Sunday, June 13, 2010

Jews Found to be a Distinct Ethnic Group

Two new studies by several researchers have suggested that the children of Abraham really are related. Of the first study, the New York Post reports:
Researchers say the study, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, puts to rest age-old questions about whether Jews are a group of unrelated people who share a religious ideology or a distinct ethnicity with common ancestry.

“The debate is over,” said Dr. Edward R. Burns, one of the lead authors of the study. “The Jewish people are one people with a common genetic thread that evolved in the second or third century BC.”

The study, “Abraham’s Children in the Genome Era,” compared the genetic analyses of 237 Jews, including Sephardic (Middle Eastern) and Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jews — as well as an analysis of 418 non-Jews worldwide, and found that the Jews were more closely related to each other than to their fellow countrymen.
The first thing that struck me about the story is that the last time that I heard someone say "The debate is over," it was Al Gore, speaking about global warming. Such language is not often heard from a scientist, for good reason. Often, if someone says that, the debate is far from over.

The second thing is that, as Genesis reports, God promised Abraham that his descendants would be like the stars in the sky in number. 237 Jews gives new meaning to the word "sample." While it is true that other studies have largely corroborated this one (Ostrer, 2001, Nebel, 2001)1, clearly more work needs to be done.

Since it is the New York Post, a political note needs to be interjected:
The study — and a second genetic study published Friday in the journal Nature — scientifically undermines arguments made by those who challenge Jews’ historical relationship to Israel, such as former White House correspondent Helen Thomas, who resigned last week after saying Jews in Israel should “go home” to Germany, Poland and the United States.

Turns out, the Jews in Israel are already there.

1Ostrer, H. (2001). "A genetic profile of contemporary Jewish populations." Nature Reviews Genetics 2(11): 891-898.

Nebel, A., D. Filon, et al. (2001). "The Y chromosome pool of Jews as part of the genetic landscape of the Middle East." The American Journal of Human Genetics 69(5): 1095-1112.

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