The advent of modern genetics has seen the evolutionary community redouble its efforts to argue for human-primate common ancestry and against the traditional Christian understanding of the origin of the human race. As has been argued in previous chapters, a careful reading of Genesis 1–11 indicates that God created Adam and Eve supernaturally and without prior ancestry, and that all of humanity traces their ancestry back to this original couple — and not to a group of primates or proto-humans. Combined with a careful reading of the rest of Scripture, this narrative places the creation date of Adam and Eve approximately 6,000 years ago and places another population bottleneck about 4,500 years ago at the time of the Flood. This scriptural framework leads to very specific expectations about the genetic differences among humans and other species, expectations that can be scientifically tested against modern genetic data. In this chapter, we contend that genetics confirms the recent, supernatural creation of Adam and Eve and refutes the evolutionary narrative on human origins.
Since most of the data that we’re going to discuss is already present within the technical scientific literature, the purpose of this chapter is to take this relatively unknown and obscure knowledge and present it in what we hope is an understandable and accessible manner for non-geneticists. To expound the details of the genetics of human origins in great depth would require a book-length treatment. Conversely, since most of the contents of this book chapter have already been argued, defended, and published as separate technical papers, we will provide here a summary of these papers with references for the more technically minded reader to explore later.
Because the genetics of human origins is a scientifically complex issue that becomes technical very quickly, we have simplified this chapter by organizing it around four major questions:
- From whom did humans originate: ape-like primates or fully human people?
- How many individuals spawned the human race: a population or a pair?
- When did humans originate: hundreds of thousands of years ago or about 6,000 years ago (i.e., ancient or recent)?
- Where did modern human populations originate: Africa or Ararat?
Though specific elements that will be covered under each of these questions are probably more familiar to the average reader (e.g., claims like “humans are 99% genetically identical to the apes,” “human chromosome 2 is the result of a fusion,” etc.), we have chosen to take a more comprehensive view rather than an apologetic medley approach. Our intention is to demonstrate that the biblical creation model accounts, not just for a handful of select genetic observations, but for the entire body of genetic evidence available today.
Introduction: A Critical Scientific Point
To recognize the strength of our conclusions in genetics, the reader needs to understand only one major technical scientific point. Surprisingly, this point is not any singular genetic observation. It is rather a careful understanding of how science works.
What follows should be uncontroversial. Since creationists and evolutionists were both taught their understanding of science from a common source — the scholarly educational community of the Western world — both agree on the specifics of how science should operate. For example, evolutionists didn’t learn their trade from creationist institutions, and we didn’t learn science in the back closet of a cloistered creationist enclave, either.1
Like many scientists, we learned our most memorable lessons on the nature and operation of science via trial and error. For example, while in a graduate course on developmental biology, my fellow students and I (Jeanson) were required to prepare short, mock grant proposals in lieu of tests. Specifically, this assignment involved writing up the proposal and then presenting it orally before a small group of students and professors.
After completing my ten-minute presentation in which I described a battery of experiments to test the scientific question in which I was interested, the professor leaned back in his chair and gave his frank assessment of my ideas. He said (paraphrased),
There are three types of experiments in the world. The first type distinguishes between two competing hypotheses, regardless of which way the experiment turns out. For example, if you hypothesize A, but the experiment demonstrates B, you’ve still learned something. This is the best and rarest type of experiment. The second type is valuable only if the experiment turns out one of the two possible ways. For example, if you hypothesize A, but the experiment does not support A and instead supports a whole host of alternative hypotheses, you’ve learned very little. If, instead, the experiment had confirmed hypothesis A, it would have been valuable.
He then said that I had proposed the third type of experiment — one in which nothing is learned regardless of the experimental outcome. Essentially, a type-3 experiment tests none of the hypotheses in question, including the one that the investigator has proposed. I had made a major — but memorable — error.
What my professor didn’t say is also critically important. Implicit in the professor’s description of my proposal was an assumption that experiments were actually going to be performed. If, instead of proposing a battery of experiments, I had simply asserted that my hypotheses were true, I would have been failed rather quickly. Stating hypotheses as fact is the cardinal sin of science, so much so that it doesn’t even receive a type designation. In fact, it’s not even in the domain of science. It’s pseudoscience.
For example, consider the question of what molecule is the substance of heredity, the instruction manual for building our physical features during the process of development. If we claim that “vital forces and biorhythms from Jupiter” are the real substance, and if we perform zero experiments to test or reject our claim, we’re simply spouting pseudoscience (and we would probably be laughed at by most intelligent human beings).
Instead, if we hypothesize that a chemical molecule called DNA is the substance, we have a hypothesis we can test. Another investigator might hypothesize that protein, not DNA, is the substance of heredity. If we try to test these hypotheses by analyzing the biochemical composition of sperm and egg, we would discover that we performed a type-3 experiment — sperm and egg possess both DNA and protein, which reveals nothing about which substance carries the hereditary information.
However, if we had discovered that sperm and egg lacked one of the two substances, we would have performed a type-2 experiment — the result would have eliminated one of the hypotheses, but it would not have positively confirmed the other (after all, there might be many hypotheses on what substances control heredity, and these hypotheses would need to be eliminated as well). To perform a type-1 experiment, we would have had to show that only DNA — and not protein — was the substance of heredity.
These sorts of experiments were done in the early part of the last century. In these experiments, investigators used organisms that were easy to work with, such as bacteria and viruses. Since some viruses infect bacteria by injecting certain chemical substances into their hosts that allow the virus to propagate itself, investigators found themselves with an elegant experimental system. In other words, if scientists could figure out what exactly the virus injected, they would know what the substance of heredity was in these organisms.
Since proteins contain certain chemicals (e.g., sulfur) that DNA lacks, and since DNA contains certain substances that proteins lack (e.g., phosphorus), chemically labeling sulfur in one experiment and phosphorus in the other would distinguish between these two hypotheses. When the viruses grown in the presence of chemically labeled sulfur were allowed to infect bacteria, the sulfur (e.g., protein) stayed on the outside of the bacteria. By contrast, when the viruses grown in the presence of chemically labeled phosphorus were allowed to infect bacteria, phosphorus (e.g., DNA) was found inside the bacterial cells. Furthermore, when the investigators analyzed the offspring of the viruses, these offspring contained chemically modified phosphorus — but not chemically modified sulfur. Clearly, the substance of heredity was DNA — and not protein.
Hence, to evaluate origins claims, we first have to determine if a claim is in the realm of science. In other words, we have to ask if the claim is simply a bold assertion of fact or if it is actually based on a scientific test. If it is based on the latter, we can proceed with determining which category of experiment the claim represents. Claims that represent type-3 experiments have no further relevance to the origins debate. In contrast, type-2 and type-1 tests have the potential to uncover something new about the competing origins hypotheses, but only type-1 experiments rigorously test young-earth creation (YEC) and evolution head-to-head (Table 1).
|Experiment Type||Models Compared||Ramifications||Frequency in Origins Debate|
|1||Creation vs. Evolution||The only head-to-head test in the origins debate||Rare|
|2||Evolution vs. itself (or Creation vs. itself)||Useful in refuting one of the models; useless in confirming a model||Occasional|
|3||No models compared||Completely useless in the origins debate||Very frequent|
Evolutionists agree with the essence of what we’ve just described.2 This agreement is borne out both historically and presently. Historically, one of the most common criticisms of the creation model is that it falls in the realm of pseudoscience — that it doesn’t make experimentally testable predictions but, instead, makes bald assertions of fact. Presently, in its promotion of theistic evolution (or as they say, evolutionary creation) the BioLogos community continues to repeat this accusation:
The reason Christian anti-evolutionary approaches are absent from the mainstream scientific literature is not because scientists are theologically or philosophically biased against them, but rather because they offer little in the way of useful tools for making accurate predictions about the natural world.3 [emphasis added]
Thus, all origins positions can agree that testable, accurate predictions are critical to science, and the ability of creationists and evolutionists to make them will be the major focus of this chapter.
However, while evolutionists agree with the nature of science as we described above, we intend to illustrate how evolutionists of all stripes fail to practice it — on each of the four major arenas of scientific investigation on the question of human origins (from whom, how many, when, and where humans originated) — and that, in contrast to the assertion above, creationists do make accurate predictions about the natural world and about human origins in particular. We also intend to demonstrate that creationist predictions are scientifically superior to those of evolutionists.
I. From Whom: Ape-like Primates or Fully Human People?
When considering human origins, the most natural place to start is on the question of whether humans have an ape-like ancestry. Before we can discuss the minutiae of the genetics of the human race, we need to ask whether our race is indeed human or whether we are simply highly evolved primates. Ever since Darwin, evolutionists have claimed that apes represent our closest living biological relatives.4 Evolutionary creationists (a.k.a. theistic evolutionists) agree and expect to find unequivocal genetic evidence of a common genealogical heritage between mankind and the orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees. Current evolutionary literature identifies the chimpanzee as the closest living relative of humans, and evolutionists place the split between these two lineages (from a common ape-like ancestor, not a chimpanzee) about 3 million to 13 million years ago.5
In contrast, a plain reading of Scripture reveals a starkly different narrative on human ancestry. As has been argued in an earlier chapter, Genesis 1–2 teaches that God created man in His own image, categorically distinct from any animals, and that He did so supernaturally by forming Adam from the dust and Eve from Adam’s side. Human evolution from pre-existing apelike creatures is not compatible with the Genesis narrative.
Furthermore, the rest of Scripture identifies Adam and Eve as the sole progenitors of the entire human race, and Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives as the most immediate ancestors of modern humans.6 Shortly after the global Flood of Noah’s day, the human ancestors of the modern “races”7 or ethnic groups formed as a result of the confusion of languages at Babel (Gen 11:8–9).8 Apes as precursors to humans do not enter the picture under the creation view.
Because of the nature of the genetic discussion that follows, the time element of creation is also critical to the ancestry question. Under the young-earth creation (YEC) view, Adam and Eve were created approximately 6,000 years ago, and the global Flood of Noah and the population bottleneck that followed occurred about 4,500 years ago. The Tower of Babel incident followed shortly (i.e., a couple centuries) after the Flood.9
These two strikingly different accounts — evolution and YEC — for the origin of humans lead to very different expectations about the genetics of modern humans and apes. In some cases, however, the expectations are obviously the same. For instance, from an anatomical perspective, great apes are the most similar creatures to humans, and both sides can make a general prediction that, from a genetic perspective, apes should be the most similar to humans. While humans share different levels and traits of morphological similarity with gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees that don’t seem to indicate any clear evolutionary pattern, the current evolutionary consensus is that humans should be most similar to chimpanzees genetically — although this widely accepted paradigm has recently been disputed based on analyses of morphological traits by several evolutionists who claim that orangutans are the closest human relative.10
As another example, both models accept the science of empirical genetic discovery. Hence, to claim that the existence of the basic science of genetics somehow validates one model over the other would be erroneous — a type-3 experiment that fails to distinguish among the competing ideas in question. Therefore, it is essential to clearly identify the specific predictions of each model in order to distinguish which genetic data actually constitute a type-1 experiment (e.g., one that differentiates YEC from evolution) and which constitute lesser types of experiments.
Are Humans 99% Genetically Identical to Chimpanzees?
One common example of a type-2 experiment is predicting the genetic difference between humans and chimpanzees. The evolutionary model has very specific expectations about this figure, and a discrepancy between predictions and facts should result in the rejection of the evolutionary hypothesis. However, since the YEC model does not make specific predictions about human-ape genetic differences, a match between evolutionary expectations and scientific fact would not inform the origins debate (i.e., would not be decisive in evolution’s favor).
But the silence of the YEC model on human-chimp genetic differences is not a weakness of the model. We could just as well challenge the evolutionists to predict the number of animals that were taken on board Noah’s ark. This request would be fruitless and irrelevant to the debate since a global Flood and an ark are not part of the evolutionary model. However, if the YEC model failed to predict the numbers on board the ark accurately, then we would need to reevaluate aspects of the YEC model. Conversely, since human-ape ancestry is not part of the YEC model, the actual number of genetic differences between humans and chimpanzees is, at best, a type-2 experiment for testing the claim that humans descended from ape-like creatures — successful evolutionary predictions would not vindicate evolution in the origins debate, while evolutionary predictive failures could be grounds to reject the evolutionary view.
With these experimental parameters in mind, we can now investigate the actual human-chimp genetic comparison in depth. If we think of genetic inheritance as analogous to copying the text of a book, the process of passing on genetic information from one generation to the next is similar to the process of transcribing the text of a book. To make the analogy tighter, inheritance is like copying the text of a book without having a perfect spell checker,11 and then using the corrupted copy as the template for the next round of copying.
Biologically, the text of the genetic book is contained in a chemical substance called DNA. The DNA in our cells is, in essence, a chemical instruction manual for building and maintaining our anatomy and physiology from conception to death. The actual instructions are encoded in a 4-letter chemical alphabet, and the combination of these letters into chemical “words” and “sentences” carries biological meaning. In total, the DNA in our cells is billions of letters long — a very large biological “book.”
When DNA is copied in sperm and egg cells prior to conception, the copying process is imperfect. The rate of copying mistakes (called mutations) has been measured in both humans and chimpanzees, and the rates are fairly similar. About 60 mutations happen each generation.12
Using rounded numbers, if the human and chimpanzee lineages split 3–13 million years ago, and if the years from one generation to the next are about 20 years, then 150,000–650,000 generations have passed since the two species last shared a common ancestor.13 In each lineage, about 60 DNA mutations happen in each of those hundreds of thousands of generations leading to an expectation that the DNA of humans and the DNA of chimpanzees should differ by about 18–80 million DNA letters.14
Thinking of DNA again like a book, we can measure book sizes by their word count, and if we wanted to be very technical, we could measure it by the total letter count. Since the total letter count in humans and chimpanzees is around 3 billion DNA letters,15 evolutionists expect about a 1–3% genetic (DNA) difference between these two species today.16
The actual difference is about 12% — a number that is about ten times higher than the predicted value.17Though the scientist responsible for identifying this fact is a young-earth creationist, this discovery is not the result of creationist manipulation of data to fit a pre-determined conclusion. If you read the fine print in the original evolutionary publication that announced the determination of the chimpanzee DNA sequence, you can reach a similar conclusion.18 Humans and chimpanzees are not 99% identical. They are only 88% identical, which means that the two species differ by nearly 400 million (400,000,000) DNA letters!19
Thus, the question of human-chimpanzee DNA differences offers no assistance to the evolutionary model on at least three counts. First, whatever the difference is, it cannot falsify the YEC model, making it a type-2 experiment at best. Second, current evolutionary predictions for the human-chimp genetic difference fail to account for the gigantic genetic gap between these two species.
Third, the evolutionary prediction of a 1% difference isn’t really a prediction at all. The evolutionary time at which the human and chimpanzee lineages split has been revised to fit the genetic data. Earlier predictions for the time of divergence for these species were originally in the 3 to 6 million year range,20 and the measurement of the DNA copying error rate in chimpanzees caused some investigators to (controversially) bump the time back further to ~13 million years.21 Thus, the absolute difference between humans and chimpanzees isn’t a confirmed prediction as much as it is a post hoc retrofitting of predictions to facts.
These evolutionary problems aside, we are still left with the question of how to evaluate the YEC model on the human ancestry question. If human-ape genetic differences do not test validity of the YEC model of human origins, what experiment can? What genetic expectations follow from the specific YEC narrative?
In short, the answer is that, if YEC is correct, then YE creationists should be able to explain human-humanDNA differences and ape-ape DNA differences [as opposed to human-ape DNA differences] without any need to reference or invoke common ancestry. In other words, YE creationists make predictions for genetic differences among individuals that share a common ancestor under the YEC view (i.e., all humans), not for individuals that were created separately (i.e., humans and apes), and these predictions can be compared to the genetic facts.
If genetic data matched these YEC expectations, would this result require rejection of the evolutionary model? Since evolutionists have spent years refining their own ideas about human-human and ape-ape genetic differences (and also believe that special creation as an alternative is unacceptable), this result would probably do nothing to settle the debate about human origins. In essence, it would be another example of a type-2 experiment — if the results are inconsistent with the YEC expectations, then perhaps the scientific elements of the YEC model should be reevaluated. But if the results confirm the YEC expectations, this discovery would probably do little to change the evolutionary claims about human-ape common ancestry.
Since subsequent sections will explore this question further, the major remaining question in this section is whether the claimed evolutionary evidences for human-ape ancestry are valid type-1 experiments. The evidences listed on the BioLogos website are presented as such — as being unequivocal proof of common ancestry and as very inconsistent with the YEC view. The evidences in the mainstream scientific literature assume the same. But is the claim true?
Relative Genetic Patterns/Nested Hierarchies
Nearly every single one of the evidences presented by BioLogos and mainstream geneticists represents a type-3 experiment or, at best, type-2. For example, one of the most common evidences cited in favor of an ape ancestry in the human lineage is the relative pattern of genetic differences between humans and apes, and between humans and other species. In short, evolutionists expect natural selection to produce a branching, tree-like pattern of genealogical relationships among the living species on this planet.22 They further expect that, if humans arose via the process of natural selection from an ape-like ancestor, then genetic comparisons among humans, apes, and other species should reveal a branching, tree-like pattern as well.
This expectation contrasts to the expectation about the percent DNA differences between humans and chimpanzees that we discussed earlier. The earlier expectation was a quantitative prediction; the current expectation is a qualitative prediction. That is, qualitatively, if humans have ancestry prior to the first Homo sapiens, then evolutionists expect humans to be relatively close genetically to the great apes, then slightly less close genetically to the rest of the primates, then even less similar genetically to other mammals, and quite different genetically from invertebrates and plants. To be clear, the absolute number of differences is not so critical as long as the same relative pattern (in this case, a nested hierarchical pattern) holds true.
For this argument to carry any scientific weight as a type-1 experiment in support of evolution, the YEC model would need to predict a different pattern. Otherwise, this argument would represent another type-3 experiment — useless to the overall origins debate.
However, it doesn’t take much reflection to see that YEC and evolution make the same prediction about the relative genetic hierarchies found in nature. Under the YEC model, God designed the entire universe, including the various kinds of biological life that exist in it, and we would expect to find that life fits a design pattern. Since humans are made in God’s image, we can get a sense for what kinds of design patterns God might have used by examining the patterns that result from human designs. Examples of nested hierarchiesabound among the designed things in our world.
For example, designed means of transportation easily fit a relative hierarchical pattern. This fact is unequivocal. Sedans resemble SUVs more than they resemble tractor trailers, and all three vehicles have more in common than do sedans and amphibious assault vehicles. The latter two vehicles have more in common with one another than with submarines, and this simple pattern matches the type of hierarchy that we see in biology.23
Therefore, nested hierarchical patterns are as much the expectation of the YEC view as they are of the evolutionary view. The relative hierarchy of genetic differences among humans, great apes, mammals, and invertebrates fits the YEC model at least as well as the evolutionary one. So, to claim nested hierarchical patterns in the biological world as exclusive evidence of evolution would be analogous to claiming that the existence of people proves YEC. Neither claim constitutes a legitimate scientific experiment. Both are type-3 experiments and, therefore, reveal nothing about the validity of either view, despite the confident claims of evolutionists to the contrary.24
While these two examples (absolute and relative genetic differences between humans and the apes) do not constitute an exhaustive review of all the claimed genetic evidences for human-ape ancestry, they represent some of the most prominent, and they illustrate the Achilles’ heels of the remaining ones — failure to satisfy the requirements of a type-1 experiment.
Human Chromosome 2 Fusion?
Consider another example. If we return to our book analogy, just as the text of a book is broken up into chapters, so also the billions of letters in the DNA code for humans and chimpanzees are broken up into major divisions called chromosomes. However, because DNA comes from each parent, these chromosomes come in pairs.
Evolutionists have claimed for years that the human chromosome pair number 2 is actually an accidental fusion of two pairs of ancestral chromosomes inherited from ape-like creatures.25 In short, they claim that the human-chimp ancestor had 48 chromosomes. Today, humans have 46. Since chromosomes come in two copies — e.g., the ape-like ancestor would have had 2 pairs of 24 chromosomes, and humans today have 23 pairs of chromosomes — and since humans have fewer total chromosomes than apes, evolutionists claim that one of the ancestral pairs of chromosomes fused to another ancestral pair of chromosomes. This would reduce the total chromosomes count from 48 to 46.26
Since the YEC view makes no overt predictions about the differences between humans and chimpanzees in DNA organization or in the structure of DNA, the existence of a chromosome fusion would not have said anything relevant to the human origins debate. However, in this case evolutionists also made their claim prematurely, before all the evidence was acquired. Effectively, the evolutionary claims about the structure of human chromosome 2 represented a prediction rather than an observation.
Recent reanalysis of human chromosome 2 has contradicted this evolutionary prediction. No evidence for a fusion exists. In fact, the alleged site where the fusion supposedly took place actually represents a highly organized, functional gene (in our analogy, think of genes as words or sentences).27 Thus, starting from the assumption of human-ape common ancestry, evolutionists have actually made a failed prediction about the structure and function of DNA within our cells.
The failed evolutionary prediction on chromosome function extends beyond the purported fusion site. The BioLogos community has claimed that overall arrangement of DNA along chromosomes among humans and the great apes is inexplicable apart from common ancestry: “There is no good biological reason to find the same genes in the same order in unrelated organisms, and every good reason to expect very different gene orders.”28
Do evolutionists actually have a large body of experimental results demonstrating “no good biological reason to find the same genes in the same order in unrelated organisms”? In the few cases where functional analyses have been performed, the results contradict this evolutionary assertion. The chromosomal context in which genes find themselves appears to play a significant role in how the genes function.29 In fact, human-designed computer code must also follow specific formats and contextual guidelines as well. So our previous analogy of human-designed systems as we applied to the idea of hierarchy holds true here as well. Thus, whether applied to predicted DNA differences or DNA function, the evolutionary model of common ancestry has not been vindicated.
Conversely, the prediction of function is actually one of the few arenas in the question of human ancestry in which a type-1 experiment could be conducted. Evolutionists and creationists make very different predictions about the function of the billions of DNA letters in the human sequence, and experiments testing function would clearly distinguish which model makes better predictions, as we demonstrate below.
Continued on next page…