Chimpanzee and human genomes

“The DNA sequence that can be directly compared between the two genomes is almost 99 percent identical. When DNA insertions and deletions are taken into account, humans and chimps still share 96 percent of their sequence. At the protein level, 29 percent of genes code for the same amino sequences in chimps and humans. In fact, the typical human protein has accumulated just one unique change since chimps and humans diverged from a common ancestor about 6 million years ago.”

The claim is that chimpanzees and humans share 96% of the same genes. I find it fascinating that there are two totally opposite responses to this fact. One is that genes must therefore not be the complete story. The difference between, say, the Metz cathedral and the works of Plato, and the achievements of chimpanzees (look, I can eat ants with a stick), can’t be accounted for by genes.

The other response is to say, “See, we are just overgrown apes after all.”

“Darwin wasn’t just provocative in saying that we descend from the apes—he didn’t go far enough,” said Frans de Waal, a primate scientist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. “We are apes in every way, from our long arms and tailless bodies to our habits and temperament.”

Mr. Frans de Waal is available for interviews at the London Zoo. He’s the one eating bananas and throwing his feces.

15 thoughts on “Chimpanzee and human genomes

  1. I have a third response: Tiny changes in genes cause drastic changes in appearance and behavior. This insight comes naturally if you’ve ever written software.

    • Now we just need to establish that there is some interesting and compelling analogy between genes and software and that inferences from one carry over to the other.

      If there is, then the 96% similarity figure is completely irrelevant, since tiny differences in genes would make huge differences – meaning chimps and humans are not very similar after all and the “similarity” claim is a red herring. That suits me fine, since I don’t think we are that similar. I’m only really disputing the claim that genetic similarity denotes some more profound similarity as seen in the comment by the ‘humans are apes’ guy.

  2. The lesser known genetic statistic is that humans differ among themselves by about 0.5% – which is a lot *more* than used to be thought.

    So the genetic difference between humans and chimpanzees is seemingly only about two or three times as much as between human races. (African Pygmies may turn out to be even more different –

    “We are on average about 99.5% similar to each other genetically. This is a new figure, down from the previous estimate of 99.9%. To put what may seem like miniscule differences in perspective, we are somewhere around 98.5% similar, maybe more, to chimpanzees, our nearest evolutionary relatives. ”

    Mark Pagel (a high status UK evolutionary biologist)

  3. It’s not the whole story. The traditional understanding of the genome was that it was composed of small areas of protein sequences and large areas of “junk”. When they say that we’re related to the chimps what they’re saying is that the 96% similarity is related to the protein sequences, not the junk.


    It appears that the junk is not junk. I’d invite readers to Google up “non coding RNA”.

    There is a gigantic paradigm shift going on in molecular biology at the moment which even the scientists don’t fully understand. Personally, I think it might even put a stake into the heart of Darwinism. It appears that all life is composed of essentially the same protein building blocks but the that the software, i.e. non-coding DNA is different.

    Those of you of a more scientific bent may be very interested in a talk by Professor John Mattick describing in more detail these developments. (interesting stuff starts at 3:00 minutes.

    • Wow! What a fabulous talk, and what a pity it was not video recorded. Note that Prof Mattick, as all workers in science must, assumes the findings in other areas in his sketch of the history of the evolution of cell mechanics. However, his most useful comments are on the perpetual ignorance of scientists. The end-point of the understanding of the way human bodies work has just receded into some centuries distant future, during which it must regularly cycle back and re-examine the premisses on which it had previously been operating. And to this process, men surrender their immortal souls.

    • Mere assertion that “evolution is true” is not enough to make it so.

      Does the belief that Darwinism is unfit for purpose imply one is a creationist (a peculiar term, as it restricts one to the belief that the Earth is 6,000 years old, while many believe that our Universe was a creation the other side of the Big Bang singularity)? Should we be surprised if the accumulating evidence leads us to the development of a new theory?

  4. Pingback: Chimpanzee and human genomes | Reaction Times

  5. The claim is that chimpanzees and humans share 96% of the same genes. I find it fascinating that there are two totally opposite responses to this fact …

    Moreover, aside from the responses to the “fact”, the “fact” isn’t even true.

      • That “Creation/Evolution Headlines” is from 2007, and some of the findings it references are quite a bit older. My point at the moment is that it has been known for a very long time that the “1% similarity” claim is not actually actually true.

      • But, even were the claim true, consider the *use* to which it is generally put — since (it it claimed) the human and chimpanzee genomes are less than 1% different, therefore [blah, blah, blah]

        But, consider this thought while pretending (or still believing) that the claim is made in good faith — at what percentage of difference between the two genomes would the Darwinists admit that the “blah, blah, blah” is not a “therefore”? We *all* know the answer to that: at no point!

        Suppose that it really were possible to compute an accurate percentage difference between the human and chimpanzee genomes, and suppose that difference were, say, 50%. Does anyone *really* imagine that the Darwinists would then say that not-“blah, blah, blah” is the “therefore”? Of course not!


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