October 20, 2012 | David F. Coppedge

Human Mutation Clock Half Off

An evolutionary standard for dating key events in human evolution has been shown to be half off, even by their own assumptions.

In “Turning Back the Clock: Slowing the Pace of Prehistory,” Ann Gibbons reported in Science Magazine Oct 12 the bad news: “New work suggests that mutations arise more slowly in humans than previously thought, raising questions about the timetable of evolutionary events.” Since “timing is everything” in the scenario of human evolution, this clock reset has ripple effects throughout the whole story.

Now it seems that the molecular clock ticks more slowly than anyone had thought, and many dates may need to be adjusted. Over the past 3 years, researchers have used new methods to sequence whole human genomes, allowing them to measure directly, for the first time, the average rate at which new mutations arise in a newborn baby. Most of these studies conclude that the mutation rate in humans today is roughly half the rate that has been used in many evolutionary studies since 2000. “Together, these papers make a convincing case that the human sequence mutation rate is substantially less than the one previously used,” says Harvard University population geneticist David Reich, co-author of one recent study. “As a result, genetic estimates of dates for ancient events are going to be older than previously reported.

As a result, timing of key evolutionary events is now “very murky,” according to London paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer.  John Hawks warned, “We can’t figure out how things happened if we don’t know when they happened.

Gibbons mentioned other drawbacks with dates in human evolution: (1) the first appearance of a fossil may not represent the first appearance of the species; (2) “there are no fossils of our closest living relatives: chimps and gorillas“; (3) genes might diverge long before species do; and (4) mutation rates can differ between apes due to other factors, like generation time (years between generations).  Mutation rate is important to evolutionists, because “It is the raw material for all human evolution—for better or worse, because most new mutations are deleterious.”

New studies have shown about 36 mutations between generations in Icelandic families.  The rates seem to be converging on “1.2 × 10−8 mutations per generation at any given nucleotide site,” or “1 in 2.4 billion mutations per site per year,” which is less than half the previous estimate.  Hawks said, “Some people will be happy with these rates, and some will not.”  For instance, while it pushes the Neanderthal-modern human divergence from 272,000-435,000 years ago to 400,000-600,000 years ago, bring Heidelberg Man closer to the mix, Chris Stringer feels a strain at pushing the divergence past 500,000 years.  When considering earlier evolution, the clock goes haywire:

What’s more, the new rate slows the pace of evolution in apes to a downright crawl… It puts the split of humans and chimpanzees, for example, at between 8.3 million years ago and 10.1 million years ago—far too early, given current fossil dates. The split of the lineages leading to orangutans and the African apes, including humans, goes back to 34 million to 46 million years ago, Reich says. “A human-orangutan split at 40 million years is absolutely crazy,” says paleoanthropologist David Begun of the University of Toronto, St. George, in Canada, who notes that fossils of likely orangutan ancestors date from 9 million to 13.9 million years ago.

Spin doctors went to work with a fix, proposing that the “mutation rate was faster early in primate evolution, then slowed in the African apes, and perhaps slowed even more in human evolution.”  They even gave the fix a name:”—the so-called hominoid slowdown.”  A critic said, “the magnitude of slowdown required to reconcile these dates is extreme.”  Others are trying to bring back the old dates by proposing that the new study didn’t catch all the mutations.  Overcompensating there, however, causes problems with other favored fossils that would fall out of the story.

Gibbons did not end on a confident note with a preferred solution – only with other factors that further confuse the situation.  For instance, she mentioned how “risky it is to assume that the mutation rate was constant in humans and apes, because so little is known about what might speed up or slow the clock over great sweeps of time.”  But since you can draw more curves the larger the error bars, this would allow evolutionists to be unconstrained and say anything that fits in the general scheme.  She left the situation open.  Reich warns that “to do evolutionary analysis, you want to calibrate our clock properly,” but the question of the true mutation rate “remains open.”

Evolutionists are kidding themselves.  The only empirical pieces in this conflict are: 1. mutation rates of particular humans in a certain part of the world right now, and 2. some fossil bones with no dates on them.  The rest is storytelling.  In vain they look into mutations as sources of novelty, “the raw material for all human evolution,” knowing full well that “most new mutations are deleterious.”  But as they sift through the damage for hoped-for beneficial mutations, none of which have been confirmed without controversy, they ignore the millions of neutral or nearly-neutral mutations that cause code decay over time.

This is what John Sanford explained thoroughly in his book, Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome. Genetic entropy is an observational fact that even Gibbons admits is occurring: even a “slow” rate of 36 mutations per generation is deadly.  Humanity cannot last many tens of thousands of years at that rate of change, let alone hundreds of thousands or millions.  Why?  You can see with analogy of typos in a book.  As they accumulate, the book becomes less and less readable.  At some point its informational usefulness collapses.

It’s superfluous to add, after that, that older dates for modern humans add to the conundrum of why it took so long for them to plant a farm or ride a horse.  The puzzles that are causing so much furrowed brows in the Darwin camp, making them resemble their putative ancestors with brow ridges – those puzzles collapse when you take away the “great sweeps of time” they depend on.  Humans have not been around that long.  That’s why civilization, agriculture and the technology appeared abruptly, just like history shows, less than 10,000 years ago.  What’s the problem?  The problem is the cult that Charlie started in 1859.


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  • Shawn says:

    I would just like to re-emphasize to everyone who may read this article to pick up a copy of Dr. Sanford’s book, “Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome”. It is a very good book to read, especially considering the fact that we live in a “genetic age” so to speak. Dr. Sanford details the genetic issues with evolution and why it completely falls apart in the face of the emperical evidence we do have. He then goes on to show how the evidence we do have actually works AGAINST the idea of millions of years of evolutionary processes occuring.

    The book is also very well written and while some portions may be slightly technical, Dr. Sanford does an excellent job of writing it in such a way as to be understandable. I find the information that is presented in his book is absolutely vital for us to have a firm grasp on, because the area of genetics is held up as the highest evidence for the theory of evolution, and many seem to be tragically unaware that it harbors the greatest obstacles to evolutionary theory.

    All in all, the book is excellent and I highly recommend it, much like I do all of Creation-Evolution Headlines’ articles! Keep up the excellent work!

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