May 16, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

Mitochondrial Clock Untrustworthy

A major assumption of the “molecular clock” dating method has been called into question.  If so, Science Now describes the impact on current theories:

“Mitochondrial Eve,” the hypothetical mother of all modern humans who lived about 150,000 years ago, might be lying about her age.  A key assumption in determining how long ago she lived—that molecules of mitochondrial DNA do not swap segments with one another—is false, researchers now say.  Their findings call into question a multitude of findings in evolution, early human migration, and even the relations between languages.

The mitochondria in our cells, organelles that provide the ATP power supply, contain small amounts of DNA.  You may have heard that we inherit this mitochondrial DNA only from our mothers.  Now, scientists have found evidence that male mitochondrial DNA can be inherited, and might be mixed in with the rest of the mitochondrial DNA.  Since “the implications are that this is going on all the time in our cells,” that would render it untrustworthy as a genealogical tracer and dating method.
    An announcement about evidence for recombination in human mitochondrial DNA was published in the May 14 issue of Science.


1Kraytsberg et al., “Recombination of Human Mitochondrial DNA,” Science, Vol 304, Issue 5673, 981, 14 May 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1096342].

If confirmed, this calls into question many studies on presumed evolutionary history.  Mitochondrial DNA’s history “is clearly not as clean as people had thought.  Or people had wished,” lamented one molecular biologist.  The wishers are the dreamers in the Darwin Party, who are waking up from one of their favorite dreams to find out it was just … a dream.
    Harrub and Thompson have a good section on “the demise of mitochondrial Eve” and the problems with the molecular clock hypothesis in their new book, The Truth About Human Origins (Apologetics Press, 2004, ch. 3).  Unfortunately, some creationists had joined the Mitochondrial Eve bandwagon, thinking it supported the Biblical story of a single human pair.  It had problems years ago (see 10/31/2000 headline).  This should be a lesson on the folly of trusting any tale about the unobservable past coming from the Darwin Sand & Gravel Co.

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