Thursday, March 15, 2012

Discovery Institute Distorts New Gorilla Genome Data; No One is Surprised

What happens when a foundation is built on proving its hypothesis right or another hypothesis false? You get foundations like the Discovery Institute. This Institute is founded on misinforming people about evolutionary science and they are at it again. Last week the Gorilla genome was finally fully sequenced allowing us to compare it to the already sequenced human, chimpanzee, and orangutan. Here is's article on the new data:

Now, the findings did show that approximately 30% of our genome is actually closer to gorilla's than chimps. This is something that evolutionary theory already completely understands and even predicts and is a phenomenon called incomplete lineage sorting. To be explained in the simplest terms its a completely natural result of genetic diversity and how populations diverge leading to speciation. As an oversimplified example (thanks to Larry), you may have a brother or sister that has blue eyes while you have green eyes. You may also have a cousin who has green eyes. This doesn't prove that you are closer in relation to your cousin. It also doesn't change the obvious fact that you, your sibling, and your cousin share a common ancestor; your grandparents.

 How has the discovery institute distorted this new data to say it some how poses a problem to evolutionary theory? Here is how:

Complete distortion, and an attempt to convince others that this is somehow a problem for our understanding of human evolution. Casey Luskin writes:
The standard evolutionary phylogeny of primates holds that humans and chimps are more closely related to one-another than to other great apes like gorillas. In practice, all that really means is that when we sequence human, chimp, and gorilla genes, human and chimp genes have a DNA sequence that is more similar to one-another's genes than to the gorilla's genes. But huge portions of the gorilla genome contradict that nice, neat tidy phylogeny. That's because these gorilla genes are more similar to the human or chimp version than the human or chimp versions are to one-another. In fact, it seems that some 30% of the gorilla genome contradicts the standard primate phylogeny in this manner.
I bolded a different sentence than Luskin however, and for good reason. If 70% percent of our genome is closer to chimps that gorillas then that is exactly what evolutionary theory would predict. How is the fact that humans are 70% closer to chimps than gorillas and even less similar to orangutans somehow a problem? Its almost as if he expects us to be 100% more similar to chimps than gorillas. We are closest in relation to chimps, then gorillas, then orangutans. Our Genomes are closest to chimps, then gorillas, then orangutans. I did about 2 minutes of searching google and found a great write up on incomplete lineage sorting here:

This is another perfect example of denial to accept the evidence. Here is his email address: Maybe if we all email him with information regarding incomplete lineage sorting he'll actually read one of them. Here are his credentials by the way: 

So he is a lawyer with an M.S. in Earth Science. Last time I checked Earth Sciences isn't biology. I guess for the Discovery Institute Earth Science is close enough to biology for him to write articles about evolutionary theory. He also co-founded an institution to infiltrate high schools and colleges and promote Intelligent Design called the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center. I found this funny list on the IDEA website:

If that doesn't show that this guy is all about bad science I don't know what could. The difference between real science and bad science is simple: Bad science sets out to prove a hypothesis one way or another, real science sets out to thoroughly test that hypothesis until real knowledge and data is accrued. I guess he missed learning the scientific method all throughout his academic career.

Reality bytes doesn't it.

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