Common Descent or Common Designer?

The striking similarity between human and chimpanze DNA is one of the most serious problems for those who refuse to accept the theory of evolution. The Discovery Institute has been among the most vocal in denying the obvious implications — see Klinghoffer Ain’t No Kin to No Monkey, and also Discoveroids: “No Facts, Please, We’re Creationists”, and also this Discoveroid post that we didn’t write about: Fake Science: “About 99 Percent of Our DNA Is Identical to That of Chimpanzees”.

Today they’re at it again with this post: Adam and the Genome and Human-Ape Genetic Similarity, which has no author’s byline. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

In Adam and the Genome [Amazon listing], Trinity Western University biologist Dennis Venema covers many other subjects besides what you might expect from the book’s title. We have been reviewing this material by the prominent theistic evolutionist and BioLogos author [link omitted] … . Venema cites the high degree of genetic similarities between insulin genes in humans and other mammals as evidence for our common ancestry. He writes:

[Discoveroids’ purported quote from Vemema’s book:] [W]e can see that there is good evidence to support the hypothesis that these two present-day genes come from a common ancestral population in the distant past … What we observe for this short segment is that the gorilla sequence is identical to that of the human except for one letter; the chimpanzee is identical except for three; and the orangutan is identical except for five. As before, this level of identity far exceeds what is needed for functional insulin, and strongly supports the hypothesis that humans share a common ancestral population with great apes. Indeed, the similarities between these sequences make English and West Frisian look like very distant relatives by comparison. (Adam and the Genome, p. 30)

The Discoveroids don’t like that. They say:

The obvious answer to this argument is common design — that humans, gorillas, and orangutans were designed based upon a common blueprint. This would explain genetic similarity between humans and other species quite well.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! But Venema has a rebuttal for that. The Discoveroids tell us:

Venema is aware of this objection, and he doesn’t buy it:

[Purported quote:] Suppose you decided you wanted to design two languages. Would you design them in such a way that they appear to be closely related to each other, especially if your prowess as a designer is such that you can effortlessly design languages in any way you wish? Furthermore, as a designer, you understand that there are many possible ways to design words, grammar, syntax, and so on. Would you make it appear that your two languages are related to each other, if indeed you wanted to convince others that they were separate, independent creations? (p. 32)

The Discoveroids furiously respond:

There he goes again, telling God what he can and cannot do. It’s a bit of chutzpah, don’t you think? He’s also telling God what God must intend when he does certain things. In particular, Venema is telling God that if he designs two species to be similar then God must thereby intend to tell us that those species are related through common ancestry. And if those species aren’t really related, then Venema tells God that he is being deceitful.

But what if Venema is putting thoughts into God’s head that aren’t there? What if God could have entirely different purposes for designing two species as similar — purposes that have nothing to do with trying to communicate some message to humans about relatedness or unrelatedness?

Interesting that the Discoveroids slipped up and refer to God instead of the intelligent designer — blessed be he! Anyway, their argument continues:

There are good logical reasons why different species may have similar genetic sequences: namely, functional requirements. Those requirements have nothing to do with common ancestry. Engineers know from much experience that there are good ways to design things and bad ways. If you want your design to work a certain way, and you find a good blueprint that accomplishes what you seek, then it’s a good design principle to use that blueprint over and over again. That could easily explain why we see similarities in different species — common design to meet functional requirements.

Clever, huh? Let’s read on:

Venema’s points here ultimately seem to be rhetorical, though. He writes: “No matter how you slice it, the human and chimpanzee genomes are nearly identical to one another.” (p. 32) This is supposed to impress the reader, leaving no alternative but to conclude that humans and chimps must be related. Venema admits that by some metrics the human and chimp genomes are only 95 percent similar. Fine. But the exact number really isn’t important. What is the metric for demonstrating common ancestry based upon genetic similarity? There doesn’t seem to be one. Venema’s argument appears arbitrary.

Yeah, arbitrary — unlike conjuring up some unevidenced supernatural designer. They don’t say much else, except to link to some Discoveroid writings, so this is where we’ll leave them.

And so, dear reader, the “scientific” debate rages — common descent or common designer? It’s up to you, but be careful — the wrong choice will send you to the Lake of Fire for eternity.

Copyright © 2018. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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35 responses to “Common Descent or Common Designer?

  1. Michael Fugate

    Mendel was a fraud. The reason your child’s genome resembles your genome must be common design not descent. Sex has nothing to do with reproduction. God plants embryos into uteri at random – think Jesus.

  2. Every time I read creationist drivel I keep thinking about the old line that man made god in his own image. Not surprisingly their god is often found to be wanting.

  3. The Discoveroids furiously respond: “There he goes again, telling God what he can and cannot do.”

    We have to give the Discoveroids some credit here. They themselves have a great deal of experience telling God what he can or cannot do. For example, they have told God that it is okay for Him to poof new species into existence, but that he is not allowed to have them evolve from earlier species.

    Perhaps we should take them as really criticizing themselves, and merely using Venema as a proxy for themselves.

  4. That was very much the topic discussed between Kent Hovind (you may know him) and Dr. Herman Mays in the following, recent broadcast:

    —————————————-

  5. “Common design” may explain (to some extent) how DNA is functional in similar ways, but in no way explains the cases where it is dysfunctional in similar ways — the broken Vitamin C production gene among Great Apes (including humans) comes to mind.

  6. “Design” can explain that too, if God, oops, the Designer had His own purposes in creating such things. Who’s to know?

    But that’s the point: creationists can always claim such things, in effect reading the mind of God. They just know Genesis is true, because they just know the Bible in which it’s packaged is God’s Word, so when evidence comes along which doesn’t fit their narrative it has to be explained away as misunderstood or as outright fraud.

  7. Michael Fugate

    If shared genes are evidence for common descent within a species such as humans, then how can it not be between species? Is that the most logical conclusion? Oh wait it is ID – logic not involved.

  8. Ha! Dennis betrays his Dutch roots with “make English and West Frisian look like very distant relatives by comparison”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Frisian_Dutch

    West-Frisian is going extinct. My parents, both from West-Frisia, didn’t speak it anymore.

    Let’s appreciate the IDiots from Seattle for their helpfulness. They really deserve it. What did Mr. Egnorance write again, just two blogsposts ago?

    “claim that ID is not scientifically testable”
    How nice that this anonymous IDiot so quickly provides an excellent example with

    “designed based upon a common blueprint”.
    Common blueprint? Evidence for a Grand Old Designer (blessed be Him/Her/It).
    Uncommon blueprint? Also evidence for a Grand Old Designer.

    “There he goes again, telling God what he can and cannot do.”
    How scientific.

    “Venema’s argument appears arbitrary.”
    No. The IDiots from Seattle nicely show the bankruptcy of teleology in science.

  9. My understanding is that it is not a matter of comparison between two species, but rather at least three species, and a matter of similarities and differences.
    And if one invokes a design to account for anything, that means that the maker is bound by the design. How is a supernatural agent limited by natural laws specified in a design? There is no point to the agent having a design to direct what is to be done.

  10. Design doesn’t mean perfection, but why would the designer intentionally make broken genes in different species? Most mammals can make their own vitamin C through a series of five enzymes in the liver. It turns out that humans have one enzyme missing because the responsible gene has accumulated too many bad mutations. No problem – we get vitamin C in our diet.
    But why would chimps, gorillas and orangutans have the same broken gene?

  11. Why would humans, chimps and other great apes have the same broken gene? Why would the designers design genes at all, when they have no need of the laws of chemistry to attain their goals?
    William Paley raised this question (and to be fair, he thought that he had an answer … see the context of this in Wikipedia)
    ” Why resort to contrivance, where power is omnipotent? Contrivance, by its very definition and nature, is the refuge of imperfection. To have recourse to expedients, implies difficulty, impediment, restraint, defect of power.”

  12. DI: “The obvious answer to this argument is common design — that humans, gorillas, and orangutans were designed based upon a common blueprint. This would explain genetic similarity between humans and other species quite well.”

    No — it could explain genetic identity in the insulin genes, if such existed. But it does not.

    DI: “If you want your design to work a certain way, and you find a good blueprint that accomplishes what you seek, then it’s a good design principle to use that blueprint over and over again.”

    But the G.O.D. didn’t do that, did he? He used similar but different designs for humans, chimps, gorillas and orangutans, to accomplish the exact same purpose. Why? Because he’s a sloppy designer, or because he doesn’t exist and didn’t design anything?

    DI: “That could easily explain why we see similarities in different species — common design to meet functional requirements.”

    No — it may explain (though not easily) why we might see identical gene sequences in different species, if such existed. They do not.

  13. I have pointed out that it doesn’t make sense to speak of the supernatural having designs in the natural world.
    But design is also a failure as an explanation.
    Why does the Mona Lisa have a smile? Because it was designed by Leonardo in the early 16th century Florence as a oil painting? No – that does not answer the question even though everyone agrees that it is true, even though it does answer Who, What, When, Where (which ID refuses to answer). We know that Leonardo also designed flying machines, but never built one – design does not explain existence, let alone particulars like the smile. So, to, design does not explain the existence of eyes in living things, et alone the similarities and differences among living things.
    Even if it made any sense to speak of design being done in the natural world by the supernatural, it would be a failure as an explanation.

  14. ID may “explain” a lot of things but it doesn’t permit to discover anything.

    “There are good logical reasons why different species may have similar genetic sequences: namely, functional requirements. Those requirements have nothing to do with common ancestry.”

    This suggests that species living in a given ecosystem should share more genetic similarity than species living in different ecosystems. That’s not what is observed. For example, a beaver’s genome shares less similarity with that of a trout that swim in the same lake than with that of a rat living in a far away city.

  15. Please give an example of design explaining something existing in the real world, other than an intent to do something, how to cope with difficulties. There are plenty of examples of magnificent designs which have never resulted in action.

  16. Rikki_Tikki_Taalik

    Others have already mentioned dysfunctional/broken genes but there is also ERVs to be accounted for as well. Using those genes and the ERVs we can accurately estimate divergence times between the great apes as well as other species from each other.

    Once again, “creation science” must focus one only one aspect or one item of data in isolation to pull off their fallacious rhetorical tricks. Because if one takes the wider view and accounts for all the data the conclusion that common descent is true is inescapable.

    * or else God broke all those genes and inserted those fragments of ancient viruses in just the right way and in just the right sequence to fool us all.

  17. Venema at Biologos and elsewhere is one of my favourite expositors of evolution. He also devotes considerable energy to demonstrating that this is compatible with Christianity, but I do not feel competent to judge that aspect of his work.

  18. TomS contemplates: “There are plenty of examples of magnificent designs which have never resulted in action.”
    And even if it does it’s an explanation without any scientific value. Design is nothing but one step in the process of selecting and implementing a chain of causes and effect, hoping to achieve the planned result (at the end of the chain or chains). More often than not it’s not entirely the case as the planned result has to be adjusted.
    It’s amazing on how many levels IDiocy fails.

  19. Rikki_Tikki_Taalik

    Just a heads up, I archived that page at Archive.Org in case they come to their senses and try to chuck that article down the memory-hole because of all the blatant God talk.

    I also note that they finish up with a small paragraph by pointing out …

    Moreover, others geneticists have argued that human-ape genetic similarity might be significantly lower than 90 percent.

    Of course they are referring to, and link to, other creationists work but as usual the intellectually honest context and, again, the overall view is avoided. These people have arrived at a different percentage of similarity by using a different metric but in the end it changes nothing because as long as that same metric is used across closely related species the same result is found in the ratios of difference across multiple species.

    IOW, what difference does it make when your results show humans are (inaccurate numbers for example only)

    95% similar to chimpanzees/bonobo
    90% similar to gorillas
    85% similar to orangutans

    Or if your different metric shows

    90% similar to chimpanzees/bonobo
    85% similar to gorillas
    80% similar to orangutans

    The answer is there is no difference as the ratio of similarity across species remains unchanged, as long as the same metric is used consistently, which they never disclose. And again, this does not account for other data like broken genes or ERVs and other pertinent markers in the genomes.

    The only point of this apologetic is provide the rhetorical feel-good thought you get to come away “see, we aren’t that similar after all so we’re still Yahweh’s special little poofed creature” or making people think scientists are trying to intentionally tweak the numbers to make the case look better. Either way one takes it, it’s the usual dishonestly incomplete rhetoric they are engaged in delivering.

  20. @mnb0
    Thank you:
    Design is nothing but one step in the process of selecting and implementing a chain of causes and effect, hoping to achieve the planned result (at the end of the chain or chains).

    And I note that it doesn’t make sense to speak of God selecting and implementing a chain of causes and effects, hoping to achieve the planned result.
    God merely speaks, and it is done. God has no need to select a chain of causes and effects. Mere humans need to contemplate how things interact with one another in order to move toward the planned result.

  21. Mark Germano

    PB says: “[Venema] also devotes considerable energy to demonstrating that [evolution] is compatible with Christianity….”

    For all their whining about “atheists and materialists,” this is what the DI fears the most.

  22. Michael Fugate

    And why the DI just wrote a book trying to dismiss theistic evolution…

  23. Paul Braterman says: “He [Venema] also devotes considerable energy to demonstrating that this is compatible with Christianity, but I do not feel competent to judge that aspect of his work.”

    Creationists always claim that evolution — and science in general — supports atheism, abortion, eugenics, racism, homosexuality, socialism, Marxism, sexual depravity, etc. I’ve never supported any of those things on this blog. I have no expertise in theology, but I’ve never found any reason to oppose religion in general — only the specific aberration of creationism and related forms of reality denial. Indeed, I’ve often referred to Zimmerman’s Clergy Letter Project pointing out that numerous denominations aren’t opposed to evolution — nor do they oppose the big bang, the age of the Earth and the universe, etc.

  24. [TomS:] “Please give an example of design explaining something existing in the real world, other than an intent to do something, how to cope with difficulties”

    I do not believe that ID “explanations” explain something in the real world. I was trying to point that they are purely rhetorical explanations – based on sophisms and not facts – and perfectly futile.

    But even rhetorical (and fictional) explanations could be qualified as explanations. Just like “stork-delivering service” is an explanation of a sort for the existence of babies 😉

  25. I’m trying to point out that “design” is a failure as an explanation is so many ways.
    Why is there a problem with musical temperament? If your teacher of music theory asks that question, is it acceptable to answer, “mathematics”? It is true that the answer involves mathematics, but merely saying “mathematics” does not explain the problems in music.
    If you wonder why your invention of a perpetual motion machine is rejected, will you be satisfied if you are told “thermodynamics”?
    So, too, “design” is not an answer to the complexity of the eye.

  26. Desnes Diev more or less read my mind. If the designer used life in water as a prototype for life on land (as is evidenced by the fossil record and physiological properties), then whence whales? “Let’s see, day 5: create things that can live under water. Day 6 (AM), that worked out well- see if some of that design can be adapted to land. Day 6 (PM), now take one and put it back in water again LOL”.

  27. @Draken, shame on you for an unenlightened heathen! Don’t you know that Genesis 1: 21 is quite explicit? Whales (and birds) before any land animals!

  28. @DD suggests: “Just like “stork-delivering service” is an explanation of a sort for the existence of babies.”
    An explanation that actually can be tested. It might be flamingos instead, for instance. “Goddiddid” however …. how are we going to test “God merely speaks, and it is done” (with thanks to TomS)?

  29. Our dear SC claims he’s innocent: “I’ve never supported any of those things on this blog.”
    According to IDiot “logic” this only means you are good at hiding your atheism, abortion addiction, support of eugenics, racism, homosexuality, socialism, Marxism, sexual depravity, etc.

  30. [TomS;] “So, too, “design” is not an answer to the complexity of the eye.”

    I agree with you. In the context, the meaning is close to “it’s magical”, which does not explain anything. But for some people, “it’s designed [by God]” is perceived as an explanation.

    I also understand that to say “the storks deliver babies” is to offer a slightly less shallow explanation than “babies are designed” as, from a child perspective, it may explain the presence of, say, baby John in a room. The child will not think that it is not an explanation of how baby John came in this world. (Perhaps the stork “designed” baby John?)

    —–
    [mnbo:] “An explanation that actually can be tested”

    True. “Invisible/intangible/ineffable/quantum stork-delivering service” then 🙂

  31. DD and MBN0, I am delighted to see a revival in Storkism, excluded from our classrooms by the closed-mindedness of materialistically motivated uterists: https://paulbraterman.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/intelligent-delivery-storkism-and-the-weaknesses-of-the-uterine-theory/

  32. Storkism is the folk lore equivalent of the serious scientific theory of Preformationism. In the 18th until the 19th century serious, informed, intelligent students of natural history denied Reproduction. But rather than just denying Reproduction, they had a positive, stubstantial, scientific theory of Preformation – that the seemingly new creature actually pre-existed in the bodies of their ancestors back to the original creation of all living individuals.
    This theory was backed up by several of the exact same arguments that are used today by the Creationists, only different by speaking of individuals rather than species (or kinds) – and by having an alternative to offer. For example, several Preformationists had an argument against Irruducible Complexity (not by that name – see the Wikipedia.com article on IR section on the history of the concept). Believe it or not, Cotton Mather had an argument against Reproduction – and therefore for Preformation – from the impossibilty of a Perpetual Motion Machine (well before Thermodynamics). Ttere were references to the Analogy of the Watch, and, of course, refernces to the Bible.
    To me, this calls to mind the argument against Creationism as being just an application of the Fallicies of Compositon and Division.

  33. A question for the diehard supporters of uterism: “Were you there?”

  34. The whole truth

    SC, I don’t understand why you think and state that religion and creationism are different things. All religions are based on and rely on creation of some sort by a supernatural, imaginary sky daddy, sky mommy, sky animals, sky spirits, other animals or spirits or monsters or zombies or whatever, and/or multiples of some or all of the above. The age of the Earth is irrelevant to whether someone is a creationist (YECs and OECs are both creationists) and the Big Bang is only relevant when someone relies on it as a scientific excuse for the belief that they already have in creation.

    Creationists are anyone who believes in creation by something(s) supernatural, regardless of the particulars. The particulars of their religious beliefs just serve to make them look even more insane.

  35. Jain is a religion without belief in creation.