Massive Genetic Study Purporting Human Evolution Debunked
by Jeffrey P. Tomkins, Ph.D. *
The recent publication of a research paper evoked such headlines as “Massive genetic study shows how humans are evolving.”1,2 Despite the improvement of health-care technology, many other studies indicate that chronic disease among humans is increasing worldwide—and that mutations are commonly associated with disease, not upward evolutionary improvement.3,4 A closer analysis of this new study shows that its evolutionary conclusions are deeply flawed and humans are actually devolving. This is exactly what modern biomedical data shows and the Bible indicates is happening due to the effects of the Fall where the whole creation is subject to corruption.
Even from a purely naturalistic perspective, studying alleged human evolution is notoriously difficult. Unlike animals, humans create highly complex cultures and distinctive societal systems, including sophisticated health care programs that treat disease and improve and extend life. Secondly, the study of human health and disease is highly complicated with nearly all traits being controlled and affected by numerous genes and various types of regulatory DNA sequences in the genome. Sorting out the contributions of each individual DNA feature to a particular disease or health-related outcome can be extremely difficult.
In the highly theoretical study of human evolution, scientists postulate that mystical and mostly undefinable selective pressures operate to somehow mold the genome over time leading to upward improvement and change. It’s claimed that the effects of these selective processes can be statistically detected when analyzing large genetic data sets.
In this recent study, scientists analyzed large biomedical and genetic datasets of common human DNA variants in the United Kingdom, including those with data on longevity looking for selective effects. Not surprisingly, they could hardly find any effects of alleged selection except for a few disease-related genetic variants that correlated with human longevity. In summarizing their lack of success, the authors state, “We only found a few individual genetic variants, almost all of which were identified in previous studies.”1
But what about the data linking some variants with life span, including one odd association between delayed fertility and longevity? The problem with these results is that they provide no evolutionary support for the scientist’s naturalistic presuppositions. In the fundamental definition of evolution, progress is not defined by longevity per se but is based on reproductive success as an indicator of fitness. This was noted by one evolutionary author who summarized the research in the prestigious journal Nature. He says, “This is not, by itself, evidence of evolution at work,” and, “In evolutionary terms, having a long life isn’t as important as having a reproductively fruitful one.”2
Amazingly, the authors of the paper claim that despite finding nothing new, the study was a complete success and that the absence of data supporting the operation of ever-elusive and yet-to-be-defined selective pressures was actually evidence for evolution! Their contention was that all those destructive mutations must have been somehow removed through “purifying selection.”
In reality, there are a variety of serious problems with the conclusions made in this paper. Most importantly, the researchers were analyzing common genetic variants in living, generally healthy humans, so it’s not surprising that very few negative associations with human health were found. Most creationist geneticists maintain that the most common genetic DNA variations were part of the original created variability of Adam and Eve. This is well-supported by original research showing that the distribution of this variability across the world’s population occurred within a biblical timeframe.5,6
If the researchers had been analyzing rare genetic variants, they would have uncovered many associations with disease—a fact that is well-known among biomedical geneticists and documented in a variety of research papers.5,6 These rare variants are evidence of harmful mutations that have occurred in the human genome since the original creation and are commonly associated with an overall loss of information and genome deterioration over time. The human genome is not evolving and improving over time, but instead is in a devolving process referred to as genetic entropy as documented by Cornell University geneticist John Sanford.7
- Mostafavi, H., et al. 2017. Identifying genetic variants that affect viability in large cohorts. PLOS Biology. 15 (9): e2002458.
- Martin, B. 2017. Massive genetic study shows how humans are evolving. Nature. Posted on nature.com September 6, 2017, accessed September 19, 2017.
- Chronic Disease Overview. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Posted on cdc.gov, accessed September 19, 2017.
- Tomkins, J. P. New Study Confirms Harmful Role of Mutations. Creation Science Update. Posted on ICR.org April 10, 2017, accessed September 19, 2017.
- Tomkins, J. P. 2014. Genetic Entropy Points to a Young Creation. Acts & Facts. 43 (11): 16.
- Tomkins, J. P. 2015. Genetic Clocks Verify Recent Creation. Acts & Facts. 44 (12): 9-11.
- Sanford, J. C. 2008. Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome, 3rd ed. Waterloo, NY: FMS Publications.
*Jeffrey Tomkins is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his Ph.D. in genetics from Clemson University.
Article posted on September 27, 2017.