Dembski on Human Origins, reprise

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William Dembski has posted a revised version of his essay on human origins on www.designinference.com. This was way back in August, but I’ve been busy. In the acknowledgements he thanks me, amongst others, for helpful criticism. Now I’m quite chuffed that I could help the greatest philosopher of our time with his essay, but it might have been nicer if he actually had acted on my criticisms.

As before, there are still numerous biological mistakes Dembski makes in this essay. He didn’t take my advice to get a real biologist to look over it carefully. What about my specific criticisms?

Dembski wrote in version 1 Consider, further, that chimpanzees (like the other apes) have 48 chromosomes whereas humans have only 46 chromosomes…

Now, this is presumably meant to throw doubt on the 98% figure, because humans have lost a pair of chromosomes compared to chimps. But we have 46 chromosomes because two chromosomes that are separate in chimpanzees are fused in humans. This doesn’t affect the similarity of our DNA one bit. However, Dembski still has this section word for word in version 2.

Next, after a far too long section of alternate versions of a Hamlet soliloquy, he made this remarkable statement.

Dembski wrote in version 1 The similarity between human and chimpanzee DNA is nothing like the similarity between these two versions of Hamlet’s soliloquy. With the two versions of Hamlet’s soliloquy, we’ve lined up the entire texts sequentially. By contrast, when molecular biologists line up human and chimpanzee DNA, they are matching arbitrarily chosen segments of DNA. It’s like going through the works of William Shakespeare and John Milton, and finding that 98 percent of the words and short phrases they used can be lined up letter for letter and therefore are the same.

He has now changed it to this:

Dembski wrote in version 2 The similarity between human and chimpanzee DNA is nothing like the similarity between these two versions of Hamlet’s soliloquy. This is because of the complex ways that genetic information is utilized within cells. Biological function can depend crucially upon extremely small changes in proteins as well as in how they are utilized over time and in space. The way proteins interact forms a higher order network that is not visible from nucleotide or amino-acid sequences alone and thus is opaque to sequence analyses. It’s like going through the works of William Shakespeare and John Milton, and finding that almost all the words and short phrases they used are identical.

This is marginally better; at least he’s got rid of the “arbitrarily chosen sequences”. Unfortunately for Dembski, he’s still wrong. As I pointed out, the chimp-human sequence similarity is like comparing his two versions of Hamlet. It’s not just words or short phrases the same, it’s entire chapters the same with the occasional spelling mistake. We have not only virtually the same genes, but they are virtually in the same order and location in the genome and chromosomes.

Figure, order of olfactory genes in the chimpanzee and human, taken from TRENDS in Genetics Vol.17 No.11 November 2001 See also this list of genes and gene locations on chromosome 22 comparing chimp and human chromosomes. See also this online book for more about gene organization in chimps and humans.

Note the new section in the middle about how small changes can have large functional effects. This is not in dispute, and is the standard explanation from evolutionary biology of why organisms with very similar genes can have large phenotypic differences. However, Dembski seems to think that this is a point against chimpanzees and humans being related by common descent. On the contrary, these show how humans and chimps can be related but have substantial phenotypic differences.

Remember, the whole point of Dembski’s paper is to show the alleged inadequacy of our reasons for inferring common descent, and to show in this instance having a very similar genome doesn’t mean that chimps and humans are related. Now, remember that genes are passed on from ancestor to descendent via imperfect copying.

My brother’s DNA is more similar to mine than my cousin Jeff’s, as my brother and I share a more recent common ancestor (parents) than Jeff and I (grand parents). Similarly Jeff and I have more similar DNA than someone from South Australia named Musgrave as the South Australian Musgrave last shared a common ancestor with us (Great great great great …great grandparents) around the time the Musgraves helped to chase Young Lochinvar. The South Australian Musgrave’s and I have more similar DNA than a Frenchman named Falkner, as we last shared a common ancestor around the time of the Norman invasion (Musgraves and Falkners were both Falconers). The Falkners and I have more similar DNA than Ötze the iceman, as we last shared a common ancestor somewhere in the Bronze age. And so on into the past.

We know, from theory, from experimental phylogenies and observation of evolving organisms that closely related organisms have more similar genomes that distantly related ones. This is the very basis of paternity testing and forensic gene tests to determine if otherwise unidentifiable bodies are related to particular people (the identity of the suicide bomber who attacked the Australian Embassy in Jakarta was found this way).

So the inference of common ancestry from gene similarity is not an airy-fairy idea plucked out of the air by evolutionary biologists to bolster their theories. Ironically, given Dembski’s Hamlet example, we use the shared patterns of copying errors in manuscripts to determine which master manuscripts they were copied from. The fact that genes form complex regulatory networks that can’t be invoked from sequence alone is irrelevant to the inference of common descent, it is the sequence that matters.

Unfortunately for Dembski, not only is the chimpanzee genome close to humans in overall nucleotide sequence, coding gene sequence, gene organization and genome organization, it is closer to us than any other organism (excepting the chimpanzee sister species, the pygmy chimp or bonobo which is 99.7% similar). The sequences of other great apes form a nested hierarchy of relatedness, with chimps/bonobos and humans closest, followed by Gorillas, followed by Orang-utans, followed by Old world Monkeys. In fact, the genomes of chimps and humans are closer than many other close species pairs. Heck, humans and chimps are closer than pairs of naked mole rat species living across a valley from each other. If you accept that a pair of naked mole rat species descend from a common ancestor, then you would be hard pressed to deny that humans and chimps share a common ancestor based on the same evidence.

One thing Dembski does is try to show that chimps and humans are further apart than we think and imply that this means that we do not share a common ancestor. Most modern studies (which Dembski largely ignores) compare sequences for similarity nucleotide by nucleotide. Where there are insertions or deletions, they are ignored in these comparisons, as how do you score the similarity of something that is missing? A study by Britten did try to account for these gaps. Using Britten’s measure, chimps and humans have 95% similarity. This is still impressive similarity by any means. Demski cites Britten’s study as if throws doubt on common descent. However, using Britten’s measure humans and chimps/bonobos are still very close, and still closer than any other organism, and you still get the branching hierarchy of relatedness seen with the “nucleotide by nucleotide” method. One feature of accounting for insertions and deletions (indels) is that they overemphasize differences caused by loss of blocks of “junk” DNA.

It may surprise you, but DNA that codes for protein or functional RNA’s such as ribosomal RNA only comprises between 1.5-2% of the DNA in our genes. Between 2-5% of DNA are regulatory sequences, that guide how and when protein-coding genes are turn on. About 2-5% of the genome is broken copies of genes, and about the same amount is broken viruses. The vast majority of DNA has no known function (it has been suggested that some of this DNA forms a kind of scaffold for the chromosome). Puffer fish do quite well with 50% less non-coding DNA than the rest of us, and in experiments where huge chunks of this non-coding DNA have been removed from mice, they live on quite happily. About 40% of this non coding “junk” consists of blocks of highly repetitive sequences, some are long, some are short.

If the protein coding sequences are equivalent to “Hamlet”, then the repetitive sequences are equivalent to “doobedoobedoobe” or swatches of pages with “this page left intentionally blank” on them. Because the repetitive sequences occur as blocks, insertion or deletion of these blocks cause a larger apparent difference between sequences, even when there has only been one insertion event. Nonetheless, the insertion and deletion of these repetitive elements also can give us clues to common ancestry.

Again, the pattern of insertions and deletions shown humans and chimps closer than any other group, and form a nested hierarchy that parallels the ones from “nucleotide by nucleotide” comparison. Dembski, and many other evolution deniers, use an argument that since chimps and humans look similar, it’s not surprising their genes look similar. The fact that the non-functional DNA gives the same pattern of similarity that we get from gene similarity is telling.

Dembski notes that the chimp choromosme 22 sequencing group, who found that chimp chromosome 22 was 98.6% identical to it’s human counterpart, “were surprised to find 68,000 insertion and deletion”. Well, if you look at the paper, they weren’t surprised, they expected quite a few. 68,000 insertions and deletions add about another 1% difference, so the chimp chromosome 22 is roughly 97.6% similar to its human chromosome equivalent when indels are accounted for. Indels affect junk more than genes, so you see less of an effect on gene similarity compared to genome similarity. Again, even if you account for indels you still get the nested hierarchy, with humans closer to chimps than any other animal.

"Chimp" sequence "Human" sequence
Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee What is a man, If his chief goid and market of his time Be but to sleep and feed? abeast, no more. Sure, he that made us with such large discourse, Looking befure and after, gave us not That capabilility and god-like reason To fust in us unused. Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee What is a man, If his chief good and morket of his time Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more. Sure, he that made us with such large discourse, Looking before and after, gave us not That capabililility and god-like riason To fust in us unused. Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee Dobee

Returning to Hamlet, the comparison above is a version of Hamlet as if it were part of the human or chimp genome. For simplicity I’ve ignored introns, but added in some of the repetitive sequences that make up over 46% of our genome (something that really represented our genome would look more like DobeeDobeeDobeeDobeespacerspacer{start}wh{remove}at{end} spacerspace{start}i{remove}s{end}spacerspacerspacer{start}a{end} spacerspacerspacer{star}ma{remove}n{end} and be totally unreadable). I’ve used a 5% difference between the two “genomes”, with indels as well as replacements. Now, even with indels it is clear that the “chimp” and “human” sequences are likely imperfect copies of a single manuscript, rather than the human one being independently authored by Milton.

Dembski makes much of the fact that the expression of chimpanzee genes differs from that of humans. However, this is what we expect. Evolutionary biologists have been saying for decades that the main differences between humans and chimps will lie in changes in the timing and levels of expression of genes, not in differences in the genes themselves. For example, we differ from adult chimps in the angle of our facial features and placement of the skulls connection with the spinal chord. However, we are very similar to young chimps in this feature, and it has been long suggestion that changes in the timing of development pathways of the chimp/human common ancestor could give us our flatter faces.

While humans and chimps do differ in gene expression, they only roughly 1% of their genes have different gene expression levels, so their overall patterns of expression are quite similar. What’s worse for Dembski is that you can construct a tree of relatedness with gene expression just as you can for gene sequences. Guess what, gene expression produces the same nested hierarchy of relatedness, with chimps our closest relatives, as we find for genes.

So we can see that:

  • Overall gene structure and gene location and order are most similar between chimps and humans
  • Gene sequences are most similar between humans and chimps
  • “Junk” DNA sequences (and indels) are most similar between humans and chimps
  • Patterns of gene expression are most similar between humans and chimps

By all measures humans and chimps/bonobos are closer than any other organism, and by all measures human and chimps form part of a hierarchy of relatedness with great apes closest to us. All the hierarchies are congruent, which is exactly what we expect if this hierarchy is due to inheritance of DNA from a common ancestor. Furthermore, the genetic differences between humans and chimps are less than many species that evolution-deniers are happy to accept as having “microevolved”.

Dembski often uses his critics to patch up problems in his arguments. However, if he is sincere in this he should look carefully at the criticisms. As it is, Dembski has either ignored the substance of the criticism and deleted outrageously wrong material but left incorrect arguments intact, or incorporated material that actually undermines his point. Perhaps, if he actually looked at the data and tried to understand it, he would see why the inference of common descent is so strong.

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So we can see that: Overall gene structure and gene location and order are most similar between chimps and humans Gene sequences are most similar between humans and chimps “Junk” DNA sequences (and indels) are most similar between humans and Read More

60 Comments

Ian, you clearly haven’t taken the time to understand Dembski’s arguments. I’ve read this site from time to time, and all I can see is that when atheists like yourself can’t understand his ideas in the space of thirty minutes, you set out to attack him for some reason–any reason, and most of the time it is because he’s a God-fearing Christian. At least you’ve done a bit better here and given some loosely mathematical reasons that you doubt him. But in the past he’s shown the transparency of your “refutations,” and I expect it won’t be long before this one goes down as well.

The dissimilarities between humans and chimpanzees, even under the most conservative evolutionist guesses, would fill an encyclopedic volume. Could that have arisen by mere chance? I think not, and Dembski’s ground out the math to prove the answer is improbable such a point as can be discounted. The changes in genetic structure alone are complex such that no sequential random variations could have brought them about–the 46 versus 48 chromosomes are just one example. There are no known examples in animals where chromosome duplication, let alone loss or fusion, can be beneficial. In most cases, not even the former is tolerated. It’s a small wonder so many biologists still cling to that belief system and still retain the credence of so much of the public.

Lastly, I’m curious as to why you and Dembski’s other critics only publish your critiques on internet blogs, where things are ephemeral and there is none of the peer reading you revere. He’s publishing scholarly works, on permanent media, so his ideas are things you can attack. Meanwhile, if someone finds that you lied, or were fast with facts, or just plain wrong, all you need to do is delete your files. If you had the publishing, or intellectual, standards of the people you impugn, there might be a real debate. But, as it stands, we have a hollow, atheistic belief system propagated by the U.S. Government. That’s soon to change.

While nothing in the whole comment posted by “PennySaver” bears more than 2 seconds’ scrutiny, let’s just focus on this one claim and see if he/she can come up with even a remotely plausible citation to back it up:

The dissimilarities between humans and chimpanzees, even under the most conservative evolutionist guesses, would fill an encyclopedic volume. Could that have arisen by mere chance? I think not, and Dembski’s ground out the math to prove the answer is improbable such a point as can be discounted

PennySaver Wrote:

The dissimilarities between humans and chimpanzees, even under the most conservative evolutionist guesses, would fill an encyclopedic volume. Could that have arisen by mere chance? I think not, and Dembski’s ground out the math to prove the answer is improbable such a point as can be discounted.

Dembski has ground out no math dealing with the event of human descent from primate precursors. In fact, Dembski has published exactly four (count ‘em carefully; unless you have developmental problems or are a clumsy machinist, it’s likely you won’t need all the digits of one hand) attempts to apply his “rigorous” framework, and in precisely zero of those attempts did he make a complete and correct calculation demonstrating CSI meeting or exceeding his own “universal small probability”. None of those had anything to do with human descent. No one else has published any attempts to show the math of Dembski’s “generic chance elimination argument” at work.

PennySaver Wrote:

Lastly, I’m curious as to why you and Dembski’s other critics only publish your critiques on internet blogs, where things are ephemeral and there is none of the peer reading you revere. He’s publishing scholarly works, on permanent media, so his ideas are things you can attack.

Well, Ian has published in an edited anthology, Why Intelligent Design Fails. I have a bit in there, too. I also was a co-author with John Wilkins on a paper published in the journal, Biology and Philosophy. (I thus have one more publication on “design inferences” in peer-reviewed periodicals than does Dembski.) I’ve published two book reviews in this area. There’s more to come, I can assure you, even if I don’t come through my surgery later this week. It’s in the pipeline…

Dembski, by the way, does not always shun “ephemeral” publication. Point your browser to Dembski’s site, http://designinference.com , to check it out.

PennySaver Wrote:

Meanwhile, if someone finds that you lied, or were fast with facts, or just plain wrong, all you need to do is delete your files.

I can’t speak for others, but I have actively archived a bunch of my past posts such that they are available online. I have not purged any of several bone-headed mistakes I made from time to time, nor any of my forthright retractions of those mistakes.

In my opinion, the scenario PennySaver posits is a great case of projection, since I’ve seen exactly this sort of shenanigan being used by the antievolution side of things. In fact, Dembski openly admits to using this sort of thing as a deliberate strategy. (See his “Backlash” article and its variants for talking about getting feedback from critics, altering his prose, and then publishing without clearly indicating where the critic caused him to change his argument.)

W.D. spends his time earning good money for polishing lies for unpleasantly incurious and vain Christians like Pennysaver. It keeps him in comfort, but degrades both parties involved.

“Atheists like yourself”? Bigot! And bigots are liars by nature.

While waiting for PS’s citation on Dembski’w Chimp/Human math, let me just add another note on this:

If you had the publishing, or intellectual, standards of the people you impugn, there might be a real debate.

You’ll notice few, if any, articles in serious scientific literature specifically devoted to refuting claims that appear in The National Enquirer. That doesn’t mean those claims are sound, and it doesn’t mean the refutations that do appear elsewhere are off-base. It just means that neither Dembski nor The National Enquirer are taken seriously by academic science.

But, as it stands, we have a hollow, atheistic belief system propagated by the U.S. Government. That’s soon to change.

Too hilarious! What? If W gets re-elected he’s going to just junk the constitution and declare a theocracy? Or are the Wedgies going to stage a coup and install a government even more theocratic than to W’s taste?

Pennysaver Wrote:

The changes in genetic structure alone are complex such that no sequential random variations could have brought them about—the 46 versus 48 chromosomes are just one example.

This is a typical creationist misunderstanding of biology. Humans have a chromosome that is clearly the fusion of two chromosomes found in chimps, gorillas, and oragutans. This is confirmed by by banding patterns and sequences.

Penny wrote

you set out to attack him for some reason—any reason, and most of the time it is because he’s a God-fearing Christian

If I was afraid of God, I sure wouldn’t behave like Dembski does …

Man, you leave the computer for a couple of hours to wash the dishes and play with the baby, and all heck errupts from under the bridge.

PennySaver Wrote:

Ian, you clearly haven’t taken the time to understand Dembski’s arguments. I’ve read this site from time to time, and all I can see is that when atheists like yourself can’t understand his ideas in the space of thirty minutes, you set out to attack him for some reason–any reason, and most of the time it is because he’s a God-fearing Christian.

While I am a member of the anti-football league, I respect other people faiths. My son is a devout follower of AFL. I do try and get him to recognize that other faiths exist, such as Soccer, Rugby Union and Rugby League.

PennySaver Wrote:

The dissimilarities between humans and chimpanzees, even under the most conservative evolutionist guesses, would fill an encyclopedic volume. Could that have arisen by mere chance? I think not, and Dembski’s ground out the math to prove the answer is improbable such a point as can be discounted.

Actually, the dissimilarities between Humans and Chimps fill about one column of one journal page, and I’m talking about real differences, not the rather risible list Dembski has in his new draft (he has to do some of his own homework). I kid you not. Not to be too gruff, but the differences between Humans and chimps is not chance, but due to variation and a mixture of selection and drift. I don’t want to get your goat, but Dembski has not even attempted to make a bridge between his “maths” and human origins.

PennySaver Wrote:

The changes in genetic structure alone are complex such that no sequential random variations could have brought them about–the 46 versus 48 chromosomes are just one example. There are no known examples in animals where chromosome duplication, let alone loss or fusion, can be beneficial. In most cases, not even the former is tolerated. It’s a small wonder so many biologists still cling to that belief system and still retain the credence of so much of the public.

This gets my goat. We need far more public education and awareness of biology. I’m about to sign up to do a teacher/researcher partnership for secondary schools to get some better appreciation of real biology out there.

Robertsonian chromosome fusion is a well known and frequent event in animals which they survive quite nicely. Duplication of a single chromosome in vertebrates is rarely tolerated, but whole genome duplication has been seen in many vertebrates, and at least one mammal.

PennySaver Wrote:

Lastly, I’m curious as to why you and Dembski’s other critics only publish your critiques on internet blogs, where things are ephemeral and there is none of the peer reading you revere. He’s publishing scholarly works, on permanent media, so his ideas are things you can attack.

In this case, as should be obvious from the original posting, I’m critiquing an article that is on the internet only. I and Dembski’s other critics do publish in scholarly arenas. I have one peer-reviewed book chapter out, and some more of my work is being peer-reviewed at the moment. Peer review of course takes more time, and is reserved for issues of some import. Picking out biology howlers in Dembski’s on-line work is hardly the subject for peer-review.

Cheers! Ian (who is not green and grumpy)

Others have already dealt with some of the ‘scientific’ objections raised by PennySaver but one comment caught my attention namely that it takes a simple delete or edit to erase any evidence of a mistake (or lie). While PennySaver has a good case here, it also seems obvious that this ability to erase history has been applied by Dembski or more recently by the Discovery Institute. Remember that originally they promised a rebuttal by Meyer to Panda’s Thumb only to quickly remove any reference to Panda’s Thumb’s critique and promise to address it. Recently the DI argues through its fellows that the reason to address Panda’s Thumb was because Nature mentioned it in its review, ignoring the fact that the DI itself originally promised to address PT’s critique. Such rewriting of history seems to be not just a possibility but also reality.

Dembski proundly demonstrated his strategy

These can be turned to advantage, and I’ve done so on numerous occasions. I’m not going to give away all my secrets, but one thing I sometimes do is post on the web a chapter or section from a forthcoming book, let the critics descend, and then revise it so that what appears in book form preempts the critics’ objections. An additional advantage with this approach is that I can cite the website on which the objections appear, which typically gives me the last word in the exchange. And even if the critics choose to revise the objections on their website, books are far more permanent and influential than webpages.

(Dembski DEALING WITH THE BACKLASH AGAINST INTELLIGENT DESIGN)

What were you saying again PennySaver? Not much of substance but ironically much of it seems to backfire as well.

Reed Wrote:

This is a typical creationist misunderstanding of biology. Humans have a chromosome that is clearly the fusion of two chromosomes found in chimps, gorillas, and oragutans. This is confirmed by by banding patterns and sequences.

Question: Can humans and primates interbreed? Or in other words, if such a mutation arose in a particular individual, would he/she be able to reproduce? Such would be a valid objection although you are right the evidence shows a fusion event.

Question: Can humans and primates interbreed?

Yes! My son is living proof. In a sense, twice over, since he is the offspring of primate me and my human wife, and vice versa.

Sigh. Okay lets be a bit more precise here. Could a human with a fusion event interbreed with a human without one? In order for fusion to be an explanation for the data it interests me to know what we know about how variations in karyotypes can be explained. I can imagine perhaps a reduced fitness effect between n=46 and n=48 versus n=46/n=46 and n=48/n=48 but what if n=46/n=48 does not work? Then we have a problem to explain. This is a serious question. So please try to understand my mumblings.

This conundrum does have a potential solution. A more recent model of population fitness in the presence of chromosomal rearrangements points to the fact that recombination is greatly reduced in individuals who are heterozygous for rearrangements. What does this mean?

Well, recombination is a process where, within meiosis (the cell division process that creates gametes, eggs and sperm, there is random mixing of genetic material in the pairs of chromosomes, one derived from the father and one from the mother). Each individual carries two copies of each chromosome in each of its somatic cells, one from its mother and from its father. During meiosis, each pair of chromosomes exchange material so that the chromosomes in the resulting sex cells (which each have only one copy of each chromosome) contain a mixture of genetic material from the father and the mother. This process of recombination or crossing over randomises the genetic material and is a major contributor to genetic diversity.

Recombination is greatly reduced in individuals that have one copy of a chromosome that is rearranged and one that is not, specifically in those chromosomes that are rearranged. Recombination of chromosomes heterozygous for a rearrangement is the main reason that heterozygous individuals were held to be partly sterile, since recombination leads to substantial deletions and duplications of genetic material resulting in unviable offspring.

But if there is little or no recombination in chromosomes heterozygous for rearrangements, then heterozygous individuals will be viable and fertile. There is no duplication or deletion of genetic material, since there is no recombination.

Since individuals heterozygous for rearrangements are fertile in the absence of recombination, rearrangements will fix with the same probability as neutral mutations (assuming the rearrangement is functionally neutral). And since there is no recombination in rearranged chromosomes, there is a barrier to gene flow in those chromosomes. If they do not recombine, then each karyotype (with and without the rearrangement) can continue to exist in the population and can continue to interbreed with viable offspring. However the mechanism for gene flow is blocked and each version of the chromosome is entirely separate and can mutate with the same degree of isolation as if the chromosome were isolated in separate species.

So we have a solution. Chromosomal rearrangements occur as a result of random mutation. Recombination is suppressed in those chromosomes allowing the mutation to fix in the population. The suppression of recombination also isolates the genetic material on that chromosome, and the chromosome evolves as though it were in a separate non-interbreeding species. Over time more chromosomes mutate and become rearranged, the lack of gene flow in the rearranged chromosomes leads to more and more divergent evolution on those chromosomes eventually resulting in sexual incompatibility between the populations that carry and do not carry the rearrangements and speciation is complete.

Links

The dissimilarities between humans and chimps are enormous. I can’t believe it’s been nearly a century since the tragedy of putting Ota Benga on display in a zoo that we’ve still got secular humanists trying to push doctrines of “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” and the idea of a continuum between humans and chimpanzees. There are different types of humans, but they possess core, underlying features and are all different from chimps. The ability to speak and use language for art (or, in some cases, lies), the ability to codify and write, opposable thumbs (that’d make a good website to respond to you guys), and stark developmental differences all distinguish any human from a chimp. Then there’s the genetic differences. There’s no place to hide in metaphors about the phenotypes, nor in metaphors about the DNA sequences. Whatever events created the differences between human and chimp chromosomes are in the past, and untestable. All I’m seeing is an observation followed by the unsubstantiated inference that evolution must have been the agent. But random chance doesn’t produce an encyclopedia full of specific information, which is the level of dissimilarity between chimps and humans. Design is just as good an explanation in every case, and much better in many.

Also, I can’t understand why a secular institution like the Discovery Institute, for merely suggesting other possibilities for life’s history and design than Darwinism, is the target of so much atheistic criticism. They are involved in various projects, all of them worthwhile. But, because they cast doubt that the origin of complex information, structures so intricate that we can’t even know how they work today, is a process based on random chance, they get the ire of the secular media monopoly. And, like I posted before, the days of that monopoly are numbered–we’ll see who’s right once humanists aren’t the only ones with a microphone.

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PennySaver,

The chimpanzee genome is due to be published in December. After that, we will have a set of numbers that will establish the amount of difference from the human genome definitively. We can revisit this at the time and settle whether Ian or you have come closer to the actual amount of difference.

BTW, my money’s on Ian.

I notice that there is no defense of your claims concerning Dembski’s math and places of publication. Smart move.

PennySaver Wrote:

Also, I can’t understand why a secular institution like the Discovery Institute, for merely suggesting other possibilities for life’s history and design than Darwinism, is the target of so much atheistic criticism.

My criticism isn’t “atheistic”.

PennySaver Wrote:

The dissimilarities between humans and chimps are enormous.

Have you ever worked with chimps? Have you ever read anything from anyone who does? The concensus of biologists who have worked with chimps and our other close relatives is that they are suprisingly similiar to us. This includes genetics, morphology, development, and behavior.

we’ve still got secular humanists trying to push doctrines of “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”

Got any citations, referenes to specific secular humanists currently pushing “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.”

and the idea of a continuum between humans and chimpanzees.

They might even have figures for it.

The ability to speak and use language for art (or, in some cases, lies),

Non human primates can use language, create art, and lie. Some humans cannot do even these things.

the ability to codify and write

Not all humans can write.

opposable thumbs

Ever see a chimp’s hands?

and stark developmental differences all distinguish any human from a chimp. Then there’s the genetic differences.

And those would be?

Whatever events created the differences between human and chimp chromosomes are in the past, and untestable.

If you think past things are untestable, try talking to law enforcement.

But random chance doesn’t produce an encyclopedia full of specific information, which is the level of dissimilarity between chimps and humans. Design is just as good an explanation in every case, and much better in many.

Too bad evolution involves a deterministic process: selection. And unfortunatly for you, selection is a design process, one that is nonsentient and under historical constraints. Design by an omnipotent creator is unable to explain all the bad designs that we see in nature. However design by a nonsentient, constrained process does fit with what we see in nature.

Regarding the difference of humans and chimps with

“opposable thumbs”:

That speaks *volumes* to me.

Question: Can humans and primates interbreed?

I’ve come across references to supposed successful attempts by either Russian scientists (on a PBS documentary about a private gorilla habitat in England) or Chinese scientists (from Terry Maples at the Atlanta Zoo, in a phone conversation about the possibility) involving gorilla/human or vice versa sperm/egg combinations.

Sigh. …This is a serious question. So please try to understand my mumblings.

Sorry, Pim. I just couldn’t resist.

Actually, I’ve wondered about this kind of question too, and more or less assumed that major chromosomal rearrangements would be an obstacle to interbreeding. And that, therefore, each of the handful of chromosomal inversions, etc., that separate us from our nearest relative species would have been associated with a genetic bottleneck in which all of our ancestors would have been derived from an inbreeding event. Total guesswork, though.

A more easily answerable question: are Down’s syndrome individuals ever fertile? And can the extra chromosome be inherited?

As to Down syndrome, this FAQ addresses the two questions.

From this link

Some may raise the objection that if the fusion was a naturalistic event, how could the first human ancestor with the fusion have successfully reproduced? We have all heard that the horse and the donkey produce an infertile mule in crossing because of a different number of chromosomes in the two species. Well, apparently there is more to the story than we are usually told, because variations in chromosome number are known to occur in many different animal species, and although they sometimes seem to lead to reduced fertility, this is often not the case. Refs 5, 6, and 7 document both the existence of such chromosomal number differences and the fact that differences do not always result in reduced fertility. I can provide many more similar references if required. The last remaining species of wild horse, Przewalski’s (sha-val-skis) Wild Horse has 66 chromosomes while the domesticated horse has 64 chromosomes. Despite this difference in chromosome number, Przewalski’s Wild Horse and the domesticated horse can be crossed and do produce fertile offspring (see reference 9).

Now, the question has to be asked - if the similarities of the chromosomes are due only to common design rather than common ancestry, why are the remnants of a telomere and centromere (that should never have existed) found at exactly the positions predicted by a naturalistic fusion of the chimp ancestor chromosomes 2p and 2q?

So the answer seems to be yes to the question of fertility and different chromosome counts.

More proof that creationists are way more informed about biology than stupid ‘scientists’–all those idiots at CalTech, MIT, Harvard believe that chimps have opposable thumbs. Idiots. Harvard needs some real scholars like Kent Hovind on their faculty.

Pennysaver said:

Also, I can’t understand why a secular institution like the Discovery Institute, for merely suggesting other possibilities for life’s history and design than Darwinism, is the target of so much atheistic criticism. They are involved in various projects, all of them worthwhile. But, because they cast doubt that the origin of complex information, structures so intricate that we can’t even know how they work today, is a process based on random chance, they get the ire of the secular media monopoly. And, like I posted before, the days of that monopoly are numbered—we’ll see who’s right once humanists aren’t the only ones with a microphone.

My criticism is entirely from a Christian viewpoint: I believe those who represent themselves as representing Christian views, as fellows and employees of the Discovery Institute regularly do, have a duty to be factually correct, or at least not dishonest in what they say.

Are DI folk involved in worthwhile projects? Good for them. None of these projects have anything to do with evolution, however, and if they represented to you that they were involved in such research, they pulled your leg. You may regard that as humorous, but some of us regard it as a breach of ethics, Christian ethics in the case of those who claim to be Christian.

Can you tell me where the humanist microphone is? Here in Dallas we have three 24-hour television networks and no fewer than five radio stations that promote the views of creationists or IDists, depending on who happens to wander through the door. There is no microphone for scientists or Christians seeking the facts, that I can find. Got any pointers?

I see PennySaver came back, but with no citation to back up the claims about Dembski’s Human/Chimp math. Why is that?

Now let’s parse this one:

…I can’t understand why a secular institution like the Discovery Institute, for merely suggesting other possibilities for life’s history and design than Darwinism, is the target of so much atheistic criticism. They are involved in various projects, all of them worthwhile. But, because they cast doubt that the origin of complex information, structures so intricate that we can’t even know how they work today, is a process based on random chance, they get the ire of the secular media monopoly. And, like I posted before, the days of that monopoly are numbered—we’ll see who’s right once humanists aren’t the only ones with a microphone.

The Discovery Institute is a “secular institution”? In what sense? In light of their inextricable association with the Wedge Strategy, and in light of the undeniable religious orientation of the latter?

“…for merely suggesting other possibilities… is the target of so much atheistic criticism”.

Actively undermining science education goes way beyond “merely suggesting”. And, though I can’t understand why PS can’t understand that atheists might object to the DI’s activities, most of the criticisms of it I’ve seen actually come from theists. Atheists are merely appalled. Theists are often appalled and embarrassed.

“They are involved in various projects, all of them worthwhile.”

I understand their “Cascadia” project is concerned with public transportation. Maybe that’s worthwhile. Anything else?

“Secular media monopoly” - well, that’s been addressed. But comments this far out on the fringe make me wonder, yet again: is PennySaver for real, or another tongue-in-cheek chain yanker?

Frankly, this argument about chimps and Hamlet is exactly why I’m of the opinion that it’s a mistake to try to argue science by analogy in the first place, even if one thinks it helps the non-scientist reader. These attempts to help laymen understand by comparing genes to literature always devolve into arguments about how good an analogy the argument is, rarely about the actual data that is behind it all. The simple fact here is that human and chimp DNA share such an extraordinary number of similarities in ways that are consistent with common ancestry that it’s nearly impossible to argue against it and not sound foolish.

It’s already been pointed out that the ONLY way Dembski and his fellow travelers can argue against such facts is to show, BY A PREPONDERENCE OF DATA, that their alternative is BETTER. As we know, no such actual work has ever been done by Dembski or any other ID supporters. Letting them get hold of silly analogies about Hamlet does nothing except obfuscate the real data.

Wow, now I know why there aren’t many creationists on this site. All who voice their opinions and argue with Darwin are put up on the stocks as idiots. OK, I was wrong about Chimps not having opposable thumbs. Nonetheless, evolution has yet to explain where a hand–any hand–came from in the first place.

But, let’s stick to something more simple, the vast genetic differences between humans and chimps (not to mention humans and primates). These differences, when put together, affect most of the genes in the two genomes–it’s hard to find a gene that doesn’t have at least a half dozen mutations between the two species. These are specified pieces of information, and their exact placement is a testament to the fact that chimps and humans were each specifically designed. But, let’s say for now that humans did evolve from chimps. In order to bring about one specific change in just one gene of 1,000 DNAs, without making others that would disrupt the sequence, is very difficult: 1/1000 to target the DNA, but 999/1000 that the wrong one will be hit. That’s compounded by the need to make the right mutation (1/3 chance of doing that before the wrong one happens). To make just four such mutations has a chance of 0.00033*0.00033*0.00033*0.00033, times 4! because the mutations could occur in any order (there’s some reprive). There is also a small chance that one mutation will revert, reducing the odds of success, but we’ll neglect that. Thus, the chances of getting just one gene right are 1 in 3.5 trillion. Now, that’s only three orders of magnitude greater than the population of humans today, but it’s five orders of magnitude greater than the population of humans just a few thousand years ago. Furthermore, there are 30,000 genes you’d need to do that to. The odds really fall apart after that.

Dr. Dembski can and has done much better to debunk the atheist myths of Darwinian selection, not the least of his work being to apply the “No Free Lunch” theorems that demonstrate genetic selection has no more power than random chance to produce information.

Wow, now I know why there aren’t many creationists on this site. All who voice their opinions and argue with Darwin are put up on the stocks as idiots. OK, I was wrong about Chimps not having opposable thumbs. Nonetheless, evolution has yet to explain where a hand–any hand–came from in the first place.

Ed, Christians believe in the truth of the Bible, and it’s far different from the views I’m seeing on this site. All I can say is, be careful what you read, and be honest what your worldview is really about.

But, let’s stick to something more simple, the vast genetic differences between humans and chimps (not to mention humans and primates). These differences, when put together, affect most of the genes in the two genomes–it’s hard to find a gene that doesn’t have at least a half dozen mutations between the two species. These are specified pieces of information, and their exact placement is a testament to the fact that chimps and humans were each specifically designed. But, let’s say for now that humans did evolve from chimps. In order to bring about one specific change in just one gene of 1,000 DNAs, without making others that would disrupt the sequence, is very difficult: 1/1000 to target the DNA, but 999/1000 that the wrong one will be hit. That’s compounded by the need to make the right mutation (1/3 chance of doing that before the wrong one happens). To make just four such mutations has a chance of 0.00033*0.00033*0.00033*0.00033, times 4! because the mutations could occur in any order (there’s some reprive). There is also a small chance that one mutation will revert, reducing the odds of success, but we’ll neglect that. Thus, the chances of getting just one gene right are 1 in 3.5 trillion. Now, that’s only three orders of magnitude greater than the population of humans today, but it’s five orders of magnitude greater than the population of humans just a few thousand years ago. Furthermore, there are 30,000 genes you’d need to do that to. The odds really fall apart after that.

Dr. Dembski can and has done much better to debunk the atheist myths of Darwinian selection, not the least of his work being to apply the “No Free Lunch” theorems that demonstrate genetic selection has no more power than random chance to produce information.

I’m placing my bets on design.

Wow, now I know why there aren’t many creationists on this site. All who voice their opinions and argue with Darwin are put up on the stocks as idiots. OK, I was wrong about Chimps not having opposable thumbs. Nonetheless, evolution has yet to explain where a hand–any hand–came from in the first place.

But, let’s stick to something more simple, the vast genetic differences between humans and chimps (not to mention humans and primates). These differences, when put together, affect most of the genes in the two genomes–it’s hard to find a gene that doesn’t have at least a half dozen mutations between the two species. These are specified pieces of information, and their exact placement is a testament to the fact that chimps and humans were each specifically designed. But, let’s say for now that humans did evolve from chimps. In order to bring about one specific change in just one gene of 1,000 DNAs, without making others that would disrupt the sequence, is very difficult: 1/1000 to target the DNA, but 999/1000 that the wrong one will be hit. That’s compounded by the need to make the right mutation (1/3 chance of doing that before the wrong one happens). To make just four such mutations has a chance of 0.00033*0.00033*0.00033*0.00033, times 4! because the mutations could occur in any order (there’s some reprive). There is also a small chance that one mutation will revert, reducing the odds of success, but we’ll neglect that. Thus, the chances of getting just one gene right are 1 in 3.5 trillion. Now, that’s only three orders of magnitude greater than the population of humans today, but it’s five orders of magnitude greater than the population of humans just a few thousand years ago. Furthermore, there are 30,000 genes you’d need to do that to. The odds really fall apart after that.

Dr. Dembski can and has done much better to debunk the atheist myths of Darwinian selection, not the least of his work being to apply the “No Free Lunch” theorems that demonstrate genetic selection has no more power than random chance to produce information.

I’m placing my bets on design.

Pennysaver wrote

Dr. Dembski can and has done much better to debunk the atheist myths of Darwinian selection, not the least of his work being to apply the “No Free Lunch” theorems that demonstrate genetic selection has no more power than random chance to produce information.

PS here betrays his ignorance of the relevant literature. The most immediately relevant is David Wolpert’s analysis of Dembski’s use of the NFL theorems (that Wolpert proved, remember):

Indeed, throughout there is a marked elision of the formal details of the biological processes under consideration. Perhaps the most glaring example of this is that neo-Darwinian evolution of ecosystems does not involve a set of genomes all searching the same, fixed fitness function, the situation considered by the NFL theorems. Rather it is a co-evolutionary process. Roughly speaking, as each genome changes from one generation to the next, it modifies the surfaces that the other genomes are searching. And recent results indicate that NFL results do not hold in co-evolution.

And two years ago in a thread on ARN Dembski minimized the NFL Theorems’ relevance to his argument in No Free Lunch. That is, he abandoned the very theorems that gave him his title!

RBH

PennySaver Wrote:

Wow, now I know why there aren’t many creationists on this site. All who voice their opinions and argue with Darwin are put up on the stocks as idiots.

The only stocks round here are laughing ones Sgt. Detritus, opps, sorry Penny, and the laughingstocks are the anti-evolutionists who can’t be bothered to get simple facts right. However, there may be a way to bridge you ignorance without getting your goat. Lets trit-trot right along shall we.

PennySaver Wrote:

But, let’s stick to something more simple, the vast genetic differences between humans and chimps (not to mention humans and primates). These differences, when put together, affect most of the genes in the two genomes–it’s hard to find a gene that doesn’t have at least a half dozen mutations between the two species.

I’m sorry Sgt. Detritus, opps, sorry Penny, but in fact the opposite is true, it’s hard to find a gene that is not identical, or has only one or two differences between the two. In the recently published chromosome 22 gene sequence 20% of genes are identical, and the remainder are on average 99% identical.

PennySaver Wrote:

In order to bring about one specific change in just one gene of 1,000 DNAs, without making others that would disrupt the sequence, is very difficult: 1/1000 to target the DNA, but 999/1000 that the wrong one will be hit.

I’m sorry Sgt. Detritus, opps, sorry Penny, but in fact most mutations are neutral, that is they have no effect on the protein produced. You can change something like 70-80% of nucleotides with out any effect on the proteins function. And most differences between humans and chimps are just that, neutral mutations. Their positioning is just due to random mutation. The biggest specific change between humans and chimps is we have fewer working odorant receptors than they do. The essence of being human is apparently a poor sense of smell, telling that.

PennySaver Wrote:

OK, I was wrong about Chimps not having opposable thumbs. Nonetheless, evolution has yet to explain where a hand—any hand—came from in the first place.

How many scientific papers did you read before you came to that conclusion? I’m betting the answer is zero. If you want to know where hands came from, ask PZ.

But, let’s stick to something more simple, the vast genetic differences between humans and chimps (not to mention humans and primates). These differences, when put together, affect most of the genes in the two genomes—it’s hard to find a gene that doesn’t have at least a half dozen mutations between the two species.

How many scientific papers did you read before you came to that conclusion? I’m betting the answer is zero. Care to actually look at some sequence data between the two? You do realize that it is hard to find a protein that differs between chimps and humans?

But, let’s say for now that humans did evolve from chimps.

Or we could use a senario that is relevant. Humans are not descendent from chimps, but rather we share a recent common ancestor with them.

The odds really fall apart after that.

I always find it funny when anti-evolutionists try to use statistics. They are totally ignorant of the irony involved. (Hint: RA Fisher.) Now, any order of a deck of cards has the probability of 1.2e-68 of existing. Using your logic, if I gave you a randomly shuffled deck, you’d conclude that the order was specifically designed. Clearly, there is something wrong with your logic, but I will let you figure it out on your own.

OK, PennySaver. Out with it. You’re having us on, right?

Dr. Dembski can and has done much better to debunk the atheist myths of Darwinian selection, not the least of his work being to apply the “No Free Lunch” theorems that demonstrate genetic selection has no more power than random chance to produce information.

Wow, now I know why there aren’t many creationists on this site. All who voice their opinions and argue with Darwin are put up on the stocks as idiots. OK, I was wrong about Chimps not having opposable thumbs.

It’s your own comments which show you to be ignorant about these facts and these are not non-trivial errors on your part. Now you repeat the NFL theorem argument which has since long been shown to be totally without merrit.

Tell us PennySaver, you are trolling us…

OK already …I vote a full 10 Loki points out of 10 possible for whomever is pulling the PennySaver wires.

In many comments in this specific forum and others on The Panda’s Thumb I read criticism of ID advocates involving themselves in politics. Perhaps we should be careful when using this argument as I am sure that most of us would not use the same criticisms for the Nobel laureates who often politically involve themselves by writing letters that are meant to sway public opinion. These letters support persidential candidates and disapprove of presidential policies, and thus are very politically motivated.

RE: criticism of ID advocates involving themselves in politics.

Hey, everyone should be involved in politics. The problem arises when political maneuvering is substituted for science, or when scientific validity is made to compete with political popularity in, for instance, public school curriculum decisions.

I would also distinguish between the individual’s exercise of conscience and the efforts of special-purpose “think tanks”, like the Discovery Institute.

Perhaps it’s useful to compare the activities of the Discovery Institute with, say, the Union of Concerned Scientists. IMHO, in the one case political inclination generally drives scientific judgment, and in the other, vice versa .

While not strictly on topic, need to pick up on PennySaver’s remark in Comment #8389:

“Ed, Christians believe in the truth of the Bible, and it’s far different from the views I’m seeing on this site.”

That’s not quite right. Christians follow Christ, as best they can. The Christians referred to in Acts Chapter 11 verse 26 seemed to manage well enough without a Bible.

Good luck with your surgery next week Wesley. Make sure your doctor believes in evolution before he cuts you open. If he or she is a theistic evolutionist you might have both bases covered :P

pim Wrote:

Question: Can humans and primates interbreed? Or in other words, if such a mutation arose in a particular individual, would he/she be able to reproduce? Such would be a valid objection although you are right the evidence shows a fusion event.

A good example of this is Zebras. Of the 3 types they all have different amounts of chromosome. While many of the breeding events are not viable many are with the occasional fertile offspring. Equines are a great example of drift and mutation.

LJN as pointed out by Russell there is no issue with anyone being involved with politics. But if your doctor tries to lobby congress to get a new drug he invented onto the market without any trials, studies and other scientific data then you better be concerned when popping that pill. What IDers are doing is comparable to the doctor writing 2 or 3 letters to the editor of some public magazine and saying that the drug is safe because of those letters.

Hi Wayne,

Can you dig up a link to information on this - “Of the 3 types of zebras they all have different amounts of chromosome. While many of the breeding events are not viable many are with the occasional fertile offspring.” More fodder for the Speciation Folder.

Thanks, Bob

Hey Bob,

Check out some zebra info here.

Chromosome numbers are:

Plains zebra = 44 Mountain zebra = 32 Grevy’s zebra = 46

Sure Bob, I’ve posted the info here before but I’m sure I can dig up the information

Found it Comment #6984 at The Trivers-Willard hypothesis

Grevy’s have 46 chromosomes, plains have 44, mountain have 32. Horses have 64 chromosomes and donkeys have 62.

Mules result in 63 chromosomes which is unusual in itself

All of these can breed together with different levels of viability and there are occasion fertile hybrids.

The term “when a mule foals” is an old roman term like saying “once in a blue moon” tho it happens much less often.

Other hybrids include Lions (38 chromosomes) and tigers (38 chromosomes). But this is less interesting because, as far as I know, all cats have 38 chromosomes. May seem funny but the biggest problem on lion/house cat hybrid would be the mating and birth.…that and the lion would probably just decide to eat the house cat instead of having sex. Cats have not diverged that much genetically.

Buffalo (50 chromosomes) and cows (60 chromosomes) can produce hybrids. Pheasant (82 chromosomes) and chickens (78 chromosomes) can produce viable offspring but Chicken (78 chromosomes) and Turkeys (80 chromosomes) to the best of my knowledge have never been successfully cross bred.

Could a chimp and a human interbreed? This is a question we probably should never find out because of moral reasons. I’m not sure what the chromosome fusion would cause to happen in a attempted hybrid.

I should mention, besides the cats, these hybrids are almost always sterile. But not I say “almost” as there are the occasional fertile offspring.

Wayne, do you have any references for that information. I can think of at least two common creationist pseudo arguments that it would be usefull refuting, but I would like to be able to cite original textbooks or journal articles.

one is Animal Genetics Vol 34, Issue 6, Page 453, Dec 2003 Fixed nucleotide differences on the Y chromosome indicate clear divergence between Equus przewalskii and Equus caballus (registration required)

I’ll get some more references tonight when I get back from movies and pub

Wayne,

Concerning chimp and human interbreeding; some years ago I saw a PBS (I think) documentary on a private gorilla “zoo” in England. Aspinall(?) is all I can come up with, and I don’t remember if that’s the name of the estate or the guy who owns it. He has an amazing rapport with the gorillas, including the silverback, and new mothers bring their babies to him for him to hold. There was a comment made on the program about rumored claims by Russian scientists to have successfully fertilized gorilla eggs with human sperm(or vice versa).

I was able to contact Terry Maples at the Atlanta Zoo and he said he’d heard the same thing, but concerning Chinese scientists. He thought it was theoretically possible.

Bob, I’ve heard about rumors about human-chimp hybrids but I’m sceptical about them until I see them. Primarily because humans embrose seem less tollerable to birth defect then many other animals like sheep. I wouldn’t be surprised about finding one tho.

I have a gut feel that this type of work is being done by labs around the world in secret but the moral issue is interesting. Where Dolly took over 275 attempts. Is it ethical to do this with human fetuses. What happens at the end? Is it fair to said creature? Cloning is one thing but creating hybrid humans via different mechanisms is something out of a video game.

There have been successful fusion of Human DNA with Cow and Pig cells and grown to cell clusters of 30 or more before being terminated. Interesting comments like, it would be 95% human but with bovine mitochondria.

Note while I don’t look at this whole issue as a religious issue it is a big moral issue. How do we go forward without making ourselves into “evil scientists”? I’m just as concerned with experimenting on Great apes as I amd with experimenting on humans.

Wayne,

I don’t think doing such biological research on human fetuses would be ethical at all. Even if you terminate the experiment after a cluster of a few dozen cells forms (assuming this can be done) one still runs into serious ethical considerations. For instance, couldn’t this be seen as abortion? At least from the perspective of those on the far right in the political spectrum.

Now if the cloning was partial, say for purposes of growing organs rather than organisms, then the issue would be less contentious.

You mention video games, and this to me offers the avenue which has the least ethical drawbacks. That is to say, modelling the process as a computer algorithm. But this has it’s own prioblems in that we need sufficient information to input in order to make a realistic model, and how can we know how well any such models so produced correlate to biological reality?

Dave, When I said “Cloning is one thing but creating hybrid humans via different mechanisms is something out of a video game.” I’m talking literally about games where you battle evil human hybrid monsters made by evil human scientists.

I don’t disagree with the ethics issue. But I’m not sure where to draw the line. Is that 20 cell cow/human embryo a life we need to protect over other scientific studies we might do on a mouse embryo? I would tend to say no. But that is because of my view that anything I relate to a soul is not restricted to humans. Then again thinking about it if there is a soul I don’t think that this material life is that big of a part of it.

Medical advances are full of ethical issues. I’m not completely up on the exact processes of cloning. Would cloning tissue for a heart involve a much different procedure then a whole person? If you are worried about ethics and religion then you have to think “When does the soul attach to the life/come into being” Many say it is at the point of conception. If this is so then is it ethical to clone tissue at all? For ages man has tied the concept of the soul to the heart and when they first started doing heart transplants people considered it a moral tragedy that the patients would some how not be themselves. These days do people tie it closer to the brain? What happens in 20 years when we start repairing parts of the brain via artificial means or transplants?

Its a weird grey area in my book.

Dave S. Wrote:

Even if you terminate the experiment after a cluster of a few dozen cells forms (assuming this can be done) one still runs into serious ethical considerations

Dave this can and is done all the time. Lets not think about experiments but lets look at IVF. They fertilise the egg and let the zygote and let it form into a ball of cells, a blastocyst, and then place this back inside the mother.

You might think this is ok since it is resulting in the birth of a child but you have to look at this. When a woman goes through IVF she has many eggs fertilised. Normally multiple fertilised eggs are transferred back to the mother. With the high success rates we get these days there are more and more procedures done after transfer back to the mother to abort a number of the embryos. Even more of these embryos are kept in cold storage for later use. Countless embryos have been killed just by loss of power to the freezers. Tens of thousands of these embryos end up being used in experiments.

Personally I’d rather see these embryos used in tests then just destroyed. I’d also rather see these embryos being used with the donors consent then embryos of captive great apes be used without the consent of the great apes.

The great apes are our closest relatives and the majority of people pay little to no respect for them. What does that make us? Have you ever though that even your household pet can understand about 100 different words you say. How much of your pets vocabulary do you understand?

In some ways I wish just a bit more experimenting would be done. One that takes a chimp and manipulates the genes so that the brain grows slower like a human child. Let this chimp grow its brain over 5 years instead of 1. Let this chimps brain start out 25% of its adult size like a human baby. Let us see how intelligent this chimp can be because of a minor difference in gene expression. Then maybe people will not think that they are so great when compared to the rest of the worlds creatures.

We are close to having this power. The line is there. I’m sure we’ll cross it like we’ve crossed every other medical issue that was taboo before.

Wayne,

When I said “Cloning is one thing but creating hybrid humans via different mechanisms is something out of a video game.” I’m talking literally about games where you battle evil human hybrid monsters made by evil human scientists.

Yes I know. I was using this statement as a segue (clumsily it appears) into mentioning the possibility of simulating the cloning process artificially on a computer. That while this might be ethically less contentious, it’s practically a less useful thing to do as well.

I agree with you that tangled ethical issues are raised, and touched a few that might ensue from the ‘life begins at conception’ crowd.

I don’t know when a soul attaches to an organism. I don’t even know how I can show anyone, including myself, that I have have a soul. Much less that a blastocyst has one.

Countless embryos have been killed just by loss of power to the freezers. Tens of thousands of these embryos end up being used in experiments.

By ‘terminating’ I was thinking more in terms of actively destroying the hybrid blastocyst. This is a bit different than freezing it and having them sometimes be lost by accident, and raises some different ethical issues.

Personally I’d rather see these embryos used in tests then just destroyed.

I agree with you.

Have you ever though that even your household pet can understand about 100 different words you say. How much of your pets vocabulary do you understand?

I understand every utterance he makes. That’s because every utterance translates to “Feed me now”. *L*

In some ways I wish just a bit more experimenting would be done. One that takes a chimp and manipulates the genes so that the brain grows slower like a human child. Let this chimp grow its brain over 5 years instead of 1. Let this chimps brain start out 25% of its adult size like a human baby. Let us see how intelligent this chimp can be because of a minor difference in gene expression. Then maybe people will not think that they are so great when compared to the rest of the worlds creatures.

Interesting suggestion.

Wasn’t there someone once who tried to surgically alter a chimps vocal cords to make them more closely resemble a human’s? Leaning to speak still wasn’t an option apparently, as the chimp’s brain was just not set up for language.

By ‘terminating’ I was thinking more in terms of actively destroying the hybrid blastocyst. This is a bit different than freezing it and having them sometimes be lost by accident, and raises some different ethical issues

Both happen. Some people donate fertialized blastocyst/zygotes, other have them destroyed, other store them for future use, others donate them to research. The whole spectrum of what is done with them occurs every day.

Wasn’t there someone once who tried to surgically alter a chimps vocal cords to make them more closely resemble a human’s? Leaning to speak still wasn’t an option apparently, as the chimp’s brain was just not set up for language.

I’m unsure here what you mean. Language is proven in primates along with other animals. The extent of this language is not well known by use. We know that some great apes take to sign languages better then others and some are more articulate then others with that language. There is even a researcher that claims to understand different vocalisation from some great apes. I’m not talking a universal language but the fact that in group x grunt y means “melon”. We know in human language falls out from social interaction. 3rd world deaf children show this when they are kept together inventing their own sign language without adult supervision. It seems adults are not required to teach children but an important factor is the social interaction. Personally I believe other animals are similar. They grow up together and probably have a “local language” that they use to communicate. One of the most touching things I’ve ever seen was Koko’s (a signing gorillia) talking about her pet kitty that died a few days earlier. I was interested in this and got a friend who’s parents where deaf to translate for me without the sound on. There was definate communication going on between the trainer and Koko and koko seem to understand the concept of both death and sadness associated with death.

I’ve seen other videos of trainers talking to great apes about dreams. We don’t seem special in that regard either. I know my dog used to dream.…her legs going like she was running around in a field in her dream.

I wonder what would happen if we took a large population of chimps and selectively breed them. Teach them all sign language. Test the whole generation. Pick the smartest of them all to breed the next generation. Repeat this over and over. In 500 years where would we be at? Could we keep the population viable from issues of inbreeding while promoting the traits of intelligence? How far could we get in that time? That is only 70 odd generations of chimpanzees but a high pressure on selection. I wish I had both the money and the lifespan to see a test like that happen.

Re the earlier discussion here of varying chromosome # in related species:

Don’t forget muntjac deer. Refs for numerous species can be found here: http://www.genome.org/cgi/content/f[…]/8/6/577#B64

other links: http://www.genome.org/cgi/content/full/8/1/1

http://www.deer-uk.com/muntjac_deer.htm

http://www.amazingdiscoveries.org/p[…]luge-p2.html

Hi,

I do NOT believe humans have souls, so for me there is no religious implication in the destruction of human embryos, howsoever caused.

For those who believe in souls, it seems they think the soul is created at the moment of conception, or is it plucked off a shelf? In either proposition, what happens to the soul if the embryo does not develop?

Roman Catholics posit a place called limbo for all unbaptised souls as they have original sin and cannot enter into heaven. Well, that was what I was told as a child back in the 1940’s.

My question for any theists out there is “Would a human/ape hybrid have a soul?”

The report I read about Chinese efforts in creating hybrids had something to do with creating slave workers. That is not very nice at all. I am all for moving in the opposite direction and creating super humans. Here is another question. Would I be me, if I had been conceived one second earlier or later than I was?

Intelligent Design. Crap.

Pericles

Regards,

Pericles

To one and all:

It’s evident by the reaction creationists have to evolution that they don’t have a case. As a former Christian who came to Christianity by being conditioned by my parents and society that God was an established fact (predating the ‘God-is-dead’ period), I was a believer without any reason to believe. Having looked at the evidence, and using my reasoning faculty, I embrace evolution as a fact. Paraphrasing the Bible(somewhere): As a child, I held childish beliefs. When I became a man, I put away childish things. Or words to that effect.

Victor

Victor:

I always wonder about cases like yours (and the inverse as well). Saying “I was a believer” sounds suspicious when you subsequently claim to have been convinced by evidence. Belief isn’t an idea the mind possesses, it’s an idea that possesses the mind. To Believe is to be incapable of being persuaded by (or even understanding the concept of) evidence. At the very least, your training didn’t “take” very well.

The inverse also shows up periodically. I’ve seem people write with a straight face things like “I was an atheist, but then I asked God…”, and not even realize that an atheist cannot ask any questions of any gods - for the atheist, there are none to ask. Why not “ask” the tooth fairy instead?

And (just to be pedantic) while evolution may be a fact, a precise and detailed understanding of the interrelationships of all the (speculative) possible mechanisms is far far away. Which is what makes the field exciting.

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GWW:

I do enjoy the Catholic high mass on holidays. Lots of pomp, good music and ambience. I admit I liked the Latin better, but progress is always good, isn’t it?

I do enjoy the Catholic high mass on holidays. Lots of pomp, good music and ambience.

Back in the 70s, the church band in my suburban village included a bass guitar and drums and its repertoire included The Byrds’ “Turn Turn Turn” and The Beatles’ “Let it Be.”

And I saw some high school performances of Jesus Christ Superstar whose raw punk aesthetic achieved a previously unrealized religiosity.

All that was swept away when Falwell, Baker and Swaggart appeared on the scene. Now we’ve got the Hollywood Hell House which is simply disturbing.

Uh, Flint, GWWW, could we stay on topic please?

Cheers! Ian

Flint,

I must take exception to your response/criticism to Victor’s testimony.

The child of Christians will most likely grow up a Christian. Whether that child at some point questions their “indoctrination” is up for grabs, but to compare it to an atheist “asking God” is totally off the mark, and the tooth fairy reference is at least a bit offensive.

Victor said, “Having looked at the evidence, and using my reasoning faculty, I embrace evolution as a fact.” What, exactly, is your problem with that? I would suggest that congratulations are in order, not carping or criticism.

Bob

Bob,

I think you’re right, and Victor is to be congratulated for exercising his mind this way.

I didn’t express myself very well, although I really have met people who claimed to have been “atheists” until they decided to “ask God” for something or other, and saw the light. One wonders just how atheistic a person could be, if their belief in their particular God is so strong that the still lean on “him” for guidence after thinking they have rejected “him”.

And so my curiosity is aroused as to just how strong a belief is, that it can be overridden on the basis of evidence alone. My tentative speculation is that the “former atheist” never abandoned his belief, and that the “former believer” had not internalized that belief particularly securely.

I can only guess before what age, or under what circumstances, such a qualitative phase change can occur. My reading (in this case, I should say my interpretation of my reading) is that these incompatible and profoundly different worldviews (pardon the expression) once set up, are as difficult to abandon later in life as is a solid, unambiguous sexual orientation. One doesn’t simply “leap” from one such orientation to another. But with respect to both religious and sexual orientations, I think there are ambiguous cases, people who are somewhat “bi-viewal”, the proverbial Undecided Voters who can swing either way.

Flint,

I think the operative factor is, what instilled the initial belief. If I habitually do or believe something because my parents did, it can be legitimately inferred that that belief was not the result of my own searching or questioning, and has therefor not been thought through - or “tested” by adversity or reality. Such a belief can be relatively easily abandoned or adapted by an examination of the evidence for or against.

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This page contains a single entry by Ian Musgrave published on October 3, 2004 4:07 PM.

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