Mitochondrial Eve

Author’s note: This is a post I’ve been working on for a long time. I hesitated to post it due to its controversial nature. However, I think it is important to expand our horizons by considering different perspectives, because when we are exposed to new theories, it opens our minds a little bit and helps us grow as human beings. In no way do I intend to offend anyone’s belief system. Please also know that I am not stating here whether I believe or disbelief any of the contents of this post. It is a fact that Mitochondrial Eve exists, but its implications are subjective. And that’s what I find so fascinating, so I wanted to introduce new concepts and possibilities to those who may never have considered this subject before.

In 1987, scientists discovered a common ancestor to all humans alive today. She lived in Africa 200,000 years ago and was given the name “Eve,” not to be confused with the Eve from the biblical story of the Garden of Eden. Mitochondrial Eve was not the first woman from whom all humans were descended, just a common ancestor.

According to Nova’s website, Mitochondrial Eve was actually the most recent common ancestor through matrilineal descent of all humans living today. That is, all people alive today can trace some of their genetic heritage through their mothers back to this one woman.

Trace our heritage through our mother’s side? How is this possible?

Whenever an egg cell is fertilized, nuclear chromosomes from a sperm cell enter the egg and combine with the egg’s nuclear DNA, producing a mixture of both parents’ genetic code. The mtDNA from the sperm cell, however, is left behind, outside of the egg cell.

So the fertilized egg contains a mixture of the father and mother’s nuclear DNA and an exact copy of the mother’s mtDNA, but none of the father’s mtDNA. The result is that mtDNA is passed on only along the maternal line. This means that all of the mtDNA in the cells of a person’s body are copies of his or her mother’s mtDNA, and all of the mother’s mtDNA is a copy of her mother’s, and so on. No matter how far back you go, mtDNA is always inherited only from the mother.

Like the debate between Creationism and Evolution, the theory of Mitochondrial Eve is also highly controversial.

But let’s just assume for a moment that it’s true, and if so, could it have an effect on the manner in which women are treated even today? In my Women’s Studies classes in college, we discussed the goddess theory and how in the beginning, woman was worshipped because woman was the bearer of life. Among her sacred symbols were the serpent, the apple and others which through time became associated with evil and sin in Christianity (the story of the Garden of Eden is but one example). Perhaps this sowed the seeds for the oppression of women.

If it’s true that our heritage can be traced back to one woman, isn’t it interesting that even today when she marries, a woman often takes the surname of her husband? I wonder how different the world might be if it were the other way around.

On a more positive note, I am fascinated by the way “the Great Mother” has affected my life. I have heard differing opinions of this term. Some believe “The Great Mother” was Mary, the mother of Jesus and she very well may have been. But I tend to think of her as half of Father God, as in Mother God/Father God; the two of them being two halves of the one entity I call God. For me, the yin/yang symbol represents this concept perfectly.

Yin/yang represents all opposites of the universe–long and short, postive and negative, male and female, up and down, etc. It’s also interesting to note that each half contains the seed of the other. To me, that symbolizes our personal duality: we all have male and female hormones and we all have both positive and negative qualities, but in order to be whole, we must embrace both sides.

The term “Mother Earth” is also a common expression, along with “Mother Nature.” perhaps as a complement to “Sky Father” or “Heavenly Father” (the yin/yang principle again). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sky_father.

In any case, I wonder whether the discovery of Mitochondrial Eve was a possible sign that it is time for us to embrace the sacred feminine in ourselves and each other. If you don’t believe in signs, it can only be a beneficial thing to embrace all aspects of ourselves and others, can it not?

 

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