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Saints vs. Science 

Latter-day inquisitions and how to end them

What I have to say is going to come as a disappointment to law enforcement personnel, most notably in areas of Southern Idaho and Utah, but from now on, devout followers of the LDS faith must not be allowed to use DNA as evidence in legal trials, or to establish paternity or anything else DNA science is good for. Nope, good Mormons are just gonna have to solve their crimes some other way.

But before I explain why, I am obliged to go through the motions of assuring you I have nothing against any one religion in particular. It should be clear by now that I don't much like any of 'em, and I have stated so several times. So how can anyone say I have a special bitch against the Mormons because I might use some dumbass thing the Mormon leadership is doing to illustrate a point?

Yet we all know that any time I use "Mormon" and "dumbass" in the same sentence, a lot of people are going to have fits unless I go that extra mile and offend everyone else, too. So here goes: Catholics, ugh! Two millennia later, and there still hasn't been a woman priest? If you ask me, that puts them in the same Dark Age as those Taliban goons-which should clue you in that I don't have much use for Islam, either.

And Hare Krishnas, yuck! They're almost as bad as Jehovah Witnesses, only they're not as apt to come knocking at your door.

Methodists, lawdy ... they might as well be Kiwanis, since no one's really sure what either of them do, anyway. And Jews? I tell you what, anytime somebody claims to be God's chosen people, it's probably best to politely back yourself out of that conversation before a border dispute breaks out.

There. Have I left anyone out? Oh, evangelicals! But certainly, you must have guessed by now that I consider evangelicals one of the itchiest plagues God has ever unleashed on the world. Give me frogs any ol' day.

Now then, I believe once again I have established myself as a totally impartial and evenhanded critic of religious lunacy. So let us proceed to the dumbass thing the LDS Church is up to without anyone screaming bias. Okey-doke?

It all has to do with an Australian molecular biologist and former LDS bishop, one Dr. Simon Southerton, who has written a book about his efforts to find a DNA relationship between Native Americans and Biblical Israelites. As you probably know-especially if you are either 1) Mormon, 2) have read the Book of Mormon, or 3) wandered into the wrong Cub Scout den back when you were a kid-Joseph Smith and his followers taught that the people we call "Indians" are descendants of a lost tribe of Israelites from way back when. According to Smith, they were so lost, they somehow ended up way over here in the western hemisphere. How's that for "lost?" Reminds me of that old joke about the Weydafuggahwe Indians. I'll tell it to you sometime.

Anyway ... for all his research, Dr. Southerton came up with-if I may be allowed to use an ancient Israelite word-"bupkis." That's right, he could find no DNA link whatsoever between oldy-time Israelites and the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Nor could he find a connection between those wandering Semites and the Pacific Islands Polynesians, another ethnic group that supposedly figures into LDS cosmology. (This, I guess, explains the Salt Lake City church's intense interest in the Hawaiian Islands and why they opened a BYU branch campus on Oahu. And I'll bet you thought it was just because Hawaii is so much neater than Utah, didn't you?)

As you can imagine, Southerton's book, Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA and the Mormon Church, hasn't gone over well down on the Wasatch Front. By the time you read this, church bosses will likely have excommunicated Southerton, even though the scientist quit his bishop gig years ago and seems to have gone thoroughly jack.

Now, whether or not Southerton gives a hoot if he's excommunicated is something I couldn't tell you. Nor do I know if being black-balled by an authoritarian religious hierarchy is something that will hurt his prospects in the molecular biology biz. All I know is being ostracized by a bunch of powerful theocrats puts him in pretty good company-Copernicus, Galileo and Darwin, to name a few. And as for those who try so hard to suppress truth ... like, what was the name of that holy guy who ordered Galileo to shut up, eh?

But the most troubling questions to come out of this episode-at least, in the mind of this impartial scorner of all things faith-based-has to do with the judgment of those pious individuals and august bodies who appoint themselves (usually with little or no input from the groveling congregation) as the wellspring of all wisdom. Where, exactly, do they draw their line between what is useful information and what is heresy? If they are so adamant about denying any science that contradicts whatever bilge they've been preaching, how the heck can they use that same science in the day-to-day, nonsectarian applications of it?

Obviously, this conundrum is not just a Mormon problem. In the future, we will undoubtedly see advances in evolution science, stem cell medicine, astrophysics, geology, psychology ... all of which will certainly broaden our minds and will likely improve our condition, and all of which will contradict every religious dogma that has rightfully earned the description "dogmatic." So we need to set some sort of standard now, before conflicts arise.

Are we going to let some fool who fought stem cell research get in on the potential cure for whatever stem cells might cure? Are we going to allow some cud-sucking creationist to be the first person to get a heart transplant from chimpanzees, our nearest neighbors on the evolutionary ladder? I think not! I say if these Pharisees won't accept the science because it contradicts their mythology, then by golly, they shouldn't expect to gain from that science in other ways. Mind you, I'm not picking on the Mormons alone, but we have to start somewhere, yes? So from this day forward, CSI is out-of-bounds for the LDS, period! If DNA evidence can't be trusted when it comes to disproving a church tenet, then DNA evidence must not be trusted when it comes to convicting a killer.

Then, hopefully, one day soon, all the groveling congregations the world over will have had their fill of living in the dark their leaders created for them. And who knows? They might even join the rest of us over here in reality.

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