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Monday, June 16, 2008

Brain evolution gene?: Move over already yet, gay gene, fat gene, and God gene!

Cleaning out the intray here: In "Why Darwinism is doomed" (September 27, 2006), Jonathan Wells brought up another good reason for skepticism about pop science media (unless you are willing to believe pretty much any scambo that purports to "support evolution") - the brain evolution gene:
On Aug. 17, the pro-Darwin magazine Nature reported that scientists had just found the "brain evolution gene." There is circumstantial evidence that this gene may be involved in brain development in embryos, and it is surprisingly different in humans and chimpanzees. According to Nature, the gene may thus harbor "the secret of what makes humans different from our nearest primate relatives."

Three things are remarkable about this report. First, it implicitly acknowledges that the evidence for Darwinism was never as overwhelming as its defenders claim. It has been almost 30 years since Gould wrote that biology accounts for human nature, yet Darwinists are just now turning up a gene that may have been involved in brain evolution.

Second, embryologists know that a single gene cannot account for the origin of the human brain. Genes involved in embryo development typically have multiple effects, and complex organs such as the brain are influenced by many genes. The simple-mindedness of the "brain evolution gene" story is breathtaking.

Third, the only thing scientists demonstrated in this case was a correlation between a genetic difference and brain size. Every scientist knows, however, that correlation is not the same as causation. Among elementary school children, reading ability is correlated with shoe size, but this is because young schoolchildren with small feet have not yet learned to read – not because larger feet cause a student to read better or because reading makes the feet grow. Similarly, a genetic difference between humans and chimps cannot tell us anything about what caused differences in their brains unless we know what the gene actually does. In this case, as Nature reports, "what the gene does is a mystery."

What the "brain evolution gene" does for thinking is what chocolate bars do for nutrition: Leave people with a big, satisfied feeling. It's so good, it doesn't need to be useful.

Wells is author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design" (Regnery, 2006) and Icons of Evolution (Regnery, 2000).

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