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Evidence for Common Descent

Evidence for Common Descent

Christian Creationists tell me all the time, “I didn’t come from a dirty ape!” It is usually at this point that I laugh at them. These are usually the same Creationists Christians who tell me that they have studied evolution. It is at this point that I laugh even louder because if they have really studied evolution from a reputable science book and not just “From Pandas to People” or at least paid some semblance of attention in 10th grade science class, they would know that the theory of evolution doesn’t claims that humans “came” from monkeys or apes. The claim is that humans and apes share a common ancestry.

Mountains of evidence support this claim of “common descent.” Dr. Alan Mann of Princeton University brought one of the most convincing pieces of evidence to my attention. Dr. Mann gave a talk on the subject at a Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia meeting awhile back. In his lecture, Dr. Mann pointed out the oddity of the 2nd Chromosome. Humans and Chimpanzees have almost identical DNA. The main difference is that our second chromosome looks a lot like two separate ape chromosomes. Every chromosome has two vestigial telomeres. These are normally found only at the ends of a chromosome, but in chromosome 2 we see additional telomere sequences in the middle. This is evidence of an ancient telomere-telomere fusion that marks the point at which two ancestral ape chromosomes fused to give rise to human chromosome number two.

This is a pretty clear-cut piece of evidence even the most idiotic Creationist can comprehend it just by looking at the picture above. So next time you talk to a Creationist (I’d say wacky Creationist, but that would be redundant) be sure to tell them about the telomere-telemere fusion and the second chromosome.

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  • existential blues

    This also came up in the Kitzmiller v. Dover (PA) Area School District trial, where ID was demolished.

    • admin

      There is a great book about that case called “The Devil in Dover” by Lauri Lebo.

  • Her3tiK

    The History Channel had something on this the other night. Perfect demolition of ID in Layman’s terms. It was beautiful.

    Happy Darwin Day everyone!

  • Leo

    If I remember genetics and evolutionary analysis correctly there is a conflict between which is closer to humans; chimpanzees or gorillas. Mitochondrial gene sequences point to humans and chimpanzees diverging from gorillas. Then again human genomes lack HERV-K insertions therefore humans must have given rise to chimps and gorillas. Or there could exist a mosaic of human-gorilla, human-chimpanzee, gorilla-chimpanzee phylogenies. During that ancestral time Bonobos diverged from chimpanzees and Neanderthals diverged from humans. Thus, the mosaic diversifies. Compounding this is the fact that rare interbreeding events or exchanges of DNA cannot be ruled. Nor is the species record complete. There could be an extant or extinct species that could solve or add more confusion to the issue.

    It is clear that humans diverged from the same ancestral species that also gave rise to the apes. We all share mammal ancestry that diverged from reptiles (before birds). As amniotes we evolved from some ancient frog like creature. Before we had legs we resembled the fishes. We developed a vertebral column before we developed lung-like organs or jaws. Our brains grew as our senses increased along the notochord. We are sophisticated fungi, we have mitochondria and share an eukaryotic ancestor. Backwards from here I romanticize Lynn Margolis primordial rise from the hot Earth.

    Why is it hard to believe humans and apes are so much different when we consider the whole scale of evolution? I think it is easier to accept being related to the chimpanzee, the shrew, the lizard, the frog, the fish…as a progression and innate process then in creation i.e., none of the above. As God refuses to speak for his/her/its omnipresent self it only seems right to understand that which we can rely on as hard evidence of our history on this planet; genes, fossils, theories, ect. To think otherwise is arrogant and spreading such belief breeds indifference to life. Facing this evidence god-believers should support evolution. (ID people jump onto the bandwagon here.)

    What is a mosaic but patterns of data. Evolution and our entire reality could be a product of a simulation created by some computer, perhaps in another dimension. Or perhaps we are the products of this universe obeying all its rules as it evolves independent of higher thought and humans fancy that they are not alone; I prefer this idea. What do you think?

  • A-Dizzle

    I brought this up in a debate with my brother in law, and his response was “The designer could have done that for some other reason”. It was a classic creationist stick-your-fingers-in-your-ears-and-scream-la-la-la-la retort.

  • Leo

    …a classic stick-your-fingers-in-you-ears-and-scream-la-la-la-la-retort…Where you at Staks?

  • http://blackhawk089@myspace.com Matt

    Sweet…common ancestry proven!! It is a common evolutionist argument that the reason humans have 23 chromosomes and apes have 24 is because 2 of ours fused. That seems like a easy explination right?

    While 18 pairs of chromosomes are ‘virtually identical’, chromosomes 4, 9 and 12 show evidence of being ‘remodeled.’ In other words, the genes and markers on these chromosomes are not in the same order in the human and chimpanzee. Instead of ‘being remodeled’(#1) as the evolutionists suggest, these could, logically, also be intrinsic differences because of a separate creation.

    The Y chromosome in particular is of a different size and has many markers that do not line up between the human and chimpanzee. (#2)

    Also don’t forget that humans are unique among primates with much shorter telomeres only 10 kilobases long. Apes is like 23 kilobases!

    Also, similarity (“homology”) is not an absolute indication of common ancestry (duh…evolution) but certainly points to a common designer (creation).

    If humans were entirely different from all other living things, or indeed if every living thing was entirely different, would this reveal the Creator to us? No! We would logically think that there must be many creators rather than one. The unity of the creation is testimony to the One True God who made it all (Romans 1:20).

    If humans were entirely different from all other living things, how would we then live? If we are to eat food to provide nutrients and energy to live, what would we eat if every other organism on earth were fundamentally different biochemically? How could we digest them and how could we use the amino acids, sugars, etc., if they were different from the ones we have in our bodies? Biochemical similarity is necessary for us to have food!

    It seems so much easier to just realize, hey, we’re somewhat similar because we have to be to survive and because we were created by one intelligent designer! “Commony ancestry” is vauge really…just because you can point to similarities doesn’t mean they came from the same place or same being. There are similarities between a car and a truck, but did they evolve to?! lol ok thats to far haha….wait..i lost my serious tone! Crap….

    #1 Gibbons, A. 1998. ‘Which of our genes make us human?’ Science 281:1432-1434.
    #2 Archidiacono, N., Storlazzi, C.T., Spalluto, C., Ricco, A.S., Marzella, R., Rocchi, M. 1998. ‘Evolution of chromosome Y in primates.’ Chromosoma 107:241-246.

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  • http://www.myspace.comandrewtheatheist AndrewtheAtheist

    I was fortunate enough to find Ken Miller’s DVD for free from http://www.hhmi.org. In the video he explains this process in detail. One of the students asked an importand question, “How did this fusion of chromosomes affect our ancestors?” The answer was it probably had no effect at all. Apparently, we see this kind of fusion often in fruit fly research. I highly recommend Ken Miller’s stuff.

  • http://www.myspace.com/natasha_chan Natasha-chan

    wow thanks for the link :D

  • http://www.myspace.com/atheistteam The A-Team

    Great blog. Yeah, the DNA evidence is such a slam dunk for Evolution that creationists usually dodge it and focus on the minor gaps in the fossil record. And when they do talk about DNA it’s just to misuse Information Theory, claiming that DNA contains too much information for it not to have come about by magic.

    And thanks to AndrewtheAtheist for posting the link to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which is legitimately giving away free videos on Evolution and various other subjects. I ordered a bunch a while back and got them the next week. They let you order 3 copies at once of each of your choices. And one of those videos is Miller’s excellent “Evolution: Fossils, Genes, and Mousetraps,” which I think is also available on YouTube.

  • http://www.myspace.com/andrewtheatheist AndrewtheAtheist

    This is my favorite video explaining evolution. Everyone should have a copy.

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