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Mar 13 2014

I didn’t come from no monkey, updated

I was looking over the Discovery Institute’s Evolution News and Views site, prior to forgetting about it. I mentioned that I am forced to revamp my email handling and was going to be blocking a lot of noise from my work address, and as I was reviewing what domains I needed to allow through, I noticed that boy-howdy, I get a lot of crappy spam from the Discovery Institute (all of which is now getting blocked). So I actually bothered to go through one of their links and see what they’re babbling about now.

General impression: the Discovery Institute is really obsessed with Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. They’re flailing about angrily about how it’s just bad and awful and a serious threat. Good work, Neil deGrasse Tyson, you’re obviously doing something right!

The other thing that has them worked up, though, surprised me a little bit: they’re kind of peeved that scientists keep pointing to this evidence that humans and chimpanzees are close relatives, and they throw around a lot of sciencey words trying to cast doubt on the idea that we’re related. They don’t come out and openly deny it, exactly — but it’s still the stupid old yokel’s denial that they didn’t come from no monkey, stated a little more ornately to make it sound less stupid. They failed; it still sounds stupid. But have no fear, they’ve put their Top Man and Chief Scienceologist, Casey Luskin, on the job.

Oh, wait. That makes it even stupider.

It should be pointed out first that ID does not have an “official” position on common descent. Guided common descent would be compatible with intelligent design. However, many ID theorists do question the evidence offered for universal shared ancestry.

Scratch an ID theorist, and what do you find? Just another dumb evolution denier. Common descent, and in particular the close relationship between humans and other apes, is not in question at all, but the Discovery Institute can’t even muster an official position on it. Other basic science questions the Discovery Institute will not say a word about: the age of the earth, whether the human race was reduced to an 8 person bottleneck by a big flood 4,000 years ago, Jesus: magic man or genetic engineer?, and just how ignorant is Casey Luskin, anyway?

The way Luskin questions the shared ancestry of humans and chimpanzees is to simply dump, with virtually no explanation, lists of legitimate scientific papers that show various common genetic properties. Codon frequency can affect transcription rates, so synonymous changes in nucleotides of a sequence may have phenotypic effects; yes, this is true. Position effects can also affect phenotype; this is also true — translocations, movement of a chunk of DNA from one location to a different one, can modify gene expression. Pseudogenes aren’t always free from selectional constraints, and sometimes also modulate the expression of other genes — yeppers. These are also all basic facts that we’ve known for decades, that have been worked out by scientists, not creationists, and that have absolutely no relevance to the question of whether chimpanzees and humans are closely related. They say that there are many complicated ways in which variation can arise in a lineage, that it’s difficult to reduce the degree of difference between two species to a single number, but everyone who does any bioinformatics at all already knows that.

For instance, here are two sequences. How different are they from one another? Can you give me a simple number that summarizes the variation?

1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J

1-2-3-4-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-5-6-7-8-9-10-I-J

Biologists are already intimately familiar with the difficulty of describing the variation in sequence between species. If it were just a matter of a string of DNA accumulating point mutations, it would be relatively easy, and we could simply measure how many positions had acquired a novel nucleotide, but mutations can be all kinds of other things, like translocations or inversions or deletions or duplications. So Casey Luskin high-handedly informing us that measuring variation is more difficult than just enumerating a linear series of nucleotide changes is absolutely nothing new, and telling us that pairwise comparisons are complex, therefore we should doubt the relationship between two primates, is utterly bogus and logically fallacious.

The question should be, “if we compare the differences between chimpanzee and human genomes, messy and complicated as they are, are they less different from one another than, say, the human and gorilla genomes? Or the human and mouse genomes? Or the human and fly genomes?” Just comparing any two species can only tell you that they have differences and similarities; you need to do multiple comparisons between different species and an outgroup to get a feel for the relative magnitude of differences.

Luskin’s only approach, carried to an excruciating degree, is to simply say there sure are a lot of differences between humans and chimpanzees (six million years of divergence will do that), therefore it is reasonable to question their relatedness. Yeah, and my brother is a few inches taller than I am and has red hair, therefore we can’t possibly be related.

Casey Luskin isn’t the only IDiot on staff at IDiot Central. They also have Ann Gauger. She does exactly the same thing, citing a Science article that discusses the difficulties of quantifying the differences between genomes. It also points out that the subtle differences can be immensely significant, which Gauger makes much of.

Here are some large-scale differences that get overlooked in the drive to assert our similarity. Our physiology differs from that of chimps. We do not get the same diseases, our brain development is different, even our reproductive processes are different. Our musculoskeletal systems are different, permitting us to run, to throw, to hold our heads erect. We have many more muscles in our hands and tongues that permit refined tool making and speech.

Golly, yes. We’re different from chimpanzees. We do things they don’t, and they do things we don’t. My brother has red hair, and mine is brown. None of this is controversial, or in any way challenges the idea of relatedness or degree of relatedness. To do that, you have to compare multiple lineages and quantify all these variations — we go beyond simple nucleotide counts, for instance, to ask how many duplications? How many regulatory changes? How many deletions? And when we measure those, doing more than just asking how many bases are different between two different genes, we also get measures of relatedness. And they line up!

Gauger notably fails to refer to the figure in the article she cites.

Throughout evolution, the gain (+) in the number of copies of some genes and the loss (–) of others have contributed to human- chimp differences.

Throughout evolution, the gain (+) in the number of copies of some genes and the loss (–) of others have contributed to human- chimp differences.

Why, Ann, why? Because it actually demolishes your whole argument by demonstrating degrees of similarity between different species using a different index, the number of gene duplications and deletions? If you want to question chimp/human propinquity, you don’t get to simply ignore the data we use to justify that.

But of course, Gauger wants to argue that the unique attributes of humans are somehow especially special and deserve special consideration — that they completely set us apart from other animals.

Going beyond the physical, we have language and culture. We are capable of sonnets and symphonies. We engage in scientific study and paint portraits. No chimp or dolphin or elephant does these things. Humans are a quantum leap beyond even the highest of animals. Some evolutionary biologists acknowledge this, though they differ in their explanations for how it happened.

You know, I would agree that we carry out certain things to a greater degree than other animals — we do have more elaborate language, more intricate technologies, much more complex art. But other animals exhibit curiosity, playfulness, exploration, communication, and we can look at a chimpanzee, for instance, and see attributes that we’ve amplified and expanded. The roots of our humanity are patent in other species, and we are not qualitatively unique. Furthermore, other species have abilities we don’t. Can you sing under water and have your music transmitted over hundreds of miles of ocean? Can you wash your car with your nose? Aren’t you a little bit embarrassed by the puniness of your teeth?

But Gauger is oblivious to the astounding beauty of other organisms — it’s all about us.

In truth, though, we are a unique, valuable, and surprising species with the power to influence our own futures by the choices we make. If we imagine ourselves to be nothing more than animals, then we will descend to the level of animalism. It is by exercising our intellects, and our capacity for generosity, foresight, and innovation, all faculties that animals lack, that we can face the challenges of modern life.

Generosity? Has Ann Gauger never had a dog?

As for innovation, yeah, I agree. Humans do have some novelties. Here’s a paper about the de novo origin of human protein-coding genes, that compared those chimpanzee and human genomes looking for just the unique genes in the human lineage (this is only one measure of difference, of course; they are not looking at location or sequence comparisons, just what genes are brand spankin’ new and not shared at all with chimps). They found a few.

Many new genes, generated by diverse mechanisms including gene duplication, chimeric origin, retrotransposition, and de novo origin, are specifically expressed or function in the testes. Henrik Kaessmann hypothesized that the testis is a catalyst and crucible for the birth of new genes in animals. First, the testes is the most rapidly evolving organ due in part to its roles in sperm competition, sexual conflict, and reproductive isolation. Second, Henrik Kaessmann speculated that the chromatin state in spermatocytes and spermatids should facilitate the initial transcription of newly arisen genes. The reason for this is that there is widespread demethylation of CpG enriched promoter sequences and the presence of modified histones in spermatocytes and spermatids, causing an elevation of the levels of components of the transcriptional machinery, permitting promiscuous transcription of nonfunctional sequences, including de novo originated genes.

Behold my ball sack, noble repository of all that is precious and special and extraordinary and exceptional in mankind. How come the creationists never have time to praise the mighty testicle, and are always going on and on about sonnets and symphonies and such?

I am quite comfortable with my status as an animal. I have a lot of respect for other organisms, and I can also recognize traits that are particularly human. Why this puts creationists on edge is a mystery: I just blame it on their ignorance.

88 comments

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  1. 1
    =8)-DX

    If we imagine ourselves to be nothing more than animals, then we will descend to the level of animalism.

    Oh no, she’s right! Mammality is creeping over me! I feel I’m descending to the level of multicellularity! If we imagine ourselves to be nothing more than atoms, then we must I insist must descend to the level of atomism! Any more descent and soon humans will be at the level of particle physics and one day we may even descend so low as to reach the level of basic logic: preposterous!

  2. 2
    Crimson Clupeidae

    …and religion. Their ignorance and religion are pretty much at fault.

  3. 3
    petemoulton

    “…and just how ignorant is Casey Luskin, anyway?”

    The scale that could measure this hasn’t been invented yet.

  4. 4
    dean

    If they are unhappy about COSMOS then the are likely thrilled with the “editing error” done by a Fox station in Oklahoma, where 15 seconds was cut from the first episode: it just happened to be the 15 seconds in which the word “evolution” was mentioned.

    In what appeared to be an editing error, a Fox affiliate in Oklahoma managed to remove the only mention of evolution from Sunday night’s Cosmos science documentary by cutting only 15 seconds from the broadcast.

    http://crooksandliars.com/2014/03/oklahoma-fox-station-cuts-evolution-cosmos

  5. 5
    karmacat

    Translation: “wahhh.. humans are not special.. we are not special.” they are afraid that evolution means they are not special, that no one will remember them after they die. I always imagine that dogs think we are really stupid when it comes to detecting odors and that cats think we are bad hunters.

  6. 6
    raven

    We do not get the same diseases, our brain development is different, even our reproductive processes are different. Our musculoskeletal systems are different, permitting us to run, to throw, to hold our heads erect. We have many more muscles in our hands and tongues that permit refined tool making and speech.

    Basically gibberish.

    Sure we are different from chimpanzees. That is why we aren’t…chimpanzees.

    So is my cat. All species by definition differ from each other.

    We are however, more similar to chimps than any other extant animal.

    We do not get the same diseases, This is more or less false. We share a huge number of diseases in common with chimps. They are the only animal model for hepatitis B. They get polio. They get AIDS from HIV, the only natural animal model. In fact, the main HIV came from…chimps.

  7. 7
    Manuel Dornbusch

    “For instance, here are two sequences. How different are they from one another? Can you give me a simple number that summarizes the variation?
    1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J
    1-2-3-4-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-5-6-7-8-9-10-I-J”

    Levenshtein Distance: 14
    *SCNR*

  8. 8
    PZ Myers

    It’s worse than gibberish. It makes just enough sense to totally mislead the ignorant.

  9. 9
    PZ Myers

    #7, Manuel Dornbusch:

    Yes, there are different methods for measuring differences. Tell someone the Levenshtein distance, though, and 99% of the time they’ll say, “Huh?”

    Also, I should have mentioned that when you look at those two sequences, an algorithmic description suggests itself easily, and that the algorithm also happens to reflect common genetic mechanisms of sequence modification. “copy chunk A-H to space between 4-5″. One step.

  10. 10
    raven

    In truth, though, we are a unique, valuable, and surprising species with the power to influence our own futures by the choices we make.

    This is true. We are special, the dominant species on the planet. As PZ pointed out a few days ago, something like 80% of the large animal biomass on the planet are humans and their associated animals, mostly cows. The only intelligent tool user with a technological civilization.

    But it has nothing to do with the gods. It has to do with being survivors of 3.8 billion years of evolution with the largest brain on the planet.

    If we imagine ourselves to be nothing more than animals, then we will descend to the level of animalism.

    False statement. We are animals, mammals to be specific. Even most xians worldwide accept evolution and there are a billion No Religions. We haven’t descended to the level of animals whatever the hell that means.

    My cat sits on the window sill and watches the birds in the feeder. And sleeps a lot. I still go to work and don’t fit on the window sill anyway.

    It is by exercising our intellects, and our capacity for generosity, foresight, and innovation, all faculties that animals lack, that we can face the challenges of modern life.

    I missed the part where only fundie creationist xians have the capacity for generosity, foresight, and innovation. On average they score lower than the general population in education and intelligence and just get in the way. They are baggage being dragged along behind us and holding us back.

  11. 11
    pacal

    Once again ID proponents show they are little different from old style Young Earth Creationists. The fact they can’t say the Earth is c. 4.5 billion years old despite the overwhelming evidence for it is telling.

  12. 12
    dannorth

    But still I think that creationists have their place in science. Not in biology but rather in physics.

    It is my opinion that their existence corroborates string theory given that their arguments can only be the product of minds shaped like 11 dimensional corkscrews.

  13. 13
    Amphiox

    Re @12;

    Your hypothesis is intriguing, but observation of creationist minds thus far are coming up 10 dimensions short….

  14. 14
    Louis

    PZ,

    Behold my ball sack, noble repository of all that is precious and special and extraordinary and exceptional in mankind.

    {GASP} BOLLOCK WORSHIP!. PZ’s an MRA. You heard it here first folks.

    Either that or, even more terrifyingly, after decades of utterly pointless knob jokes on Talk.Origins, here and elsewhere, I have finally had an effect on PZ. I am taking over the world, one knob joke victim at a time.

    Clearly these are the only two valid interpretations, and they are absolutely related via a common ancestor, the MRA joke. Because mocking misogynists is, and we should be honest about this, fucking hilarious.

    Louis

  15. 15
    Amphiox

    I don’t know how “special” being the dominant land species really is. There was a time (quite a bit longer than we’ve been around in fact) when Lystrosaurus was the dominant land animal. I’ve even heard it claimed that they made up by themselves over 80% of the animal biomass without having to do something so lame as shoehorn in a domesticate into the count.

    And where are they now?

  16. 16
    Michael James Cobb

    “Going beyond the physical, we have language and culture. We are capable of sonnets and symphonies. We engage in scientific study and paint portraits. No chimp or dolphin or elephant does these things. Humans are a quantum leap beyond even the highest of animals. ”

    It seems to me that if this rather elitist paragraph is taken at face value then there are a number of different human species. After all, I have never written either a sonnet or symphony. The characteristics that the author waxes poetically about are the domain of a very few. A very very few.. Is the implication that the rest of us are not human?

    What stupidity.

  17. 17
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Of course we aintent monkeys. We are ctrarrhini (which (when combined with platyrrhini) is part of haplorhini).

  18. 18
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    All hail tpyos: “ctarrhini” should, of course, be catarrhini. Sorry.

  19. 19
    Bronze Dog

    Sometimes I wonder if Creationists are unable to grasp concepts like supergroups and subsets. When they straw man “we should act like animals,” because we categorize humans as animals, they don’t realize that we’re actually making the point that all human behavior is a subset of animal behavior because we’re animals. We’re advocating that our categories and definitions be grounded in observed reality, not that we should change reality (our behavior) to conform with their outdated definitions that float in the ether. Of course, many of them are Platonists who seem to think that words are magic and more real than the entities they are used to describe.

  20. 20
    raven

    Humans are a quantum leap beyond even the highest of animals. Some evolutionary biologists acknowledge this, though they differ in their explanations for how it happened.

    None of this is true either.

    We see the beginnings of language, culture, tool use, and morality in nonhman primates and even some birds.

    Tool users are found in chimps and they pass this along culturally. Some birds are tool users. We can teach apes sign language or computer communication with icons. Steve Pinker and others are investigating the beginnings of moral systems, demonstrated in rudimentary forms by other primates.

    What we see in humans is huge advances of what was already present in our ancient forebears. Evolution exlains this easily.

    Some evolutionary biologists acknowledge this, though they differ in their explanations for how it happened.

    They differ in their hypotheses of the details of how it happened. No biologists doubt that we evolved. The salient characters of humans are bipedalism, speech, good hands, tool use, and large brains. The fossil record indicates that bipedalism and hands came first, big brains later. When speech and fire use came in is a subject of current research.

  21. 21
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @Bronze Dog:

    Heretic! Logician!

    We all know the danger of this approach. Not only will those who imagine themselves to be only animals act like animals, but those particle physics junkies who imagine themselves to be a mess of quarks and gluons and photons will behave like quantum particles!

    That’s why there are so many psych wards full up of physics professors who insist that they’ve been popping out of, and back into, existence at random times that nonetheless accord to statistically interesting distributions of probability!

    Even worse, it leads to the inevitable, but terrible fate of physics professors getting all the best mating opportunities as they are the only ones on the dance floor who are – from the same frame of reference – able to spin both clockwise and counterclockwise at the same time.

    This horror must be stopped!

  22. 22
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @raven, #20:

    None of this is true either.

    To be fair, I think she was using “quantum leap” as a metaphor. If it’s a metaphor, being a “quantum leap beyond” other animals becomes a Dumptyism, and is no longer truth-apt.

    To be fairer, I think her understanding of the original meaning of “quantum leap” off which she bases her metaphor is as deep, precise, and accurate as her understanding of the scientific meaning of “theory” or “evolution”. As a defense against your, “none of this is true”, “not even wrong” is hardly the most desirable, even if in this case it is the only defense available.

  23. 23
    Amphiox

    Re: chimpanzees and gorillas at least in captivity have painted portraits. They have even named their work.

    http://www.koko.org/world/art_portraits.html

  24. 24
    Desert Son, OM

    Another one to add to the cultural-change list: Reclaiming the word “animal” from the pejorative and reinforcing its place as a category descriptor in a taxonomic system.

    I am an animal. I share many characteristics and similarities with many other animals, from an endoskeleton to cellular structures to tool use to language to food/energy processing and waste expulsion.

    I am an animal. Nothing more. Also nothing less. It’s a good day to be an animal.

    . . . except on those days when it’s not because existence is often hard and cold and cruel and battering and wretched.

    But, uh, other than that, it’s a good day to be an animal.

    Still learning,

    Robert

  25. 25
    jamessweet

    Denial of common descent with the other great apes is something that has always puzzled me, even when I was young and naive and potentially open to, ahem, “alternative” interpretations of evolution. (Was never much of a creationist, but I did entertain the idea of directed panspermia for a brief period in high school, heh… mostly, I was just being contrarian — a posture that eventually grew into healthy skepticism as I understood how to harness it, but anyway, I digress…) I mean, dude, have you LOOKED at a primate? You, um, don’t notice a striking resemblance?

    I don’t need no fancy pants molecular biology or taxonomy or any of that book-learnin’ to tell me that my great-great-grandpappy was pretty obviously a monkey*. Seriously!

    * I mean monkey in the colloquial sense — or if you prefer, in the monophyletic sense — so please don’t call me on this technical lapse. You know what I mean. :p

  26. 26
    petemoulton

    Michael James Cobb @ 16. It’s all good, though. After all, Gauger doesn’t engage in scientific inquiry.

  27. 27
    busterggi

    Actually religionists are just an incredible example of convergent evolution. Although they appear to be animals/mammals/primates they are more closely related to houseplants – particularly in their mental processes.

  28. 28
    richardelguru

    “… We are capable of sonnets and symphonies. We engage in scientific study and paint portraits. …”

    I’d like to see a symphony created by Gouger (I bet I wouldn’t want to hear it).
    And I wonder how she is at sonnets and portraits. We already know she can’t do science.

    Does this mean she isn’t human?

  29. 29
    raven

    Human Viruses Kill Great Apes | LiveScience
    www. livescience. com/9565-human-viruses-kill-great-apes.html‎

    Jan 30, 2008 – More apes have gotten sick due to increased contact with humans. … “Virtually all diseases that can harm us can harm the great apes since we … There have also been concerns that gorillas contracted yaws, a disease related …

    Wild chimpanzees get AIDS-like illness : Nature News
    www. nature. com/news/2009/090722/full/news.2009.711.html‎

    Jul 22, 2009 – Some chimps in Gombe National Park have been succumbing to an AIDS-like disease. … that chimpanzees were like other non-human primates that can become … depleted — signs that also resembled those of human AIDS.

    I thought to see just how wrong Ann Gauger was about chimpanzees getting different diseases than humans.

    About totally. Great apes get just about all human viral diseases and many bacterial ones as well. Offhand, only chimps and humans get HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B.

  30. 30
    Marcus Ranum

    I feel special, therefore I am!

  31. 31
    Pierce R. Butler

    Last I heard, quantum leaps mostly occur between orbital shells within a single atom, and are measured (insofar as spatial distance means anything at such scales) in fractions of a micrometer.

  32. 32
    Gregory Greenwood

    Behold my ball sack, noble repository of all that is precious and special and extraordinary and exceptional in mankind. How come the creationists never have time to praise the mighty testicle, and are always going on and on about sonnets and symphonies and such?

    Given the not insubstantial degree of overlap between creationism and various strands of misogyny, I imagine many of them would have no difficultly whatsoever in hailing the mighty testical, and certainly in placing it far above those ignoble and corrupting woman parts.

    They might even write (most certainly really, really bad) sonnets and symphonies about the glory of its hairy ovoid-ness…

  33. 33
    Amphiox

    I’d like to see a symphony created by Gouger (I bet I wouldn’t want to hear it).
    And I wonder how she is at sonnets and portraits. We already know she can’t do science.

    Does this mean she isn’t human?

    I would hazard a guess that Gouger can’t do abstract painting as well as the gorillas Koko and Michael in the link a provided a bit back.

    I thought to see just how wrong Ann Gauger was about chimpanzees getting different diseases than humans.

    About totally. Great apes get just about all human viral diseases and many bacterial ones as well. Offhand, only chimps and humans get HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B.

    One of the BIGGEST cares that great ape researchers have when they go do field work is to make sure they don’t transmit a nasty human virus to their study population, because the Great Apes totally can catch those things, and things like influenza caught from nearby local human populations is one of the greatest threats to their species’ survival in the wild right now.

  34. 34
    Amphiox

    Given the not insubstantial degree of overlap between creationism and various strands of misogyny, I imagine many of them would have no difficultly whatsoever in hailing the mighty testical, and certainly in placing it far above those ignoble and corrupting woman parts.

    It’s strange, but in the history of human iconography, misogynistic or not, the phallus appears to me to have been a much more popular symbol to portray than the testicle.

    I wonder why that is?

  35. 35
    changerofbits

    It should be pointed out first that ID does not have an “official” position

    Really? You mean that ID is just an argument from ignorance of which you can’t derive “official” positions? Or is that your one source of “knowledge” of the intelligent designer, the Bible, has been explicitly removed because ID has nothing to do with the Bible? Say it ain’t so!

  36. 36
    irisvanderpluym

    If we imagine ourselves to be nothing more than animals, then we will descend to the level of animalism.

    If we imagine ourselves to be worthless sinners who deserve to burn in hell forever, I wonder what level we will descend to then?

    Frankly, animalism – whatever that is – would probably be a step up for these people. I had a pet gerbil with more sense.

  37. 37
    Don Quijote

    I’m so special but I can’t spin a web nor walk on the ceiling nor see in the dark without the help of science and technology.

    I can spin a yarn though.

  38. 38
    Menyambal

    http://www.cracked.com/article_20827_5-eerily-human-things-you-wont-believe-animals-do.html

    A quantum leap used to mean the smallest possible leap. It kinda became the magic change from one thing to another with no intervening transition.

    Back when I was young, I noticed that I differed from the average human most in the areas in which humans differed most from chimps—creativity, versatility, intelligence, hairlessness—but now that I am old and hairy, I realize that was silly. Still, I recognize that the religious people do not have those characteristics. Mostly because my seeming superiority was because I was surrounded by religious people.

  39. 39
    Amphiox

    I’m so special but I can’t spin a web nor walk on the ceiling nor see in the dark without the help of science and technology.

    Even for mental tasks performed by our oh-so-vaunted big human brain, there are many examples of animals species that completely outperform us in areas like memory, recall, pattern recognition, and so forth.

    Or particular little specialty is generalized, flexible intelligence (in which our uniqueness is not in kind but in degree), which allows to do things like invent nifty technologies, among other things.

    But if anyone thinks that’s an ability that automatically makes us “superior”, well, PZ already alluded to that one in an earlier thread, when he linked to this:

    http://www.stonemakerargument.com/6.html

  40. 40
    Howard Bannister

    Humans are a quantum leap beyond even the highest of animals.

    …so we bounce through space and time, occasionally possessing them and fixing the problems in their lives? That’s pretty cool.

    I mean, it makes more sense than anything else she might have meant to say.

  41. 41
    blf

    So how much of their caterwanking is because they are stupid, how much is because they take their acolytes to be even stupider, and how much is to impress the moneychangers who fund them and continue / increase their funding?

  42. 42
    Rex Little, Giant Douchweasel

    The diagram, combined with my near-total ignorance of this subject, raises some questions:

    1. The nearest common ancestor of primates and rodents is not an ancestor of dogs. Do we know this from fossil records or other direct physical evidence, or is it deduced from genome analysis?

    2. Is the nearest common ancestor of humans and chimps also an ancestor of the other great apes, or do you have to go back further for that?

    3. Where do pigs fit on this diagram? I’ve always understood that they’re the most intelligent of the non-primates, and that they share more diseases with us than most other species do.

    If someone would rather refer me to a link where I can find these answers rather than give them here, that would be fine. Thanks in advance.

  43. 43
    nomadiq

    In truth, though, we are a unique, valuable, and surprising species with the power to influence our own futures by the choices we make.

    Said every other animal, ever! (ok actually speaking is unique to humans). This is remarkably Human-centric thinking. Every species is “unique” especially if you think in terms of “kinds”. Actually, every living enitity is unique. How are we valuable? I mean beyond value to ourselves? And how is a baby elephant not valuable to its mother? Nothing surprises me more than the aggressive way in which an Australian Eastern Brown Snake curls up the part of its body near its head so it can attack… its actually damn freaky and amazing to see. _All_ living things influence their own future by choices they make.

    Finally let me add, Humans have the same god-damn stupid inability to see beyond their own small sphere of perspective, just like most other animals. DI demonstrates just how we are _not_ that special at all. Yes, we are just another animal – and not really that different from many others.

  44. 44
    thecalmone

    “boy-howdy”?

  45. 45
    chigau (違う)

    yup

  46. 46
    Pteryxx

    I see Louis (and Gregory) are all over the mighty ball sack… comment! comment, that is! so I’ll just add:

    First, the testes is the most rapidly evolving organ due in part to its roles in sperm competition, sexual conflict, and reproductive isolation.

    dafuq? What sort of a claim is that supposed to be? Sure, the testes are a couple of my favorite parts too, but they basically only vary in size, seasonality, and whether they’re internal or flapping in the wind. Have these folks even *looked at* antlers, species-specific coloration, cichlid patterns, manakin dances, or even just mammalian penises? There’s hundreds of wacky penises out there! Not to mention competitive evolution of the chemicals in seminal fluid, which would seem to elevate the prostate and its compatriots along with the female immune system on this field of glory. What about the rapid cycling of epithelial cells in the skin or intestinal lining, which makes them prone to producing cancers? Or the vast diversity generated (and selected, even) in white blood cells? Oh sure, they’re biased towards the only (male of course) organ that produces *germ* cells directly, of which a tiny few will ever contribute towards a future human, and that mostly by random chance from the testis’ point of view. There’s no great Rand-ian competition going on in there, however these folks might wish it so. <_< Y' want male germ cell competition, go look at corn.

  47. 47
    cuervocuero

    E. Scott noted Casey Luskin years ago as the foot soldier that shows up time and again to do the local ground work in the attempts to push legislation justifying not just creationism, but intensifying anti-science in classrooms, fronting whatever his bosses deem the argument du jour.

    The more I read and watch talks by Barbara Forrest and Eugenie Scott et al, the more I get the impression ‘special creation’ baffle gab like this by the DIsinformers is smokescreen chum to those trained by Christianity leaders to respond to panic cues, and the only serious goal of a cynical war room housed in a massive HQ is to build/maintain/enlarge a political defense field for religious ‘priest class’ power and influence in American (not exclusively, but it’s ground zero) society. Their long term strategies have been exposed often enough to look more psy-ops fifth columnists than service to Love.

    Given DI’s 1800s sources they ultimately draw upon(I wonder if the long tradition of those arguments comforts the believers that have heard them for generations), and grooming politicians like Jindal that have gained them ground in Louisana with the ‘academic freedom’ tangent, they look like part of a deliberate effort to stall/return America’s Gilded Age of the Antebellum and Postbellum (although not as much post I meanly ponder, given the efforts of fauxience ‘research’ pushing ‘natural’ inferiorities) War Between the States (For the Union?) society with Theocratic tinged aristocratic (thearistos?) authority to rule.

    History seems to be humming a familiar tune when it all comes together with the invigorated worship of the 1%, amid the economic crashes the investment bankers cause and the “stand your ground” power touted by the NRA.

    Too conspiracy minded?

  48. 48
    Amphiox

    1. The nearest common ancestor of primates and rodents is not an ancestor of dogs. Do we know this from fossil records or other direct physical evidence, or is it deduced from genome analysis?

    AFAIK, it was first determined by fossils, where carnivora was found to be the outgroup relative to rodentia and primates, and then confirmed with later genome analysis.

    2. Is the nearest common ancestor of humans and chimps also an ancestor of the other great apes, or do you have to go back further for that?

    The nearest common ancestor of humans and chimps is the also an ancestor of bonobos, but not any other of the great apes, who are all further related to the human/chimp/bonobo clade.

    3. Where do pigs fit on this diagram? I’ve always understood that they’re the most intelligent of the non-primates, and that they share more diseases with us than most other species do.

    They would be ungulates (arteriodactyls?) so they’d be another outgroup along with carnivora. Also, be very cautious when talking about “most intelligent” when discussing non-human animals, since intelligence in animals is tricky to define. At the very least, among mammals we would have to consider the elephants and the cetaceans. And beyond the mammals we have corvids and parrots. It also remains unclear exactly where the cephalopods slot in in all this.

  49. 49
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    In truth, though, we are a unique, valuable, and surprising species with the power to influence our own futures by the choices we make. If we imagine ourselves to be nothing more than animals, then we will descend to the level of animalism.

    Science promoters and educators would be well advised to pay more attention to the speciesism at the heart of creationism.

    ***

    I am quite comfortable with my status as an animal. I have a lot of respect for other organisms, and I can also recognize traits that are particularly human. Why this puts creationists on edge is a mystery: I just blame it on their ignorance.

    A society based on the oppression and exploitation of billions of nonhuman animals will tend to perpetuate an ideology that supports that oppression – in religion, in philosophy, and in the larger culture. (Science isn’t immune.) It’s similar (and related) to white male supremacist thinking in a system of racial and sexual oppression and exploitation. It can’t be fully dismantled as ideology without the parallel destruction of the system of oppression and exploitation.

  50. 50
    ChasCPeterson

    1. The nearest common ancestor of primates and rodents is not an ancestor of dogs. Do we know this from fossil records or other direct physical evidence, or is it deduced from genome analysis?

    The data are (almost?) entirely molecular. The fossil record for early eutherians sucks.

    2. Is the nearest common ancestor of humans and chimps also an ancestor of the other great apes, or do you have to go back further for that?

    No, humans are the sister species to the chimp and bonobo. Gorillas branch off before the chimp/human split, and orangs before that.

    3. Where do pigs fit on this diagram? I’ve always understood that they’re the most intelligent of the non-primates, and that they share more diseases with us than most other species do.

    Pigs are closer to dogs than to the group of rodents and primates. The parasites and diseases shared are probably due to ecological similarity and dense cohabitation in domestication more than to common ancestry.
    The most intelligent of the non-primates are ceteceans, followed probably by crows/ravens and parrots, then elephants and then pigs and dogs. Something like that.

  51. 51
    mabell

    ID: We’re too stupid to figure out whether common descent happened at all, but if it did happen, then it was clearly guided by the Intelligent Designer, just look at the evidence, it’s obvious, but it probably didn’t happen, just hedging our bets.

  52. 52
    rorschach

    We do not get the same diseases

    This is ignoring the fact that human viruses for a large part have developed from animal viruses, and jumped to us via farm animals.
    You’d think even Casey Luskin would know that Spanish invader microorganism disease killed the Mesoamericans and not the other way around. But hey, that’s our Casey.

  53. 53
    Amphiox

    The most intelligent of the non-primates are ceteceans, followed probably by crows/ravens and parrots, then elephants and then pigs and dogs. Something like that.

    Consider the following: https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/02/02/sorry-dolphins-aren-uniquely-intelligent/woQ8CE0S7XJKYjC6kDQh5J/story.html

    The “something like that” ends up in bigger, bolder type than everything else when we try to make these lists, at least with what we know right now…

  54. 54
    Carol Sperling

    We can’t discuss ball sacks without a quote from Balzac -
    “What is Art, monsieur, but Nature concentrated?”

  55. 55
    aaronbaker

    Behold my ball sack . . . .

    Thank you, but I’ve made other plans.

  56. 56
    robro

    Amphiox @#48

    be very cautious when talking about “most intelligent” when discussing non-human animals, since intelligence in animals is tricky to define.

    Indeed, as it is with humans, right? After all, we are animals.

  57. 57
    PZ Myers

    #46, Pteryxx:

    This will make Chas get all pissy, but you’re focused on morphology: the paper is talking about molecular characters, and those just wander all over the place. Sperm maturation and egg recognition proteins (and also sperm recognition proteins for the egg) are hot spots for variation, for a couple of the reasons mentioned in the quoted paragraph. You don’t want your sperm blowing their acrosomal wad when they bump into some random epithelial cell, or a lymphocyte drifting by, or a yeast cell growing in a warm damp place.

  58. 58
    ChasCPeterson

    This will make Chas get all pissy

    nah.
    Although if you’re not talking about morphology, then saying something is “the most rapidly evolving organ” is going to get you misunderstood a lot, an organ being a unit of, y’know, morphology.

  59. 59
    Rex Little, Giant Douchweasel

    So chimps are more closely related to us than to gorillas or orangs? VERY interesting. Seems like there ought to be a religion somewhere that believes they’re descended from humans who were cursed by a deity; the Norse would probably have attributed it to Loki if they’d known about chimps.

    I read somewhere (maybe here) that chimps and humans don’t have the same number of chromosomes. Did the common ancestor have the same number as chimps, humans or neither?

  60. 60
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I read somewhere (maybe here) that chimps and humans don’t have the same number of chromosomes. Did the common ancestor have the same number as chimps, humans or neither?

    Humans fused two common ancestor chromosomes into one, end to end. The genes are all there.

  61. 61
    Amphiox

    So chimps are more closely related to us than to gorillas or orangs? VERY interesting. Seems like there ought to be a religion somewhere that believes they’re descended from humans who were cursed by a deity; the Norse would probably have attributed it to Loki if they’d known about chimps.

    IIRC, there are some YEC who explicitly HAVE made that claim, that chimpanzees and other apes are descended from humans degenerated since the fall. A similar claim has been made for virtually every fossil human ancestor, that they’re not ancestors but descendents of the first created humans, degenerated by the fall.

  62. 62
    mnb0

    You don’t get it, PZ. The IDiots from Seattle totally accept evolution – just not Darwinistic evolution.
    I don’t get it either though.

  63. 63
    PZ Myers

    an organ being a unit of, y’know, morphology.

    A unit which is made up of patterned cells and molecules.

  64. 64
    Sili

    If we’re so damn special, then why can’t I synthesise my own vitamin C? And why can’t I see ultraviolet? Or polarisation? Or use echolocation?

  65. 65
    Menyambal

    Yeah, there are a couple of creationist groups that say that all fossil humanoids from us to something are degenerate or sick humans, and all the fossils from that same something on out are just chimps. The problem is that the different groups pick different dividing lines.

    I had not heard that anybody classed chimps as former humans, though. How do they prove that, I wonder.

  66. 66
    ChasCPeterson

    A unit which is made up of patterned cells and molecules.

    Reductionist!!

  67. 67
    David Marjanović

    Aren’t you a little bit embarrassed by the puniness of your teeth?

    Depends on which teeth. Any chimp would envy me for my molars. (And for my bite force. We have a really surprisingly strong bite for a vertebrate our size.)

    “…and just how ignorant is Casey Luskin, anyway?”

    The scale that could measure this hasn’t been invented yet.

    The Timecube scale offers a ready model, though.

    1.0 Hv is the ignorance of Kent Hovind. The scale is logarithmic, so that 0.7 is ten times as ignorant as 0.6. Values greater than 1.0 are theoretically possible, but… naaah.

    cats think we are bad hunters

    They do! That’s why they keep trying to teach us!

    You didn’t seriously believe that that dead mouse was an offering from an autotheist, did you?

    Even worse, it leads to the inevitable, but terrible fate of physics professors getting all the best mating opportunities as they are the only ones on the dance floor who are – from the same frame of reference – able to spin both clockwise and counterclockwise at the same time.

    ♥ ♥ ♥

    http://www.koko.org/world/art_portraits.html

    Oh wow.

    Another one to add to the cultural-change list: Reclaiming the word “animal” from the pejorative and reinforcing its place as a category descriptor in a taxonomic system.

    + 1

    1. The nearest common ancestor of primates and rodents is not an ancestor of dogs. Do we know this from fossil records or other direct physical evidence, or is it deduced from genome analysis?

    Increasingly both. The molécularistes noticed it first, but the morphologists have taken another look or three and found plenty of evidence, too.

    2. Is the nearest common ancestor of humans and chimps also an ancestor of the other great apes, or do you have to go back further for that?

    The latter, except for bonobos: chimps proper and bonobos are sister-groups, together forming the sister-group to us if we only count the living and gloss over the dead.

    3. Where do pigs fit on this diagram?

    Next to dogs, though not terribly close.

    ungulates (arteriodactyls?)

    Ouch. Artiodactyls have nothing to do with arteries.

    And there’s no such thing as an ungulate, or for that matter a pachyderm. :-)

    The fossil record for early eutherians sucks.

    It’s actually pretty good, except for the gap in time between Eomaia (plus contemporaries) and Juramaia. What you mean is the fossil record for early placentals…

    …and that is wonderful, it’s just that studying it is so much work that nobody has managed to publish yet. A great big phylogenetic analysis is about to come out, though; Thomas Halliday presented it ( = his entire PhD thesis) at last year’s meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

    acrosomal wad

    This should so be a technical term!!!

    So chimps are more closely related to us than to gorillas or orangs? VERY interesting.

    Has been textbook wisdom for something like 20 years now.

    And why can’t I see ultraviolet?

    You can see some near UV – if I take the lenses out of your eyes first. They’re ultra-yellow, not colorless.

    Or polarisation?

    You can, you’re just bad at it.

    Or use echolocation?

    Practice, young padawan. :-)

  68. 68
    Amphiox

    Ouch. Artiodactyls have nothing to do with arteries.

    Well, I suspect the bleed the same when we cut them…

  69. 69
    Amphiox

    So chimps are more closely related to us than to gorillas or orangs? VERY interesting. Seems like there ought to be a religion somewhere that believes they’re descended from humans who were cursed by a deity; the Norse would probably have attributed it to Loki if they’d known about chimps.

    In the other direction of things, I believe there is at least one Amazonian tribal religion that has humans descended from Howler Monkeys.

    They might be the closest any known human religion has ever gotten to the actual truth….

  70. 70
    Jerry

    I think a big part of the reason for creationists’ denying that we are animals is greedy selfishness, as well as the aforementioned egotism. If we are the masters of the planet and have “stewardship” of all of the animals and plants, then it follows that we are entitled to cause pollution and wholesale extinction and destruction of our ecology, cuz it’s all “God’s will”. If Gawd is a-comin’ back someday to make it all right, then He ain’t a gonna care if he comes back to a wasteland, so it’s okay to think only of yourself and be a selfish greedy polluting prick.

  71. 71
    Rex Little, Giant Douchweasel

    Has been textbook wisdom for something like 20 years now.

    It’s been a lot longer than that since I read a textbook. As I said in my first post of the thread, my ignorance of this subject is near total, though less so now than when I posted. Thank you to those responsible for that last part.

  72. 72
    only lal

    PZ,

    I’m so glad you wrote this. Stupid as they are, the Discovery Institute keeps publishing articles like this which can easily confuse laymen and students. So it is important that someone publishes a rebuttal that exposes their idiocy. Please don’t stop receiving email from the Discovery Institute, or at least please keep visiting their Evolution News & Views site regularly.

  73. 73
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    David Marjanović #67 & Sili #64

    Or use echolocation?

    Practice, young padawan. :-)

    Not the wild idea you might think it is.

  74. 74
    ChasCPeterson

    And there’s no such thing ^clade^ as an ungulate, or for that matter a pachyderm.

    ftfy

  75. 75
    only lal

    There’s a fast growing body of evidence showing that other animals exhibit many features that were once thought to be uniquely human.

    Dolphins address each other by names:
    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-23410137

    Elephants understand pointing:
    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-24459524

    Elephants can distinguish between different human voices:
    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-26488432

    Elephants exhibit empathy:
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/02/140221-elephants-poaching-empathy-grief-extinction-science/

    Chimps are better at video games than human children:
    http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2014/03/12/chimpanzees-can-play-video-games-better-than-kindergartners/

    Marmoset monkeys take turns while talking (much like humans):
    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-24566083

  76. 76
    David Marjanović

    On the ScienceBlogs version of this thread, BB-Idaho has written:

    Dr. Gauger makes her fake scientific pronouncements from a
    fake laboratory, and is listed at #140 in the Encyclopedia
    of American Loons.

    She was greenscreened into a Shutterstock photo of a lab.

    ░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░

    In the other direction of things, I believe there is at least one Amazonian tribal religion that has humans descended from Howler Monkeys.

    They might be the closest any known human religion has ever gotten to the actual truth….

    I sit in awe.

    …Red or black howler monkeys? :-)

    ftfy

    It was deliberate. I’m on the Committee for Phylogenetic Nomenclature and on the Publicity Committee of the International Society for Phylogenetic Nomenclature. :-)

  77. 77
    bognor

    Quoting PZ:

    Codon frequency can affect transcription rates, so synonymous changes in nucleotides of a sequence may have phenotypic effects; yes, this is true.

    I think you mean translation rates.

  78. 78
    aaronbaker

    Marmoset monkeys take turns while talking (much like humans)

    You haven’t met my relatives. I already suspected that some primates might be nicer.

  79. 79
    aaronbaker

    @75:

    And of course, to add to your list, chimpanzees use tools.

    I suspect the biologists here are so familiar with this one that their response is “Well, duh . . . .,” but it impressed the hell out of me when I learned it–and learned they don’t just use found objects, but modify them.

    http://www.janegoodall.ca/about-chimp-behaviour-tool-use.php

  80. 80
    Amphiox

    Those marmosets, iirc, actually are nicer on average than humans. They wait for each other to finish, and almost never interrupt each other.

    Corvids also will modify their tools. At least one to my knowledge was observed successfully navigating an 8 step challenge.

  81. 81
  82. 82
    Raging Bee

    …the stupid old yokel’s denial that they didn’t come from no monkey…

    What’s the alternative — that God made the stupid old yokel (or his slave-owning ancestors) in his image?

  83. 83
    Raging Bee

    In the other direction of things, I believe there is at least one Amazonian tribal religion that has humans descended from Howler Monkeys.

    There’s also the Norse religion, whose folktales allege (IIRC) that gods and frost-giants interbred to make humans, who started out brutish and ugly and got more civilized and better-looking with each succeeding generation. So that’s another religion that explicitly accepts some form of evolution, to the best of a primitive people’s understanding.

    All together now: “OOOOODIIIIINNN!!!

  84. 84
    Gregory Greenwood

    Amphiox @ 34;

    It’s strange, but in the history of human iconography, misogynistic or not, the phallus appears to me to have been a much more popular symbol to portray than the testicle.

    I wonder why that is?

    Some people simply have no appreciation for hairy ovoids. It’s all ‘look at that flashy tubular thing’. Style over substance, as usual…

    :-P

    ——————————————————————————————————————–

    Pteryxx @ 46;

    I see Louis (and Gregory) are all over the mighty ball sack…

    You know, I’m sure Louis and I (not to mention PZ) would have remembered something like that…

    … comment! comment, that is!

    Why, Pteryxx; I do think your mind might have strayed elsewhere for a moment there…

    Careful now – we don’t want to overstimulate the Horde with too much talk of mighty ball sacks, now do we?

  85. 85
    bodach

    So I’m getting close to retirement and can’t imagine working as a greeter at Walmart. I have been interested in science for quite a while and know many sciencey words. I’m thinking I might apply at the Disco Institute (I know where I can buy a lab coat). Perhaps I could join Casey and Ann and offer essays about that with which I have a passing familiarity, cutting and pasting from websites.

    Also, I tried your line “Behold my ball sack, noble repository of all that is precious and special and extraordinary and exceptional in mankind.” on my wife. I think she was amazed and astounded, but it was hard to determine what she said underneath the laughter.

  86. 86
    Anri

    Behold my ball sack

    Um, no?

    Yeah, no.

    Thanks, though.

    Really.

  87. 87
    ChasCPeterson

    It was deliberate.

    No doubt.
    Nevertheless, I have not changed my mind about the usefulness of names for some non-monophyletic groups, at least in vernacular conversation. Thus, there is such thing as an ungulate, even if there is no such formal taxon. imo.

    I’m on the Committee for Phylogenetic Nomenclature and on the Publicity Committee of the International Society for Phylogenetic Nomenclature.

    Not bad! Congratulations.
    (But that’s for formal scientific purposes only.)

  88. 88
    illyriamxo

    “I am quite comfortable with my status as an animal. I have a lot of respect for other organisms, and I can also recognize traits that are particularly human. Why this puts creationists on edge is a mystery”. — It’s because creationists prefer to believe that only the female half of the human race are animals…you know, how they see women as “closer to nature”, or like children, and therefore need to be kept under the control of men.

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