Do Genes Prove Evolution?

Jerry Bergman Ph.D

(Investigator 149, 2013 March)



Introduction

The explosion in genetic research during the last few decades has revolutionized science. Called the DNA revolution, much of this research has produced severe problems for Darwinism. For example, it was once thought that the higher a life form on the evolutionary scale, the more genes that it contains. Therefore, according to evolution, yeast would have very few genes, plants more, mammals a lot more, primates even more, and humans the most. Research has not, in general, supported this once common assumption.
    
The head of the genome project that mapped the entire human genome, Dr. Francis Collins, wrote that humans have around 20,000 to 25,000 protein coding genes, and that "simpler organisms, such as worm, flies, and simple plants," seem to have about the same range of protein coding genes as humans, namely around 20,000 (Collins, 2006, p. 125). Creationists would expect this because, contrary to the prediction of evolution, many structures in both simple and complex life forms are very similar, just as many basic parts in a low priced economy automobile are very similar to those in a high priced luxury one. Pistons, transmissions, exhaust manifolds, carburetors, ignition systems, brakes and related are all similar no matter what kind of gasoline engine automobile they are used in.

The differences between humans and worms, insects, fish, and birds is not genome size, but due to the fact that they use their DNA in less elaborate or very different ways than humans do (Collins, 2006, p. 125). Within one animal type, though, the differences are often small. For example, Collins notes that evolution requires genetic diversity for natural selection to select from. In contrast to this evolutionary expectation, humans have a "surprisingly low level of genetic diversity," only one out of a thousand genes (0.1 percent) is different between any two humans. And most of these different genes are for non-essential traits, such as hair color and texture. In contrast, creation, which teaches that all humans are descended from one human pair, predicts what is found — a very small level of diversity.

In contrast to evolution, comparing human genes with those of other creatures, even those of so-called very simple organisms, such as fruit flies and round worms, finds a large number of similarities. In some cases, the similarity extends "all the way down to genes in yeast and even to bacteria" an indication, not of evolution, but rather of common design and design constraints (Collins, 2006, p. 127). Gasoline engines must be basically the same whether in a Yugo or a Cadillac.

While Collins actually tries to argue that this similarity provides evidence for Darwin’s theory, it also strongly provides support for the observation that Collins himself made, namely that, although the number of genes in humans and fruit flies is similar, the information in the genome is often very different, especially the protein coding gene regulation information located in the non-coding genes—which is what we would expect considering the enormous differences between humans and fruit flies. These differences would logically also result from the fact that the genome codes for humans should be somewhat similar compared to chimps, but very dissimilar compared to worms.

A correspondence logically exists between genetic and morphological differences, and the differences between humans and worms would reflect this fact. Genes determine anatomy and physiology; consequently, the more similar the anatomy and physiology, the more similarity we would expect between the genetic codes of two very different organisms. Thus, humans and chimps would, as a whole, be expected to be genetically more similar than humans and worms.

Obviously, genetic similarity would logically correlate somewhat with morphological and physiological similarity. Ironically, research has found a chasm between human and chimp genomes — they are only about 80 percent similar, close to 900 million base pair differences (Bergman and Tomkins, 2012). Nonetheless, we would expect that animals morphologically very similar to us, such as chimps, share more of our genes than animals that are morphologically drastically different from us, such as worms, which share closer to about 40 percent of their genes with us.

Although many genes are very similar in all life due to design requirements, but, contrary to evolution, a large number of genes are unique to humans and found in no other life forms. For example, the gene called human accelerated region 1 (HAR1) is very similar in the genomes of mice, rats, chickens, and even chimpanzees, but is very different in the human genome. This is only one example of the chasm that exists between humans and all other life forms that is found nowhere else in the animal world. These genes, and many others, are found only in humans as is expected by the conclusion that humans are not a more evolved primate, but are instead a separate creation.


Junk Genes

Junk DNA is a term applied to the vast stretches of DNA that scientists once naively assumed did not have a function because they did not code for protein. Also, DNA sections called introns were spliced out of the mRNA copy of DNA and, evidently, recycled. This conclusion was for years a strong argument for evolution—why would God make so much useless DNA? Evolution explained that the junk DNA was a result of millions of years of gene duplications and mutations that damaged much DNA. Evolutionists postulated the reason why the "junk" existed was because mutations in the so-called junk DNA would not be selected against, therefore would accumulate in our evolutionary history. For this reason we would expect to find greater differences in junk DNA than between coding DNA that are selected by evolution. Collins wrote that most of the mutations in non-coding DNA occur in parts of the genome that are not essential, and therefore they have little or no consequence. The ones that fall in the more vulnerable parts of the genome are generally harmful, and are thus rapidly culled out of the population because they reduce reproductive fitness" (2006, p. 131).

More research, though, caused well-known British geneticist, Steve Olsen, to come to the opposite conclusion. He noted that if non-coding DNA were just along for the ride, it would rapidly incorporate mutations. But long stretches of non-coding DNA have remained basically the same for many millions of years — they must be doing something. Now scientists are starting to speculate that proteins, and the regular DNA that creates them, are just the nuts and bolts of the system ... the non-coding DNA is likely 'the assembly plans and control systems' (2007, p. 113).

Modern research has since empirically supported this conclusion. The non-coding DNA thus is very different when various life forms are compared because it contains the assembly plans and regulation or control systems of very different organisms. Unfortunately, "because we spent 30 years thinking of [non-coding DNA] … as junk, we’re just now learning how to read it" (Olsen, 2007, p. 113).
    
Again, the evolutionary interpretation has been falsified. Research soon verified that protein-coding DNA in different life forms is often less similar to each other than DNA that was once called junk DNA. Collins also noted that, as we move from chimps to round worms, in general we find less similarity in the gene sequences that code for proteins, but even less similarity in the non-coding DNA. These results do not support the evolutionary model, but rather support a morphological gradient interpretation.
    
Other studies are slowly finding that this punitive junk DNA is "not junk after all" (Makalowski, 2003, p. 1246). One example is, all DNA including putative junk DNA is strikingly ordered along the path of the chromosome, and the order is species-specific. It is ordered to the degree that stains can be used to identify abnormalities in the "junk" DNA to diagnose disease. Called banding patterns, the pattern produced by various strains reflects important species-specific variations.
    
The latest research has concluded that most of the so-called junk DNA is "actually a buzzing universe of biochemical activity that is far from a molecular moonscape, according to the latest massive genome-sequencing effort led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health" (Park, 2012, p. 19). This is exactly what I predicted back in 2001 (Bergman, 2001).
    
The Darwinian mindset has in this case impeded science progress because instead of studying it to determine what its functions are, evolution has caused scientists to ignore what was once called junk DNA. Assuming that it has no function, it was rarely studied and, as Olson notes, this false conclusion has impeded science progress.
    
It is prudent to wait until more comparisons between non-coding DNA and different life forms are completed before we draw firm conclusions in this area. It seems reasonable from a creationist view, though, that Olson’s argument is correct and the differences in non-coding DNA are due to assembly, planning, and control system differences as creationism predicts, and not due to accumulated mutations, as Collins argued in order to support evolution.


Genes Determine Only a Rough Outline
    
Recent studies by numerous researchers have found that different species use similar genes to control their early development, and that these genes in turn are regulated in order to accommodate specific features that allow, for example, the cat family to develop into domestic cats, lions, tigers, and other animals. Consequently, for this reason different species can use the same genes to develop very distinct features. And the non-protein coding DNA is critical in producing these distinct features. Thus, in contrast to evolutionist predictions, we would expect the non-coding DNA to be more dissimilar than the coding DNA.
    
Turner concludes that "it is largely the rough outlines of a structure that are specified by genes. Thus genes produce a rough map; the reality of the terrain the organism lives in determines the specific location of the roads. Design only emerges when … this rough draft [is remodeled], refining it into a well-functioning structure" (2007, p. 176). The examples he provides make it apparent that the "rough draft" is designed in such a way that various environmental, and epigenetic and other influences can refine the organism’s parts into a harmonious system as it develops from an embryo to an adult.
    
This flexibility is critically important for an organism to survive. Put another way, the genes set the limits, and the environment determines how close to those limits the final organism becomes. Humans with genes for tallness need to grow not only long bones, but also long muscles, veins, arteries, and other structures in order to accommodate their long bone system. Like a road map, bones provide the outline, and the inbuilt design flexibility allows the entire leg, including the muscles, veins, arteries, and skin, to develop properly according to the road map set by the bones.


All Life has had the Same Evolutionary Time
    
A further problem for the junk theory is that, by comparing non-coding DNA differences, one produces close to the same hierarchy that results from comparing codon DNA differences (Collins, 2006, p. 127). If the differences were due to evolution, we would not expect to find this because, if life began 3.5 billion years ago as evolution teaches, all life today would be able to trace its origin back to 3.5 billion years ago. Therefore, in terms of time, all organisms have the exact same length of evolutionary history—a conclusion accepted by creationism because all life descended from the original creation week. Evolution teaches that living bacteria have 3.5 billion years of history as do humans.
    
We would thus not expect non-coding DNA—which evolutionists once thought would not be selected—to parallel the morphological differences existing in life. Evolutionists expect that the differences in non-coding DNA will be largely random because, as a result of time, all organisms would accumulate many mutations in the non-coding DNA.
    
If bacteria and humans both have 3.5 billion years of evolutionary history behind them, why is bacteria today basically very similar, at least morphologically, to the bacteria dated by evolutionists back to 3.5 billion years and yet humans are very different from bacteria and, for that matter, yeast, algae, and even members of Kingdom Protista (Protoctista) even though evolutionists teach that we, and all life, have also been evolving for 3.5 billion years?
    
Given the same evolutionary history length, it would appear that, if evolution were true, all life would have evolved to about the same level up the ladder of complexity. This is not the case: humans have evolved enormously and bacteria have, as far as we can determine, not evolved at all. Therefore, they are now regarded as "primitive" life forms, and humans as "advanced" life forms.
   

Conclusions
    
Genetic discoveries have, in general, not supported evolution but rather creation. Only a few examples were provided here to support this generalization. Evolutionists usually select existing animal and plant examples and line them up from what they judge is the most "primitive" bacteria, to the most advanced life form, i.e. humans. The same hierarchy is now being constructed with, not just morphology, but also with genes. For this reason we would expect many parallels in genes and morphology, and this is what is found. Many more examples could be provided and biologists, no doubt, will provide us with many more examples in the future as they research the human genome.


References

Bergman, Jerry. 2001. "The Functions of Introns: From Junk DNA to Designed DNA." Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. 53(3)170-178. September.

Bergman, Jerry and Jeffrey Tomkins. 2012. "Is the human genome nearly identical to chimpanzee?—a reassessment of the literature." Journal of Creation. 25(4):54–60. 2012.

Blow, Nathan.  2009.  "The Digital Generation."  Nature 458:239-242, March.

Collins, Francis S. 2006. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.  New York: Free Press.

Makalowski, Wojciech. 2003. "Not Junk After All." Science, 300:1246-1247, May 23.

Olsen, Steve. 2007. "What is the Purpose of Non-Coding DNA?" Wired, February.

Park, Alice. 2012. "’Junk’ DNA may lead to Valuable Cures." Time Magazine. October 22, p. 19.

Turner, J. Scott. 2007. The Tinkers Accomplice: How Design Emerges from Life Itself. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


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