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Odd Non-Man Out

on January 29, 2011
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ScienceNOW: “Orangutan Genome Full of SurprisesWhen considered alongside humans and chimps, the orangutan is the genomic “odd man out.” Is that because it hasn’t evolved as quickly?

Thanks to research led by Washington University in St. Louis geneticist Devin Locke, the orangutan joins the growing list of creatures whose genomes have been fully sequenced. Because that list includes humans and chimpanzees, Locke’s team didn’t miss the chance to place the genetic results in the evolutionary framework.

The biggest “surprise”? While evolutionists believe orangutans split from the lineage that would lead to humans and chimps some twelve to sixteen million years ago, the genetic results indicate that orangutan genes have evolved far more slowly than chimps’ or humans’. While some researchers have tried to link this differential rate of change to higher intelligence in chimps (and humans), Locke points out that orangutans are also quite intelligent.

ScienceNOW also reports (as does ScienceDaily) on a study out of Aarhus University that shows that parts of the human genome are more similar to the orangutan genome than to the chimpanzee genome. (Though this would be no surprise to evolutionists who think we are more closely related to orangutans than to chimps.) “[H]umans and chimpanzees have evolved separately for millions of years,” the report claims. “In the process, chimps for mysterious reasons lost some orangutan DNA that humans retained.”

Without the need for a common ancestor, we have no reason to believe chimp and orangutan genomes diverged from the same starting point.

If we forgo the need to stuff orangutans’ genetic data into the framework of evolution, a different picture appears. The debate over whether humans are more closely related to chimps or orangutans breaks down if humans were created uniquely, and the apparently contradictory similarities we have to both creatures can be seen as God’s selective, purposive re-use of certain design features. Apparent differences in the rate of genetic change also evaporate; without the need for a common ancestor, we have no reason to believe chimp and orangutan genomes diverged from the same starting point. Therefore the differences need not be seen as a tally of evolutionary changes, but instead can be understood as, for the most part, the unique genetic structure God gave these animals at creation.

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