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Heads I win, tails you lose

The power of the paradigm

by

Published: 11 November 2010 (GMT+10)

Photo iStockphoto

human and chimpanzee

Kenneth Miller is Professor of Biology at Brown University, Rhode Island, and a prominent critic of creationism and the intelligent design movement. He has supported court actions against schools that seek to protect children from evolutionary indoctrination, even appearing as a witness for the plaintiffs,1 and regularly speaks in defence of the teaching of evolution as a scientifically proven fact. A Roman Catholic, he is a theistic evolutionist.

A few years ago, Miller gave a lecture at Case Western Reserve University entitled, “The Collapse of Intelligent Design. Will the next Monkey Trial be in Ohio?”2 In this, he freely lambasted all who would question the Darwinian paradigm. Most of the lecture was about politics, but some time was also given to scientific issues. Particularly, he made much of recent studies of human and chimp DNA and argued that this provided irrefutable evidence of evolution. As I listened to this, I became open-mouthed, almost in disbelief, at the incredibly unscientific nature of his claim. Two pairs of human chromosomes had been found to be fused, he said, providing clear evidence of our shared ancestry with apes.3

[Kenneth Miller] made much of recent studies of human and chimp DNA and argued that this provided irrefutable evidence of evolution.

Chromosomes are packages of DNA, wound around proteins called histones. Humans have 23 chromosome pairs, as we inherit 23 chromosomes from our father and 23 from our mother. Chimps inherit 24 chromosomes from each parent and have 24 chromosome pairs. Although far from being beyond doubt, a good case can be made that humans did, indeed, have 24 chromosome pairs originally, and that chromosome fusion has occurred, resulting in our now having only 23. For the sake of the argument, let us concede that this is true.4

Photo iStockphoto

human and chimpanzee

According to Miller, there are only two possible explanations for this. The first is that we share a common ancestor with chimps and that, during the course of evolution, chromosome fusion has taken place. The second is that the creator/designer made humans with chromosomes which had the appearance of having been fused at some time in the past, when in fact this never happened. The second explanation, he argued, is ridiculous, thus showing the first to be correct.

For someone who prides himself as a scientist and critical thinker, Miller’s argument beggars belief. Even a child could see the fallacy of it. If, in Miller’s view, it is reasonable to believe that the chromosomes became fused in a small population of half-ape/half-humans a few million years ago, why is it not reasonable to believe that this occurred in a small population of actual humans a few thousand years ago? This could have happened very early on in human history, soon after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, or in a small, isolated group from which Noah and his family were drawn prior to the Flood.

If it is accepted that ‘evolution is a fact’ then data will always be interpreted according to this belief—irrespective of whether there is a valid alternative interpretation.

Professor Miller, of course, is a very capable and knowledgeable scientist. How, then, could he make such a basic error? The answer, surely, lies in the ‘Power of the paradigm.’ If it is accepted that ‘evolution is a fact’ then data will always be interpreted according to this belief—irrespective of whether there is a valid alternative interpretation. If humans had been found to have 24 chromosome pairs, this would have been understood as evidence for common ancestry with apes because apes also have 24. Since humans actually have 23, it is understood that this provides evidence that evolution resulted in ape chromosomes being fused. For the evolutionists, then, it’s ‘heads I win, tails you lose’.

Related Articles

Further Reading

References

  1. Selman v. Cobb County, 2005 and Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 2005. Return to text.
  2. This was given on 3 January 2006 and can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVRsWAjvQSg. Return to text.
  3. Ref. 2, beginning at 0:35:10. Return to text.
  4. Sodera, V., One small speck to man—the evolution myth, 2nd edn, ch. 12, Vij Sodera Productions, 2009. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Ralph T., Australia, 12 November 2010

“Although far from being beyond doubt, a good case can be made that humans did, indeed, have 24 chromosome pairs originally, and that chromosome fusion has occurred, resulting in our now having only 23.”

Although I have a degree in biology, it is my experience in computer programing that makes me skeptical that there is really a “good case” here.

Computer programs I did were modular. If I finished one program, and then had to do another which had differences in purpose but used many similar modules, I would simply transfer many of the modules from the old program to the new.

However I might need to adjust them somewhat to fit the new overall purpose exactly. One type of adjustment I could possibly do is to combine two modules from the old program inro a new larger module, add some new information, and delete some now irrelevant information.

I have no trouble believing that God could use a similar process when He designed the “software” for apes and humans.

To claim there must have been a fusion is as silly as claiming there must have been a fusion of “V” and “U” since “W” looks like the two letters fused together.

Dumb and dumber IMHO.

Peter B., Switzerland, 18 November 2010

The fusion site revisited.

The chimpanzee and human genome projects demonstrated that the fusion did not result in loss of protein coding genes. Instead, the human locus contains approximately 150 thousand additional base pairs not found in chimpanzee chromosome 12 and 13 (now also known as 2A and 2B). This is remarkable because why would a fusion result in more DNA? We would rather have expected the opposite: the fusion would have left the fused product with less DNA, since loss of DNA sequences is easily explained. The fact that humans have a unique 150 kb intervening sequence indicates it may have been deliberately planned (or: designed) into the human genome. It could also be proposed that the 150 kb DNA sequence demarcating the fusion site may have served as an adaptor sequence for bringing the chromosomes together and facilitate the fusion in human. Another remarkable observation is that in the fusion region we find an inactivated cobalamin synthetase (CBWD) gene1. Cobalamin synthetase is a protein that, in its active form, has the ability to synthesize vitamin B12, a crucial cofactor in the biosynthesis of nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA and RNA molecules. Deficiency during pregnancy and/or early childhood results in severe neurological defects, because of an impaired development of the brain. The Darwinian assumption is that the cobalamin synthetase gene was donated by bacteria a long time ago and afterwards it was inactivated. Nowadays, humans must rely on microorganisms in the colon and dietary intake (a substantial part come from meat and milk products) for their vitamin B12 supply. It is remarkable also of note that humans have several copies of inactivated cobalamin-synthetase-like genes on several locations in the genome, whereas chimpanzees only have inactivated cobalamin synthetase gene. That the fusion must have occurred after man and chimp split is evident from the fact that the fusion is unique to humans:

“Because the fused chromosome is unique to humans and is fixed, the fusion must have occurred after the human-chimpanzee split, but before modern humans spread around the world, that is, between 6 and 1 million years ago.”1

The molecular analyses show we are more unique than we ever thought we were and this is in complete accordance with creation. We propose the fusion, if it really was a fusion after all, may have resulted from an intricate rearrangement or activation of repetitive genetic elements after the fall (as part of or executors of the curse following the fall) and inactivated the cobalamin synthetase gene (after the fall we had to eat meat!). The inactivation of the gene may have reduced people’s longevity in a similar way as the inactivation of the GULO gene which is crucial to vitamin C synthesis2

[published previously in Dutch, in TndO, 2009]

References:

  1. Fan Y, et al. Genomic Structure and Evolution of the Ancestral Chromosome Fusion Site in 2q13-2q14.1 and paralogous regions on other human chromosomes. Genome Research 2002, volume 12, pages 1651-1662.
  2. Truman R, Borger P. Why the shared mutations in the hominidae exon X GULO pseudogene are not evidence for common descent. J Creation 2007, volume 21 (3), pages 118–127.

Logie U., United Kingdom, 18 November 2010

The whole idea that two chromosomes from a primate ancestor fused together to form the single human chromosome; falls down when looking at the following.

1) Humans cannot breed with primates. Although there are examples of two species with different number of chromosomes breeding, it is the usual case where two species with a different number of chromosomes, cannot successfully breed. This raises the question, what would the offspring with the fused chromosome breed with?

2) It is assumed that entire chromosomal fusion is quite rare, otherwise there would be examples. So in this case, it is possible to assume that a single offspring would have the fused chromosomes. How does this mutation give the offspring a competitive advantage over its peers?

3) If the fused chromosome lead to a significant change in expressed phenotype, would the offspring with the fused chromosome, even be able to breed with it’s peers, as most species reject members who have genetic abnormalities from the group. We see this in human behavior, as people who have been disabled, or suffer genetic issues are often viewed as ‘different’ as they don’t conform to our internal image of what other human looks/acts like. This is a survival technique. We also see this kind of behavior with ants who have been infected with fungus. The other non-infected ants, force the infected individual out of the colony.

Sounds like Kenneth Miller is suffering from conformation bias.

Editor responds

We agree that Miller’s argument, for common ancestry of humans with primates based on a putative chromosome fusion, falls down. Many of the issues you raise here are dealt with in the book by Dr Vij Sodera mentioned in reference 4 of the article. Chapter 12 of this book runs to 40 pages of discussion about chromosomes as this relates to supposed human and ape common ancestry.

Anthony S., United States, 18 November 2010

Concerning Ralph T, Australia, comment. Funny, I am a Computer Programmer also, and also have a degree in Biology. I totally agree with your comment! It was a nice way of presenting your view. Makes sense.

Editor responds

The author of this short article did not get into details because his main point was to demonstrate the fallacy of the evolutionist argument—hence the article’s title. However, we advise you to read the material in reference 4 and also refer to Peter B.’s feedback to discover more about the molecular biological argument for a possible chromosome fusion event in human history.

Ernest L., United States, 18 November 2010

I’m appreciative of this forum for continuing to demonstrate the weaknesses of the macro-evolutionary claims. I’ve always thought it helpful to understand the beliefs of individuals making any proclamation [in this case Prof. Miller and Mr. Statham] so when Mr. Statham references that Prof. Miller is a Roman Catholic it was informative as I’m Roman Catholic.

If Mr. Statham felt it beneficial to reference Prof. Miller’s particular faith it would have been helpful if Mr. Statham pointed out, assuming he is knowledgeable on the topic, that despite much confusion one cannot hold to Roman Catholicism and macroevolution simultaneously. It would have been a double blow to Prof. Miller.

Roman Catholics accept that the Church is the pillar and ground of truth [1 Tim. Ch.3 v.15], we believe she cannot error. In the last 2,000 years the Church has affirmed through the writings of its orthodox adherents, councils, and other authoritative pronouncements; the necessity of all Christians to hold to the absolute inerrancy of scripture, that God created the world in six days, as well as Eve being made from Adam. Obviously none of these can be squared with macroevolution and essentially puts Prof. Miller’s adherence to his professed faith in question.

I cannot attest to Mr. Statham’s purpose for referencing Prof. Miller’s professed RC faith “A Roman Catholic, he is a theistic evolutionist.” I struggle to understand the purpose in the way he phrases this. Does Mr. Statham mean to imply the two topics [Roman Catholicism and theistic evolution] are automatically equated? No one likes his or her views to be impugned or misrepresented so I felt compelled to write this note. I realize most of the people involved with the site are probably not Roman Catholic, may even be hostile to Catholicism and clearly this forum is generally meant to address erroneous scientific claims. However, shouldn’t everyone who wishes to claim the mantel of Christian seek to be completely truthful in all things?

Dominic Statham responds

I included the statement that Ken Miller is a Roman Catholic simply for general information. Miller himself makes much of his faith, so I think this is reasonable. I wasn’t intending to make any particular point from this, but to allow the reader to draw their own conclusions (if any).

I have met many people who would describe themselves as Roman Catholic and believe that people evolved from ape-like creatures. Moreover, Pope John Paul II declared the theory of evolution to be “more than a hypothesis” and argued, “It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory.” http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_jp02tc.htm.

Doug L., United States, 19 November 2010

This contention (that the “fused” DNA proves evolution) shows more about Mr. Miller than it does about evolution and reminds me of the “junk DNA” issue. When, in their ignorance, researchers found stretches of DNA for which they saw no purpose these researchers quickly proclaimed it as “junk” left over from the evolutionary process. Now, many years later, most of the so-called junk has been found to have a real purpose. So now we have the “fused” chromosome. In their ignorance they can conceive of no purpose in having one long chromosome instead of two shorter ones. So of course this must prove evolution. Not! Our ignorance of the genome vastly exceeds our meager knowledge. I won’t be a bit surprised if someone in the not too distant future finds a very distinct purpose for God having combined the information into one chromosome. The point here is that for someone to bombastically proclaim a lack of purpose for something in the genome which he does not understand is the height of ignorance and arrogance.

M. J., United States, 19 November 2010

I find when posting on the internet that evolutionists use this type of reasoning all the time. If it doesn’t prove evolution then why did God make it look like evolution happened. Is He trying to trick us.

But I did get one evolutionist to admit that difference doesn’t prove change but it might have been that way from the beginning. He didn’t become an instant creationist but maybe it made him think.

Keep up the good work.

A. J., United Kingdom, 19 November 2010

Ralph, it’s true that many things attributed to evolution could also be due to design, but probably not this, as it seems a little arbitrary. Why stitch 2 modules together if they are ok on their own?

Besides, it is claimed that there is evidence of former telomeres (chromosome end-matter) at the point where the chromosomes are fused.

This is a relatively simple mutation that could happen by a single `crossover’ mutation (which are very common-and probably deliberately so) gone wrong. Once that had been fixed in the population (few people still having two separate chromosomes), one of the two centromeres would be redundant, and could then be deleted by random mutations without causing any trouble. It’s very plausible. That’s the case. But it doesn’t prove common ancestry.

Jonathan M., United States, 9 August 2011

This is not an example of “heads I win tails you lose” by Kenneth Miller at all. Evolutionists would have lost if humans had a different number of chromosomes than apes AND there was no way to explain the difference. Perhaps you didn’t fully understand the point being made by him. Because the difference in chromosomes is easily explained scientifically it is a “win” for evolutionary theory in the respect that it lines up exactly with what evolutionists predict. If it were the case that there was no fusion then evolutionary scientists would have had to radically rethink things. It would have been a “lose”. Miller admits this. Such are not the facts though. Now one should then turn around and ask if Creationism would actually predict that chromosomes in humans would be the products of fusion. Coming up with a post hoc explanation for what evolutionary theory actually predicted beforehand is rather flimsy. I would be interested in seeing any verifiable Creationist literature predicting human chromosomal fusion before the scientists found it. God could have easily made sure the chromosomes of humans did not fuse so as to put a thumb in the eye of evolutionists. It would have been a major embarrassment for them. Instead He apparently allows the exact thing to happen upon which hominid evolutionary predictions hang. Very strange thing for God to do. I think Miller points out this fact very well.

P.S. I don’t actually expect this comment to be published by you. I note you ensure only favorable comments are posted. It was just fun to respond to whatever nameless person deletes these comments.

Dominic Statham responds

Humans having 23 chromosome pairs rather than 24 is neither evidence for or against evolution, nor for or against creation, as my article makes clear. Miller just assumed it was evidence for evolution, as he was driven by a paradigm.

There are millions of differences between human and chimpanzee DNA, making it clear that we are not related. In the Y chromosome alone, chimps have only two-thirds as many distinct genes or gene families as humans. Also, more than 30% of the chimp Y chromosome lacks an alignable counterpart on the human Y chromosome and vice versa. According to Professor David Page of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, the Y chromosomes of chimps and humans are “horrendously different from each other.” (See Nature 463(7278):149 and Nature 463(7280):536-539.)

Natural selection could not possibly have fixed so many mutations into an evolving human population in the five to ten million years during which apes allegedly evolved into humans. (See Haldane’s dilemma has not been solved.) Evolutionists tried to get round this problem by arguing that much of our DNA is junk and was therefore not fixed in the population by natural selection. However, this argument, too, is falling apart as more and more functions of ‘junk DNA’ are discovered (see More nails in the coffin of ‘junk DNA’.) This is certainly ‘a thumb in the eye of evolutionists’.

The scientific problems with evolutionary theory are enormous and fundamental. Most people have no idea that this is true because these kinds of facts are not communicated to the general public in the media or educational institutions.

Incidentally, we frequently publish feedback from those who hold different views to ourselves. Here is an example: Creation magazine is purposely inaccurate and distorts the truth’, claims evolutionist.

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