The Man Ape Myth

Why 98% Human/Chimp DNA Similarity Arguments Were Always Fake News

by Calvin Smith on September 18, 2023
Featured in Calvin Smith Blog

How do you know what you know?

It’s a good question for people to ask themselves, as it can help you realize that your beliefs about many things (however sincerely you hold them) may simply be wrong.

And when you think it through, you’ll realize that aside from personal experience and logic, you “know what you know” based on what you have been presented by authority figures and accepted as truth. Much of what you “know” is based on the authority of others.

We have an extremely limited amount of time to gather knowledge in our lifetime, so we all depend on others to collect, collate, and convey summarized information for us that has to do with a vast array of disciplines and interests. It’s inevitable should we wish to live a rich and well-rounded, interdisciplinary existence.

Of course, the challenge (and we know this through experience) is that humans are fallible. Humans sometimes provide wrong information unwillingly, simply because they unwittingly make mistakes in their calculations or communication or through faulty reasoning or data collection.

Many times, we are misled because we make errors in understanding what others were trying to convey. And sometimes people deceive others purposefully, to perhaps take advantage of someone monetarily or morally or to influence someone towards a certain ideology.

The Spider-Swallowing Myth

Case in point, have you ever heard the oft stated claim that people on average swallow eight spiders a year while sleeping? Many people have heard it and have accepted it as true because it was often supposedly presented based on scientific research that had “proven” it.

And while you can dismiss it as laughable (which of course it is), many folks accepted the authority of the claim, and it became part of what they “knew” as true, and so they shared it with others, spreading the falsehood further.

Now, if most people had taken a moment to think about it (I mean, who exactly set up infrared cameras and had a bunch of people sign up to be filmed in their sleep or had a group of test subjects have their mouth and/or stomach contents checked daily for a year), they would have likely dismissed it as fake news.

But despite the growing realization among people that what is often presented as “settled science” today is actually an agenda wrapped in cherry-picked data, the general public’s respect for science in general is still quite high, and many fail to question data presented to them from so-called credible scientific studies—especially when they hear the same talking points repeated over and over again.

98% Human/Chimp DNA Similarity

As another good example, have you ever heard someone say that evolution “must be true” because human and chimp’s DNA are so similar? Statements like “less than 1–2% difference in DNA” have been thrown around in schools, colleges, museums, TV shows, and documentaries as if it were a fact for years now.

Almost everyone has likely heard it, as ever since a 1975 study was published, this misleading statistic has been cited as hard scientific evidence that human and chimps share most of their genetic makeup, “proving” their supposed shared evolutionary ancestry.

And has been taught with such great authority and vigor that it’s been used by the average Bible skeptic for years now as a cudgel against Bible-believing Christians who hold to the Genesis creation account to make them feel intellectually inferior and labeled as dim-witted science deniers.

It has been so powerful in convincing people as incontrovertible truth as to the legitimacy of the story of evolution. It has even caused many a compromising Christian to adopt evolution as God’s creative mechanism, despite its massive negative theological connotations.

A typical example presenting such information comes from some signage at the Melbourne Museum in Australia, where the following declarations were on display accompanied by pictures of people and chimps.

Too close for comfort? Believe it or not, our DNA is nearly identical to a chimpanzee’s. Less than 2% of our DNA differs from theirs.

DNA studies have altered our view of human evolution. They show that humans are apes. There is no missing link.

Bold statements for sure. And so common is the argument that I continue to see skeptics bringing it up in comments on our social media sites to this day, accompanied with this pompous, contemptuous attitude as if to say they simply can’t believe I could be so misinformed about this fact of science.

But just like the “eight spiders a year” story, it’s simply not true. And how can I say that with so much confidence?

Well, because informed and honest evolutionists have agreed it’s false now. For example, in the rather revealing article from Science magazine titled “Relative Differences: The Myth of 1%” (whose name itself shows that the jig is up as far as the “only 1–2% difference” argument goes), the evolution-believing author wrote the following:

Genomewise [referring to the DNA inside the nucleus of the cell], humans and chimpanzees are quite similar, but studies are showing that they are not as similar as many tend to believe.1

As happens so often, this particular icon of evolution has now been shown to be false, and yet the myth lingers in the minds of many and likely will long after the truth has been disseminated into mainstream science.

Indeed, they now say the 1–2% argument is a myth. As happens so often, this particular icon of evolution has now been shown to be false, and yet the myth lingers in the minds of many and likely will long after the truth has been disseminated into mainstream science. And most likely never truly understood the argument in the first place.

Mix and Match

You see, many laypeople had the simplistic view that scientists somehow lined up all the individual DNA letters from both chimp and human genomes side by side, and voilà, 98% of the letters were in exactly the same place.

It’s like looking at a copy of a book and comparing it to a revised edition and discovering there was only a 2% difference in word content. But this simply isn’t the case.

The original 98–99% similarity claim only referred to substitutions in aligned regions where human and chimp DNA have different bases/letters. However, this isn’t considering the many other differences in their DNA as well.

For example, there are gaps in the aligned region where there is human DNA but no matching chimp DNA (or vice versa). And there are also millions of bases outside the aligned regions that don’t match whatsoever but that aren’t counted in the “DNA similarity” argument’s conclusion.

A few examples of publications revealing some of the differences over the years are as follows:

  • In 2003, scientists calculated a 13.3% difference in sections of our immune systems when the insertions and deletions are considered.2
  • In 2005, scientists discovered that the chimpanzee genome was 12% larger than the human genome.
  • In 2006, a study of gene copy numbers revealed a 6.4% difference.3
  • And a 2007 study revealed a 17.4% difference in gene expression in the cerebral cortex.4

And I could go on; however, if all the presently known differences were counted and combined, studies currently show a total of 600 million differences between human and chimp DNA, which drops the similarity down to only 80%.5 A trend likely to continue as our information about genetics grows even more.

Still Enough to Be Believed?

Now, I can already hear the keyboard warriors out there viciously clicking away blasting off comments like, “But it’s still 80% alike!”—implying that any great amount of similarity within creatures still lends weight to the evolutionary story by somehow demonstrating a close ancestral relationship between them.

However, despite the obvious (namely that their similarity numbers have been dropping like stock prices at Disney lately), fellow evolutionist Steve Jones has already addressed that misconception:

We also share about 50% of our DNA with bananas and that doesn’t make us half bananas, either from the waist up or the waist down.6

Same Parts—Same Designer

The fact is all living things share similar organic building blocks and a similar genetic coded language (DNA) that contains the instructions for the construction, operation, and maintenance of whatever genome we could discuss.

But neither genetic similarity nor anatomical similarity necessarily equates to an evolutionary ancestry. That made-up history is simply imposed on the facts we observe.

A startling example illustrating this came from a journal article7 describing results from the prestigious Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences, where scientists discovered that bats and horses share a higher degree of similarity in distribution of a genetic element than cows and horses do!

I mean, you likely couldn’t find two more distinct placental mammals than horses and bats according to evolutionary predictions based on comparative anatomy, but they shared a greater genetic similarity than horses and cows.

Think about it. As a simplistic analogy regarding the whole homology or similarity argument often used by evolutionists—if I lined up a spoon, a spork, and a fork, would their shapes be evidence one having evolved into another? Or would it be more likely evidence of them having been designed by the same creator?

A little red wagon, a tricycle, a bicycle, a Honda Civic, and a Lamborghini are all quite different, and yet all have various similar component parts as well. And that is because an intelligent designer would use similarly effective and useful parts in a wide variety of applications. So, the whole “similarity equals proof of evolution” argument is dubious regardless.

Human Authority Comes and Goes

However, the fact is that the argument for 98% similarity between humans and chimps is now dead and buried. And yet, I predict its ghost will live on and be believed and used by skeptics and referenced as proof of the story of evolution for decades to come. Why?

The creation/evolution debate has always been a matter of authority—not science versus faith as is commonly taught.

Because as I said from the beginning, you know what you know from what you got taught by authority figures and accepted as truth. And the creation/evolution debate has always been a matter of authority—not science versus faith as is commonly taught. It’s either faith in the authority of God’s Word or faith in the fallible, ever-changing opinion of sinful man.

That is why God provided his Word to us, a trustworthy, firsthand revelation for us to compare any information we receive to it, to enable us to judge its validity to, and to then “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” by taking “every thought captive to obey Christ” as 2 Corinthians 10:3–5 says.

Christians should have realized these evolutionary arguments were wrong from the start; because God’s Word says we were created in his image, we are not simply evolved animals. And that truth has profound repercussions for sinful man regarding his relationship to his Creator.

Which is why some people continue to willingly believe information that is highly suspect despite it having been shown incorrect.


  1. Jon Cohen, “Relative Differences: The Myth of 1%” Science 316, (June 2007): 1836,
  2. Tatsuya Anzai, Takashi Shiina, Natsuki Kimura, et al., “Comparative Sequencing of Human and Chimpanzee MHC Class I Regions Unveils Insertions/Deletions As the Major Path to Genomic Divergence,” PNAS 100, no. 13 (June 2003):7708–7713,
  3. Jeffrey P. Demuth, Tijl De Bie, Jason E. Stajich, Nello Cristianini, Matthew W. Hahn, “The Evolution of Mammalian Gene FamiliesPLOS ONE 1, no. 1 (December 2006): e85, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000085.
  4. Cohen, “Relative Differences: The Myth,” 1836.
  5. Dr. Georgia Purdom, Dr. Nathaniel T. Jeanson, and Dr. Terry Mortenson, “Making the Leap from Ape to Adam,” Human Evolution, Answers in Genesis, March 1, 2019,
  6. Steve Jones, “Almost Like a Whale,” The Science Show, ABC Radio National, podcast interview, January 11, 2002,
  7. Hidenori Nishihara, Masami Hasegawa, and Norihiro Okada, “Pegasoferae, an Unexpected Mammalian Clade Revealed by Tracking Ancient Retroposon Insertions,” PNAS 103, no. 26 (June 2006): 9929–9934,

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