Can someone comment on this article which claims that biologists have been misleading the masses when they compare the genome of humans and chimps https://yaqeeninstitute.org/daniel-haqiqatjou/can-islam-object-to-evolution/

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Biology.SE. The article is very long. I doubt anyone will be willing to read it through and comment on every single claim. Can you please try to narrow your question down to a specific claim? $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Feb 25 '17 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ As a side note, you might want to have a look at Understanding Evolution by UC Berkeley for a short easy introduction to evolutionary biology. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Feb 25 '17 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ Please note the biologists are not so much misleading any public as most biologists don't talk much to the public anyway. Science communicator can potentially mislead the big public. Most of science communicator are journalists and not researchers. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Feb 25 '17 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ The article makes more than a dozen different claims, so ask them individually. or create a short list of the ones you are actually concerned with. Although the overarching message of the article is "different studies using different methods come up with slightly different answers therefore they are all completely wrong" $\endgroup$ – John Feb 26 '17 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ One extreme example can help you understand the article. Human have 23 chromosomes while chimps have 24, however it is painfully easy to demonstrate human Chromosome #2 is Chimp chromosomes 2Q and 2P stuck together at the ends. This could happen in a single mutation in a single germ cell. So, is this one difference (one mutation) or ~200 million differences (the number of base pairs on both). Most scientists would argue it counts as one difference(one fusion) while the article would have you believe it must count as ~200million differences. $\endgroup$ – John Feb 26 '17 at 15:59

I can comment.

From your article:

Is 99% human-chimp genome similarity less impressive in light of the fact that domestic cats share 90% of their genes with humans and yeast share over 30% of their genes with us, etc.? What should we make of these various quantitative comparisons? In reality, it is difficult to make sense of these percentages without a uniform metric to reference. Unfortunately, the biological sciences do not provide one.

The public has not been misled. The fact is that chimps and humans share 99% of their genes. The rest is interpretation. The rest is extrapolation. The rest is philosophy.

As a biologist, it's absolutely no surprise to me that we share a lot of our genome with cats, earthworms and even yeast. We do presumably because successful life on the planet Earth takes particular biological processes which are shared. We live in a Nitrogen-Oxygen atmosphere; we have carbon-based energy sources; we need to have similar enzymes to use oxygen and carbon, etc.

Beyond that, scientists have opinions they share. But no one is forcing you to believe a particular interpretation. I happen to believe in what makes the most sense. You can believe in what makes less sense if you prefer. Have there been misrepresentations? Absolutely, but that is often because journalists sharing the information misunderstand it. One of the most misunderstood papers I've seen is Sex Differences in Brain Gray and White Matter in Healthy Young Adults: Correlations with Cognitive Performance by Ger et al. It has been repeatedly and widely inaccurately represented in the lay press, partly (or perhaps wholly) because it is not a particularly well-written paper though the science in it is sound.

Don't assign blame for any belief to science just because you want it to say something different.

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Well. Science is a funny thing compared to say the Koren, the Bible or any other religious text. As Scientist learn more, the narrative in Science will change. For instance, in the 1800, there were ideas that there was free following water on Mar... channels and ditches and such. In the 1960s, Mars was considered bone dry. No water ever. A desolate waste land. In the 1990s, Mar considered to have water, but only in the distant past 3 billion years ago. No water now. Then in the 2010s it is now considered to have subsurface water ice, that may occasionally turn into free flowing water under rare conditions. And worst yet, until recently... perhaps all those features of recent running water way have been caused by out gassing of CO2... Conflict over basic interpretation.

Now in that time, religion text, while silence on the matter of Mars, has not changed much if at all. Religious text has stayed the same.

So has Science been misleading the masses on Mars? Does Mars have water? Yes or No? Science keeps flip flopping.

In some ways yes, Science has been misleading the public. It has not been on target with a singular message, unlike say a religious text book, which has been delivering the same unchanging message for a thousand years or so.

So if you are looking for a consist message, well Science way not the thing for you. Science tends to tell different stories as scientist learn more, learn new techniques, re-evaluate ideas and generally fight with among themselves. The holy men Science like to review, rewrite their holy text rather often and fight. And the common man may find that dissatisfying and perhaps worrisome. If holy men keep changing the holy text, how will the common people worship? Is the Science real? Given it changes when the holy text of many world religions have not changed in centuries or even millennia.

So back to article... the percentage similarity of human to chimp genome changes as techniques improve. If you look at the actual age of the citations used in said article.. we run from papers in the 1970s, before genome sequencing was available, and the ideas of one gene-one protein was how Science thought DNA worked, and karyotyping and chromosome banding was about the only means to make large scale chromosome comparison... to papers in the 2014. Where we know DNA does more than just encodes proteins, and non DNA coding are not junk but can encode RNA with biochemical activity (gene regulation, transcription factor regulation etc). And whole human genomes can be sequenced for less than USD 1,400 when it originally cost USD 2.7 billion.

This is nearly 50 years of change and development. Going from the time before the internet and calculators were serious business machines worth thousands of dollars to a time you can have a a 1980s super computer as a wrist watch.

So yes... the message changes. Science progresses, techniques that could only be imagined by previous generations of scientist have become routine. We have learned more.. RNA isn't just a middle man between DNA and protein. One gene can give rise to many proteins.

Have the masses been mislead?

Scientist are telling the Masses information that is to the best of their knowledge. And if the current generation of scientist (2014 scientist) say the past generation (1970s scientist) had it wrong or not quite right.... If scientist right now disagree on the best matrix... is that misleading?

A science book is not as safe as a religious text. And one of the worst offenders is biology. A biology text book book from the 1980s looks very different from 2010s, even if they are from the same series. Is that misleading or is that scientific advancement?

PS: Common genes and sequence identity is not the same. There is a bit of confusion in the article. A cat and a human may share many many genes. But those shared genes may have sequence difference between them. So you can say humans and cat share 90% (made up example) of their gene (ie both cat and human have the PTEN gene) but have only 70% (made up example) sequence identity (ie there are several DNA difference between the human PTEN gene and the cat PTEN gene). It is easy to confuse the two.

Also are you only only considering gene coding DNA? Or are you also considering the non coding DNA (which until cheap genome sequencing in the 2010s was extremely difficult to capture and sequence)

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  • $\begingroup$ Most of your answer has little to do with biology but rather philosophy of biology. And IMO, you miss the point of the paper. The paper says what many fail to understand is that what is found in scientific literature and what is reported to the lay public are sometimes worlds apart. It for example discusses the fact that such percentage of similarity are computed only on what we managed to align. There entire sequence that won't align at all. It also does not make consideration of CNV. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Feb 25 '17 at 23:30
  • $\begingroup$ The author also argues that the feeling that is transmitted by this high precentage is misleading if it not presented to the public the percentage of similarity between human and cat for example which is at 90%. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Feb 25 '17 at 23:30
  • $\begingroup$ I would like to point out that scientific literature being use in that article range from the 1970s to the 2014s. So obviously over the nearly 50 years of time the results of papers will be different. The techniques used to make the human chimp genome comparison changed from karyotyping/chromosome banding pattern, to cDNA comparison, to whole genome comparison. The answers will be different. $\endgroup$ – JayCkat Feb 25 '17 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ What is reported to the public will change... and if reporters look up old text books of just google a number... they will get different numbers. $\endgroup$ – JayCkat Feb 25 '17 at 23:52

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