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Mitochondrial Eve

on August 21, 2010
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ScienceDaily: “‘Mitochondrial Eve’: Mother of All Humans Lived 200,000 Years AgoWhen evolutionary scientists speak of “mitochondrial Eve,” they may be referencing the biblical Eve, but the woman they have in mind isn’t quite the same.

Genesis 2–3 describes Eve as the first woman—made from the first man, Adam—and who was given her name because “she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). But for evolutionists, “Eve” was never the mother of all those living during her lifetime, nor was she the first woman nor even the only woman around at the time.

It is through analysis of this mitochondrial DNA that the date of the evolutionary Eve has been calculated.

Instead, the evolutionary view of Eve is the most recent common maternal ancestor who can be traced to all humans living today. The appellation “mitochondrial” refers to the DNA present in human mitochondria (a cell organelle) that is only inherited maternally; it is through analysis of this mitochondrial DNA that the date of the evolutionary Eve has been calculated.

But as with many other genetic analyses, assumptions—evolutionary assumptions—play a crucial role. Researcher Krzysztof Cyran of the Silesian University of Technology explains:

“You have to translate the differences between gene sequences into how they evolved in time. And how they evolved in time depends upon the model of evolution that you use. So, for instance, what is the rate of genetic mutation, and is that rate of change uniform in time? And what about the process of random loss of genetic variants, which we call genetic drift?”

A news release, meanwhile, explains:

Each model has its own assumptions, and each assumption has mathematical implications. To further complicate matters, some of the assumptions are not valid for human populations.

Using such assumptions, Cyran and colleagues concluded that mitochondrial Eve most likely lived some 200,000 years ago—an age dwarfing the biblical date of around 6,000 years ago. But once again, we see the crucial role played not by scientific observation, but by presuppositions about how, where, and when humans arrived on the planet, and how, where, and when the human population has changed since our arrival. And, of course, the researchers aren’t working with biblical presuppositions—so it’s no surprise that they overestimate their “Eve” by 194,000 years!


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