Casey Ain’t No Kin to No Monkey

This one is really going to shake your confidence in Darwinism. We found it at the Discovery Institute’s creationist blog, and it’s titled Human-Chimp Similarity: What Is It and What Does It Mean? Good question, isn’t it? Well, what does it mean? You’re about to find out.

The Discoveroid post was written by Casey Luskin, everyone’s favorite creationist. If you don’t know who he is, see Guess Who’s Returning to the Discovery Institute, followed shortly thereafter by Casey Is Back — O the Joy! Okay, let’s get started. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

For years we’ve been told that human and chimp DNA is some 99 percent identical. The genetic similarity statistic is then used to make an argument for human-ape common ancestry, and human-ape common ancestry is then employed in service of the larger philosophical point that humans are just modified apes, and nothing special. It all amounts to an argument against human exceptionalism. This sort of thinking is embodied by Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) in his 2014 book Undeniable:

[Casey quotes Bill Nye:] As our understanding of DNA has increased, we have come to understand that we share around 98.8 percent of our gene sequence with chimpanzees. This is striking evidence for chimps and chumps to have a common ancestor.

Casey is horrified and says:

But is this really true? In response to the newly released episode of Science Uprising on human origins [Link omitted!], we have recently received questions [from drooling idiots] about the true degree of human-chimp similarity. With that in mind, let’s review some past coverage on the issue.

He then quotes several articles that give different figures for the similarity of human and chimp DNA, after which he tells us:

Whatever the exact percentage of human-chimp genetic similarity (however you want to measure it) turns out to be, let’s grant that it will be fairly high, probably 84 percent or greater. Does this necessarily require the conclusion of common ancestry? [It doesn’t?] Is the case for common ancestry, based upon the degree of similarity, an objective or rigorous argument that’s capable of being falsified? For example, if a 1 percent genetic difference implies common ancestry, but then that statistic turns out to be wrong, then does a 4 percent genetic difference mean common ancestry is false? How about 7 percent or 10 percent genetic difference? 25 percent? At what point does the comparison cease to support common ancestry? Why does the percent genetic similarity even matter? [Is that a serious question?] It’s not clear that there is an objective standard for falsification here, any identifiable reason why a particular percentage of genetic similarity should be taken to indicate common ancestry.

Clever, huh? If there’s no specific number that will clinch the deal, then numbers don’t matter! He continues:

The case for human-chimp common ancestry is rendered significantly weaker once one realizes that there are other potential explanations for functional similarities: notably, design based upon a common blueprint. [Gasp!] Intelligent agents often re-use parts and components that perform common functions in different designs. It’s a good engineering design principle to follow! Everyday examples of this include wheels used on both cars and airplanes, or touchscreen keyboards used on both phones and tablets.

Casey is so brilliant! Then he spends several paragraphs quoting other Discoveroids. If you want to read that stuff, go right ahead, but we’re moving on. He says:

Of course some will cite shared NON-functional (as opposed to functional) genetic similarities between humans and chimps as better evidence for common ancestry. I agree that non-functional shared DNA could be a potential argument for common ancestry, but I’m skeptical that many of the DNA elements cited in these arguments are actually non-functional.

He cites a few instances where some DNA elements once thought to be non-functional were later found to have a function, so he dismisses that whole line of argument. Clever, huh? Then he makes a very strange argument:

Since many of the building blocks used by humans and chimps are similar, it’s no wonder that our protein-coding DNA is also so similar. Common design can explain these similarities. [Hee hee!] But it’s important to bear in mind that one can use identical building blocks — bricks, mortar, wood, and nails — to build very different houses. So it’s not just about having similar building blocks, but how you use them. This is where genetic similarities between humans and chimps probably aren’t so meaningful, when you consider how the building blocks being used can be very different.

Did you follow that? Good — you can explain it to us. Next, he quotes some of his Discoveroid colleagues about about human-chimp genetic differences. Obviously, there are differences, because humans aren’t chimps. We’re skipping that stuff. Ah, how about this:

And this leaves aside the vast cognitive and behavioral gulf between humans and chimpanzees. We are the only species that uses fire and technology. We are the only species that composes music, writes poetry, and practices religion. We are also the only species that seeks to investigate the natural world through science. We write papers about chimps; not the other way around. All of this is possible because we humans are the only species that uses complex language.

Wow — Casey’s right! We’re not chimps! Then he brings the whole thing to a thundering climax. Here it is:

The human race has unique and unparalleled moral, intellectual, and creative abilities. Regardless of the level of similarity of human protein-coding DNA to chimps, clearly that similarity is only a small part of the story. [Well, it’s obviously not the whole story!] If anything, it testifies that protein-coding DNA sequences are only one of multiple crucial interacting factors that determine an organism’s biology and behavior.

So there you are. Casey ain’t no kin to no monkey, and neither are you — unless, of course, you’re a Darwinist!

Copyright © 2021. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

24 responses to “Casey Ain’t No Kin to No Monkey

  1. Why does Casey not suspect that his desire for human exceptionalism and his blind worship could be ulterior motives for rejecting science? Why do evolutionists get all of the ulterior motive fun?

  2. So we have been designed to be very much like chimps. Among all of God’s creatures, we are most like chimps and other apes. Does this show a similarity of purpose?

  3. Luskin’s argument is sound enough, superficially. The degree of similarity between the human and chimpanzee genomes, however great it is, is only an argument for similarity, not an argument for common descent. There is also an observed decrease in the similarity between the human genome and those of the other apes, then the other primates, then the other mammals, vertebrates, animals and so on, and that is not an argument for common descent either. If they were designed, whatever we mean by that term, there is no reason why common methods and common materials would not be used, but the specific instructions on how to use them would be more different, the more different the results are.

    Identical retroviral DNA at common points in those genomes, however, is data that supports common descent. So is morphological evidence from fossils. The DI can’t explain that by invoking design. So they don’t try. They simply ignore it, or if their noses are rubbed in it, say that their designer didn’t have to do everything. He/she/they/it could have intervened only at certain critical points.

    This is a propaganda technique called “moving the goalposts”. Demonstrating evidence for common descent among species was the original goal. That having been met, the DI moves to demanding it for every species.

    At what points did the designer intervene? When? Where? How? What did this designer do? And the DI will simply shrug, and tell you that these details are not yet known, but that evolution has even more unknowns.

    That’s a propaganda technique called “false equivalence”, or less politely, “lying”. The thing called “design” has not been demonstrated at all. Common descent, on the other hand, has been demonstrated for many species. There is no reason to suppose it is not the case for all species. And that is evolution.

  4. Regarding the analogy of parts being reused in different objects like aircraft and cars, all primates contain an identically broken gene for vitamin C production, yet we never find identically broken computer monitors installed in aircraft, trains and ships. Is the Intelligent Designer not intelligent enough to weed out faulty parts?

  5. It has been often pointed out that even the simplest living thing has been beyond the capability of design by the cleverest of engineers, scientists or artisans.
    Unless someone can describe the design process, what steps might have bren taken, how and why, nobody would think of design as accounting for the variety of the world of life.

  6. Dave Luckett

    No, TomS. I’m afraid your last clause is entirely wrong. Once universal, only relatively recently did it become possible to dismiss design, and slowly in more recent times its acceptance diminished to being a minority opinion. But it is still extant. The very existence of this blog attests that some people do “think of design as accounting for the variety of the world of life”, despite the obvious fact that the design process has never been described, nor is there any knowledge of what steps might have been taken, or how or why.

    As we have seen – and especially when dealing with the DI – they simply ignore the reasonable and cogent objection that they cannot specify even what they mean by “design”, let alone describe the process, or state the instances, or times, or places of its occurrence. They are not concerned with picayune details. That we – and scientists generally – are so concerned does not impress them.

    That is, they are not impressed by reason. Well, some people aren’t. It’s no use thinking that everyone is. That is, alas, the same retreat from reality that they have made.

  7. A riddle.
    What is green, hangs on the wall, and whistles?
    A herring.
    But a herring is not green.
    I painted it green.
    A herring doesn’t hang on the wall.
    I nailed it there.
    What way are you to get a herring to whistle!

    There two resolutions to this riddle:
    I wanted to make the riddle hard.
    No analogy is perfect.

    When someone points out that the variety of life is not at all like anything designed, what am I to make of that?
    I try to be helpful, and suggest that they have something in mind, something about design which reminds one of life.

    It’s a riddle, I guess. But it is not playing fair. One does not have to have a devotion to rationality. Everyone knows when one is not playing fair.

  8. Casey is unwittingly describing a bona fide current research program. The genetic difference between chimps and humans is small. The proteins are similar. But the development is different. So the difference that makes the difference is in the developmental genes; which ones,and how do they work?

    In dogs,the huge range found has indeed been tracked down to a few develpmental genes, and a single mutation (similar to the mutation that causes dwarfismin humans) accounts for the short legs of the dachshund.

  9. Christine Marie Janis

    Any percentage similarity of DNA indicates common ancestry at some point, it all depends on how far back you want to go.

    Whatever the actual percent similarity between humans and chimps, humans are still more similar in their DNA than to any other extant species. Thus, humans and chimps share a unique common ancestry among extant species.

    We also have around 50% DNA similarity with a banana. That also indicates common ancestry, although much further back in time (at least a billion years) and shared with many other organisms (i.e., most of extant eukaryotes).

  10. I just remember the Hobbit, the encounter of Bilbo and Gollum, when there is would-be riddle: “What have I got in my pocket?” Even Gollum respects the rule of riddle, and there is such a thing as cheating.

  11. @CMJ: I may have mentioned it before but I enjoy the brag: Giving evidence to a Scottish Parliament committee regarding creationism in schools, I told one MSP who said he’d heard that the most recent science was altering our views, that there was no dobt that he was second cousin to a monkey and fourth cousin to a mushroom.

    Ofc, the mapping of overall DNA similarities, further supported by synonymous vs non-synonymous changes (is that the correct terminology?), ERVs as already mentioned, and conservation of the DNA regulatng the most deep-rooted biologcal functions, makes a *massive* case. And Casey being a geologist is no excuse;if he’s that ignorant about DNA he shouldn’t be talking about it in public

  12. Christine Marie Janis

    @PaulB. As is customary with the members of the Discovery Institute, Casey isnot interested in presenting scientific controversy to a layperson audience, but in confirming doubts about science in the minds of those who won’t look up the information for themselves, and who have been taught that if science “wins” on this matter then there’s no prospect of personal salvation.

  13. @CJM, a well-developed technique, on everything from lung cancer to climate change to the November 2020 Presidential (with DI contributing to those last two)

  14. Don’t tell Casey he’s a banana. Monkeys eat bananas. He would go into an error loop and they would have to beam him off of the Discovery Institute before he self destructs.

  15. But if he’s 4th cousin to a mushroom (divergence time ~1000 Mybp), like that MSP, then he’s 5th cousin to a banana (1215Mybp; times median estimate frome timetree.org)

  16. Those links of “Casey’s return” are from January, it’s almost November, what’s he been doing this whole time? Is he using that Geology PhD for some evil scientist project? I can just see him in the laboratory at the D.I. crooning to his fellow lab rats, “Tomorrow my dear Pinky, we’ll take over the world! (Or at least get them to believe b.s.!)”

    Casey, “We are the only species that uses fire and technology.” Yeah well that’s because Prometheus gave us fire, it has nothing to do with our DNA. I mean if we didn’t have fire we wouldn’t even have S’mores, we’d have S’lesses and that would just be sad.

  17. @Troy, it’s also wrong, of course. The more we look at nature, the more creatures we find who uses tools in incredibly clever and unexpected ways, my favourite being corvids. They’ve not only found ways to use tools that researchers didn’t account for, they’ve also demonstrated a willingness and desire to collaborate in their problem-solving.

  18. OK, so a few other critters can use tools.

    But you have to be human to truly be a tool…

  19. Ah, so you don’t live near corvids, then. In my experience, their general attitude is that of a petulant toddler that just NEVER grows up.

  20. @ Jim Roberts: highly recommended read for corvidphiles: Charlie Gilmour’s Featherhood

  21. @Jim Roberts Yes that’s a good point, if you read Carl Sagan’s book “Shadows of our Forgotten Ancestors” Sagan does a good job bolstering his thesis that there are no qualitative differences between humans and the other animals only quantitative differences.

    As for the corvids, they know full well when we’d like to hear from Casey again…”nevermore”.

  22. So no monkey, but he prefers the idea of having some one with bad breath, breathing on worm s**t (how do you think dirt is made) and making some one who spends his time scratching his butt.

  23. God creates sooo many creatures in order to have a wide variety, but Mr. Variety Guy Jesus can’t use a variety of designs. Only common design. Most impotent designer ever. Add one more to the list of omnipotent impotencies.

  24. design based upon a common blueprint.

    So little faith! I have faith the Capital D Designer don’t need no stinkin common blueprint. And I’m an atheist!