Why All the Fuss About Chromosomes?

I've been following the latest kerfluffle on the fusion of two chromosome into one during human evolution. I understand the superficial dispute involving Carl Zimmer. He had the audacity to ask for evidence to back up a claim being made by the IDiots on their Facebook page and they responded by going nuclear [The Mystery of the Missing Chromosomes, Continued: An Update From Your Preening Blogger].


Let's step back a bit and ask why the IDiots are so upset. Carl Zimmer posted a really nice summary of the evidence that two smallish chimp chromosomes fused to produce human chromosome 2 [The Mystery of the Missing Chromosome]. That evidence is based on an analysis of the chimp, human, and gorilla genomes and it allows scientists to reconstruct the events that led up to the fusion. All of the DNA sequence around the fusion point are consistent with what we might expect, especially the presence of defective telomeres (sequences at the ends of chromosomes).

Why are the IDiots so bothered by this evidence? It's not as if it's new—the essential evidence has been around for decades. There must be something else going on that causes the IDiots to circle the wagons at this time.

It think it's all about their latest book Science & Human Origins by Ann Gauger, Douglas Axe, and Casey Luskin.1 The book is published by the Discovery Institute Press. In that book, two of the authors (Gauger and Luskin), apparently argue that science cannot rule out a recent origin of humans descended from Adam and Eve. The chromosome fusion data threatens that bizarre claim and perhaps that's why they are reacting so strongly.

I think I understand this. The IDiots have made bold claims about some of their recent books (e.g. Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design , The Myth of Junk DNA) but those books have been met by yawning indifference from the general public and devastating criticism from real scientists. Two of the authors on this latest book (Gauger and Axe) have substantial scientific credentials so the Discovery Institute must have expected that the book would stand up to criticism by other scientists.

Instead, a "mere" graduate student (Paul McBride) has dimantled the book chapter by chapter [Science & Human Origins: Review] and a "mere" science writer, Carl Zimmer, has challenged the integrity of two "scientists" (and a lawyer). No wonder they're upset. All of their wonderful books are scientific embarrassments.

On what grounds do the IDiots want to deny the chromosomal evidence that humans and chimps share a common ancestor? Carl Zimmer supplies a partial answer when he quotes one of the chief IDiot defenders, David Klinhoffer, who says ...
The evidence from chromosomal fusion, for one, is strikingly ambiguous. In the Darwinian presentation, the fact that humans possess 23 chromosome pairs and great apes 24 clearly points to an event in which human chromosome 2 formed from a fusion, leaving in its wake the telltale sign of telomeric DNA — normally appearing as a protective cap at the end of the chromosome — in the middle where it doesn’t belong. Ergo, common descent.

But Casey [Luskin, of the Discovery Institute and co-author of the book] explains, there’s a lot wrong with this inference. Even if there was such an event and humans once had 24 chromosome pairs, it doesn’t at all follow that this happened in some prehuman past. Nothing stands in the way of picturing a human population bottleneck accomplishing the spread of a fused chromosome 2 from part of an early human community to all of it.

But the idea of such an event having occurred at all is itself far from sure. The telomeric DNA parked in the middle of chromosome 2 is not a unique phenomenon. Other mammals have it too, across their own genomes. Even if it were unique, there’s much less of it than you would expect from the amalgamation of two telomeres. Finally, it appears in a “degenerate,” “highly diverged” form that should not be the case if the joining happened in the recent past, circa 6 million years ago, as the Darwinian interpretation holds.
That's it? The fusion event could have happened relatively recently in human evolution so it's no big deal? And if you don't buy that, then maybe it didn't happen at all because the junction sequence isn't exactly what a typical IDiot might expect if evolution were true?

(Carl asked for the evidence that that the junction sequence isn't what one might expect and that's what caused the latest problem.)

I think that even the most stupid IDiots realize that they are in a very weak position on this one. They have been painted into a corner where the only way out is to admit that chromosome fusions happens&mdashbut only in the past 10,000 years—or that solid scientific evidence is wrong and there was no fusion. Neither option is appealing.

That's why you see people like Cornelius Hunter desperately looking for another way out [Carl Zimmer Doubles Down on Chromosome Two Lies and Misdemeanors] and why the people at Uncommon Descent have picked up on a non-scientific way to defend Intelligent Design Creationism [Why no one can confute Darwinism and, consequently, no one should believe it].

My question for Intelligent Design Creationists is, "why all the fuss?" What is there about the figure at the top of the page that really upsets you? Aren't most of you supporters of common descent in some form or another? Are all of you really going to defend the idea that humans have no evolutionary history with the other apes?

1. I haven't read the book. It's on order but it still hasn't been released in Canada (see Amazon.ca).
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