what about genetic evidence linking us to chimpanzees

By Alison Campbell 07/12/2011


As Grant said earlier, there is a rich mine of potential posts in this particular website... This time, let’s review its author’s take on the phylogenetic relationship between Homo sapiens and Pan troglodytes.

We are indeed linked to chimpanzees — by a common Designer.

Evidence, please! One detects a rather sweeping a priori assumption here.

Even bananas have 90% the same DNA as chimps.

Er, no – the DNA correspondence is closer to 50%. Would be nice to see them get the occasional fact right. Even if the 90% figure were correct, the nature of the 10% difference would be more interesting.

Most of DNA code controls processes within the cell and are common to all living things.

Ah, those pesky facts! (Not to mention the grammar…) A considerable portion of the human genome is neither coding nor regulatory. Although one would have to concede that DNA does control/influence ‘processes within the cell’…

As all DNA is designed by the same Designer

There’s that little a priori thing again…

for the same purpose, we expect it to be similar. We agree with the evolutionist that chimps are closer to use than any other animal, but some animal has to be,

Why? If we’re assuming a series of special creation events, then why would there be degrees of relatedness at all??

and it is not surprising that over 98% of chimp DNA is the same as ours.

But take care with similarities in the design of animals. All DNA is designed by the same designer.

Can we say a priori? Yes, we can…

If the common ancestor theory was true then we would expect the same characteristics to be found coded on the same place on the same chromosome of the different animals.

Unfortunately a fair bit of our DNA can’t have been put there by that supposed designer – just look at endogenous retroviruses (ERVs), scattered throughout our genome. Not to mention the fact that both ERVs and pseudogenes common to several branches of a lineage have accumulated variation that differs from branch to branch. In other words, neither ERVs nor pseudogenes could have been part of that claimed ‘design’.

Even though our knowledge of gene mapping is in its infancy, it is already clear that this expected pattern is regularly not the case. A particular gene on one of our chromosomes may be at an entirely different place on the chimp’s chromosomes. By the way, we have 46 chromosomes and the chimps have 48. Perhaps we are more closely related to the tea tree which also has 46 chromosomes.

Yes, & we can be fairly sure what underlies the difference in chromosome number between chimp & human. Apart from Homo sapiens, all the great apes have 24 pairs of chromosomes. We have 23. The simplest explanation for the available evidence is that the human chromosome 2 originated through the fusion of two of the ape chromosomes: banding sequences match, & the remains of chimp telomere sequences are found in the middle of human chromosome 2 – right where the fusion hypothesis would predict them to be. (We can safely ignore the silly tea tree suggestion. Quite a few animal species have 2N = 46; it doesn’t tell us anything about relatedness.)

The relatively new technique of using genetic similarities to determine how long ago two species or sub-species had a common ancestor is horribly flawed. The time scale assumes a constant rate of genetic variation. But genetic variation has slowed down dramatically over the ages as natural selection processes reduce genetic potential.

Citations please. This statement suggests a woeful lack of understanding of how genetic variation is generated. Mind you, it fits with the statement elsewhere on the school’s website that organisms were created with the maximum amount of genetic variation & it’s all been downhill ever since.

Some animals, eg: the Cheetah, now have almost no genetic variation and therefore no potential to vary any more . The genetic variation which now takes place in genetically separated populations of the same species is very slow compared to what takes place, and has taken place, when genetically rich individuals adapt into new environmental niches. Therefore the time scale of technique is horribly exaggerated.

Again, citations, please! Cheetahs are known to have gone through a genetic bottleneck (maybe two) – with only a few individuals surviving that, it’s no surprise that the genetic variation remaining in the population is severely restricted. As for the next sentence – how do they know, or is this simply an example of making stuff up to suit prior conceptions of reality? They seem to have a really weird concept of what ‘genetic variation actually means…) The time scale of a ticking genetic clock based on the rate of accumulation of mutations is certainly based on some assumptions about the rate – but it’s also capable of being checked against evidence from other sources. For example, the genetic clock suggests that humans & chimps last shared a common ancestor somewhere around 5-7 million years ago – something that’s supported by the available (& increasing) fossil evidence from early hominin remains.

That reminds me, I should have a look at what they say about our own evolutionary history…


0 Responses to “what about genetic evidence linking us to chimpanzees”

  • Don’t forget the bonobos. We don’t share a common ancestor with chimps only, we share a common ancestor with chimps and bonobos, who separated as species some time later. We are genetically equidistant to both. Bonobos are interesting because their behaviour differs somewhat from chimps, with some traits that make them appear even closer to humans than chimps.

    I read somewhere that Linnaeus may have considered placing all the great apes in one genus – Pan – and foregoing the Homo distinction for humans. If we had been called Pan sapiens, some of these debates may have been more sober.

  • “If the common ancestor theory was true then we would expect the same characteristics to be found coded on the same place on the same chromosome of the different animals.”

    Erm, wouldn’t this be even more true of the Common Designer “hypothesis”? If similarities in genetic make-up is evidence for a designer then why aren’t differences evidence against in the same way as they think they are evidence against common decent?

    Double standards much?
    I return to my previous observation. Why pretend to be scientific? Just say “God did it” and be done with it.

  • johann – he originally placed men & monkeys (& I assume the apes) in the Anthropomorpha(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Linnaeus). This created a bit of a stir & in subequent revisions of his system, Linnaeus made the distinction between humans & ‘the rest’ rather more obvious, although he also made it quite clear that we did belong with the other animals.

    Darcy – Just say ‘God did it’ & be done with it.
    Ah, but they can’t do that, because that would destroy all pretence that they are ‘doing science’!

  • Gosh. I had a quick look at their website. Check out “Key Competencies” under “Prospectus”. They have a section on thinking:

    “Thinking is about using creative, critical, and metacognitive processes to make sense of information, experiences, and ideas. These processes can be applied to purposes such as developing understanding, making decisions, shaping actions, or constructing knowledge. Intellectual curiosity is at the heart of this competency.

    Students who are competent thinkers and problem-solvers actively seek, use, and increase knowledge. They reflect on their own learning, draw on personal knowledge and intuitions, ask questions, and challenge the basis of assumptions and perceptions.”

    I fear the kids may not get to read this bit.

    Oh right. “Do as I say, not do as I say I say.”

  • Excellent piece once again. It is astonishing to think they would happily write something like:
    Most of DNA code controls processes within the cell and are common to all living things.

    Perhaps 10% of our genome as humans is functional. The rest is non-sequence-specific junk. We know plenty about its make up http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2008/02/theme-genomes-junk-dna.html Certainly, the broad composition of eukaryotic and prokaryotic genomes is massively different http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev-genom-082410-101412

    Or this:
    “The relatively new technique of using genetic similarities to determine how long ago two species or sub-species had a common ancestor is horribly flawed. The time scale assumes a constant rate of genetic variation. But genetic variation has slowed down dramatically over the ages as natural selection processes reduce genetic potential.”

    Ironically, there is a time dependence effect of molecular evolution, where we see an acceleration, rather than a slowdown over shorter timeframes – evolution appears to be speeding up! Of course it isn’t – the time dependency is because as we move towards increasingly recent divergences, a greater proportion of differences are polymorphisms, instead of fixed substitutions… e.g. http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/22/7/1561.full , http://www.robertlanfear.com/publications/assets/Ho_etal_MolEcol_2011.pdf

    It all reminds me of a favourite TV quote from Kenneth on 30 Rock, raised in the bible belt: “Science was my most favorite subject. Especially the Old Testament.”

  • Not that I could imagine a non-evangelical type wanting to teach at such a school, but is it legal to include the following in a teacher vacancy ad:

    They state they’re seeking a teacher “…who is a member in good standing in a conservative Reformed, Presbyterian, or Strict Baptist, or similar church”.

    As a younger fellow, I went to a Catholic integrated school in Auckland, but there were non-Catholic, in fact non-Christian, teaching staff. I assumed this was because such descrimination would be illegal.

  • Just got arounde to reading an article in my feed that had this paragraph that I thought was appropriate here

    “I sometimes wonder how many of those who pour their inane opinions about creationism into their young pupils’ ears ever consider the damage they are doing; not to my science, but to their religion. Why, when a student begins to learn the simple and convincing facts, rather than the fantasies, about how life emerged, should he believe anything else that his pastor, his rabbi or his imam has told him? Why build a philosophy based on fixed untruths, when we have so many truths, and so many things still to find out? “

    Full article here:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/8931518/Islam-Charles-Darwin-and-the-denial-of-science.html

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