Thursday, October 18, 2007

Chimp-Human DNA Comparisons

I mentioned this issue briefly back in June, but it seems to keep coming up. For many folks, the discovery that the human and chimp genomes are something like 96% similar is somehow proof that common ancestry and macroevolutionary theory are true. A couple of things need to be said in response to this misunderstanding.

First, this degree of similarity refers only to specific coding portions of the respective DNA; the research didn't include all of the coding DNA, much less the much greater amount of DNA that is not involved (directly) in serving as the template for gene products (proteins and such). And, indeed, since this research was first published, there have been numerous discoveries involving the functions and roles of the non-coding portions (what had been known as "junk" DNA), which were not included in this study.

More importantly, however, is this... Darwin's theory was never about the similarity of living things. Rather, it was an attempt to explain (away) the differences. All biologists at the time of Darwin recognized the chimpanzee as the living organism most similar to humans. So the ability of modern genomic research to quantify the degree of that similarity cannot in any way be seen as support for evolutionary theory. Rather, while such a finding gives us an even greater appreciation of the physical similarity between humans and chimps, it only illuminates the failure of Darwin's physicalist attempt to explain the differences. While our physiologies and anatomies are (as has always been recognized, both by theists and materialists) extremely similar, humans are different--not in degree, but in kind--from chimps, especially in their reasoning capacities and their penchant for spiritual expression. (I won't bother here to clutter the argument with the further claim, based on excellent empirical evidence, that human souls survive the death of the body, something that has not been documented for other primates.)

The finding that chimps and humans share a 90-something percent similarity in their physical templates is not a surprise to Christian theists. But it does highlight the fact that Darwinian evolution (because it is a merely physicalist explanation) fails to explain what it was formualted to explain--the outstanding differences between these similar organisms. In the world of abductive reasoning--arguing to the best explanation of the facts--Christian theism fares much better here (as everywhere else) than naturalistic evolution. Humans are unique creatures because they alone are made in the image of God, as rational, spiritual persons. Evolution offers no account for the significant differences between humans and chimps.


tzog said...


Wow, that is some great stuff. I saw your blog on Ben Larson's blog. I'm actually the cousin-in-law of Ken W. Anyway, I look forward to reading your blogs and please check my blog out and pass it on.


Rick Gerhardt said...


Thanks for reading! I visited your blog, and laid down some smack about UK. I'll be in touch.