CAN DNA HELP VALIDATE THE THEORY OF INDIVIDUAL REINCARNATION? (Draft Concept Paper by Paul Von Ward - Revised Feb. 2009)
Identifying matches from two complete genomes separated by lifetimes without a sense of what one is looking for will result in a long disordered list. No master genes have been identified for overall body-types. The same holds true for personality types with different mental and personality traits. To use modern DNA sequencing and comparison technologies efficiently, we must first hypothesize what genes and alleles are relevant to reincarnation.
This paper suggests a starting point, with the recognition that as the reincarnation hypothesis is changed by research, additional questions will emerge. As our understanding of the overall genome's functions and qualities evolve we may discover other effects of an energetic biofield.
Assumptions: If reincarnation is a carry-forward of a "psychophysical" legacy from a previous lifetime, significant DNA in the present subject should match the alleged earlier incarnation in key matching-factor areas (MFA). These areas should be suggestive of reincarnation.
Reincarnation assumes the "soul-genome or psychoplasm effect" is not identical to one's parental phylogenetic tree. Thus, reincarnation matches should involve significant MFA variances from the parental genomes.
MFAs should be based on empirical evidence observed in well-documented, robust cases. They should comprise the most important genotype and behavioral factors identified by current reincarnation research that can be linked with possible genetic markers. (See "scope" section below.)
This draft paper discusses some of the currently identified MFAs and begins the development of a manageable set of DNA segments most likely to be relevant to the reincarnation hypothesis. A comprehensive literature review may identify further links between specific gene variants and these MFAs.
Ultimately, sufficient numbers of cases are required to establish that the similar gene patterns are not attributable to chance before they can be considered significant corroboration of possible past-life matches.
Scope of DNA Comparisons. The matching-factor areas (MFAs) identified through the past-life-connection research of Stevenson, Tucker, Von Ward, Semkiw, Finkelstein, Ravel, and others suggest DNA-type influences may fall into five areas. The “reincarnated genotype” appears to shape a number of specific physical features. They include facial geometry, body type, hand-bone structure, hair patterns, ear forms, voice, and odor. (Note these features are also considered genetically stable by biometric specialists.)
Four areas of enduring personality traits have been associated with the most robust cases from the previously mentioned researchers. They include distinguishable profiles of mental, emotional, interpersonal, and creative traits. To the extent that DNA patterns have been identified that predispose aspects of these traits, genetic comparisons should be made. For example, the DNA variant FADS2 appears to play a role in IQ and should be examined in both lifetimes. (Personal memories of the kind associated with many reincarnation cases have not yet been linked to specific genes.)
Use of Y-Chromosome and mtDNA. Standard genealogical research traces the slowly mutating mtDNA passed on by mothers to their children (male and female) and the more rapidly mutating Y-Chromosome passed on to males by their fathers. They are used to demonstrate the parental chain of DNA patterns. However, most reincarnation cases involve two individuals who are not connected by recent family trees or bloodlines.
For this reason, MFA reviews of the Y-chromosome or mtDNA comparisons should focus on variances, not matches, between the subjects’ and their parents’ genomes. These variances—called CNVs—have been found to comprise up to 15% of the documented genes. A MFA-DNA difference between a subject and her parent found in the past-life DNA under study, is necessary to explain why the subject, on that feature, is more like the alleged earlier incarnation than her biological parents.
Use of Y and mitochondrial DNA in reincarnation research is to find markers that correspond between the subject and his alleged earlier incarnation but differ from his biological parents. (Such differences between generations are now labeled as epigenesis in biology to refer to a variant in a genome that expresses itself in one generation without changing the basic DNA passed on in the process of biological reproduction. The psychoplasm hypothesis could offer a plausible exogenous explanation for some of these variances.)
Psychophysical Gene Comparisons. With complete human genomes now sequenced, we have a map of the genes which in their totality provide the physical legacy inherited by each new-born. However, we are a long way from understanding how those approximately 21,000 genes shape us physically, mentally, emotionally, and developmentally. The functions of more than 50% of the discovered genes are unknown. And even less is known about their interactions and how small mutations affect the results.
From the perspective of reincarnation research, the state of knowledge about the nature and impact of the human genome is not comprehensive enough to validate the psychoplasm hypothesis. At this time, we can only partially identify the genetic basis for the observable similarities between a live subject and his or her posited previous incarnation. (Keep in mind that the same gene does not always have the same effect. Exons and isoforms in the genetic sequences or unrecognized on-off switches can cause the same gene to express itself in differently in different locations in the body.)
Given the emerging nature of genomics, reincarnation researchers should begin to build models of DNA markers that may account for the physical and personality matches they have identified in their strongest cases. The following review identifies selected genes (and their various mutations) that appear related to well established areas of physical and behavioral evidence. Pilot work can reasonably begin with these starting points, to be sharpened up as new and more solid links are identified by various researchers.
Phenotype Gene Influences. The development of one’s body’s structure depends on the interactions of many genes (and environmental factors). However, the overall matches observed in robust cases should have an internally consistent genetic base in both incarnations. If this is the case, researchers should be able to use a limited sample of genes from both incarnations and determine if they are statistically one integral genome.
Operating from this assumption, one should be able over time to develop a test package consisting of genes like those described here. Let’s first take the overall bone structure and facial geometry. More than 273 genes may contribute, but the roles of only a few have been solidly identified. Some are:
(1) BMP7 that deals with morhphogenetic protein 7. (2) COL that affects collagen. (3) PRG2 that influences bone marrow. (4) TGFB—transforming growth factor. (5) ESR1 affects bone. (6) SQSTM1 deals with sequestome. A near perfect correspondence in some as-yet-unknown number of such genes could, along with other data, corroborate a past-life link.
Specific deformities (highlighted by Stevenson’s work) can be pinpointed in some genes. An example is EVC linked to bone malformations. Others can be identified with further research.
The carry-over of 20 body-height genes suggested by many cases can perhaps be validated by a sample of genes like ATXN3, BMP6, and TRIP11 (which controls the thyroid hormone interceptor interaction with the spine).
Hand size may be shaped by at least 12 genes, including VDR on mineral metabolism and RUNX2 on bone development and skeletal metabolism. Ear patterns may be shaped by 23 different genes, while hair patterns require 38. Larynx and one’s voice quality depends on 18 or more genes.
If long-life correspondences were identified in a number of past-life cases, comparison of the FOX03A (associated with longevity) would be useful. Such new evidence could add new genes to the past-life-match search protocol.
Identification of the strongest links between specific genes (with relevant mutations) for each of the biometric factors used to corroborate past-life matches could result in an experimental protocol to identify the DNA profile that distinguishes a subject’s genotype from what is inherited from parents.
Personality Genes. Scientists recognize the role of environment and other factors in personality development, but studies have revealed possible links between specific genes (and their variations) and a few discernible personality traits. For example, whether the HSP90 gene is active or not appears to affect how one reacts to stress.
The DRD4 gene appears to predispose someone to feel secure without dependence on close relationships. Gene MADA has two variants. The “sluggish” one predisposes an individual to be less affected by abuse, while the “hyperactive” variant results in a personality easily upset and prone to substance abuse.
Mental patterns may be shaped by a large variety of genes, but only a few have been identified to date. For example, one DNA variant (FADS2-C) determines whether the child’s IQ will be raised by breast feeding. Others are associated with various mental aberrations: DYX2 with dyslexia, ARX and MRX54 with mental retardation, and DTNBP1 with schizophrenia.
Emotional patterns are associated with a large variety of genes, with many more likely connections to be teased out in the coming years. A group of BDNF (brain derived neutrophic factor) variants have been linked to mood profiles, as has MGC34632 (also linked to stress patterns). Susceptibility to depression has been connected to gene SLC6A4. COMT is related to hypertension and associated psychosomatic problems. Gabrb3 has been called the “tranquility” gene.
Interpersonal profiles, such as AD/HD, appear to have at least partial roots in genes. The “novelty-seeking” trait appears connected to a DRD4 mutation. The previously-mentioned HSP90 limits the way one reacts to stressful relationships. The level of excitability in social situations appears to be governed by several SKG variants.
These examples by no means exhaust the genetic markers that may be useful in matching subjects to their alleged previous incarnations (where DNA exists for both parties). However, we must keep in mind two potential obstacles to gene-matching as an easy way to validate past-life connections. It is clear the picture is more complicated than we had hoped.
Junk DNA and Epigenesis. Portions of DNA sequences in chromosomes with no function yet identified were first called “junk DNA.” It may comprise up to 98 percent of the human genome, but insights into its roles as “regulator” and “components for new uses” are emerging. Lacking the gene’s protein-coding power, small bits of transposons move like viruses or parasites around the genome. The largest component, RNA, seems to have a life of its own with many still poorly understood effects on the whole system. What role it plays in reincarnation is not clear.
We must keep our eyes open for comparable patterns found between the subject’s “junk DNA” and his or her alleged previous lifetime’s DNA sample. We might also discover possible on-off-switch regulatory functions that might activate so-called “mutations” from the parents in the subject, but in fact result in similarities from a previous lifetime (as in epigenetic leaps).
This suggests that the process of epigenesis (totally unexplained at this point) may be central to the process of carry-forwards of past-life legacies. This process makes possible the inheritance of characteristics that is independent of the composition of the parents' and the progeny's DNA. (But this takes us back to the theory of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck prior to Darwin.)
Haplogroups and Haplotypes. Geneticists have developed dozens of haplogroups, with numerous subclades known as haplotypes, to identify branches in the Homo sapiens phylogenetic tree calculated to have evolved about 250,000 years ago from the putative “Adam” (based on Y-chromosome) and “Eve” (based on mtDNA). For example, the large “H” haplogroup is traced back to the Lara clan in Africa 150,000 years ago. Its more than 20 subclades are scattered all over Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. The haplotype “H6” refers to a variant that developed in Central Asia about 40,000 years ago.
As in the Y and mtDNA issue discussed above, these groups/types do not have much relevance to a hypothesis suggesting reincarnations across racial and ethnic lines. However, their use for genealogical purposes generates a systematic array of genetic markers that may be useful. These DNA markers include two regions (HRV1 and HRV2) and an SNP marker.
Scores of mutations have been identified among the dozens of Y-chromosome and mtDNA genes and can be easily mapped on genealogical tables from an individual's DNA sample. If a comparison of the mutation codes found in the subject and past-life samples reveals matches considered incompatible with the overall haplotypes, it may support the notion of trans-racial/ethnic effects.
Such a conclusion could only be established with statistical analyses of a significant sample, but, it would be worth exploring. For instance, it would be significant if a North-European subject with an alleged past-life in Syria had a Syrian marker that was found to be absent in his parents?
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