Computing Evolutionary Ancestors

on January 1, 2019

“Yes, Computing Genetic Ancestors Is Super Accurate,” proclaims a press release by a team of researchers at the prestigious Georgia Institute of Technology. Oh, really? Let’s look at the details.

These computer experts designed a set of algorithms to “compute” evolutionary ancestors of genes that we find in living humans and other creatures. To test their computer research, they genetically engineered bacteria and bred them for several generations. Then they ran their algorithms to see if they could discover which bacteria descended from which. And the computer predictions were very successful.

But while computer algorithms may be highly accurate, their value is only as good as the initial assumptions.

The problem is that the researchers are trying to discover ancient proteins that no longer exist—or, more probably, never existed at all—to fight diseases today. They assume that human DNA is filled with gene sequences that we inherited from evolutionary ancestors. Based on this assumption, they are looking for proteins that supposedly came from a common ancestor of humans and rats. But if humans and rats don’t share a common ancestor, the assumption falls apart and there’s nothing to look for.

Reconstructing genetic history also raises the question of where the genes came from in the first place. Rather than a common ancestor that arose by chance millions of years ago, it makes more sense that a common Designer created the first genes in every different kind of creature, as the Bible documents, and he made them versatile enough to thrive as they encounter different conditions or environments in the world he created for them.

This article was taken from Answers magazine, July–September, 2018, 34.