Cousins

Genetics is one of the most interesting, and most promising, fields of science. It can also be frightening, especially when you consider that an examination of your genes can lead the examiner to possibly determine how you will die. Or who you are related to. Or whether you are wanted for doing some ghastly crime.

One of the most striking aspects of the field, for me, is how scientists can determine where our ancestors came from. Whose genes do you possess, and what nations or regions did your progenitors occupy before spawning humans that would eventually lead to the spawning of you? You’ve probably heard of people submitting saliva specimens to labs that will, for a fee, tell you where you would be had your ancestors not decided to migrate elsewhere. It’s an awesome idea – that you possess vestiges of the stuff that the ancients possessed. We are tied to our past by the very structure of our flesh and bones.

So you send in your specimen and find out that you are descended from folks who lived in Northern Africa, or Southern Europe, or along the Tigris River. Now what? What about the origins of those folks who lived in those places? They didn’t just pop into existence one fine day. They must have originated somewhere. They had ancestors just like you do. They were made of the stuff that made up their own progenitors.

All humans, according to a recent scientific theory, share the same common female ancestor. This female ancestor is referred to by some as Mitochondrial Eve. This being lived, according to the theory, about 200,000 years ago. If that is the case (and I have no reason to doubt it or to believe it), then we all started out at the same place, at the same time. That would make us all common descendants of the same personage. Cousins, more or less.

I have some cousins I don’t particularly like. They live in other parts of the world, and in my own neighborhood. They do things I don’t agree with. They believe things that I don’t believe. They do hurtful things to others that I wouldn’t dream of doing. They take things from others that don’t belong to them. But many of my cousins are nice folks. They take care of others and help people when they can. They are constructive and use their intelligence to better themselves and their communities. I have so many cousins I couldn’t begin to keep track of how many good ones, how many bad ones, and how many others whose characteristics are not so easily classified, I really have. All I know is that I lose some cousins every day, and gain many more that same day. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of my cousins in this world. There are so many, living in so many different places, I’m beginning to think that as time goes on, and as the world goes around the sun, and as the time grows since we all came out of that Mitochondrial Eve, that we might lose sight of the fact that we are all cousins. In fact, I think that has already happened. I’m afraid some of my cousins refuse to admit that we are all cousins.

Too bad our common female ancestor doesn’t know about this development. I’ll bet she’d really be pissed.

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