The Chimp-Human 1% Difference: A Useful Lie
Jon Cohen made a remarkable admission in Science this week.1 The popular notion that humans and chimpanzees are genetically 99% similar is a myth, and should be discarded. Since 1975, textbooks, the media and museums have emphasized this close similarity; but now, Cohen quoted a number of scientists who say the number cannot possibly be that small and probably cannot be quantified. Since the statistic has outlived its usefulness, it should be discarded.
The original claim by Allan Wilson in 1975 came from studies of base substitutions when genes were compared side by side. Other comparisons, however, yield very different results. Human and chimp genomes differ markedly in:
- Chunks of missing DNA
- Extra genes
- Number of chromosomes and chromosome structure
- Altered connections in gene networks
- Indels (insertions and deletions)
- Gene copy number
- Coexpressed genes
In this last measure, for instance, a 17.4% difference was found in genes expressed in the cerebral cortex. Cohen recalled the December 2006 paper from PLoS One where Matthew Hahn found a “whopping 6.4%” difference in gene copy numbers, leading him to say, “gene duplication and loss may have played a greater role than nucleotide substitution in the evolution of uniquely human phenotypes and certainly a greater role than has been widely appreciated.” (see 12/20/2006 entry).
But even that number is misleading. Different measures produce such different results, it is probably impossible to come up with a single percent difference that wouldn’t misrepresent the picture. Scientists are not sure how to prioritize the measures to study, because “it remains a daunting task to link genotype to phenotype.” Sorting out the differences that matter is “really difficult,” said one geneticist. A stretch of DNA that appears meaningless may actually be vital for gene regulation.
What’s most remarkable about this confession is how certain evolutionary biologists are evaluating the claim in hindsight. In the 1970s, it was considered a “heretical” view that our genomes could be that similar, but Cohen comments, “Subsequent studies bore their conclusion out, and today we take as a given that the two species are genetically 99% the same.” But “Truth be told,” he begins in the next sentence, the inaccuracy of the statistic was known from the start:
But truth be told, Wilson and King also noted that the 1% difference wasn’t the whole story. They predicted that there must be profound differences outside genes—they focused on gene regulation—to account for the anatomical and behavioral disparities between our knuckle-dragging cousins and us. Several recent studies have proven them perspicacious again, raising the question of whether the 1% truism should be retired.
“For many, many years, the 1% difference served us well because it was underappreciated how similar we were,” says Pascal Gagneux, a zoologist at UC San Diego. “Now it’s totally clear that it’s more a hindrance for understanding than a help.”
At the end of the article, Cohen quoted Svante Paabo, who said something even more revealing. After admitting he didn’t think there was any way to calculate a single number, he said, “In the end, it’s a political and social and cultural thing about how we see our differences.”
1Jon Cohen, News Focus on Evolutionary Biology, “Relative Differences: The Myth of 1%,” Science, 29 June 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5833, p. 1836, DOI: 10.1126/science.316.5833.1836.
This is a very disturbing article. We have basically caught the Darwinists in a bald lie that has hoodwinked the world for over 30 years. Gagneux says, “For many, many years, the 1% difference served us well” – stop right there! Who is “us”? Was it the millions of school children and laymen who were lied to? Was it the majority of people who believe God created mankind, suffering under an onslaught of lies told in the name of science?
No! “Us” refers to the members of the Darwin Party, the dogmatists who shamelessly lied to advance their agenda. They had a strategy to portray humans and chimpanzees as similar as possible, in order to make their myth of common descent seem more plausible. Now, 32 years later, they have come clean, without any remorse, only because the usefulness of that lie has run out, and needs to be replaced by new lies. They had a political, social and cultural agenda that, in many cases, worked for 32 years. “Truth be told,” he said. Too late. These guys wouldn’t know Truth if it bit them on the lips. Truth that evolves, or that is an emergent property of material particles, is not the Truth.
For other examples of the Useful Lie tactic used by Darwin propagandists, see 05/02/2003, 07/25/2003, 11/19/2004, 03/02/2006, 02/01/2007, 05/31/2007 and many others under the chain links Darwin and Education that have been exposed on this website. Liars, we bare. Buyers, beware.