Humans, chimps, bananas - sharing DNA

16th March 2007 at 00:00
What an extraordinary article on intelligent design by Tom Bryce (TESS last week). When did those who teach science abandon hope in the ability of human beings to reason? Is he really saying that all those scientists who see design in nature - and from this infer, reasonably, that there must be a designer - are "religious nuts"?

Bryce's article is seriously flawed on two counts. First, he presents little, if any, evidence. Second, it is replete with jibes about Alastair Noble, creationism, and US presidents. Is this an example he would wish students to copy in Scottish classrooms?

Let us examine the evidence. In December 2005, the journal Science noted that 2005 was "a banner year for uncovering the intricacies of how evolution actually proceeds". It pointed to the work of an international team on the genome of our closest relative, the chimpanzee, which confirmed our close kinship. The total difference in DNA between the two species was revealed as being about 4 per cent.

At first glance, this seems like good evidence. But the journal stated that there were 40 million evolutionary events that separated chimp and human DNA. So there are no less than 40 million biological differences. Perhaps we're not so closely related after all.

Speaking of DNA, we share half our DNA with a banana: so how closely are we related to bananas?

Surely it is reasonable to ask in a science class: "Did we evolve or are we designed?" Are pupils forbidden from examining the evidence and drawing conclusions?

Coming to Bryce's second flaw, constructive criticism is to be admired and welcomed, but cheap shots are not. He ignores heavyweight scientific and theological opinion which is expressing misgivings about evolution. So why can't children do likewise in Scottish classrooms?

I would like to think Professor Bryce might read the Bible, an inspiring rebuttal of the much-quoted Richard Dawkins and his delusions. May I recommend Romans 1:20.

Antony Luby

Roman Catholic RE Service, St Joseph's School, Aberdeen

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