Home » Intelligent Design » NHM – 99% Ape – press release

NHM – 99% Ape – press release

The Natural History Museum (NHM) has issued a press release on the 5th December 2008, extolling the virtues of its new book ‘99% Ape: How evolution adds up’ and why Intelligent Design is flawed.

This book has been written by academics at the Open University (OU) in the UK, and it is aimed at pre-university level (level 1), either for general interest, or to prepare potential students for study at university levels 2 and 3 – written, apparently, for those with no prior knowledge of science. Pointing out errors in such works is in the public interest to maintain scientific accuracy. It would be a disgrace for anyone to suffer for merely pointing out that material in a textbook from leading academic institutions is out of date, or wrong, and I offer my support to Richard.

This book is part of the Darwin200 celebrations, which are being used to give fresh impetus to the 2009 Darwin evangelical campaign. Seemingly, not enough people in the UK are yet Darwin believers, with 39% either creationists or intelligent design supporters according to a BBC Survey .

Not having read the book, it probably would not be fair to comment further. But as noted leading journals such as Science have called the figure of 1% a ‘myth’. (Relative Differences: The Myth of 1%, Jon Cohen, Science, 316, 29 June 2007: 1836). (The ENCODE research project has also revealed that the bulk of DNA should no longer be classified as junk with at least 93% coded in the cell in some way, thus making it even harder for evolution to ‘add up.’)

It will be interesting to see whether the NHM and OU will now withdraw the book from sale and update the work with the latest scientific findings for the sake of scientific accuracy. Or are they happy to knowingly present a ‘myth’ as scientific truth at the level of popular science? Failure to act will not inspire confidence in their position as guardians of standards in science education.

(The NHM still also has a video clip from 22nd May 2003 claiming 99.4% similarity – perhaps that needs removing as well) video clip

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28 Responses to NHM – 99% Ape – press release

  1. It’s becoming more and more evident that we are not debating science, but a cult.

  2. “Or are they happy to knowingly present a ‘myth’ as scientific truth at the level of popular science?”

    Perhaps you missed the Neo-Darwinian memo?

    /sarc

  3. Andrew I think you are getting a bit carried away. It is only a book title, presumably to get attention and sales.

    The 99% figure has not shown to be wrong although it is increasingly irrelevant. It is just that since that work was done many other ways have been developed of comparing Chimp DNA with human DNA and it was the method that gave the closest fit. The Jon Cohen article (which is just a bit of journalism by the way, consisting almost entirely of quotes from others in the field) explains this rather nicely. TYhe quote at the end of the article sums it up:

    “I don’t think there’s any way to calculate
    a number,” says geneticist Svante
    Pääbo, a chimp consortium member based at
    the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary
    Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. “In the
    end, it’s a political and social and cultural thing
    about how we see our differences.”

  4. I agree that the title of the book is misleading. Humans are, in fact, 100% ape.

  5. I fail to see any logical reason why the genetic divergence percentage should be of any concern to ID proponents. It’s pretty obvious that the percentage you end up with depends of the matching criteria you use. If you use the standard matching criteria accepted by the large majority of the genetic research community, then the 98-99% figure cited is fine. If you add in indel (insertions and deletions) length as your criteria you can get it down to 95%. Toss in non-coding regions and you get to the low 90’s. If you pull ridiculous matching criteria out of your nether regions like Buggs did you can get down to the 70’s.

    The point is, no matter what criteria you pick (just point substitutions, indel length, include non-coding regions, etc,) and apply it uniformly across all animal comparisons you get the exact same phylogenetic tree with the exact same relative genetic divergence. The nested hierarchy formed by the genetic data still lines up with an amazing degree of accuracy to the morphological nested hierarchy of the fossil record. You still have quite conclusive evidence for common descent. I was under the impression that the ID paradigm accepted common descent. Is that wrong?

    The only people who this evidence should bother is the Literal Biblicists who are bound to gainsay any piece of scientific data that shows humans aren’t their own specially created ‘kind’, different and distinct from chimps and other animals. And again, even if you pick a match criteria (smell?) that gets the percentage down even lower, it won’t change the fact that humans are genetically closer to chimps than dogs are genetically close to foxes, supposedly members of the same ‘kind’.

    It’s pretty hard to buy the “we’re only interested in scientific accuracy” argument presented here. If that was the case, then why aren’t the standard scientific channels (i.e. publishing in the relevant literature) being used to argue the case for different match criteria?

    So what’s the problem? We all know ID is not about religion, right?

  6. Re 4

    Excellent – thanks. How dumb of me to think ape = chimp.

  7. From the OP:

    Not having read the book, it probably would not be fair to comment further. But as noted leading journals such as Science have called the figure of 1% a ‘myth’. (Relative Differences: The Myth of 1%, Jon Cohen, Science, 316, 29 June 2007: 1836). (The ENCODE research project has also revealed that the bulk of DNA should no longer be classified as junk with at least 93% coded in the cell in some way, thus making it even harder for evolution to ‘add up.’)

    If it would not be fair to comment further on a book you haven’t read, why did you comment further?

  8. thornton,

    “If it would not be fair to comment further on a book you haven’t read, why did you comment further?”

    What was commented on was the ’99%’, not any book’s contents save for that title reference.

    Mark Frank,

    “So what’s the problem? We all know ID is not about religion, right?”

    What makes you think the only people who would object to the 99% nonsense are stringent biblical literalists, when you’re well aware that…

    “In the end, it’s a political and social and cultural thing about how we see our differences.”

    I accept evolution and common descent. But if the 99% figure is ‘increasingly irrelevant’ – and I agree it is – then it’s worth pointing that out, and quite possibly complaining. Just as you can see non-scientific motivations in people pointing out the flaws or deception in promoting the ’99% myth’, so too can others see non-scientific motivations in promoting said 99% concept.

  9. Thornton,
    The 99% myth also leads people to believe that it is very easy to get big changes by chance mutation. Just one percent and you get speech, the ability to plan for the future, much greater self-control, weeping and hundreds of other mental and physical changes. It supports the ultimate darwinian myth: chance mutation can easily account for complex and beneficial changes to species.

  10. Collin [9]: “The 99% myth also leads people to believe that it is very easy to get big changes by chance mutation. Just one percent and you get speech, the ability to plan for the future, much greater self-control, weeping and hundreds of other mental and physical changes. It supports the ultimate darwinian myth: chance mutation can easily account for complex and beneficial changes to species.”

    But that’s exactly what the current genetic evidence shows. Just look at some of the research on HOX genes and body plans, for instance. Or look at the research on the human FOXP2 gene, thought to be a key evolutionary component in human speech.

    And if you don’t accept common descent, how do you account for the matching twin nested hierarchies of the genetic and fossil records?

    Can anyone answer definitively – does the ID position accept common descent or not? If so, how far back in time does the common descent go?

    It’s hard to keep track of ID arguments since every ID proponent seems to have his own ideas on independent design vs. front loading vs. common descent. They can’t all be right, so who do I believe and why?

  11. Excellent point, Collin.

    Apparently with a 1% (or less) change in genome, chimpanzees can be biologists.

    Cornelius and Zira are going to be pleased with our progress. :D

  12. Why are my comments now being blocked?

  13. Cornelius and Zira are going to be pleased with our progress.

    I see what you did there. Good one. :)

  14. 99% (and any close number) is not supported by any of recent researches.
    If you don’t mind propaganda based on lies there’s nothing to talk about indeed.

  15. thornton ID doesn’t say anything about common descent, you can follow ID and agree with any position on origins.

  16. nullasalus [8]: “I accept evolution and common descent. But if the 99% figure is ‘increasingly irrelevant’ – and I agree it is – then it’s worth pointing that out, and quite possibly complaining. Just as you can see non-scientific motivations in people pointing out the flaws or deception in promoting the ‘99% myth’, so too can others see non-scientific motivations in promoting said 99% concept.”
    What are these non-scientific motivations of which you speak? Do you have any evidence they were the driving force behind this book?

    I agree with your point that bad science should be corrected, but what should the percentage be corrected to? Can you please tell me what percentage divergence between human and chimp DNA you would accept, and how you justify which match criteria you chose to determine that percentage?

  17. GSV [15]: ID doesn’t say anything about common descent, you can follow ID and agree with any position on origins.
    I know it’s forbidden to ask about the identity of the designer, but is it also true that ID theory says nothing about the design itself?

    ID theory doesn’t identify the designer.
    ID theory doesn’t explain the design process used in the original design.
    ID theory doesn’t explain the assembly process used in the original design.
    ID theory doesn’t explain when the original design took place.
    ID theory doesn’t explain where the original design took place.
    ID theory doesn’t explain how or by what mechanisms the original design has changed over time.

    Can you tell me, specifically, what current ID theory does explain?

  18. tremor [14]: 99% (and any close number) is not supported by any of recent researches.
    If you don’t mind propaganda based on lies there’s nothing to talk about indeed.

    Really? This 2005 paper in Nature seems to be pretty recent.

    ****************************

    Initial sequence of the chimpanzee genome and comparison with the human genome.
    Nature 437, 69-87 (1 September 2005)

    Abstract: Here we present a draft genome sequence of the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). Through comparison with the human genome, we have generated a largely complete catalogue of the genetic differences that have accumulated since the human and chimpanzee species diverged from our common ancestor, constituting approximately thirty-five million single-nucleotide changes, five million insertion/deletion events, and various chromosomal rearrangements. We use this catalogue to explore the magnitude and regional variation of mutational forces shaping these two genomes, and the strength of positive and negative selection acting on their genes. In particular, we find that the patterns of evolution in human and chimpanzee protein-coding genes are highly correlated and dominated by the fixation of neutral and slightly deleterious alleles. We also use the chimpanzee genome as an outgroup to investigate human population genetics and identify signatures of selective sweeps in recent human evolution.

    Summary of results: Our results confirm many earlier observations, but notably challenge some previous claims based on more limited data. The genome-wide data also allow some questions to be addressed for the first time. (Here and throughout, we refer to chimpanzee–human comparison as representing hominids and mouse–rat comparison as representing murids—of course, each pair covers only a subset of the clade.) The main findings include:

    * Single-nucleotide substitutions occur at a mean rate of 1.23% between copies of the human and chimpanzee genome, with 1.06% or less corresponding to fixed divergence between the species.
    * Regional variation in nucleotide substitution rates is conserved between the hominid and murid genomes, but rates in subtelomeric regions are disproportionately elevated in the hominids.
    * Substitutions at CpG dinucleotides, which constitute one-quarter of all observed substitutions, occur at more similar rates in male and female germ lines than non-CpG substitutions.
    * Insertion and deletion (indel) events are fewer in number than single-nucleotide substitutions, but result in approx1.5% of the euchromatic sequence in each species being lineage-specific.
    * There are notable differences in the rate of transposable element insertions: short interspersed elements (SINEs) have been threefold more active in humans, whereas chimpanzees have acquired two new families of retroviral elements.
    * Orthologous proteins in human and chimpanzee are extremely similar, with approx29% being identical and the typical orthologue differing by only two amino acids, one per lineage.
    * The normalized rates of amino-acid-altering substitutions in the hominid lineages are elevated relative to the murid lineages, but close to that seen for common human polymorphisms, implying that positive selection during hominid evolution accounts for a smaller fraction of protein divergence than suggested in some previous reports.
    * The substitution rate at silent sites in exons is lower than the rate at nearby intronic sites, consistent with weak purifying selection on silent sites in mammals.
    * Analysis of the pattern of human diversity relative to hominid divergence identifies several loci as potential candidates for strong selective sweeps in recent human history.”

    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....04072.html

    *************************

    I’d hate to think I was being misled. Can you please point out the lies used for propaganda in the paper? Of course it would be useful if you also showed how you determined them to be lies.

    Thanks!

  19. 19

    Thornton,

    I think a better question would be that if, by using different criteria, one could claim that the genetic difference was 99% or 80% with equal scientific footing, why would all the major scientific media decide to use the 99% value?

    The question isn’t how much “we” would accept, the question is why promote 99% as if it is a meaningful scientific fact?

    It’s not a meaningful scientific fact, it’s materialist, darwinian ideological rhetoric being presented as hard scientific fact supported by an extreme interpretation of evidence that is, and has been, in a great amount of flux. It presents the figure AS IF (to a layman) all of science is in agreement with that figure.

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to state that estimates vary, that the evidence is highly interpetable, andclaims of similarites range from 70 or 80%, to 99%?

    It seems that would be the more wise, cautious, and scientifically accurate statement.

  20. What if we were 99% ape?
    “Genius is 1% inspiration – 99% prespiration.”

    And there are people that prespire like they’re 99% ape.

  21. William J. Murray [19]: I think a better question would be that if, by using different criteria, one could claim that the genetic difference was 99% or 80% with equal scientific footing, why would all the major scientific media decide to use the 99% value?

    Because the criteria that provides the 99% match number, a comparison of specific point mutations at corresponding genetic loci, is the one agreed upon as best by virtually all professional geneticists. One cannot just claim other values should be given “equal scientific footing” without providing compelling reasons.

    The question isn’t how much “we” would accept, the question is why promote 99% as if it is a meaningful scientific fact?
    Because it is a meaningful scientific fact to professional geneticists. That the empirical evidence rubs Creationists the wrong way is not science’s problem.

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to state that estimates vary, that the evidence is highly interpetable, andclaims of similarites range from 70 or 80%, to 99%?

    No, because that would paint a false picture of there being an even distribution of opinions among geneticists for the different interpretations when in fact there is virtually universal agreement on one value. It’s the old Creationist “teach the controversy” where there is no major scientific controversy canard.

  22. Faith has enormous power. If you belive those yellow pills will heal your disease – they will.
    If one belives that he’s (only) an animal, an ape – (only) an ape he is indeed. Here’s the freedom that comes with this good news: there’s no objective morality and people can shape morality and law according to their desires.

    Those who claim that chimps deserve the same rights as we do, should go and negotiate two way agreement with our closest relatives.

  23. tremor [22]: Faith has enormous power. If you belive those yellow pills will heal your disease – they will.
    If one belives that he’s (only) an animal, an ape – (only) an ape he is indeed. Here’s the freedom that comes with this good news: there’s no objective morality and people can shape morality and law according to their desires.

    And if one believes peer reviewed scientific papers are full of lies and propaganda, one will see lies and propaganda no matter what is written, and no matter that such empty claims are easily rebutted.

  24. Thornton: “Can you tell me, specifically, what current ID theory does explain?”

    Can you tell me, specifically, what current Darwinian theory does explain?

    Anything that cannot be explaind is a ‘chance’ or ‘we-will-see-in-tha-future-thing’.

    “ID theory doesn’t identify the designer.
    ID theory doesn’t explain the design process used in the original design.
    ID theory doesn’t explain the assembly process used in the original design.
    ID theory doesn’t explain when the original design took place.
    ID theory doesn’t explain where the original design took place.
    ID theory doesn’t explain how or by what mechanisms the original design has changed over time.”

    Because The Design is the subject of research. It is the difference. Darwinians made a theory and think it is right and answers every question (answer is, of course: ‘chance’). IDs search for answers, observe and think about how this mechanism (because mechanism exists) was created, when it was created and by Who it was created. IDs does not think or say that they know everything. IDs don’t know strict answer.. It may be chance. It may be UFO. It may be the God. By it have to be checked.

  25. 25

    What if we were 99% ape?

    According to wikipedia, humans are apes. So why is any of this 99% stuff necessary? I mean, if humans really are apes, why does anyone need to prove that humans are apes?

  26. “One cannot just claim other values should be given “equal scientific footing” without providing compelling reasons.”

    So you are tacitly asserting that Buggs, and others who find different figures do not believe they have compelling reasons? I find that hard to believe. Why not just be honest and admit that there is dissent rather than trying to put up a smokescreen and ignoring opposing viewpoints?

    “Because it is a meaningful scientific fact to professional geneticists. That the empirical evidence rubs Creationists the wrong way is not science’s problem.”

    You are speaking out of your own predjudices. There is no such dichotomy.

    “No, because that would paint a false picture of there being an even distribution of opinions among geneticists for the different interpretations when in fact there is virtually universal agreement on one value.”

    So it’s better to lie in favor of standard dogma than to forget to pontificate arguments from authority to well meaning individuals?

  27. As the great man said; “But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, [if developed by evolution], are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” [Letter to W. Graham, July 3rd, 1881]
    So the more Darwinists turn man into an ape, the less reliable scientific statements become.

  28. @thorton
    Really? This 2005 paper in Nature seems to be pretty recent.
    Imagine I know this paper. It deals with Initial sequence. Only 76% of genomes were compared. What about the rest?

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