Comments and Replies ... and Who We Are

TANATA is devoted to discussing the paradoxes and the mysteries of life, among which is the paradox of the coexistence of good and evil. “God is love,” John tells us. Evil exists, we would suggest, not because God is detached or unconcerned, but because free will exists which is required for true, unforced love to exist. Still, it is painfully hard to reconcile this paradox. We believe that all evil one day will be judged and destroyed, until then we must pray.

DANIEL 7:13-14

13 “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.

14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.


7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

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And did all races evolve from one man? ...

DNA studies which have mapped human migration say yes.

Science shows that Africans are our common ancestors … and that Eden is to be found in Ethiopia, not in Mesopotamia, i.e., Babylon.

The pattern of genetic mutations out of Africa offers evidence that the first humans left what is now Ethiopia and proceeded to populate the rest of the world … and in the process, all of the races of mankind “evolved” from these first humans. Would the first homo sapiens sapiens therefore have been composite forms of all races combined? That is a reasonable conclusion, particularly as we note the different races and where they settled in other parts of the world as the first humans migrated out of Africa. We all originated from the same point — east Africa, science says.

If all of our human ancestors in effect migrated from Ethiopia … was there an evolution of races? There must have been. Science shows that Africans are our common ancestors.

Well, what about the white race, you might ask? Eve was taken from a bone, a rib bone, we’re told in Genesis … and aren’t bones white? Some food for thought.

We believe in the resurrection of Jesus and therefore imagine that the God who raised Jesus from the dead could have created the first humans ex nihilo, that is, from nothing. (This, of course, cannot be strictly proved scientifically — at least not by us — but there must have been a time when there was nothing but God, for everything but God has had a birthday, a time when it did not exist … and then it did.)

The idea of God creating mankind from nothing means the the first man and the first woman would have been DNA superhumans, possessing the DNA potential for all races. 

The presence of silt and the invention of papyrus, along with the apparent origins of man’s ability to write and cipher were the reasons we were told in school that “the cradle of civilization” was surely to be found in Sumeria, what eventually became Babylonia. Abraham came from here, from Ur, we’ve been told, making the long trek with his family from one end of the Fertile Crescent, the southeasternmost portion of Mesopotamia, northward in the desert to what was to become Assyria, then southward to Canaan, with a “brief” stop in Egypt, before heading north again into Canaan. Here we find a lush tropical paradise known as Sodom, with Gomorrah nearby.

But is Africa, Egypt the originating location of Judaism, from whence came the first Hebrews? Some anthropologists say yes.

Does science suggest to us that Abram/Abraham may instead have been an African, if East Africa is the true cradle of the human race? We must take into account that Noah traveled with his family to a point nearer to southeastern Mesopotamia than Africa, which would account for early humans in Ur. But if Abraham was the father of many nations, is it more likely than not that he would have been African? Purely speculation.

However, it bears noting that there is no evidence that the first humans migrated from southern Iraq at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Silt or no silt. There are no genetic markers, no archaeological discoveries, no paleography, no evidences save for tablets that mankind originated here, in a pseudo Eden, and advanced here. But many of us, even some scholars, still believe that Eden was here.

Science, as evidence mounts, is developing a different paradigm for the origins of mankind, the cradle of civilization and a different locale for where Eden must have been, and that is in Ethiopia. Consider these excellent articles:

By Karen Kaplan,
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

February 22, 2008 — Scrutinizing the DNA of 938 people from 51 distinct populations around the world, geneticists have created a detailed map of how humans spread from their home base in sub-Saharan Africa to populate the farthest reaches of the globe over the last 100,000 years.

The pattern of genetic mutations, to be published today in the journal Science, offers striking evidence that an ancient band of explorers left what is now Ethiopia and — along with their descendants — went on to colonize North Africa, the Middle East, Europe, southern and central Asia, Australia and its surrounding islands, the Americas and East Asia.

A second analysis based on some of the same DNA samples corroborated the results. Those findings, published Thursday in the journal Nature, demonstrated that the greater the geographic distance between a population and its African ancestors, the more changes had accumulated in its genes.

The story of human migration revealed by DNA “complements what’s known through history, linguistics or anthropology,” said Jun Li, a University of Michigan human geneticist and lead author of the Science study.

Both research groups relied on DNA from blood samples collected by anthropologists around the world as part of the Human Genome Diversity Project, a controversial effort from the mid-1990s to gather genetic specimens from thousands of populations, including many indigenous tribes.

Previous studies have relied on data from the International HapMap Consortium, which cataloged DNA from 269 people of Nigerian, Japanese, Chinese and European descent.

“Instead of saying a particular person’s genome is from Africa, this kind of data allows us to say which part of Africa they were from,” said Andrew Singleton, chief of the molecular genetics section at the National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Md., and senior author of the Nature report.

In both studies, the researchers analyzed more than half a million single-letter changes among the approximately 3 billion As, Cs, Ts and Gs that make up the human genome. Those changes — called single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs — begin as random mutations and accumulate over time as they are passed from one generation to the next.

Each time a small group left its home territory to found a new population, the migration ultimately led to a unique pattern of SNPs. Comparing those patterns, the researchers were able to show that humans spread around the globe through a series of migrations that originated from a location near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

With the expanded DNA data set, Li and his colleagues were able to make finer distinctions among groups that were previously treated as homogeneous. In Europe, for example, the researchers were able to distinguish between Orcadians from present-day Scotland, the French, Tuscans and northern Italians from what is now Bergamo, Italy.

In the Far East, population geneticists had previously surmised that northern and southern Han Chinese were distinct populations and that the Japanese islands were populated by northern Han. “Now we have direct evidence that that’s true,” Li said.

Singleton’s group also studied collections of SNPs called haplotypes that tend to be inherited en masse, as well as DNA segments known as copy number variants that appear with different frequencies in different individuals.

By creating a catalog of normal genetic variability among different groups of people, the studies will help medical researchers pinpoint the role of genes in specific diseases, said Singleton, whose lab is part of the National Institutes of Health.

A third study, also published in Nature, compared SNPs in 20 European Americans to those in 15 African Americans and found that, on average, a higher proportion of the European American SNPs were likely to be harmful.

Overall, the African American genomes had more SNPs, reflecting the fact that they are descended from an older population, said senior author Carlos Bustamante, an assistant professor of biological statistics and computational biology at Cornell University. By using a computer algorithm, researchers determined that 12 percent of the SNPs unique to African Americans were “probably damaging,” compared with 16 percent of the SNPs found only in the European Americans.

He and his colleagues surmised that the discrepancy could be traced to the relatively small and homogenous group that first inhabited Europe. Any harmful mutations they brought with them would have spread more quickly through the isolated group.

Such effects have been observed in European subgroups, such as Ashkenazi Jews and Icelanders, Bustamante said. The results suggest that larger populations could be vulnerable to “founder effects” as well, he said.

The studies were funded by the NIH, the National Science Foundation and private foundations.

By Tadias Staff Writer
NEW YORK (Tadias), February 23, 2008 —
Three new genomic studies released last week provide the most detailed road map yet of human diversity, offering insight into how humans spread from Ethiopia to populate the globe over the last 100,000 years.
Two of the studies appeared in Nature on Thursday, while a third appeared in Friday’s edition of Science.

The research supports the previously held notion that humans originated in Ethiopia, migrating outward until they reached all parts of the globe. But, according to GenomeWeb Daily News, an online news organization focused on advanced research tools in genomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics, “the genetic work brings a new level of precision to human migration studies, with each group finding subtle and intriguing details that shed light on different aspects of human genetic variation and ancestry.”

The studies offer evidence that our ancestors left what is now Ethiopia and went on to colonize North Africa, the Middle East, Europe, southern and central Asia, Australia and its surrounding islands, the Americas and East Asia.

The story of human migration revealed by DNA “compliments what’s known through history, linguistics or anthropology,” said Jun Li, the University of Michigan human geneticist who led the Science study.

According to GenomeWeb, in the largest of the three studies, a group of researchers based primarily at the Stanford Human Genome Center assessed 642,690 SNPs from 938 individuals from 51 populations. Their results, published in Science, provide a peek into the genetic variation both on a global scale as well as within relatively small geographic areas.

The research also suggests Ethiopians are the most genetically diverse, while Native American genomes exhibit the lowest genetic diversity. Middle Eastern, Asian, and European populations, on the other hand, fall somewhere in between.

“Diversity has eroded through the migration process,” University of Michigan geneticist, biostatistician, and evolutionary biologist Noah Rosenberg, said.

The study found evidence for decreasing haplotype heterozygosity in people as they moved further away from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

They also found genetic evidence for differences in ancestry within populations. For instance, some individuals from the Middle East, such as Palestinians, Druze, and Bedouins, had ancestors from the Middle East as well as Europe and parts of South and Central Asia.

The results of these studies, while intriguing from a human ancestry perspective, may also provide insights into interpreting the genetics of some diseases, since they provide a framework for understanding genetic variation.

“One of the biggest problems … is that when you don’t take population or geographic origin into account in a large genetic study for studying something like heart disease — one of the complex traits — for instance, you end up confounding the study such that you don’t actually get real signals,” senior author Richard Myers, a geneticist at Stanford University said in Science magazine’s weekly podcast.

Editor’s note: Below is a recent post which appears on Dr. Wells’ blog.


San2 blogphoto.jpgAT RIGHT: A San Bushman woman in southern Africa; the San retain links to the deepest branch in the human family tree. (Photo by Spencer Wells)

by Spencer Wells, Ph.D.

As the first Genographica blog post, it’s appropriate that I’m posting from Africa — or ‘the homeland’, as those of us in the population genetics biz call call her. For the past few days, some of our DC-based science team and myself have been visiting our sub-Saharan Africa regional center at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, headed by Professor Himla Soodyall. So far, we’ve had a fascinating discussion of the data that’s already been generated, planning for several exciting projects to come, as well as a review of our laboratory procedures and other protocols.

One of the most striking things to come out of our time with Himla and her team is a glimpse she gave us of a seemingly straightforward genetic analysis she has just done on a cross-section of South Africans living in Simons Town, near Cape Town, on the southwest coast of the country. She gave a lecture on the project there last year, and invited everyone present to participate. Nearly one hundred people did so, scraping the insides of their cheeks just like you have done if you’ve sent in your own sample. She asked them a few genealogical questions, the same sorts that we ask you when you submit your results to the database — place of birth, native language, and so on. She also, though, asked them a question that has particular significance in South Africa - their ethnicity. During South Africa’s Apartheid era, all South Africans were officially classified by race. ‘Bantu’ (or ‘black’ African), ‘Coloured’ and ‘White’ all had specific meanings, based on perceived levels of racial purity. As anyone who has visited Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for nearly 20 years) or the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg can attest, these somewhat vague classifications underpinned Apartheid governments policies for nearly a century, upholding a social order in which ‘racial purity’ was sacrosanct.

 Himla’s results show just how far wrong they were. Her analysis reveals that many ‘black’ South Africans carry European genetic lineages, particularly on their paternal side. The ‘Coloured’ population is revealed to be a mix of African, Asian and European lineages, impossible to classify unambiguously according to anyone’s taxonomy. And perhaps most surprisingly, around 20% of the people who described themselves as ‘white’ were carrying indigenous South African lineages - many belonging to the L0d and L0k lineages we described as being typically ‘San’ (Bushman) in a recent paper. Clearly, these people would have had ‘black’ ancestors - San or Khoe typically on their maternal side - at some point in the past few hundred years.

This result illustrates two points very clearly. First, that white racial purity was always a myth, even ignoring the ancient migrations that tie us all together as a species. We all share genes to some extent. And second, that Khoe-San genetic lineages are alive and well in the DNA of today’s South Africans. The San - called ‘the harmless people’ by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas - may be marginalized, their traditional culture endangered, and their children abandoning the ways of their ancestors, but their genetic legacy lives on in today’s South Africans. It is perhaps fitting that the earliest inhabitants of the Cape region are, in a sense, still living there today - in the blood of everyone, whether black, white or ‘Coloured’, who calls this beautiful place home.