by Casey Luskin
[Editor's note: This was adapted from an article originally posted at EvolutionNews.org on October 4, 2006, here. It is regarding the article "What Makes us Different?" in Time Magazine, by Michael D. Lemonick and Andrea Dorfman, October 1, 2006. The illustration below is linked from their website, and is for Time by Tim O'Brien.]
The current issue of Time features a cover story preaching evolution to the skeptical public and editorializing that humans and chimps are related. Though the article's graphic (below) shows half-human, half-chimp iconography, University of North Carolina, Charlotte anthropologist Jonathan Marks warns us against "exhibit[ing] the same old fallacies: ... humanizing apes and ape-ifying humans" (What It Means to be 98% Chimpanzee, pg. xv ). The cover-graphic commits both fallacies:
Common Descent, or Common Design?
The article predictably touts the 98-99% genetic similarity statistic between humans and chimps, assuming that the similarity demonstrates common ancestry. Can common ancestry explain shared functional genetic similarities between humans and chimps? Sure, of course. But so can common design: designers regularly re-use parts that work when making similar blueprints. The article ignores that shared functional similarities between two organisms do not rule out design in favor of descent.
Evolutionary Miracle Mutations
The article also discusses a "mutation" that could allow a loss in jaw-muscle strength, which evolutionary biologists hypothesize allowed the human braincase to grow larger. It's a nice just-so story, but paleoanthropologist Bernard Wood explained why simply identifying these genetic differences does not provide a compelling evolutionary explanation where natural selection would preserve the mutations:
(quoted in Joseph Verrengia, "Gene Mutation Said Linked to Evolution" Union Tribune, 03-24-04)
(Pinker, S., Chapter 11 of The Language Instinct (1994).)
Functional Non-Coding DNA: The Evolutionists' New Best Friend?
Ironically, the article admits that stark differences between humans and chimps may stem from functional non-coding DNA, which regulates protein production. In an elegant analogy, Owen Lovejoy explains that the 98-99% similarity in coding-regions of DNA ("bricks") may be irrelevant because it's "like having the blueprints for two different brick houses. The bricks are the same, but the results are very different."
Darwinists often cite similarities in non-coding DNA as evidence of chimp-human common ancestry. Yet the Time article explains that non-coding DNA has function—perhaps holding the functions responsible for the differences between humans and chimps:
Evidence of function in non-coding DNA not only casts doubt upon whether the 98-99%-protein-coding-DNA-similarity statistic is relevant to assessing the degree of genetic similarity between humans and chimps, but it also shows that similarities in human and chimp non-coding DNA could be explained by common design.