‘Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon.’ Fodor, J. ‘Why Pigs don’t have wings,’ London Review of Books, 18th Oct 2007

Friday, 20 February 2009

Darwin's legacy?

A cartoon in an American paper has brought fresh attention to the race problems in some sections of society. The cartoon shows a chimpanzee shot dead by police with a caption apparently referring to the new American President - (edit - but later denied that Obama was the target).

Where does the idea that human beings are related to apes, whether black or white, come from? It comes straight from Darwinism. On the other hand, the Genesis account, that is often ridiculed, gives a table of nations (in chapter 11) in which all people on the earth are asserted to be descended from Noah and his family, and before that back to Adam. In other words, the Bible speaks of the common ancestry of all humans, being created separately from the other animals, in God's image.

See this article on the Telegraph.


James F. McGrath said...

Nowadays it has nothing to do with "Darwinism" and mostly to do with genetics, a scientific field that fits the predictions of Darwin's theory but did not exist in his time.

I would strongly advise spending less time fighting ghosts of the past, and more on keeping up with the actual state of our scientific knowledge.

Antagonist Jason said...

Not to mention that it didn't even originate with Darwin, it originated with Linnaeus, a creationist.

Dave said...

James, since it has more to do with genetics than Darwinism (no scare quotes here) then how would you explain this?

To compare the two genomes, the first thing we must do is to line up the parts of each genome that are similar. When we do this alignment, we discover that only 2400 million of the human genome’s 3164.7 million ’letters’ align with the chimpanzee genome - that is, 76% of the human genome. Some scientists have argued that the 24% of the human genome that does not line up with the chimpanzee genome is useless ”junk DNA”. However, it now seems that this DNA could contain over 600 protein-coding genes, and also code for functional RNA molecules.
We also find places where two pieces of human genome align with only one piece of chimp genome, or two pieces of chimp genome align with one piece of human genome. This ”copy number variation” causes another 2.7% difference between the two species. Therefore the total similarity of the genomes could be below 70%.

Full article here

and follow up article here

Given these statistics, it is factually incorrect to say that humans are 99% the same as chimpanzees. Yet, just last month, the Natural History Museum in London and the University of Chicago Press in the USA published a book entitled ”99% Ape: How evolution adds up”. This misleading title was doubtless chosen by a marketing guru rather than the editor, who is a reputable and distinguished scientist in plant evolutionary ecology (the field in which I did my doctoral research). Such promotion of the ”myth of 1%” to the public as evidence for evolution is probably why some non-scientists have suggested on the internet that my earlier article, dispelling this myth, is somehow a death-blow to evolution - it is not.

The author, Dr. Richard Buggs, is a research geneticist at the University of Florida.

James F. McGrath said...

The precise amount of genetic overlap I will leave for the geneticists to determine.

It remains the case that the same field of science that demonstrates paternity in court beyond reasonable doubt also demonstrates the relatedness of humans to the other forms of life on this planet. If you wish to believe that God created a world with the appearance of age and life forms with the appearance of common ancestry and evolutionary interrelatedness, I obviously cannot stop you. But I prefer to believe in an honest God who created an honest universe. And it is precisely because you make God out to be a liar and Christianity out to be a religion for imbeciles and deceivers that makes me object so strongly to your viewpoint.

Anonymous said...

James McGrath - the fact of common genes, that you believe is evidence for common descent is equally evidence for common design. Like many theistic evolutionists you turn your own erronous leap of logic into God's deceiptfulness. You deny a logical possibility and then assert that God is lying to us.

How stupid is that?

John Pieret said...

... the fact of common genes, that you believe is evidence for common descent is equally evidence for common design.

No it's not. If you think it is, then explain this evidence.

John Pieret said...

Oh, and as to the percentage similarity of chimps and humans, it depends, of course, on what you are measuring.

James F. McGrath said...

I'm sure the courts will be glad to hear that all this nonsense about paternity testing can be dismissed - it doesn't show relationship and ancestry, just common design.

It doesn't matter if it is common genes, fossils, geological strata. There is a way of taking seriously the logic of the evidence. And then there is your way, which is to deny the obvious logic in field after field in order to fit your predetermined conclusions.

What I find most offensive, however, is that young-earth creationists and various other peddlers of pseudoscience have the bad taste to accuse their opponents of doing what they themselves are, namely starting with bias and twisting the evidence to fit their presuppositions. No one who knows either the history of these disciplines or the evidence that persuades experts in all these fields would find such accusations persuasive.

Anonymous said...

james - if you tried to use genetic evidence to prove your mother was an ape, I am sure the court would throw it out! It is our experience that people come from people, but it is not our experience that people come from apes.

John Pieret said...

We couldn't use genetic evidence to prove your cousin is your mother either. But we can use it to show your cousin is your relative. "Apes" are our cousins, though distant, for the simple reason that by any scientific classification, humans are "apes." Just as we are mammals and primates. It is only your unwarranted belief that we are, or should be, "above" the rest of life on Earth that makes you blind to the evidence.

Joshua said...

Shared genes are not evidence of common design. This is an argument that sounds appealing at first glance but falls apart badly when one examines it. First, if shared genes were due to common design one would not expect silent mutations in the shared genes (that is mutations that do not alter protein structure) but we do see them. That only makes sense for common descent.

Similarly, we see pseudogenes (genes which have been rendered non-functional) which are shared and have slightly different forms in humans and other great apes. This makes sense only under common descent, not common design.

Finally, humans and primates both show the genetic imprints of ancetral viral infections (endogenous retroviruses). These make sense when there are common ancestors that were infected. This does not make any sense under common design.

These are but a few of the problems with this argument. There are others but these are the major issues.

Anonymous said...

I think it is dangerous to assume that some genetic information has no function as pseudogenes. Isn't that an argument for ignorance as the ENCODE project has shown? Also the claim for retroviruses is as yet inconclusive. Viruses can spread their genetic insertions laterally across species barriers. We also cannot know whether certain mutations date the timing of insertions, or are due to the existence of common 'hot spots.' Also is the evidence for such mutations in inserted genes consistent across different mutations, or is it just a statistical anomaly? Furthermore, the relationship between viruses and hosts is more complex than we as yet know.

John Pieret said...

Given all the handwaving away of evidence that you have to do, at what point will it occur to you that genetics is not "equally evidence for common design?