Are look-alikes related?
First published: 15 September 2010 (GMT+10)
Re-featured on homepage: 23 January 2013 (GMT+10)
My childhood best friend looked so much like me that our teachers, and even our friends, had a lot of trouble telling us apart. ‘Are you twins?’, we were often asked. However, there was no family connection as far back as anyone could trace. The similarity in our appearance was not due to being closely related—or, putting it another way—due to us having a recent common ancestor, like a common father, grandmother, or even great grandparent. It was just a ‘fluke’.
The main (only?) argument for evolution is that similarities between living things are due to relatedness, or common ancestry. If two kinds of animals share a lot of common features, then they are ‘obviously’ closely related and so must have had a recent common ancestor—or so the evolutionary reasoning goes.1,2 Birds, for example, all lay eggs, have feathers and a specialized lung comprised of interconnected air sacs, so the evolutionist would say all birds had a common ancestor which had these features. Creationists would say that birds have these similarities because they were created with a common basic plan. People would assume that because my friend and I were so similar we must have shared a very recent common ancestor—like the same parents. They were wrong. In like manner, the evolutionists are often—not always—wrong in assuming similarity is due to common ancestry.
Of course my friend and I are members of the same human kind and so we know that we had a common ancestor—who was a descendant of Japheth, in this case. However, the analogy is accurate—that the degree of similarity in appearance does not necessarily indicate the degree of genetic relatedness. As we shall see, evolutionists are forced to recognise this at times, but they (illogically) do not admit that such recognition undermines the main argument for evolution (if similarities occur that clearly are not due to common ancestry, how does the evolutionist know that any similarities are due to evolution?).
If living things had a common creator/designer, we would expect there to be many similarities—just like the early Porsche and VW ‘beetle’ have many similarities because they shared the same designer. If there were not these similarities in living things we might be inclined to believe in many creators, not just one. The Bible tells us that God’ very nature is revealed to us in what He has created (Romans 1:18–23). I believe that God created things in such a way that the patterns we see defy a natural explanation—such as evolution—but support a supernatural explanation. In other words, the patterns of similarity cannot be consistently explained by any naturalistic (everything–made–itself) theory.
Many creatures show similar features because their Creator used similar structures for similar purposes.
|Australian marsupial wombat (top) and a marmot.||Sugar gliders (top) look similar to flying squirrels.||The extinct marsupial thylacine (top) and the wolf.|
The more similar creatures are, according to the evolutionary argument, the more closely they should be related—that is, the more recent it is since they had the same ancestor. Take, as an example, the usual textbook illustration of the similarities between the limbs of animals with backbones (vertebrates) and people. Human beings have a five–finger/toe hand/foot pattern, and limbs with two bones attached to the hand/foot joined to a single other major limb bone. We share this pattern with bats and frogs and therefore, the evolutionist argues, we must share common ancestors with these animals. That explains the similarities, we are told.
However, if we look at the horse limb (right), we see that it is quite different to the human form. Frogs and people have remarkably similar limb structures, but horses, which are supposedly very much more closely related to humans, have a limb with little resemblance to the human limb. Just on the basis of limb structures, it might be reasonable to suppose that frogs and people are more closely related than people and horses.
However, horses, as mammals, share many similarities to humans which frogs, as amphibians, don’t share—horses, like us, are warm–blooded, give birth to live young, suckle their young, have hair, etc. The evolutionist claims that horses and humans must be more closely related than frogs and humans.
But what about the remarkable differences in the limbs of horses and humans? The evolutionist ‘explains’ the profound differences in the horse and human limbs as due to ‘adaptation’ in the horse. So, when the evolutionist confronts anomalies like the horse limb, a story is invented to ‘explain’ it. In this case the story is ‘adaptation’. The limb was supposedly ‘modified’ by natural selection to do a different job. However, this is a just–so story to explain away evidence which does not fit the common ancestry idea.
Quolls and cats
Marsupials are mammals which give birth to very immature babies which are suckled in a protective pouch. These include the kangaroos, koalas, wombats and possums of Australasia and the opossums of the Americas. Placental mammals nurture their young in the womb, which develops an elaborate nourishing structure called a placenta. The babies are born in quite a developed state compared to marsupials.
|Tasmanian ‘Tiger’ or Thylacine||Wolf|
|Feathertail Glider||Flying squirrel|
|Dunnart or Marsupial mouse||Mouse, Shrew|
|Marsupial mole||Golden mole of Africa|
|Table 1. Some marsupial and placental animals showing remarkable similarities.|
Nearly all the mammals in Australia are marsupials. Why is this so? The evolutionist claims to have an answer: the marsupials evolved in Australia from a common ancestor which just happened to be here.3 Placental mammals—such as dogs, cats, horses, squirrels, mice, etc., evolved on other continents. That’s the story.
However, there are many incredible similarities between marsupial and placental animals which defy this naturalistic story. Take the marsupial mouse, or dunnart, and placental mouse, for example. Some types are so similar it is difficult to tell them apart without close inspection to look for the pouch.
The marsupial mole from the Northern Territory of Australia is incredibly similar to the golden mole of Africa. When the cuscus was first discovered in Papua New Guinea it was mistaken for a type of monkey. It has a flat monkey-like face, opposable digits on front and hind limbs, and a prehensile (grasping) tail.
The number of similar marsupial and placental animals is astounding, if they just arose by the evolutionary processes of chance mutations and natural selection.
The list could be extended by including extinct types such as the marsupial diprotodon, a hippopotamus-like creature. So there are many similarities which are not due to common ancestry, or evolution. How does the evolutionist account for these similarities? Here another story comes into play: many of the marsupials and placentals ended up looking like one another because they happened to be in similar ecological niches and so evolved similarly to fill those similar niches. This is another ‘just–so’ story. Such similarities are said to be due to ‘convergence’ or ‘parallel evolution’. ‘Convergence’ is really just a grab bag to put similarities which cannot be explained through common ancestry (evolution). This is supposed to account for similarities which do not fit the evolutionary scheme of descent based on other similarities.
It stretches the bounds of credulity to believe that so many marsupials just happened, without any plan and purpose, to look so similar to their placental counterparts. It’s like trying to believe that two artists painted a series of almost identical paintings without reference to one another, or that the similarities between a VW and Porsche were not due to their having a common designer.
Also, if being in a similar ecological niche automatically generates similarities, why is the kangaroo not more like cattle, horses or deer—the kangaroo’s ecological counterparts on other continents? The kangaroo throws a spanner into the logic of the ‘convergence’ story used to explain similarities which do not fit the evolutionary story.4
God has indeed created things in such a way as to confound naturalistic (everything made itself) explanations for the origin of organisms. Various ad hoc, or just–so, stories have been invented in an attempt to explain the many things which do not fit the evolutionary scheme, but they are just that—stories. May God receive the glory that is His due for the marvelous things He has created!
References and notes
- In the case of my friend and me, we were related—having descended from Noah’s family, but the degree of similarity did not reflect the degree of relatedness. We looked like twins but we were not even cousins. That is the problem with the evolutionists’ argument: degree of similarity does not necessarily imply degree of relatedness. Return to text.
- Specialists in the classification of organisms (taxonomists) call the similarities between organisms which are thought to be due to relatedness ‘homologies’. This concept is quite valid for creationists to apply in defining what were the original created kinds—where there is genuine relatedness amongst the descendants. For example, the many different species of Eucalyptus trees could possibly represent one created kind. Likewise there are various types of cattle which are almost certainly the one biblical kind. See Re-creating the extinct aurochs? Creation 14(2):25–28, 1992, and Ligers and Wholphins: what next?. Return to text.
- Marsupial fossils have been found on all continents. Return to text.
- There are extreme examples of obviously non-homologous similarities being discovered at the molecular level. An example is the complex hemoglobin molecule found in the blood of vertebrates being also in some crustaceans (such as Daphnia, the water flea), and even in the roots of some plants (Nature 331:178, 1988). See Walter ReMine’s The Biotic Message for an in–depth treatment of the evolutionists’ selective use of similarities to argue for evolutionary relationships. Return to text.
Thank you for the article on Convergent evolution, which describes the acquisition of the same biological trait in unrelated lineages. Like the wing, which is used in flying insects, birds, and bats, flying squirrels, sugar gliders, etc.... Convergent evolution is beautiful example of how wonderful life is and how though evolution completely different types of lifeforms can find similar ways to solve common problems. One problem that all lifeforms have in common is that they all die. Christians believe that humans go to heaven or hell after they die, but what about animals? Do chimps go to heaven/hell? What if a genetic engineer were to create a human chimp hybrid, would such a creature have an afterlife?
Michael (a persistent critic of CMI),
It baffles me how you can read an article with your eyes firmly shut. You have huge faith in the magic of evolution that evidence and logical argument does not seem to dent.
The plethora of similarities that do not fit the evolutionary story (that is, cannot be explained through a story of common ancestry) are a huge problem for evolution. Evos even have a special term for them: "homoplasies". They even published a 'facing your demons' book in 1996 titled Homoplasies.. Homoplasy was defined thus: "...homoplasy is the appearance of 'sameness' that results from independent evolution." (p. xvii) Paraphrased slightly, this reads, "homoplasy is the appearance of 'sameness' that results independent of evolution." So if there is a huge pattern of similarities that is independent of evolution, how can any similarities be claimed as evidence of evolution? It is a matter of very selective use of the data. If so many similarities are independent of evolution, maybe they all are; that would be consistent with Occam's Razor. The big picture speaks loudly against the evolutionary story, speaking of common creation rather than common ancestry.
Attaching 'evolutionary' to a problem for evolution (e.g. 'evolutionary' convergence or 'evolutionary' stasis) does not magically transform the problem into something that evolution accommodates. No, you have no magic wand called 'evolution'; you have to provide a materialistic mechanism that explains these things and there is no such mechanism.
Furthermore, the huge differences in the genomes of humans and chimps shows that such a hybrid is out of the question, which is not surprising, because the Bible tells us that God made people separate to other creatures, with a special relationship with God, possible because into man alone was placed a spirit/soul. And here is an answer to who goes to heaven/hell.
You are right about one thing; the ubiquity of death. But it was not always so, which is the reason that Jesus came and died and rose from the dead. In Him we can have eternal life. He came that we might have life; abundant life (John 10:10). Why would you choose death rather than life?
I would like to ask if you have an article explaining, why most of the marsupials are in Australia, or in that region.
Thank you for this great article.
Speaking of arguments often used to justify evolution, the prevalence of marsupials in Australia was taught as proof of common descent (due to Australia's supposed isolation from the Americas over millions of years of geological time) as recently as in the Fall of 2011 when I took an "Ecology and Evolution" course at my university (a required course for my degree).
So it was interesting to me to notice that there's an African marsupial, which you mentioned in the article. And come to think of it, there's the Possums we have in the United States where I live. So the whole 'allopatric speciation' theory is pretty much void, since marsupials are found all over the globe, just not quite as extensively as placental mammals.
Still, the fact that there is such a high proportion of them in Australia is a compelling curiosity. Operating in the Biblical view of the world, it makes the most sense to me to suppose that marsupial reproduction (their pouches) allowed them to travel much farther in the initial dispersion after the Flood, and subsequent to the rising of the oceans approximately 1000 years afterwards (going off of Mike Oard's model as explained in Frozen in Time), the land bridge to Australia was cut off, preventing slower-migrating species from getting a foothold on the continent.
That's one of the main things I love about the Creation Model. It makes sense of everything, without the need for "ad hoc" explanations to take care of 'problematic' evidence, like the alternative 'theory' does.
:) Thanks for these articles.
Thanks for your comment, which I appreciate, but I must say two things:
- I did not say that there is a living African marsupial, but there certainly are American ones and there are fossils on all continents.
- I would not claim that the creation model "makes sense of everything". There are plenty of things that we don't yet fully understand; we see "as in a glass, darkly". There is therefore need for researchers to get involved in developing the creation model.
Another EXCELLENT article here, and your testimony of how you and your friend looked so similar is just one more brilliant example of the madness of the homology argument. I do have one question, though. When you say "and so we know that we had a common ancestor—who was a descendant of Japheth, in this case", how can you be sure it's Japheth?
I can't be absolutely sure, but us both being 'European' in heritage and appearance, it is a reasonable supposition (see Bill Cooper's After the Flood).
In the past I have counted something like 40 or 50 similarities between humans and a variety of animals other than chimps (similarities chimps do not have) and I am only a layman as regards biology and allied sciences. I have listed them in a book "Creation as presented in the Bible and to Common Sense". No one has attempted to refute what I have said or my conclusions.
Yes, there are many similarities that don't fit common ancestry with chimps, including at the molecular level. Evolutionists call them "homoplasies", which they attribute to "convergent evolution", which is just a way of trying to make it sound like this problem for the story is 'covered'.
How could Jan think that you were only taught biblical creation when evolution is taught as fact in ALL public schools? Even schools that teach biblical creation also look at evolution as well and present the case made by the evolutionists, which they then serve to debunk. Therefore, it is impossible for someone to go through school and not hear about evolution.
It appears that Jan has committed the all-too-common fallacy of "anyone who understands evolution would believe in it". No, we don't believe in it because we understand it better than many of those who do believe in it.
"Homology" is detailed similarity in structure not required by similarity in function (e.g. the eyes of humans and chickens don't need to share the "inverted retina" shared by all vertebrates, because mollusc eyes work fine with a different retina structure). Evolutionary relationships are not inferred based on similarities obviously related to function (e.g. the similar shapes of dolphins, sharks, and extinct ichthyosaurs), but on detailed similarities (e.g. having three bones in the inner ear and one on each side of the lower jaw in all mammals) that don't seem to be functionally required (again, other classes have different arrangements of ear and jaw bones).
Note that given the number of functionally identical forms the same genes can take (e.g. there are nucleotide substitutions that make no difference in the protein coded for), even similarities in functional genes can count as homologous (cytochrome-c does the same job in humans and pine trees; that it is identical between humans and chimps but slightly different between humans and rats is, at least, interesting).
Oh, and assuming Japheth's sons didn't marry their sisters, and keep inbreeding for several generations, isn't it likely that you're descended from more than one of Noah's sons?
Your definition of homology seems to be your own and is not consistent with evolutionary theory. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines it as follows:
"Likeness in structure between parts of different organisms (as the wing of a bat and the human arm) due to evolutionary differentiation from a corresponding part in a common ancestor"
"Homology, in biology, similarity of the structure, physiology, or development of different species of organisms based upon their descent from a common evolutionary ancestor."
So, if a similarity can be 'explained' as due to common ancestry (evolution) it is considered homologous. If a similarity cannot be explained by an evolutionary story of common ancestry, it is called a 'homoplasy' (the subject of my article). That is, the distinction between homologies and homoplasies is totally circular and so is the use of similarities to 'prove evolution'.
Regarding molecular similarities, I recommend the 'Related articles' for your education. Molecular similarities that are not explained through any story of common ancestry are equally problematic for evolution as are morphological homoplasies. In fact, phylogenies (family trees) based on DNA or protein comparisons have created all sorts of problems for the story of evolution, requiring, for example, that the camera eye must have evolved independently at least six times (once is bad enough)! See also endnote 4.
Your point about Japheth is taken; I was referring to the male line, through which ancestry is normally recorded.
I always love your articles and find them encouraging. On a lighter note, of the two cars, I'd take the one on the right.
Not only did you teachers have trouble to seperate you from your friend, they most probably did not know how to seperate facts and science from beliefs.
No evolutonist will ever tell that animals look alike because of their 'common ancestry'. Evolutionary biology stresses that similarities follow function: different species will develop similarities due to similar ecosystems.
According to evolutuonary science, animls with common evolutionary lines (aka common ancestry) can be quite different. The klipdas (Hyrax)for instance, is 'a close relative' of the elephant. It is far from similar...
If you read the article a little more carefully, you will find that all these angles are covered. Being an article for a lay audience, the technical words of homology (similarities due to common ancestry) and homoplasy (similarities not due to common ancestry but supposedly due to similar ecosystem 'selection') are both covered.
Homology is probably the major argument used for evolution in biology texts (see Does homology provide evidence of evolutionary naturalism?, which is listed in the 'Related articles').
BTW, you seem to think that I must be a biblical creationist only because I had teachers in school who taught me that. Wrong. I came to this position after studying for nearly 20 years in secular educational institutions, including a PhD in biology.