“It was beauty killed the beast.”
One might invoke the last line from King Kong after hearing about a recent discovery asserting a closer connection between gorillas and humans. Does evidence from the study imply shared evolutionary ancestry? In this podcast, biochemist Fuz Rana explains what the “closer connection” means from a genetic perspective. Here are some summary points:
- Gorillas (from an evolutionary perspective) diverged from the human-chimp lineage about ten million years ago and humans and chimps diverged about five million years ago.
- The “99 percent” genetic similarity between chimps and humans or “98 percent” similarity between gorillas and humans—though eye-catching for laypeople—is virtually meaningless. Selective comparisons can yield such favorable results, but they do not constitute meaningful comparisons.
- Molecular clock analysis (which says gorillas diverged from the human-chimp lineage about 5.95 million years ago [mya]; humans and chimps diverged about 3.7 mya) is in direct conflict with the fossil record (10 mya and 6–7 mya, respectively).
- Depending on the region of the genome compared, humans can appear closer to either chimps or gorillas, thus confounding the standard evolutionary paradigm.
- Two evolutionary mechanisms to account for the apparent conflict, gene flow and incomplete lineage sorting, fall short of providing explanatory power.
- Genetic similarity between humans, gorillas, chimps, orangutans, macaques, Neanderthals, and Denisovans can be seen as the work of a Creator employing common blueprints, building blocks, designs, patterns, and archetypes to fashion “similar,” though very different creatures (all made from the “dust of the Earth”).
- Biology separates humans from all other creatures, but the image of God uniquely distinguishes humans from all others.