Epigenetics and, perhaps, the sins of the father

Section of DNA
Section of DNA (Wikipedia)

Not much time to post — we’re leaving to head out of town a little later. But it hit me that the subject I have been poking around recently might be new to some folks and thought it worth commenting on.

One of the newsletters I received this week from either the Discovery Institute or the Center for Science and Culture (or an article I eventually surfed to after reading the newsletter) discussed epigenetics — the capacity for information beyond and outside the genome and DNA to be passed from generation to generation. It’s a subject that one of my local members here in Ohio (thanks BF!) had turned me onto which I find fascinating.

Epigenetics has demonstrated the potential for choices a parent makes — say, to smoke — has the potential to the children we may have for generations even though it makes no change to our DNA. Studies have shown that, in a manner similar to Lamarck’s theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics, things we experience — even when we are still children ourselves or even while we are still in our mothers womb — and choices we make before having children can create heritable consequences passed down multiple generations, including, for instance, dramatic reductions or increases in lifespans. Yet not a single change is made in our DNA or our genetics: the changes occur in our epigenetics.

If our DNA and genes are the hardware of our biological inheritance, like the Intel chip shared by PCs and Macs, epigenetics is the software of our inheritance, like the Mac or Windows operating systems. Same hardware, but totally different results based on totally different software. (I won’t get into comparing the “results” of Mac versus Windows operating systems here, lest we >ahem< get to far afield.)

It is an incredible realm of biology that is barely understood. And it is complex. As a TIME magazine article said back in 2009, comparing the possibility of a Human Epigenome Project to fully map the epigenome to the famous 2000 Human Genome Project, which did successfully map the human genome, “When completed, the Human Epigenome Project (already under way in Europe) will make the Human Genome Project look like homework that 15th century kids did with an abacus.”

For those who aren’t familiar with epigenetics–and I suspect that too few are–the TIME magazine article is a great introduction. Here’s a link: “Why Your DNA Isn’t Your Destiny”. Read it and let me know what you think.

For my part, a passage of Scripture comes to mind, in which God mentions “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:7). This passage has often been considered as representing an unforgiving and unjustly vengeful nature in God (and falsely so; Ezekiel 18:4, 20 should be considered as well). However, perhaps–just perhaps–it may have reflected a bit of epigenetic reality. Science is showing more and more that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren do inherit some of the effects produced by choices we make in our own lives.

27 thoughts on “Epigenetics and, perhaps, the sins of the father

  1. Thomas

    Good article. I seem to half remember a documentary from a couple of years ago talking about the effects that the famines experienced by those in northern Sweden during the 19th century had on inherited traits of their offspring. Obviously describing this phenomena. As you pointed out, makes God’s promise to visit the iniquities of the fathers up to the 3rd and 4th generation, re: idols (which, of course, include smoking, gluttony, vices etc.), seem a lot more concrete, automatic, and immediate (not that I did not take the Word of God seriously on such, beforehand).

    Here is a link to a brief article from the pro-ID website evolutionnews.org in which the author seems to have coined a musical metaphor (which may pique Mr. Wheeler’s interest) to describe epigenetics that has gained some currency among those doing the research over the last couple of years. The article ends by pointing out the challenges this field presents to purely materialistic theories for life. Though brief, it does link to fuller treatments of the subject.

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/01/epigenetics_and054731.html

  2. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    I read the TIME article several months ago and I’m surprised I didn’t tip you off about it. And I’d heard about the subject from a local member indirectly earlier (in the sense of “protein switches”). And thought I haven’t read through the book mentioned in the TIME article yet, I received it as a gift and it has something (probably a good deal) to say about the subject.

    So I guess the race is on. If you don’t submit an LCG Commentary on the subject first, I will. πŸ˜€ (If you do submit something, I hope you’ll kindly tip me off. And I will vice the versa.)

  3. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    I should add that the TIME article gives examples through studies about how, statistically, the sins of the fathers are passed down through several generations and how epigenetics promises to explain why. The book explains that it can work the other way too – benefits such as higher general IQ can be passed on, allegedly – and for the same reason. It’s a promising field given that the eipgenome might be up to 50 times the size of the genome (no one is yet sure of the actual order of magnitude).

  4. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    The effects of famine in Sweden, if memory serves, are explicitly discussed in the TIME article early on. Thanks for the link, Thomas.

  5. texasborn

    As John pointed out, benefits can be passed on to the next generation, e.g., the fetus gestating in the mother’s womb. By playing symphonic music during that period, the mother is supposed to pass on the liking for such a genre of music. Hmm, I wonder if the senior Bach’s wife listened to him playing his music while she was pregnant. His progeny certainly displayed great propensity towards creating magnificent music, also.

    But, the reverse might also be true. Hard-rock and heavy-metal musicians’ sons have been known to have inherited a similar propensity to that particular genre, also. So, I guess it is not only “you are what you eat,” but “you are what you hear” in the womb, also.

  6. Epigenetics makes me think of a bear trap that snaps closed when sin triggers it.

    On a related note, I spoke with one church member who is an allergy doctor, and he said that in many cases, once an allergy is “activated”, it can’t be undone. I was curious if this had something to do with this subject. I know I have many of the same pet allergies as my dad.

  7. Michael O'Byrne

    I wonder what the effects of the famines in Ireland had on the population and the succeeding generations who continued to live in Ireland or emigrated. The famines of the 1840’s were the worst period of famine in Ireland, but there had been famines in previous centuries and later in the 19th century after those of the 1840’s. The majority of those affected were from the Irish nationalist Roman Catholic part of the population, but the Ulster-Scots of North-East Ireland were affected too. It would be interesting to know how the majority who went to the US as a result of the 1846-47 – mainly ethnic Irish – fared, but the effects on the Ulster-Scots is of equal importance.

  8. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    Michael O’Byrne: All things considered, I think I must have a lot of “sins of the fathers” passed down to me, probably both genetically and epigenetically. Oy. Makes me think wryly of this citation from Yuni’s Latin Quotes:

    http://www.yuni.com/library/latin.html

    Antiquis temporibus, nati tibi similes in rupibus ventosissimis exponebantur ad necemIn the good old days, children like you were left to perish on windswept crags

    No offense, anyone, it just says something about my twisted sense of humor that I find this so tragicomically hilarious, so utterly over-the-top. Mea culpa maxima… and believe me, considering my nature and my nurture alike I am almost entirely laughing at myself.

  9. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    Since my mother’s side of the family is Scottish (Stephen), since it may be related to the Stuarts and Stewarts, and considering their connection both to the House of David on one hand and to all kinds of influences in the Old Country and in the Deep South alike, who knows what my genetics and epigenetics are carrying around…

  10. Norbert

    In my view the word “complex”, when associated with biology and human behavior is a confounding understatement.

    From my personal experience working for a family business, I was told that the founder and father of two sons, made sure his children never saw him smoking. Upon surprise visits by his sons at the workplace, he would quickly take his smoke in his hand and put them in his pocket. Which at times produced some rather peculiar facial expressions which were opposed to the words of enthusiasm that he spoke to his sons. I was told that story by a long time employee of the family business who witnessed that on a number of occasions. I was hired when his two sons were running the business and they were always non-smokers.

    With the vast multitude of people of inhabitating this Earth, it would not be beyond a reasonable doubt to believe that the opposite would be experienced by others. That a father who was a non-smoker would have two sons who would grow up to become smokers. Nor would a story of non-smoking fathers and non-smoking children and smoking fathers and smoking children.

    Perhaps science can come up with some kind of explaination for all this, something along the line of “the DNA made you do it”, but I would rather believe the words of Deut 30:19, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live:”

  11. Thanks, Norbert, but I don’t see any of this as a matter of “DNA made me do it,” at all. For instance, the comment about smokers is not saying that the children would become smokers. The actual article points out that males who begin smoking before puberty may increase the risk of obesity and other health problems, including shorter lifespans, for their children AND that this is true even if their children never choose to smoke, themselves, or are ever exposed to their parents smoking., or if their fathers quit smoking before they are born. (Of course, it is trivially true that if their children smoke then they do additional damage to themselves.) Consequently, while epigenetics may not have to do with as many things as our commenters thus far have enthusiastically mentioned, the point is that rather that contradict Deut. 30:19, epigenetics may be a science that supports the truth of Deut. 30:19.

  12. I was warned that children tend to imitate their parent, “Amplified ten times!”

    It is sobering to understand that, as a parent, I am my child’s first teacher (weather I choose to recognize it or not). It gives additional meaning to the words of Jesus, “… Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does …” (John 5:19-20). We are modeling behavior for our children (good or bad) – they may be exposed to bad behavior in the world, but who will model good conduct (righteousness) for them.

  13. Norbert

    Perhaps I should of stated, “In my view the word ‘complex’, when associated with biology and human behavior is a confounding understatement For MYSELF.” I do admit to not understanding everything I know, which is a bonus seeing there is plenty of room for improvement.

    My impression about epigenetics was that when associating genes and behavior, it still is a ‘both/and’ proposition rather than being the ‘either/or’ one of environment or genes predetermining behavior.

    Having read about the “susceptibility to epigenetic changes”, it is theorized that some people’s genes are more likely to be influenced by their environment than others because of an anomally in the DNA. Doesn’t this still allow for the idea that the DNA made me do it drive is stronger for some people than others? Basically if a person wants to fabricate an excuse around Deut. 30:19 they will not only find one but also be capable of using epigenetics to explain it?

    Here’s a link that you may wish to include. It’s an article which discusses epigenetics and the “susceptibility to epigenetic changes” about half way down the page :

    http://voices.yahoo.com/epigenetics-nature-versus-nurture-no-longer-debate-4903192.html

  14. Thanks for your last comment, Mr Smith. I’ve always been highly skeptical of the claims about “sin” genes or “I was born that way” genes. It not only take away free moral agency, it gives the individual permission to sin. The article, however, seems to point more to biological consequences, not moral choices.

    I would suggest that sins rolling through the generations is more psychological than genetic. Children tend to imbibe the attitudes and habits of their parents. And a parents can break that cycle, if they consciously set themselves to do so.

    (On the lighter side… I noticed the comments by Michael O’Byrne and John Wheeler. Perhaps we could form a small Celtic discussion club on the side. My heritage is Ulster-Scot, and I’m tied to the Stuart clan as well. The only thing I can say? Whenever we have a celebration or get-together, we put a huge amount of food on the table. Our family has done that as long as anyone can remember).

  15. My apologies to Mr Smith :)… But a historical footnote for Michael O’Byrne: Most of the catholic immigrants from southern Ireland migrated to the New England states, especially the Boston and New York regions. Most of the Ulster Scots (what Americans call Scotch Irish) migrated to the frontier lands of the West and Southwest.

    My heritage is mostly tied to the Dal Riada of Antrim, and not the low lander Scots of the Great Plantation. None the less, they got caught in the sweep of the Scotch Irish migration.

  16. Howdy, all, and my apologies for the accidental delay in approving recent comments. To Norbert: I’m sure folks will make excuses like that — it is no different than the excuses they make today. However, the idea of epigenetics, to me, communicates the opposite message: If our actions have a some impact on how our genes are expressed, let alone those of our descendants, it makes personal choice all the more important. So I see it, too, as reinforcing the “both/and” position of “nature vs nurture” discussion.

  17. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    Have to agree (as if anyone really needed to openly) with you, Mr. Smith. πŸ˜€ “Both/and” is the right way to put it. Character is what you do about your personality – which in the psychological sense, not only takes in your thought processes, but your feelings and your actions; and much of all of these has an inherent basis about which the Bible speaks in direct terms… which can yet be shaped, worked with, even overcome to a surprising degree by man’s strength alone, let alone with God’s strength making the overcoming worth something of eternal weight.

    I didn’t ask to have certain big problems I’ve inherited, and believe me, they have nothing to do with my nurture. Other problems, undoubtedly do. Some are a mixture of both nature and nurture. What the science of epigenetics, like the science of genetics, proposes is an examination of many of the roots and the branches of the mixture. Yes, the picture is complex – but that is why scientific models of human behavior exist, not to put people in boxes or to give them excuses for their behavior, but to reduce our view of human complexity to a manageable form.

    The parable of the six blind men and the elephant was meant to teach an open lesson, but it has a hidden one too: combining different points of view from different angles, instead of insisting things like “my viewpoint and only my viewpoint is right” (as the six blind men did) or “this problem is too big and complex to understand fully, so why try to understand it at all” (meaning no offense, Norbert, as I don’t think that thesis is your aim), or using any other excuse to stop searching for truth and acting on it. For when you combine accurate but partial perspectives of a complex subject, you get a more complete and more accurate perspective and a synergistic one as well.

    And maybe, just maybe, a miracle will happen and God will open the eyes of the blind and grant insight that can’t be gained any other way. πŸ™‚ I believe He’s done that in my investigations of personality models – the Bible’s allowed me to see things that are apparently completely new to the secular specialists but which make a lot of sense to at least one of them. And that’s not the first or only subject I’ve dealt with where He’s done that. The Bible really is the foundation of knowledge.

  18. Michael O'Byrne

    Steve, I understood the migratory patterns of both the Roman Catholic Irish and the Ulster-Scots, the latter having emigrated to the U.S much earlier than the great bulk of the former. There was much confusion for many years about both groups in that the origin of both was homogenised and were uniformly classied as Irish-Americans. For years after the presidency of John F. Kenned the Irish in Ireland talked – even boast – of the many Irish-American presidents, even today very few of them know of the larger number of U.S. presidents Ulster-Scots origin although thei ancestors came from Ireland and from plantation stock. As for myself, born and reared in Ireland of parents and grandparents who were likewise born and reared in Ireland. My surname of O’Byrne would suggest Irish ancestry as that name is historically Irish. The following quote refers to the hisoric roots and history of that name – O’Byrne, Byrne: O Broin, is the unusual form of the name which is a genuine ancient Irish ‘ O ‘ surname, meaning decendant of Bran ( raven ). This family name derives its name and descent from Bran, son of Maormordha, King of Leinster. Thr original parriomony of the family was Ui Faolian . . . . they were driven by the Anglo-Normans to the mountain fastness of [ County ] Wicklow [ on the East coasr of Irelandf ] . . . The celebrated Fuach MacHugh O’Byrne was a chief in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I [ but he led his clan in resisting the English, was finally defeated after many years of successful guerilla warfare and beheaded at Dublin Castle ] “. Well, with a surname like that it might be concluded I have roal blood from that line, BUT there are other O’Byrne/Byrnes on the West coast, in the North-West, mostly in Copunty Donegal where I live and in some Northern Ireland counties. The Irish [ Gaelic ] version of the name which I may and have used is O’Beirn and is common in Connaught on the West coast. It is believed now that the people bearing the surname O’Byrne/Byrne in the specific area where I live migrated here from the West coast, although we have often tried to claim a connect with the O’Byrne clan of Wicklow. But the same source from which I quoted [ a bookmark with the name O’Byrne and the history – Classic Designs Ltd, Blarney, County Cork Ireland ] comes this: O Beirn O Birn . . . This is a genuine ‘ O ‘surname of foreign origin and means, ‘ descendant of Bjorn “. It goes on to say that there are two distinct families of the name in Connact. So my ancestry on the direct paternal side may be Scandinavian, perhaps even Danish. My mother’s surname was Gillespie on the paternal side of the family, but Byrne/O’Byrne from her mother’s line. according to what I’ve read those bearing the name may have migrated from County Down in Northern Ireland. The name in Gaelic/Irish, perhaps even in Gallic the Scots dialect of the language, is McGiolla Easpuic and means ‘Son of the Bishops servant ‘. In County Donegal the Gillespies were Enerachs I think these were either wardens of the church grounds or caretakers of the church buildings. The two counties in Ireland most closely identified with the Gillespies are County Donegal in the Irish Republic and County Down in Northern Ireland. And the areas of County Donegal they are associated with are the towlands of Kilraine in the parish of Glenties, County Donegal and my own home area of the parish of Kilcar, County Donegal. Since the vast bulk of Irish records of births, death, marriages and censuses housed in a government facility were destroyed as a result of a fire caused by anti-Treaty forces in 1922 it is impossible to know the historical truth on these matters. But it is a matter of interesting speculation.

  19. Michael O'Byrne

    I must apologise for the mistyping errors in my last contribution. Once again I must admit to sheer carelessnes and I will try to slow down and examine what I write before posting in future.

  20. Bryan

    Sorry for jumping in so late, but in response to Norbert, I must point out that the study of epigenetics does not merely indicate possible parental control of environmental influence on genetic expression of children.

    It also indicates that choices WE individually make (i.e. smoking, nutrition, etc) can influence the environmental factors that may alter our own genetic expression. As far as the DNA within your cells is concerned, your body is “the environment.” Many choices (emotionally, nutritionally, etc) can influence the chemical environment within our bodies. Epigenetics simply suggests that genes are triggered on or off by factors that are above or around the genes (thus “epi-“).

    As a side note, thinking of my own child, I can think of nothing else more sobering than to think that I may be influencing environmental triggers of DNA. Therefore this science would make any caring parent take their choices more seriously, not less seriously (I just saw where Mr. Smith already made this point).

    If anything, the science of epigenetics magnifies the personal weight of responsibility and free will.

    Perhaps an issue that can easily be misunderstood is that we can have factors that INFLUENCE decisions without determining our decisions. Epigenetics, genetics, environment–they all influence our decisions, but they do not determine our choices and undermine free will.

    P.s. Mike, allergies have been known to come and go. Do a web search to find an abstract of the following citation from Pediatric Allergy and Immunology:

    Rangaraj, S., Ramanathan, V., Tuthill, D. P., Spear, E., Hourihane, J. O. and Alfaham, M. (2004), General paediatricians and the case of resolving peanut allergy. Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, 15: 449–453. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-3038.2004.00174.x

  21. @Michael O’Byrne: What you said was interesting. It could be that your ancestors were driven into hiding, and eventually married into Irish descendants of Vikings. Those guys had established a lot of fortified towns along the Irish coast during the dark ages.

    And you’re right about the confusion involved in trying to trace the details of family history. Many people don’t realize that Ireland had a very turbulent history, full of wars and migrations. And many people don’t realize that the modern Scots are simply an Irish tribe who migrated across the water.

  22. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    Steve:: That’s not quite what the Scots say about themselves and it’s not because they want to distance themselves from the Irish (however much they may or may not want to in these latter days). The Scots are a Scythian tribe, by their own account (in their most revered historical document, which times their arrival in Scotland in comparison to the Exodus from Egypt), a tribe that just happened to settle in Ireland first. The Irish are not Scythians. They came in much earlier and by different routes (the Tuatha de Danaan, the Milesians).

    The traditional name for the Scots nation is Gael Scot Eber. In Gaelic, Scythian and Hebrew each word means “wanderer” or “exile” – a coincidence pointed out more than once by those interested in the Israelite origins of many of the peoples often generally called Celts. (There were “aboriginal” Celts, however, which Josephus links to Japheth.)

    That said, the Scots and the Irish exchanged populations for a long time afterward, even before the “Scots-Irish” of Ulster established their presence under British hegemony. A Scottish friend in the Church used to tell me about that. He also told me that it’s common knowledge in Scotland that there is considerable Jewish lineage in the various clans, even apart from the Royal Houses.

    And believe me, as a half-Scot I can tell you that we and the Irish are not all of a piece. We have a different basic phenotype set and a different national temperament set. In other words, we look somewhat different overall and we react to the world somewhat differently overall. We are reputed to have a pessimism, a tendency of “predictin’ doom an’ gloom”, which has some basis in fact. (I have never heard of the Irish being like that and no Irishman I’ve ever met is, but maybe Michael can help us out there.) We do seem to be disproportionately supplied with Jungian ENFPs (like myself), as the Irish seem to be, but our oppositional foresight (just speaking from personal observation) seems to turn to the dark side more readily. Cultural? I expect so. A friend heard from a native during the Feast a local saying, “Scotland is the most beautiful country in the world… WHEN the sun is out.” πŸ˜‰

    ENFP-style generalizations of this sort are hazardous and should be nuanced with details, but the flip side of that potential weakness is the potential strength of seeing broad categories accurately. That is why ENFPs (and ESFPs) have the kind of humor that they do. It risks stereotyping on the one hand but when it’s on, it’s dead-on with regard to categorical thinking. I’ve done my best to be so here! πŸ™‚

  23. Well, John; I agree with you in large part, but in other ways I don’t.

    Studying the history of ancient Ireland and Scotland was a hobby of mine for ten or twenty years perhaps. I know all about the Tuatha de Danaan, Milesians, and other Celtic tribes who migrated into Ireland, I even wrote a hand written copy of Irish kings going back to Eremon. And I had done this even before I came into contact with the Church.

    The subject is to big for Mr. Smith’s website, so I will only touch on a couple of points.

    1). the word “Scot” is an unattested derivative that can be traced to several different origins. It could derive from a word meaning “wanderer.” Or it could derive from an Egyptian (Hebrew) princess nick-named “Scotta” for her long red hair. The term “Scythian” is difficult, because it refers to a region North of the Black Sea. Several different ethnic groups moved in and out of the area. And finally, it could refer to the word “arrow,” by which the Dal Riada conquered the Picts (Draonich) when they migrated to Scotland.

    The point being, there is no such thing as a single Scythian culture or people. It simply refers to a region where many ethnic groups moved in and out. One could speculate that they came from Scythia, but there is no Scythian people, per se.

    2). The story of early Ireland is bloody but simple. The first wave of Celts overthrew the indigenous Hamitic culture. That was followed by other Celtic migrations. The groups had a common language and a common material culture. Their conflict was a power struggle for land, not an ethnic clash. (Much like the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes would later clash in post-Roman England).

    3). The royal line that began with Eremon and Eber as High King was eventually overthrown. Their descendants became a wandering tribe within Ireland, fighting many battles, migrating here and there. They eventually settled in country Antrim of Ulster. That was so close to Scotland, they eventually began to migrate over there. It was the sons of Erc (Fergus, Angus, and Lorn) who took the Stone of Destiny to Scotland.

    4). The Ulster-Scots of the plantation period is a TOTALLY different story. The English had driven out a significant amount of the native Irish in Ulster, and replaced them with lowland Scots. The lowlander Scots were more English than Celtic in heritage.

    Now that I’ve bored everybody, I’ll try to wind this up :). John is right about the Irish and Scots being mixture of various Celtic tribes. They are not different ethnic groups or people, however. And John is right about the Jewish heritage IN THE ROYAL LINE that passed into Scotland with the Stone. As a whole, however, the modern Scots are descendants of an Irish tribe called the Dal Riada.

    Well, so much for my effort to keep this short.

    I knew a lot about Irish and Scottish history before I came into contact with the Church. I knew about the Stone, Eremon, the transfer of the Stone to Scotland, and so on. When I read the Church’s belief on this, I recognized it almost immediately.

  24. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    Of course, Steve, there’s a lot of useful clarification here, but I still don’t think you have everything quite right – you underemphasize some things in what I say, and in history, and overemphasize others. Regrettably I don’t have time to parse the whole thing and prove the point.

    I think I’ll start with the name “Scot” and see where I end up. 1) I didn’t say there was a “Scythian people”. I said that the Scots are “Scythians”, not Irish. Meaning: they came from Scythia. The Irish came in at a different time from different directions in different stages. You know about the stages, so why are you muddying the issue? Whereas the Scots say they came from Scythia. This is not speculation (Extraverted iNtuiting), this is their own recorded history in their most important and revered historical document (Introverted Sensing). 2) “Scot” is part of a longer traditional name, “Gael Scot Eber”, which rules out all possibilities save one: “Scot” means the same thing that the other two names mean in different, known languages, and what “Scythian” (and indeed “Parthian”, which is another topic) means: wanderer or exile. Saying anything else, is truly speculative: asking “what if…?” when there is already a simple and complete explanation of all the facts. 3) You misunderstand the degree and kind of emphasis I put on the Ulster Scots. Of course that’s a completely different story. I imply that it’s a completely different story. But it’s part of a long history (which I explicitly mentioned) of exchange of populations (both ways in fact) between Scotland and Ireland. And that I got straight from the horse’s mouth: a Church member of Scottish ancestry who knows Scottish and Irish history well (he should, he used to be a latter-day druid, magical powers and all, before God called him out of his demon-worship). He was the one who told me about the Jewish ancestry in the Scottish clans. And he’d be the first to tell you that this was and is by no means limited to the Royal Houses. Again, his people know this. Among them it’s common knowledge, he said (he’s deceased, so he’s not around to explain his position further).

    It wouldn’t be surprising that the Scots picked up another name in Ireland or (this much is news to me) that a tribe called the Dal Riada went from Ireland to Scotland – perhaps later. But the Scots who told of their Scythian origins time their arrival in Scotland to the year against the Exodus and so that can be checked against the presumed or recorded time of the arrival of the Dal Riada. Have you done such a check? Not having heard of the Dal Riada before, I haven’t. It would be interesting to know.

  25. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    Now there is indeed (I find on double-checking) cause for confusion in that the woman Scota, one of the female ancestors of the Milesians and sometimes called “the daughter of Pharaoh”, is apparently the source of one of the old names for Ireland in the Irish histories, legends and poems. But the Milesians (with Greeks and Egyptians in their train) came not from Scythia, but from Egypt, though like the Scots properly speaking they passed through the Ibernian Peninsula along the way. Whereas Robert the Bruce, in the Scottish Declaration of Independence (April 6, 1320), insists that the Scots came from “Greater Scythia” (not Egypt) and came to Scotland 1,200 years after the Exodus. (He also insisted that the Scots sojourned in Spain for a very long time “among the most savage tribes” without being conquered by any of them.) Given our estimated date of 1446 BC for the Exodus and assuming the date given by the Bruce is exact, that means the Scots took possession of Scotland in ca. 246 BC. That is long indeed after the Milesians arrived in Ireland.

    That’s why I say the Scots are not Irish. They didn’t consider themselves Irish. They considered themselves Scots. The ancient records to which the Bruce pointed call them Scots, and a distinct people. Indeed they were another tribe of the same basic ethnic group, but you can say that about almost every people of note now living in the coastlands of Northwestern Europe. And, of course, there is a prophetic and historical set of reasons for that. πŸ™‚

    And coming back to genetics and epigenetics: one can trace the migration of a distinctive “Mediterranean” gene allele (one that’s been alleged to link the Jewish communities too) up the Danube and into Northwestern Europe (among the males). The closer you get to the coast, the more concentrated the allele gets. If memory serves no less than 40% of the male population of the British Isles and the coastlands across the Channel are estimated to possess this allele on their Y-chromosome. The only question is when the migration occurred. The article I read assumed that started happening about the time of King Tut. And indeed, given the migrations of the Israelites in different stages it may have done exactly that. But there may be assumed “biological clocks” that can be challenged. I need to find the chart that I copied on the subject… and, that blog (it was kind of a weird blog overall but the article looked interesting for its own sake).

  26. @John: We can discuss this subject in greater detail off line, if you want. I don’t want to turn Mr Smith’s blog into a private debate. You have my email address, so feel free to contact me. Being confident in my long years of study, I’m more than willing to engage with you :).

    In the meantime, I do feel compelled to reply to your latest comments.

    I don’t know why you charge me with “muddying the issue.” I was condensing a lot of material into a short space, so you perhaps misunderstood the underlying point. Which is not an accusation against you, but simply a function of my effort to condense a lot of material into a short space :). The history of Ireland and Scotland is fairly easy in terms of the big picture.

    The term “Gael Scot Eber”? Yes, I’ve known about it for a long time. There’s a couple of problematic areas with it. First, the document you mentioned is not the most ancient and revered in Scotland, but rather the opinion of those who wrote it. There are other traditions – just as ancient – using the phrase. Second, both the words “Gael” and “Eber” directly tie the term to Ireland. That the ‘document’ refers to Scythians does not contradict what I said.

    The friend of yours? I believe that he was interested in Scottish history, and I believe that you give an accurate report of what he said. I’m not sure what that has to do with me, however. I base my knowledge upon years of reading archaeological, anthropological, and history books. Some guy who used to be a druid? I don’t know what to make of that.

    Scotta? There’s some contention on her historical identity. Some believe that she was an Egyptian princess. Others believe that she was a Hebrew princess, taken into or adopted by the Egyptian court. Almost everybody agrees that Scotta was a pet name, referring to her long red hair. When you look at the time frame, I’m tempted to believe that she was indeed the Hebrew princess (Tea) who brought David’s throne to Ireland; but I’m not willing to state that as dogmatic fact. Circumstantial evidence lends a lot of credence to it, however.

    Okay, I’m writing too long of a comment here. Let me get to the point.

    The modern day Scots are not descendants of “Scythians” who migrated there before the Dal Riada. The Dal Riada conquered or destroyed most of the indigenous Picts. The overwhelming, vast majority of modern day Scots are descendants of the Dal Riada. It was the Dal Riada who brought the Stone of Destiny to Scotland. It’s not my speculation; it’s just a fact of history.

    Yes, the different Celtic (Gaelic) tribes who migrated to Ireland came from different locations. Some came from Spain; others from Greece; others from Egypt; others from Scythia. That is not surprising. Ships tying the trade and migration routes from the Mediterranean to northwestern Europe had existed for a long time.

    That one tribe migrated from Greece does not make them “Greeks” That another group migrated from Egypt does not make them “Egyptians.” The ethnography of Ireland is fairly uniform.

    John, if you want to bash it out πŸ™‚ through email, go ahead and contact me.

  27. @John. Okay, last time, buddy. And my apology to Mr Smith.

    It suddenly occurred to me that you might’ve been talking about Brythonic people inhabiting the lowlands and east coast of Scotland. It was the word “scythian” that threw me, because the word is so generic and vague that it can apply to a host of people. And it makes sense in terms of the document you cited.

    Ancient Scotland was inhabited by two different ethnic groups. The first was an indigenous, non-Celtic people whose identity is obscure. They occupied a large area but were thinly populated. The second group was brythonic Celts related to the modern day Welsh and the Celtic tribes inhabiting England during the Roman period. They occupied a smaller area, but were densely populated. The Dal Riada came into contact with both groups when they pushed into Scotland.

    I’m pretty well convinced that you were probably talking about the brythonic Celts.

    Nobody really knows what happened to the indigenous, non-Celtic people. They just sort of disappear from history. The brythonic Celts were conquered by, and absorbed into, the Dal Riada. That’s why the modern Scots speak Gaelic, and not a brythonic language like Welsh.

    I’m done.

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