Question;

I have been following the work of Hugh Ross and his team on
reasonstobelieve.org. A claim made on that web-site is that we can show
using y-chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA that the population of mankind
can be traced back to a mitochondrial Eve and a y-chromosomal Adam.
Furthermore the dating of Eve at an earlier date in earth’s history links
in with the genesis flood, apparently due to the genetic diversity of the
women who were Noah and his son’s wives this would result in such an
apparent order of creation. If the above theory is an accurate
representation of their claims, and if their claims are in actuality true,
should we not see the same in the animal and insect kingdoms. Do you know
if the claims can be validated?

Answer:

I am familiar with the y-chromosomal argument for Adam as well as the
mitochondrial DNA argument for Eve. There are so many things which I am
not sure about that it is difficult for me to make solid inferences about
how biblical statements correlate to the science. For example, I do not
know when the flood happened, assuming it happened. I believe, by faith
in the inspiration of the Bible, that a flood which judged mankind did
happen. I also believe by faith that Noah and his family was saved from
this flood. However, due to questions about Hebrew genealogy, I do not
know when Noah lived. Was the flood four thousand years ago (not likely),
or was it ten thousand years ago, or even farther in the past? I do not
know, and not knowing makes it hard to make solid conclusions. Another
question which is open, at least in my mind, is whether the destruction of
all other life was literally total. Given the existence of kangaroos and
duck-billed platypuses in Australia, I am forced to be open in my view of
things. Did God re-create species in places from which it was not
possible for them to migrate to the ark? If so, might God have recreated
humans in other places as well? Is it possible that the flood was
world-wide in impact, but not as complete in its destruction of all life
as we have tended to assume, based on the language in Genesis?

I cannot speak for Hugh Ross or for his organization. For myself, I am an
agnostic on the whole mitochondrial Eve thing. I accept as given, based
on the evidence, that supernatural events have occurred. When, how and
how many people and animals God created before and after the flood is not
known by me. All I can really say is that if person x made assumption y,
then this would imply z about the mitochondria of cockroaches or bears. I
do not know person x, neither do I know assumption y he or she makes.

Can we learn anything useful about biblical statements from the
interesting theory of Mitochondrial Eve? I do not know. Can we make
testable predictions about similar data for other animals? Yes, if we
make assumptions that I do not feel I can reasonably make. I am not
prepared to make bold predictions about what scientists will discover when
they study the mitochondria of other animals, and I am a bit skeptical of
those who do.

Now that I have explained the reasons I do not want to speculate, let me
begin to do what I do not want to do, which is to reach conclusions from
certain assumptions. Let us assume that the flood happened about 5000
years ago. Let us also assume that literally all human life was
eliminated at that time except the eight on the ark. Let us than allow
that there is some validity to the mitochondrial Eve model. Experts in
this area have estimated a date of about 150,000 years ago for the
progenitor female of the human race. I am quite skeptical of the
precision of such calculations. Let us allow for the age of this “Eve” to
be plus or minus fifty percent of this number. In that case, the Eve
lived between something like 75,000 and 300,000 years ago. If all these
things are conceded, then the two pictures do not fit. The
daughters-in-law of Noah are not the progenitors of the entire human race,
and there is scientific reason to question the biblical account. Either
one must find a problem with the mitochondrial Eve hypothesis (for example
impose some sort of supernatural change in human mitochondrial DNA or some
change in the laws of nature or something like that), or one must question
the biblical story of Noah.

The same type of argument can be used to discuss the mitochondrial DNA of
other creatures, although I am not aware of the evidence in this case.

Like I already said, I am not prepared to make the assumptions listed in
the paragraph above. I do not know in detail the view of Hugh Ross, so I
have to leave it in your hands to look at this issue and reach your own
conclusion.

One little side note. We think we know the genetics of the children of
Noah, but we do not. Noah?s sons married three different, unrelated
women. It is possible that these three had extremely variant
mitochondrial DNA. For this reason, it is not clear how a mitochondrial
DNA theory relates to the timing of the flood. Much of the mitochondrial
DNA variation which accumulated from the time of Eve could have been
preserved in the three wives, who produced the daughters of Ham, Shem and
Japheth. Logically, one might surmise that the three wives were at least
somewhat closely related, which means that quite a bit of the mDNA
variation which had accrued would have been lost. Bottom line, it
requires speculation to estimate how much of the past variation in mDNA
was lost in the flood, if we take all the details of the flood account
literally as they apply to human ancestors. If we assume that two of
each unclean animal was on the ark and that these were literally the only
survivors of the flood, then the mDNA of all the subsequent animals came
from a single female.

John Oakes, PhD

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