When I’m bored, I’ll periodically take a look at the blogs published by
the bozos at the Discovery Institute. I can generally find something good for a laugh. So I was doing that tonight, and came across yet another example of how they try to distort
reality and use slimily dishonest math to try to criticize the evidence for evolution. This time, it’s an article by “Logan Gage” called What exactly does genetic similarity demonstrate?.
Francix X. Clines, an excellent writer for The City Life and Editorial Observer sections of The New York Times, today (April 23, 2007) repeats what may be the most common mistake in trying to sell Darwinism to the public. In “Evolution, on Broadway and Off,” Clines writes of the American Museum of Natural History’s exhibition on evolution:
The DNA exhibit shows how the chimpanzee’s DNA has been conclusively shown to be 98.8 percent the same as the visitor’s DNA. Hey, that’s no show stopper for the monkey-song chorus — it still allows a one in 100 chance they’re right.
In other words, you are silly for not believing in Darwinism because you have very similar genes which make the proteins in your body as the chimps do to make their proteins. Game over, right? Not so fast.
You can see right there, from just the first paragraph of Gage’s writing what kind of scam he going to try to pull. What’s the evidence for common descent? Is it just that one figure – the 98.8% similarity between chimpanzee and human genes?
Of course not. He’s trying to take the number out of context, because out of context, it’s a whole lot easier to come up with arguments against it. In context, it’s one data point among many: as we sequence the genes of different creatures, we find
that the similarity relations between different species for a tree, where the more similar two species’ genes are, the closer they are to one another in the tree. And that tree is an almost perfect match for the tree that was developed without genetic comparisons based on other kinds of evidence.
So – a perfectly nested tree of genetic relationships, which matches predictions made before anyone had any idea of how to sequence the genome of a species. And what’s Gage’s response to that?
Second, the 98.8% DNA sequence similarity between chimps and humans that Clines references does not even establish claim one (common ancestry). And “you don’t have to take my word for it,” as LeVar Burton always used to say on Reading Rainbow.
As Francis Collins, head of the project which mapped the human genome, has written of DNA sequence similarities, “This evidence alone does not, of course, prove a common ancestor” because an intelligent cause can reuse successful design principles. We know this because we are intelligent agents ourselves, and we do this all the time. We take instructions we have written for one thing and use them for another. The similarity is not the result of a blind mechanism but rather the result of our intelligent activity.
Some design proponents think the evidence for common ancestry is good (e.g., Michael Behe), while others–citing the fossil record, especially The Cambrian Explosion–do not. But neither group thinks that sequence similarity alone proves either common ancestry or the Darwinian mechanism, as so many science writers of our day seem eager to assume.
See? The out-of-context number is used as if it’s the only evidence that exists. How do you think that Collin’s quote really ends? No surprise: with a lead-in to how much other evidence there is in addition to that one single number.
So it’s just more dishonest quote mining from the DI. Big surprise, eh?