Are Gorillas Closer Human Relatives than Chimps?

“It was beauty killed the beast.”

Are Gorillas Closer Human Relatives than ChimpsOne 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.

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