The final article from the June Acts & Facts (that I intend to cover individually) is Jeffrey Tomkins’ Journal Reports Bias in Human-Chimp Studies. This is the latest in Tomkins’ crusade to prove that we aren’t really almost identical to apes.
The article is really just an advertisement for two papers authored by Tomkins along with Jerry Bergman in the April Journal of Creation on the subject of Human-Chimp genetic similarity (hence the title). The JoC is not open access, at least not when it is initially published, and so these papers aren’t available. On Tomkins’ blog, Designed DNA, there is a form for asking for these papers – I have asked, but have not received. What is available, however, is Bergman’s “Anders Breivik—Social Darwinism leads to mass murder“: other pieces of nonsense in this edition include John Baumgardner’s “Is plate tectonics occurring today?”, Humphreys’ “The moon’s former magnetic field—still a huge problem for evolutionists”, the rather out of date Jonathan Sarfati’s “Neutrinos faster than light?—will relativity need revising?”, and another article by Sarfati called “Should creationists accept quantum mechanics?” (he says “yes,” if you’re wondering). Micheal Oard also claims that “Post-Flood man is becoming smarter and more human,” something that could prove useful in countering the ‘genetic entropy’ lot.
Being thus unable to get my hands on the actual papers – Is the Human Genome Nearly Identical to Chimpanzee? A Reassessment of the Literature and Genomic monkey business—estimates of nearly identical human-chimp DNA similarity re-evaluated using omitted data if you want titles – I’ll take a moment to tackle Tomkins’ research on this topic in general (though bear in mind that I’m no geneticist).
Tomkins is after the holy grail: to prove that humans aren’t all that related to Chimpanzees, genetically speaking. Personally, I think he’s barking up the wrong tree. Rather than playing with the absolute numbers he should be looking to see if we are relatively more genetically related to Chimpanzees than we are to other animals and whether this similarity was more or less than between two organisms of the same creationist ‘kind.’ That is what counts, when it comes to The Controversy, not the absolute number. But if Tomkins wants to waste his time on it I can’t stop him, can I?
He reported in the January Acts & Facts that he had in fact come up with such a number: “between 86 and 89 percent.” This isn’t really low enough for his purposes, and so he’s now trying to lower it even further:
The first of the recent JOC papers reviews secular science literature associated with the common claim that chimpanzees and humans are nearly identical. This analysis took the published secular claims at face value and showed that many differences exist in regard to not only genomic DNA, but also to gene regulation, regulatory DNA features, microRNA code, and gene splicing. Multiple types of DNA sequence and genetic mechanisms reported in the standard scientific literature clearly show that major genetic differences exist between humans and chimps—features clearly predicted by the creation model outlined in the book of Genesis.
Here, he tries to argue that there are more elements that are different than just genes. The problem here is that he appears to be trying to count things twice: the difference in genetic material will be one of the causes of these other differences. And this whole “clearly predicted by the creation model outlined in the book of Genesis” is bullshit – completely made up. The only genetics in Genesis is in the story of Laban’s cattle, and in that story Jacob actually has no idea what he’s doing (scientifically speaking) and is operating on the principles of sympathetic magic.
The second paper examines the research methods and discarded data reported in an assortment of key secular human-chimp DNA research publications. All analyzed cases of reported high human-chimp DNA sequence similarity are based on biased data selection and exclusion techniques. DNA sequence data that are too dissimilar to be conveniently aligned are omitted, masked, or completely excluded. Furthermore, gap data within DNA sequence alignments are typically omitted, further biasing similarity estimates.
Now, here’s where we get to the diagram I put at the top. In a perfect world, we would be able to reorganise the Human and Chimpanzee genomes like that diagram, with the sections of the genomes that are completely different at the ends. Now, for practical purposes (such as the relative genetic relatedness of different animals) it only really makes sense to compare the stuff between the dashed lines for similarity. I mean, if a mouse had a whole bunch of gunk at the end of its genome enough to make it several times longer than any other that wouldn’t make it completely unrelated to anything else, would it? Or, at least, take the entirety of one genome and see how much of it you can find in the other. If you go further and try to factor in the section of the other genome that doesn’t match up it doesn’t seem to me to make an awful lot of sense to express your outcome as a percentage figure. A percentage of what? You also run the risk, once again, of counting your differences twice.
These highly selective data-discarding techniques, fueled by Darwinian dogma, lead to the commonly claimed 98 percent similarity in DNA between human and chimp. Based on the reanalysis of DNA similarity estimates using discarded data in leading secular research publications, it is safe to conclude that genome-wide DNA similarity between human and chimpanzee is not more than 81 to 87 percent identical. These numbers are in good agreement with the range of estimates obtained by ICR’s independent research.
The problem is that this apparently common-sense system looks to a paranoid creationist like, well, “highly selective data-discarding techniques.” It’s also important to note that, back in January, Tomkins called the “86 to 89 percent” to be “a very conservative estimate of human-chimp DNA similarity” (though he did give himself some wiggle room). He here concludes:
One must keep in mind that the chimpanzee genome is larger than the human genome by at least 8 percent (based on current data). Also, many non-similar regions of DNA between the human and chimpanzee genomes cannot be accurately compared due to high levels of dissimilarity. Therefore, overall genome similarity between human and chimpanzee is most likely lower than 81 percent.
This, however, is clearly ‘counting twice’ (if not more times). His original experiment, after all, consisted of taking fragments of chimp DNA and seeing if he could match them to the human genome. This already corrects for the larger size of the chimpanzee genome. And I’m sure that, if we got a proper geneticist onto this, yet more problems with Tomkins’ research will just pop out of the woodwork.