Re: Culture's effect on Genetics

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Wed 15 Feb 2006 - 12:16:40 GMT

  • Next message: Joel.M Dimech: "Re: Culture's effect on Genetics"

    Scott Chase wrote:
    >> From: Kate Distin <>
    >> Reply-To:
    >> To:
    >> Subject: Re: Culture's effect on Genetics
    >> Date: Wed, 15 Feb 2006 10:08:53 +0000
    >> Derek Gatherer wrote:
    >>> Okay, wearing my geneticist hat here.....
    >>> For a common ancestor of all the Ys within both Jewish and
    >>> Palestinian populations (which would be the "Y-chromosomal Abraham"
    >>> by analogy with the "Y-chromosomal Adam"), the date is probably
    >>> something like 8000-11000 BC (so the story in Genesis about Abraham
    >>> cannot be true if one goes with the historians who guess that Abraham
    >>> was ~2000 BC. If a historical figure, Abraham could have been the
    >>> common ancestor of many current Jews and Palestinians but
    >>> nevertheless only a minority in both populations as he is too recent)
    >> Responding with my RE teacher's hat on . . .
    >> I'm not intending to spark a debate about Biblical historicity, but
    >> it's interesting in the light of what you say to note that Abraham is
    >> first introduced (Genesis 11) against the background of a
    >> geneaological history that gives the Hebrews a place in the wider
    >> Semitic context ("the descendants of Shem"). Although this
    >> genealogical picture is apparently painted in terms of individuals, in
    >> fact the OT thinks of people as being so tightly bound up with their
    >> tribe that it's not always easy to se whether names refer to a person
    >> or his tribe (e.g. later references to Jacob/Israel).
    >> So although Abraham is revered as a patriarch, he of course did not
    >> spring from nowhere, and indeed the Bible specifically draws our
    >> attention to his ancestry. Talk of a Y-chromosomal Abraham may
    >> therefore be misguided - when talking about his genetic fathering of
    >> nations, the Bible places this in the context of his genetic ancestry.
    >> It is when talking about his theological fathering of nations, if you
    >> like, that the Bible emphasises his lack of memetic ancestry - that he
    >> was the first monotheist. (And there's a rather delightful Qur'anic
    >> story which makes the same point.)
    > In the US you can accept that George Washington was the "father of his
    > country" or that we had multiple "founding fathers". The so-called
    > fatherhood was obviously ideological and not genetic as most of us bear
    > no direct genealogical relation to any of the founding fathers. Maybe
    > the same holds true for Jewish and Arab patriarchs and their cultural
    > descendants.

    I think that's right, though the OT does also place some emphasis on the genealogical relationships.


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