Dearest Mother mtDNA Eve

by Navy Christian

My mother came from Africa…well, if you trace the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) back far enough. Science generally accepts this theory as having enough evidence to call a fact, or as much of a fact as scientists can without contradicting scientific dogma.

I remember talking to an atheist about this issue once. While he made various arguments about human evolution, I countered with the idea that, once upon a time, there had to be an eve. There had to be one human who was different enough from the apes around her that she was Eve. And there had to be a male who could mate with her, so once upon a time there had to be an Adam too.

My friend accepted my argument, but only despairingly. He certainly accepted that there had to be an original evolved couple that was different as to be called human, but of course he couldn’t accept the names Adam and Eve.

nwswk8I had no idea then, because I had just started my journey, but this is really an old argument in scientific circles. My friend and I just hadn’t learnt about it! In the 11 January, 1998 issue of Newsweek, an African-American-looking couple graced the cover. It wasn’t a normal shot of a couple, however. Instead, it mirrored the normally Caucasian version of Adam and Eve we see in older children’s Bible storybooks.

There was a time when scientists thought that the different races of homo sapiens sprung up individually in different regions. This is called the multiregionalism and while not completely disproven, it looks rather obsolete as a theory. I plan to write about that in some detail later on in the journey.

Ironically, the Eve of science isn’t all that old. She was probably alive around 200,000 years ago, and most likely in Africa.[1] With evolution’s timeframe consisting of some billions of years or more, it’s interesting to note that the evolution of human really took a foothold so recently.

But where does this leave us? I think this puts us in a great place! Unfortunately, many, many of my brothers and sisters in fundamentalist camps (read: evangelical) will reject the idea because it’s more than a 6,000 year timeline and science still holds that it required evolutionary movement from an ape-like animal to human.

Yet the journey isn’t about finding a magical bullet. Rather, I am trying to investigate science for what it might show me about God’s creative process. In that the “Our of Africa” model, with it’s beginning point at mtDNA Eve, I find a great common point between creation and evolution. And now that there is also a way to trace the Adam Y chromosome as well, a truly common point of emphasis is starting to form.[2]

I used to be caught up in the fight against Peking Man, Java Man, Lucy, and the rest. I rejected a common ancestor because I thought that scientists were trying to show that all of them were on my ancestral timeline. Once Eve became a reality, however, a clearer picture formed.

There is still much work to do, and much more research to sift through. But I am excitedly celebrating the idea of mitochondrial Eve and look forward to learning more about “mom.”

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[1] Oppenheimer, Stephen. The Real Eve: Modern Man’s Journey Out of Africa, Carroll and Graf Publishers, New York. 2003. Pg 37.

[2] Ibid, pg 41.