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Monday, November 10, 2008

We are 98 percent chimpanzee? Scratch that.

Here are some more realistic stats from Brit expert Richard Buggs:
Looking closely at the chimpanzee-like 76% of the human genome, we find that to make an exact alignment, we often have to introduce artificial gaps in either the human or the chimp genome. These gaps give another 3% difference. So now we have a 73% similarity between the two genomes.

In the neatly aligned sequences we now find another form of difference, where a single ’letter’ is different between the human and chimp genomes. These provide another 1.23% difference between the two genomes. Thus, the percentage difference is now at around 72%.

We also find places where two pieces of human genome align with only one piece of chimp genome, or two pieces of chimp genome align with one piece of human genome. This ”copy number variation” causes another 2.7% difference between the two species. Therefore the total similarity of the genomes could be below 70%.

This figure does not take include differences in the organization of the two genomes. At present we cannot fully assess the difference in structure of the two genomes, because the human genome was used as a template (or ”scaffold”) when the chimpanzee draft genome was assembled.
Hey, if you like bananas, that's fine, but you are still far more closely related to Ronald Reagan than to Bonzo (whatever you may think about that).

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Neanderthal man was one of us?

Neanderthal DNA is apparently identical to that of a typical crowd of Toronto subway patrons.
Neanderthals might have spoken just like humans do now, new genetic findings suggest.

Neanderthals are humanity's closest extinct relatives. Since their discovery more than 150 years ago, researchers have found out they could make tools just like our ancestors could.

Whether Neanderthals also had advanced language, rather than mere grunts and groans, has remained hotly debated, however.

Well, in THAT case, the Neanderthals are identical to subway patrons trapped in the tunnel on a stifling August day. They grunt, groan, twist bits of paper into weird shapes (like our ancestors could), and stare at the roof of the car ...

Why anyone should be surprised by such findings, I do not know. It suggests that Neanderthals were not very different from modern humans, but there are other reasons for believing that anyway. See also Neanderthals in The Encyclopedia of Evolution in the Light of Intelligent Design.

Some claim chimpanzees have 99% the same DNA as humans, which - if true - primarily shows what DNA will NOT tell you.

More recent figures put the similarity at 94% or 96%. That’s good news for the people who produced them.

A friend draws my attention to these expert comments.

If you told me that chimps and humans had 100% similar DNA , I would conclude that DNA is not a useful source of information. If you tell me that chimps and humans have 95% similar DNA I will believe that DNA might provide useful information. After all, on a dark night at a distance, one might mistake the chimp for a human - until he opens his mouth. So the newer figures are more believable. And I would certainly like to believe that DNA IS a useful source of information.
Check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Chimps: 99% Chimpanzee claim admitted to be myth

David Tyler discusses the recent startling admission that the claim that humans share 99% of our genes with chimpanzees has long been known to be wrong:
For over 30 years, the public have been led to believe that human and chimpanzee genetics differ by mere 1%. This 'fact' of science has been used on innumerable occasions to silence anyone who offered the thought that humans are special among the animal kingdom. "Today we take as a given that the two species are genetically 99% the same." However, this "given" is about to be discarded. Apparently, it is now OK to openly acknowledge that those who are involved in this research have never been comfortable that the 1% figure was an accurate summary of the scientific information. But more recent studies have made it impossible to sustain the old orthodoxy. They have raised "the question of whether the 1% truism should be retired."

The claim should actually never have been made, for reasons that Jonathan Marks addresses in What does it mean to be 98% chimpanzee?. So why was it made?
It is comments like these that can give sociologists of science a field day, for they reveal how social context influences what results are emphasised and what are overlooked. In this particular case, evolutionary biologists need to take full responsibility. It is good to see a start being made in setting the record straight. Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London, writes: "DNA is beside the point. To concede so much to biology risks taking such privileges away from ourselves. [. . .] Chimps may resemble Homo sapiens in a tedious and literal sense, but in everything that makes us what we are H sapiens is unique indeed. Biology, in its proof of our physical similarity to other primates, underlines its own irrelevance."

O come on, Jones! For many years now the similarity was used not to underline biology's irrelevance but ours. That was not an accident either, it was the promotion of materialist propaganda in the guise of science. And the schtick is being retired now because no one was prepared to believe it. Want to know why? How about the rabbi's reflections on sharing your genes with the chimp and the banana.

Tyler addresses the details in his most interesting post.

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