It's Cherry Picking Season (Updated) - Evolution News & Views

Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

Evolution News and Views
Evolution NEWS
 

It's Cherry Picking Season (Updated)

Science and Human Origins.jpgIn our exchange with Darwinist critics on the subject of human chromosome 2, at issue are "interstitial telomeric sequences (ITSs)." The critics argue that one of these, 2q13 ITS, provides evidence for a chromosomal fusion event that proves humans and chimps are descended from a common ancestor.

But there are hundreds of ITSs in mammalian genomes (including those of humans and chimps) that are clearly NOT due to a fusion event. Rather, these appear to be due to the action of an enzyme (telomerase) in repairing chromosome damage. Darwinists have picked the one case that happens to fit their argument, and ignored all the others. This is cherry picking.

Cherry picking has been used by Darwinists to prop up other arguments, too. An example was Francisco Ayala's choice of one particular coding region of the HLA-DRB1 gene to prove that the human species could not have originated with one man and one woman. As Ann Gauger wrote in Science and Human Origins, the gene region Ayala chose -- unlike the many gene regions he ignored -- was "guaranteed" to yield the sort of result he wanted. Similarly, Jerry Coyne argued that similarities in the vitamin C pseudogene proved the common ancestry of chimps and humans. As Jonathan Wells pointed out in The Myth of Junk DNA, however, Coyne ignored many dissimilarities in the chimp and human genomes that do not fit a pattern of common ancestry.

Returning to the chromosome 2 story, this is ground we've covered here already, long before the publication of Science and Human Origins. Back in 2009, Richard Sternberg wrote in "Guy Walks Into a Bar and Thinks He's a Chimpanzee: The Unbearable Lightness of Chimp-Human Genome Similarity":

I try to outline all the functions of telomeric repeats, but my friend tells me that I am getting off the subject.

He wants to me to focus on the ITSs, the tracks of the hexamer TTAGGG that reside within chromosome arms or around the centromere, not at the ends. I tell him that I was just coming to that topic. The story, you see, is that in the lineage leading up (or down, I forget which) to chimps and humans, a fusion of chromosome ends occurred -- two telomeres became stuck together, the DNA was stitched together, and now we find the remnants of this event on the inside of chromosomes. And to be fair, I concede at this point that the 2q13 ITS site shared by chimps and humans can be considered a synapomorphy, a five-dollar cladistic term meaning a genetic marker that the two species share. As this is said, it is apparent that the countenance of my acquaintance lightens a bit only to darken a second later. For I follow up by saying that of all the known ITSs, and there are many in the genomes of chimps and humans, as well as mice and rats and cows..., the 2q13 ITS is the only one that can be associated with an evolutionary breakpoint or fusion. The other ITSs, I hasten to add, do not square up with chromosomal breakpoints in primates (Farré M, Ponsà M, Bosch M. 2009, "Interstitial telomeric sequences (ITSs) are not located at the exact evolutionary breakpoints in primates," Cytogenetic and Genome Research 124(2): 128-131.). In brief, to hone in on the 2q13 ITS as being typical of what we see in the human and chimp genomes seems almost like cherry-picking data. Most are not DNA scars in the way they have been portrayed.

Read the rest from Dr. Sternberg here.