Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Because God Did It!

Francis Collins, former eminent head of the Human Genome Project and devout Christian is an advocate of the theory of evolution. In defense of evolution in his book Language of God, he asks the following question: "What is the likelihood of finding a similar DNA sequence in the genome of other organisms, starting with a human DNA sequence?" (p. 127). The chart that follows answers this question:


Organism

Protein-Coding Gene Sequence

A

Random DNA Segment Between Genes

B

Chimpanzee

100.00%

98.00%

Dog

99.00%

52.00%

Mouse

99.00%

40.00%

Chicken

75.00%

4.00%

Fruitfly

60.00%

~0%

Roundworm

35.00%

~0%


DNA that codes for protein is functional--it has a measurable and observable function in an organism. If one were to randomly sample a protein-coding gene from a human, it can be compared to protein-coding genes from non-human animals. When this is done, the results are as indicated in column A. The three mammals sampled have a very close protein-coding genetic relationship. A random chicken is 75% likely to have a random human protein-coding gene. The number falls to 35% with the invertebrate roundworm. It is no accident that the percentage of protein-coding gene sharing decreases the further one moves away from humans in evolutionary relationship.

The creationist might try to posit that the reason for the common protein-coding genes is the Creator's desire to place a fingerprint stamp or seal of identity on creation. In so doing a Creator would be placing a stamp indicating "common Creatorship" rather than the evolutionary idea of "common ancestry." Aside from the fact that this argument is infertile--it cannot be tested or produce further research--it is also short sighted in light of column B.

Column B lists the chances of finding a random human non-protein coding gene in any of the given organisms. Non-protein coding genes are sometimes referred to as "junk DNA." These are genes that likely had a function at one time but lost functionality through new genetic structures and disuse. For example, the DNA coding for the human tail is now "junk DNA" though rare throw-back "avatars" will demonstrate the phenotype. Column B illustrates that chimpanzees have a 98% percent rate of "junk DNA" sharing with humans. The rate of "junk DNA" sharing drops quickly to 52% in dogs and lower as one samples from more distant evolutionary relationships.

This information is a liability for creationists who assert that humanity is a unique creation of God to the exclusion of the idea that humans do not have non-human ancestry. Evolutionary theory predicted such relationships in Columns A and B years before gene theory developed. Creationism's only rejoinder is, "God did it." The creationist response might work in Sunday school, but it is devoid of real-world salience and application. Where common genetic ancestry is a fertile field for further scientific and medical research, creationism would have the thinker stop thinking with the thought blockade, "God did it."


15 comments:

  1. Forgive me for being a bit worn on this debate. I would feel the same should someone be posting on some of the central problems for evolutionists (for example, the lack of a probable or demonstrative system that allows for the infusion of new genetic information into the gene pool).

    I'd like to pose a question, if I may. Do you believe that faith in a "higher power" is reasonable? If not, can you demonstrate it to be unreasonable?

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  2. See now this a topic that sets a Zeeist apart from most Christians. Zeeists believe God may have used evolution as part of creation and also believe God may have created everything with starting with a big bang. I don't believe the Bible contridicts this at all.

    Let the attacking begin by those that believe what someone told them about the Bible and look at the Bible with a closed mind.

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  3. Why is it that you, who shares so much DNA similarity with a chimp, can articulate your thoughts and write this essay, while the chimp can only grunt and learn a few circus tricks? Remember, God is able to humble the proud who fail to acknowledge where their gifts come from. Think Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4) who subsequently had this testimony:

    Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase. (Daniel 4:7)

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  4. Some chimps can communicate via sign language better then half the people I work with can communicate. Chimps also do a lot better tricks then most of the people I work with... unless you consider talking me to sleep a trick. I fail to see your point...

    I never did understand throwing a Bible text into an argument with a random Biblical concept to make an arguement but monkey see monkey do. (We are still talking about monkeys right?)

    Psalm 98:8 (New International Version) says, "Let the rivers clap their hands, Let the mountains sing together for joy;"

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  5. Hello Tandi,

    Non-human primates and other animals display abilities to understand and communicate abstract ideas. However, most such animals are quite handicapped by the lack of physiological communication means. For example, a chimpanzee can communicate several hundred words but only in sign language. Human primates are unique for our speech abilities. Our speech abilities were also very likely an impetus for human evolution into greater abstraction. And, realize too, that there were other species of humans that are now extinct that may have had similar speech abilities.

    Tandi, the DNA argument is an enormous liability for creationism. Also, don't forget, and I think you realize this, that this information does not show the chimpanzee to be an ancestor of humans. It only shows that chimpanzees share a common ancestor at some not-to-remote point in our shared past.

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  6. Hello Samm,

    I feel as though the "information challenge" is a non-issue. DNA is not information unless the human mind interprets it as such. DNA is chemical combinations that respond through reproductive differentials to the environment. Cases of "new information" have been demonstrated. Consider, for example, Kenneth Miller's examples in Finding Darwin's God (an excellent book that I imagine you are aware of). My comrade (he will hate me calling him this) Philosobot has more information on this than I have at my fingertips. Or maybe he is just more patient than I am at the moment to present it.

    Of course, as you know, it is impossible to demonstrate abosolutes from a finite frame of reference. But, I consider a belief in an outside deity to be parsimonious and unnecessary. Though there may be other reasons to believe in such a deity (emotional, social, etc.), intellectually, I feel that such a belief is superfluous.

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  7. Zee,

    Okay, as far as I understand the principles of Zeeism:

    1) Dutch is the language of heaven.
    2) The Dutch ethnic identity is the chosen race.
    3) Adam was Dutch (as were all of the patriarchs)
    4) God may have used evolution.
    5) Sex before marriage is not blanketly condemned in the Bible.

    Am I getting this right? Okay, let me ask you to build off of number 4: God may have used evolution. How do you feel (or what do you think) about the descent of humans from non-human animals?

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  8. Hello Zee,

    Did you think my comment was directed to you? It was not. I should have specifically addressed it to Scriptulicious.....he will follow my drift and understand the Scripturally perspicuous admonition.

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  9. Don't confuse my personal beliefs with those of my opa's. I do agree with #4. I also agree with #5 although #4 is the topic on hand. The fundamental principle concerning Creation/Evolution would be something like, "God created everything. He may have only spoke the words and it was all created, He may have used evolution, and He may have created everything in another way. It does not matter how He created it."

    I thinks its entirely possible that all living things including humans are a result of evolution from a single cell organizm. I can't say I have any feelings associated with it. You can go a lot of different directions with this. I assume you have another question.

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  10. Tandi, I did not think your comment was directed at me. Care to share your clear counsel from the Bible? Perhaps you are a prophet and you were making a prophesy that Scriptulicious will be humbled. Maybe you think that all people that do not recognize where their gifts are from are humbled on this earth like Nebuchadnezzar.

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  11. In light of the present discussion, I could not resist posting this. Hope it is not too lengthy or annoying. : )

    The Chattering of Chimps or Babble from Babel?

    Both options seem strange. Since Darwin’s The Origin of Species (1859) science assumes that, after millions of years of evolving mutations, some grunting apes became the gesturing Neanderthals, which led to Shakespearean sonnets. Happily, the floating, uniquely human hyoid throat bone also appeared, helping this species survive by lying, crooning, yodeling and rapping. (The world’s oldest hyoid bone was unearthed in Haifa).

    Secularists have always considered it mythic that a Divine Engineer would factory-install a language program at Eden, creating the first modern humans. And that multi-national history was then to have been neurolinguistically kickstarted at the Tower of Babel, with 70 spin-offs which have since de-evolved into our 6,000 tongues.

    Linguist Noam Chomsky proved that the human brain is hard-wired for language. He suggested that some super-intelligent alien engineered language. And recent linguists DO conclude that all Earth languages came from one universal language. But NOT that “recent West-Semitic language” called Hebrew.

    The establishment Eurocentrists still support “origin unknown” for LAD (boy), even though Hebrew yeled and Arabic walid mean “boy,” and the root of birthing is Lamed-Daled. Genesis 11:1 has “kol aretz saphah echat” – coincidentally like WHOLE, EARTH, SPEECH… one (source of EACH). The new science of Edenics now has over 23,000 such “coincidences.” Edenics works with a Proto-Semitic, “Edenic” vocabulary where each root letter has the “genes” for the wide diversity of the world’s words.

    Edenics doesn’t use kabbalistic formulae, only bread-and-butter stuff already used to link, say, French with Italian. So, Daled-Resh-Kahf, derekh (way, road) is echoed in the words for “road” in Russian (doroga), Australian Aborigine (turingas) and 40 other languages in the “DIRECTION” entry of our e-word CD dictionary. Moreover, the Gimel of garon (throat) can shift harder to a hard C or softer to an H. This is why EGRETS, CRANES and HERONS are all long-throated birds.

    There are only a few hundred English-Edenic links as easy as rageel (usual) and ReGuLar. If one shifts the position of a letter instead of its sound, one knows why ReLiGion is about a spiritual path becoming a ReGuLar routine.

    Instead of the divine dance of sense among sound, scholars assume that words are merely chaotic noises that we assign meaning to. But words traced back to Eden AREN’T meaningless sounds. Take mysterious animal names. In English, names like
    1) GIRAFFE, 2) SKUNK, 3) GOPHER, and 4) HORSE are mere sounds. But in Biblical Hebrew, (Sephardic) Ayin-Resh-Phey, ghoref, means neck. 2) Tsokhen, stinker, gave the Indians that delightful creature’s name, 3) Khopher means digger, and 4) Horaish is plower. There's a large chapter on animal names from Eden in The Origin of Speeches:
    From the Language of Eden To Our Babble After Babel (winter 2005).
    Modern Hebrew has some bone-headed new animal names. When the guardians of Modern Hebrew had to coin a word for that crustacean, the CRAB, they went to the Old High German krebitz. This word is thought to mean “scratching,” even though crabs don’t scratch. The Academy then named the crab sartan, for scratching. (Samekh-Resh-Tet is the source of SERRATED). The scholars should have noted other creatures with exoskeletons, like the aqrab (scorpion). From qeren (horn) and Aramaic karpafta (skull) they should have seen a KR subroot of hardness. Koof-Resh-Bhet means battle and encroachment. So, nature’s lumbering, armored tank, the CRAB, should have been called a qarebet.

    It was an animal, a little birdie, that whispered the whole Edenic concept into my ear back in 1978. I was a doctoral literature student, a published poet, stuck with a boring linguistics requirement at New York University. The professor demonstrated the genius behind reconstructing the so-called "Indo-European root” for the generic bird word. This never-spoken laboratory reconstruction was to show how Aryans emerged from a separate troop of well-groomed apes, without any (shudder) relationship to the “inferior” races, peoples and languages.

    That theoretical, generic bird word was SPER. In second grade I knew a similar generic word for bird... tsipor. At the “SPARROW” entry one sees the Tsadi-Pey behind bird-related words for floating, spying, being covered (as in feathers), a talon, and chirping.

    In Edenics every two consonants make a sound. Sound is energy. This is a science now, no more Humanities myths. Every sound carries sense. Therefore, if we examine the simple three-letter word for flower, Pey-Resh-Het or perakh, we can see that it is a combination of 1) P-R (botanical things, as in perot / FRUIT) and 2) the R-K element of fragrance, seen in reyakh (smell) or English REEK.

    Here are two examples from the upcoming Japanese book. The SAMURAI, a storied warrior, was a royal guardsman. A guardian in Hebrew is a shomer. More often, the Japanese reverses the Hebrew. KARATE is an unarmed martial art. Therefore, kara means empty and te (pronounced tay) means hand. Reverse Hebrew raik (empty) and yad (hand) to get kara-te.

    Are we naked but gabby gibbons, or have we divinely enhanced brains (Genesis 2:7) above an ape’s body? Were we engineered for speech, for literacy, perhaps even for Revealed moral instruction (G-d forbid)? Stay tuned. In our 21st Century culture wars, we will weigh in with the new science of Edenics.

    Isaac Mozeson, www.homestead.com/edenics

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  12. For years I worked in a home for 12 developmentally disabled adults. Some residents had very limited intellectual capabilities. One that comes to mind would spend his day playing with his sock, would stare blanky when talk to, and the closest think to speech he did was appearing random grunting noises. If you use language to define the differnce between humans and non-humans then he would be non-human?

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  13. Hello Tandi,

    I am not sure what this article is supposed to demonstrate. I agree with Chomsky that their is a nativistic language knowledge in the human brain. I consider this to be an evolved feature of humans. It also appears that there is an evolved moral language in the brain. The existence of "hard-wiring" is not evidence of a designer.

    Also, I am not fond of this articles characterizations of Neanderthals. As you know, we do not know what the taxonomic relationship is between Neanderthals and Sapiens. There is some, slight evidence that inter-breeding may have occurred, but even if there were sapien-neanderthal hybrids, the evidence would suggest that Neanderthals contributed a negligible to non-existent genetic endowment to homo sapiens sapiens. There is little hard evidence to mitigate on the issue of Neanderthal speech. The Neanderthal brain was on average significantly larger than that of humans today, but that also, in and of itself is not an indicator of intelligence. There is a lot that we do not know (or at least that I do not know).

    I highly recommend that consider a wider representation of sources on linguistic evolution. The Bible-Babel linguistics are short sided and lacking in fertile venues of research.

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  14. Just so you all know, I am trying to get Biggums to post. She has some stuff to write, but she is busy this semester. She is taking two law classes , and they take up most of her reading and writing energies. Keep your fingers crossed, I hope it will be soon.

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  15. Linguistics aside, Tandi, the idea presented in this post is that 98% of "junk" dna is identical in humans and chimps. This does not mean that humans and chimps are 98% identical(!). As the post very clearly stated, junk dna served a purpose at one time in the past, but now it no longer does... it's just along for the ride because there's been no selective pressure to actually lose it. So, if 98% of humans' vestigial junk dna is the same as 98% of chimpanzee's vestigial junk dna, the best explanation is that chimps and humans have...wait for it... a common ancestor in whom the "junk" dna actually served a purpose.

    For that matter, why would an "intelligent" designer even give you even one single gene that didn't serve a purpose? Construction workers don't build a house with unnecessary wiring and plumbing, do they?

    Scriptulicious said: "My comrade (he will hate me calling him this) Philosobot has more information on this than I have at my fingertips. Or maybe he is just more patient than I am at the moment to present it."

    Or maybe I was at work at the time, commie... I mean comrade. Anyway, the idea that dna is a code or a language transmitting information from generation to generation is an unfortunate bit of shorthand used by evolutionary biologists. The truth is more complicated. As has been stated already, some portions of the dna structure (genes) are vestigial and just along for the ride; some genes (called cistrons) encode amino acids for the making of proteins (see column "a" in the post). Recons are genes responsible for recombination. Not to get bogged down in technicalities, recombination shuffles our genetic material to form gametes (spermata and ova, in animals), and the gametes combine to make offspring with traits somewhat different from our own. A given gene is selected when environmental feedback favors (even slightly) one trait over another. Over hundreds of thousands of years, even slight favoring of one trait over another leads to huge trait differences from the original ancestors, and eventually leads to speciation.

    In short, modern evolutionary theory (which is quite different from "Darwinism") does not regard the gene so much as information as it considers it *the actual unit upon which natural selection acts*. Even shorter: not survival of species, but survival of genes.

    Regards,
    Eric

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