenn Beck on his television program), we felt it necessary to make the following statement a matter of record. I urge anyone who has any questions not answered by the statement to contact me.
As scholars committed to increasing public understanding of Native American history and archaeology, we want to make it clear that we do not support the theories presented in “The Lost Civilizations of North America” DVD. In our opinion, there is no compelling archaeological or genetic evidence for a migration from the Middle East to North America a few thousand years ago, nor is there any credible scientific evidence that Old World civilizations were involved in developing Native American cultures in pre-Columbian times. Many of the artifacts used to support the film’s claims, such as the Newark “Holy Stones,” have been proven fraudulent based on convincing scientific evidence and historical documentation. Like the great majority of professional archaeologists and anthropologists, we have seen overwhelming evidence that Native Americans were independently responsible for designing and creating the Newark Earthworks, Cahokia Mounds, and the myriad other pre-Columbian sites across the United States.
Each of us was interviewed for this film. None of us was asked directly for our opinion on what turned out to be its underlying claim; that Old World civilizations played an active role in the development of Native American cultures, especially the mound builders. Instead, we were asked general questions about Native American societies, their remarkable technological achievements, genetic histories, and we were also asked to comment on the biases of many nineteenth-century historians and archaeologists concerning the abilities of the native people of North America. We fear that the context of our general remarks as they currently appear in the film might lead viewers to conclude that our words on these subjects provide support for the film’s claims. That would be a mistake. In fact, our remarks, if presented in an unedited form, show clearly that we reject the assertions made in the finished documentary concerning a non-native source for the complex cultures of Native America.
We informed the filmmakers of our objections in February 2010, five months before the DVD’s release. The producers did make some changes in response to our objections, including deleting Ken Feder’s interview entirely. As a group, we believe that the final product remains misleading and presents claims that neither we nor our data support. In our opinion, there is no compelling evidence for the presence of Old World cultures in North America prior to the incursions of the Norse in the early 11th century.
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Indiana University*
Professor of History, Eastern Illinois University*
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin*
Professor of Anthropology, Central Connecticut State University*
Professor of Anthropology, emeritus, Marquette University*
Curator of Archaeology, Ohio Historical Society*
*We provide the names of our respective institutions here for identification purposes only. This is not meant to indicate that these institutions endorse our views.
Today I came across a post on a forum called 'New Order Mormon' where the writer disputed the accuracy of some of my research findings and conclusions based on his impression that I would purposely accept DNA evidence only when it was convenient and dismiss it when it wasn't. The two issues in question are the work I have done in identifying possible biological children of Mormonism's first prophet, Joseph Smith Jr. versus my apparent dismissal of DNA evidence (or lack thereof) when it comes to substantiate the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Here is the post:
"Interesting that [Ugo Perego] uses DNA evidence to conclude that these children were not fathered by Joseph Smith, but when the same DNA evidence says that Native Americans did not descend from anyone of middle eastern origins, he goes through all sorts of mental gymnastics to suggest that the evidence is inconclusive. He fancies himself a scientist yet tries to manipulate the results of his research in order to reach the desired conclusion. Science indeed."
It is quite obvious that whoever wrote this statement either has not read the actual publications I wrote, or he might simply not understand them. A couple of years ago, at the conclusion of my presentation at the annual FAIR conference, a similar question was posed, this time by someone that could not understand why I felt so strongly about my conclusions regarding Joseph Smith alleged offspring and yet, I rejected the so-called genetic evidence of a Great Lakes geographical setting for the people described in the Book of Mormon. I am sure that others that are not familiar with the details and properties of genetic inheritance might be wondering the same thing.
The answer to these questions/criticisms is quite simple and I have addressed multiple times, including in some of my writings. DNA is not evidence only when it is convenient, but it is evidence when it is evidence. In the case of testing Joseph Smith purported children born to polygamous relationships, the genetic method employed was the uniparental marker Y chromosome, which is a section of DNA that is inherited exclusively from father to son, along an unbroken paternal line. Because of lack of recombination, Y chromosome testing can be ascertained to exact people in a person's pedigree chart. If the genealogy is known and the Y chromosome signature (called haplotype) of a number of male descendants of a specific ancestor can be collected and tested, then the Y chromosome profile of that ancestor can be inferred quite accurately, just as if a DNA sample could have been obtained from the ancestor himself. This process can be repeated over and over for any male ancestor (including Joseph Smith and his alleged biological sons) as long as living male descendants can be identified and a DNA sample collected from them. Then the game is quite easy. All you have to do is to line up and compare the inferred (or reconstructed) Y chromosome haplotypes for the two individuals you are trying to establish a connection along the paternal line. If the values match, then you probably have a biological relationship. If they don't, then you can be 100% confident that you are looking at two non-related individuals.
So, how could science be accurate in this instance, but it cannot be used to bring forth similar conclusions when it comes to the historicity of the Book of Mormon? The difference lays within the expectations from the genetic approach. In the case of Joseph Smith and his alleged posterity, the Y chromosome profiles that were reconstructed and used for that analysis were accurate genetic fingerprints that belonged to specific individuals that lived in the past. The known relationships obtained through the genealogical data were key to line up the proper candidates for the genetic testing necessary in the study. With regard to the Book of Mormon, I explained already and in great detail that you cannot exclude the historical presence of an Israelite family arriving in the Americas 2600 years ago based on the genetic sampling of modern-day Native American populations. This is simple and plain population genetics at work. Any population geneticist would agree that when a small group of people become part of a large population, their genetic signature is destined to disappear quite rapidly within a handful of generations. Moreover, we now know with great accuracy the Y chromosome haplotype of Joseph Smith and how it can be used as a standard for comparison against anyone who was claimed to be his biological child; however, we know nothing about the DNA profiles of the people of the Book of Mormon. The "mental gymnastic" I have been accused of is the very piece of truth that those criticizing the historicity of the Book of Mormon from a DNA standpoint are unwilling to accept: WE DON'T KNOW WHAT LEHI'S DNA IS and therefore this is the main reason why it cannot be identified in the Americas. Everything else is pretty much irrelevant. Show me Lehi's DNA and then let's go about looking for it among past and present indigenous populations of the Western Hemisphere. Without it, you are missing the very piece of genetic evidence that anyone interested in a genetic perspective on the Book of Mormon (both in favor or against it) would need.