What is the evidence for common descent, the relatedness of humans and great apes with a common ancestor millions of years ago?
Darrel Falk, professor emeritus at Point Loma Nazarene University, former president of BioLogos, author of Coming to Peace with Science: Bridging the Gap Between Faith and Biology, has turned his efforts toward the production of a series of short videos (6 to 9 minutes) explaining much of the evidence. Six of these are now available on YouTube at the channel Coming to Peace with Science with Darrel Falk.
The first series of videos looks at the evidence in human chromosome 2. Chromosome 2 is a fascinating story – apes have 24 pairs of chromosomes while humans have 23. This is, of course, a significant difference that might seem to disprove common descent. But human chromosome 2 has clear evidence of fusion resulting from the head-to-head connection of two of the chromosomes found in chimpanzees and other apes. At some point in our evolutionary history two chromosomes became one. This fusion is marked by the presence of residual telomeres (end caps) within the fused human chromosome and by the presence of an inactive residual centromere in the exact location where it is found in the separate chromosome of the chimpanzee.
Consider two hypotheses for the apparent fusion chromosomes in humans but not in chimpanzees. This could be the result of God as an engineer, “maybe God, in his design, chose to put the information into one package for humans rather than two packages that were used for great apes.” An alternative is the God as parent hypothesis. “God in love, establishes and maintains the conditions for human creation … but God does not dictate every step along the way. … God works through evolutionary processes like a parent.” Darrel Falk digs into this evidence for fusion in human chromosome 2 and explores these two hypotheses.
The evidence is consistent with God as parent. Of course you may wonder how chromosome fusion came about and how it could have been tolerated. It seems that the fusion event should have hindered reproduction by the first individual in which this occurred. His or her mate would still have had two chromosomes! More than this, why would the fused chromosome eventually take over the population? Darrel digs into these questions in the next two installments (see the channel for links).
Genetic Change. The evidence in chromosome 2 is only part of the evidence for common descent and human evolution. There is also important evidence in the general rate of genetic variation in populations. This is the topic of the second set of videos. Again Darrel considers two hypotheses: “Creation from Scratch” and “Creation through Evolutionary Process.” How do these hypotheses match the data. Are there ways to test them? Evolutionary theory accounts for the observations quite well. Certainly there are questions that remain. But there is also great explanatory power. Creation from scratch can accommodate any observation because it makes no predictions. However, it does lead to questions of why … why does the evolutionary model work so well and why are there pseudo-genes or other structures (e.g. centromere and telomere remnants in chromosome 2) with no apparent function or reason?
Installments two and three are available at Darrel’s YouTube channel Coming to Peace with Science with Darrel Falk.
If you are interested, take the time to watch Darrel’s explanations. If you are skeptical, but wonder why biologists and other scientists find the evidence convincing, take a look at the videos. Whatever your view, the videos are fascinating and thought-provoking.
If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail [at] att.net.