Last Names and the Mitochondrial DNA

In most societies today, last names are passed down from generation to generation paternally. It is generally the father’s name, and thus lineage, that gets recognized across generations and that keep family history.

I’d like to make the argument that society should transition towards the latin model where both the mother’s and father’s name are kept, and then work towards generally preserving identity through the mother’s lineage than fathers.

For one, most children can be easily matched with their mother on birth. It is much more difficult for a newborn to not be matched with their mothers than with their father. In most instances, the child that comes out of the womb has been carried by their biological mother for around 9 months from an egg that is from the mother. Short of rare in vitro cases and shady caesarean section procedures, the mother and child could be matched at birth in a medical facility.

The same cannot be said of fathers. Given a woman’s sexual activities, a huge number of males could be the potential father of a child. Of course DNA matching procedures could be done to identify the father, but such procedures are only useful if the potential father is ever identified.

Secondly, as mentioned in the title, the mitrochondrial DNA provides a biological reasoning to trace family history through the mother. We can identify a Mitochondrial Eve much deeper into human history (estimates vary from 99 thousand years ago to 148 thousand years ago) versus the Y-chromosomal Adam which range from 200 ~300 thousands years. The argument for the Mitochondrial Eve stems from the fact that the mitochondria that all human cells derive energy from is untampered with largely as it stays within the egg of the female gamete, while the Y-chromosome is only transfered from father to mother via the Y-chrome in the sperm cell.

Of course, given western and eastern society’s deep roots in patriarchy and last names being a rather arbitrary thing in the context of human existence, I don’t think governments will step up and mandate these changes any time soon. I do not think even ardent feminists will make last name lineage their agenda ahead of others.

However, perhaps last names could be a great way to solidify the mother’s role in our lives and make a societal contract for more female recognition.


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