December 20, 2002 | David F. Coppedge

Human-Ape Gap Quadruples

Remember that old truism that humans and chimpanzees share 98.5% of their genes?  Try 94% instead.  That’s a new estimate by Matthew Hahn (Indiana U) and a team who published in a new online journal, PLoS One.1  J.R. Minkel, writing for Scientific American, said “The 6 percent difference is considerably larger than the commonly cited figure of 1.5 percent.”
    Why such a drastic revision?  Hahn says the earlier estimate fails to take into account duplicated genes.  As Minkel explains it assuming evolution,

The new finding supports the idea that evolution may have given humans new genes with new functions that don’t exist in chimps, something researchers had not recognized until recently.  The older value of 1.5 percent is a measure of the difference between equivalent genes in humans and chimps, like a difference in the spelling of the same word in two similar languages.  Based on that figure, experts proposed that humans and chimps have essentially the same genes, but differed in when and where the genes turn on and off.
    The new research takes into account the possibility for multiple copies of genes and that the number of copies can differ between species, even though the gene itself is the same or nearly so.

The stats: “The group estimated that humans have acquired 689 new gene duplicates and lost 86 since diverging from our common ancestor with chimps six million years ago.  Similarly, they reckoned that chimps have lost 729 gene copies that humans still have.
    Minkel and the authors of the paper did not look outside the box of evolution to explain these differences.  A geneticist was quoted as saying, “The paper supports the emerging view that change in gene copy number, via gene duplication or loss, is one of the key mechanisms driving mammalian evolution.”  Exactly how this produces new genes or complex systems was not explained.  Minkel also summarized what evolutionists believe in this line: “Researchers believe that additional copies of the same gene allow evolution to experiment, so to speak, finding new functions for old genes.”  That sentence, along with his earlier line “evolution may have given humans new genes with new functionspersonifies evolution as an intelligent, or semi-intelligent, agent.
    A press release about this new calculation appeared in EurekAlert entitled, “What it means to be human.”  The article did not describe this as a problem for evolution.  On the contrary, it said, “So the question biologists now face is not which measure is correct but rather which sets of differences have been more important in human evolution.”  The problem of statistics was briefly mentioned.  Although claiming that the 1.5% difference remains when comparing the genes base-per-base, the article admitted, “there isn’t a single, standard estimate of variation that incorporates all the ways humans, chimps and other animals can be genetically different from each other.”  Yet accounting for those differences in the time allowed, and understanding how genetic bit changes could have transformed screeches into sonnets, surely cannot be glossed over in answering the question of what it means to be human vs simian.


1Demuth JP, Bie TD, Stajich JE, Cristianini N, Hahn MW (2006) The Evolution of Mammalian Gene Families.  PLoS ONE 1(1): e85. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000085.

There you have it: another bad case of the statistics fallacy.  Genomes are extremely complex entities that are just barely understood.  Depending on what you choose to look at, you can find all kinds of similarities and differences and come up with agenda-driven numbers.  It seems clear that the earlier estimate was motivated by an evolutionary agenda to show how similar we were to the apes.  If this new estimate becomes widely accepted, evolutionists are going to have a terrible time explaining this many genetic changes in “only” six million years.  It’s too late for them to even try, though, now that neo-Darwinism has been falsified (see 12/14/2006 entry).
    We really must help the Darwinian science reporters get over their bad habit of personifying evolution.  It’s so pre-ID.

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Categories: Early Man, Genetics

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