The University of Edinburgh, located in the capital of Scotland (where Darwin once studied medicine) has some news that is certain to drive the creationists into a frenzy. So we’ll post about it first, and then sit back to watch the fireworks.
The article at their website is New brain gene born, study shows. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
Scientists have taken a step forward in helping to solve one of life’s greatest mysteries – what makes us human? An international team of researchers have discovered a new gene that helps explain how humans evolved from apes.
The creationists already know what makes us human — and it’s not evolution. Any new gene discovery will be interpreted by them as evidence of Oogity Boogity! The news continues.
Scientists say the gene – called miR-941 – appears to have played a crucial role in human brain development and may shed light on how we learned to use tools and language. Researchers say it is the first time that a new gene – carried only by humans and not by apes – has been shown to have a specific function within the human body.
We have our very own gene. The creationists will focus on that and they won’t bother to mention how many other genes we have that are shared with other species. Let’s read on:
A team at the University of Edinburgh compared the human genome to 11 other species of mammals, including chimpanzees, gorillas, mouse and rat, to find the differences between them. The results, published in Nature Communications, showed that the gene – miR-941 – is unique to humans.
Here’s a link to the paper: Evolution of the human-specific microRNA miR-941. You can read it online without a subscription. We’ll continue with the university’s news story:
The researchers say that it emerged between six and one million years ago, after humans had evolved from apes. … The study suggests it could have a role in the advanced brain functions that make us human.
Here’s something that is certain to attract the creationists’ attention:
It is known that most differences between species occur as a result of changes to existing genes, or the duplication and deletion of genes. But scientists say this gene emerged fully functional out of non-coding genetic material, previously termed “junk DNA”, in a startlingly brief interval of evolutionary time.
It emerged fully functional. Whoopie! Here’s one last excerpt, and it’s a goodie:
Researcher Dr Martin Taylor [Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, University of Edinburgh, and one of the paper’s authors], who led the study at the Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said the results were fascinating.
[Quote from Taylor:] This new molecule sprang from nowhere at a time when our species was undergoing dramatic changes: living longer, walking upright, learning how to use tools and how to communicate. We’re now hopeful that we will find more new genes that help show what makes us human.
A most unfortunate choice of words. Dr. Taylor will soon wish he had expressed himself differently. The actual paper provides less raw meat for the creationists. The abstract says:
We find that miR-941 emerged de novo in the human lineage, between six and one million years ago, from an evolutionarily volatile tandem repeat sequence.
And the text of the paper says:
In humans, miR-941 resides in the first intron of the DNAJC5 gene in chr20 q13.33. According to miRBase annotation, this region contains three copies of pre-miR-941, all capable of forming canonical stable hairpin structures (Fig. 2a). Remapping miR-941 precursor sequences to the human reference genome, we found not three, but seven copies of putative pre-miR-941.
As we’ve seen before, copies of genetic material are the stuff from which new capabilities can emerge. But the creationists will undoubtedly seize upon that “sprang from nowhere” phrase. Well, they won’t say it really came from nowhere. Rather, they’ll insist it came from the intelligent designer’s magical tool kit. They say that sort of thing all the time, but now they have a gene they can point to as “proof.”
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