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Evolutionary Creationism: A Christadelphian Perspective
Evolutionary Creationism A Christadelphian Perspective
Evolutionary Creationism A Christadelphian Perspective


The evidence for common descent from shared identical genetic elements - such as pseudogenes, retroviral elements, and retrotransposons - at the same places in human and ape genomes is fairly well known, but what is not as well known is that this evidence also includes shared identical scars of DNA repair:

Non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) is one of the main mechanisms  used to repair double stranded DNA breaks. It can be used to repair DNA breaks which normally occur such as in immunoglobulin and T cell receptor recombination, as well as damage to DNA caused by environmental damage.

There are four steps involved in NHEJ: detecting the DNA break, bridging both DNA ends, preparing the ends to make them suitable for joining, and the final repair. As a direct consequence of the repair method, NHEJ leaves a 'scar.'

If DNA repair via NHEJ occurs in the germ line, then that scar of DNA repair will be inherited. The presence of identical DNA repair scars at exactly the same place in a family of human beings would be considered a good mark of consanguinity. If we see this same NHEJ repair at the same place in humans and chimps, then we'd have powerful evidence of human-chimp common ancestry. As it turns out, we don't have just one example of shared NHEJ scars in humans and chimps. We have thirty-seven. Furthermore, we have many more shared by humans, chimps and orang-utans, as well as over 300 shared by humans, apes, and monkeys, all consistent with the predictions of common descent. Cancer researcher and cell biologist Graeme Finlay notes:

"Hundreds of such DNA scars have been identified. Some are shared by humans, chimps and orang-utans, but no other species (142 in total). These scars arose in a great ape ancestor. Others are shared by apes and [Old World Monkeys]. but by no other species (219). Each of these dates from an ape-OWN ancestor. Many are common to all anthropoid primates (389)…The distribution of shared repair patches generates a phylogenetic tree that is congruent with that generated from ERV and retrotransposon insertions. NHEJ and retrotransposition are wholly independent processes, and so provide wholly independent signatures that illuminate our evolutionary past. [1]"

Shared identical scars of DNA repair at the same places in human and ape DNA is impossible to explain  honestly via special creation.


1. Finlay G Human Evolution: Genes, Genealogies and Phylogenies (2013: Cambridge University Press) p 140-141
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Nothing demonstrates the fact that Genesis 1 is ancient cosmology and not modern science more effectively than its declaration that the firmament was solid, separating waters above from waters below. It is this one fact more than anything else that destroys both literal and strong concordist readings of the Genesis 1 that seek to read it as a scientifically accurate account of origins. It also shows that contemporary special creationists - both YEC and OEC - not only fail to interpret Genesis 1 properly on this point but are also ignorant of how early Christian and Jewish expositors interpreted Genesis 1. On this point we find that many accepted the solidity of the firmament. 
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The book Wrested Scriptures by (the late) Ron Abel is something of a Christadelphian classic. Unfortunately, its attacks on evolution are embarrassingly bad. Worse still, despite being over 40 years old and hopelessly out of date, some Chriatadelphians are still using its arguments.

Here's why they are wrong:
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I have recently created a weblog which acts primarily as an archive of  many of my posts on the relationship between evolutionary biology and theology. It can be found here:
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The evidence for human evolution: Part 2. Shared genetic 'errors' (A)

If you were marking examination papers, and found that the papers from four students seated next to each other had exactly the same answer to each question, complete with the same spelling errors in the same words, you would conclude that they had cheated. The alternative explanation, that the students had independently arrived at the same answers and made the same mistakes, would be dismissed out of hand as preposterous. When we examine the genomes of humans and other animals, we find plenty of examples of shared genetic 'mistakes' at exactly the same place in their genomes. This is correctly regarded as overwhelming evidence for common ancestry, with the original genetic error occurring in a species ancestral to the currently living ones, and subsequently being inherited.

By genetic errors, I am referring to pseudogenes, retrotransposons and endogenous retroviruses, genetic elements that are evidence of loss of function, copying and pasting of a parasitic genetic element or prior infection by a retrovirus, respectively. For example, when we see the same retroviral element in the same place in the genomes of humans and apes, rather than postulate that the same retrovirus purely by chance inserted itself into the same location in human and ape genomes (at odds of billions to one against), we conclude that the original retroviral infection occurred in the human-ape common ancestor, and has been subsequently inherited by human and apes. 

Likewise, when we see the same pseudogene (broken remnant of a gene) at the same place in human and ape, we conclude that the gene was inactivated in a human-ape common ancestor and was subsequently inherited by its descendants. Furthermore, when we see the same retrotransposon (a genetic element that copies and pastes itself randomly throughout the genome) in the same place in human and ape genomes, we conclude that in the human-ape common ancestor, a retrotransposon copied and pasted itself into that part of the genome, and this insertion has been passed on to the descendant species. The alternative - that the same gene became converted to a pseudogene in human and apes or the same retrotransposed element pasted itself in the same place in the genomes of humans and apes, is regarded as unlikely at best. The evidence for common descent from shared genomic errors is arguably the most powerful evidence for common descent.


Most laypeople are unfamiliar with what is meant by pseudogenes, retrotransposons and endogenous retroviruses, so some explanation will be needed. A pseudogene is a genetic element closely resembling a gene, but which in general is not able to code for its intended product. There are three classes of pseudogenes: unitary, duplicate and processed.

1. Unitary pseudogenes occur when a gene suffers a crippling mutation which renders it unable to function. The classic example of a unitary pseudogene is the GULO pseudogene. In most animals, GULO  codes for the enzyme L-gulono-γ-lactone oxidase, the terminal enzyme in the biosynthesis of ascorbic acid, or vitamin C. In humans, apes, monkeys, guinea pigs and a few other animals, the GULO gene is a pseudogene, having been crippled by a lethal mutation, which means they are unable to synthesise vitamin C, and have to rely on dietary ascorbic acid.

2. Duplicated pseudogenes occur when a functional gene is copied and picks up mutations which result in it becoming non-functional. As the organism already has a functional copy of the first gene, the presence of a duplicate gene which has lost function through mutation will not affect the organism in any substantive manner. Examples of duplicated pseudogenes include the  ψη-globin pseudogene and the CYP21 pseudogene. The former is a haemoglobin pseudogene, the latter is a pseudogene version of the gene coding for cytochrome P450 C21 which when functional is involved in steroid biosynthesis.

3. Processed pseudogenes occur when an RNA transcript of a gene is reverse transcribed randomly back into the genome. Normally, after DNA is transcribed to RNA, the introns (long non-coding sections in the gene) are removed, and a section of RNA called a poly A tail (used in assisting the transport of the RNA out of the nucleus and in assisting the translation process, where the RNA is used as the template for protein synthesis) is added. Transcription normally results in the creation of an RNA copy of a DNA gene, but the phenomenon of reverse transcription will create a DNA copy of RNA. Reverse transcription will copy the processed RNA transcript back into the genome at a random location. These are easily recognised as processed pseudogenes as they lack the introns of the normal gene, and possess the poly A tail which is not present in the DNA original. As they lack the promoter sequences (regulatory sequences near the gene which are critical to initiate transcription.


Retrotransposons are mobile genetic elements which replicate by the creation of an RNA transcript of themselves which is reverse transcribed to a DNA copy which is randomly inserted back into the genome. This process has allowed them to amplify their number to such a degree that approximately 40% of the human genome consists of multiple copies of these genetic parasites.

There are two classes: LTR retrotransposons and non-LTR retrotransposons. The former are related to retroviruses, but unlike them have a completely intracellular life. They will not be considered further. Non-LTR retrotransposons include LINEs and SINEs.

LINEs - Long Interspersed Nuclear Elements are genetic elements around 7000 base pairs long which have the code for the reverse transcriptase enzyme.  In theory, they  are able to reverse transcribe their own RNA copies into DNA and insert this copy randomly back into the genome. Some LINEs are mutated, so they are unable to continue the retrotransposition cycle, while others are still functional. They make up around 20% of the genome

SINEs - Short Interspersed Nuclear Elements are short genetic elements (around 500 base pairs long) which do not have their own copy of reverse transcriptase; they are reliant on other transposable elements to aid in their transposition. Around 13% of the human genome is made up of SINEs

Retrotransposable elements are genetic parasites - they copy and paste themselves randomly throughout the genome. Uncommonly, the genome co-opts retrotransposable elements and creates a genomic element with a new function. Generally, retrotransposons are classic junk DNA, providing no benefit to the host genome and at times being implicated in genetic disease. [1-4] Needless to say the fact that nearly half of our genome is composed of parasitic DNA which can cause disease is impossible to honestly reconcile with intelligent design, but makes perfect sense under an evolutionary model where these elements copy and paste themselves randomly, causing the genome size to grow over time and contribute to genomic instability and disease.

Endogenous Retroviruses

Retroviruses are RNA viruses that reproduce intracellularly by using their reverse transcriptase enzyme to produce a DNA copy of their genome which is then inserted into the host genome. Once the DNA copy is part of the host cell, the host cell genetic replication machinery produces new copies of the retrovirus.

Retroviral life cycle

If the retrovirus integrates into the host's germ line, then it can be passed down to the next generation. When that happens, it becomes an endogenous retrovirus. As the DNA copy does not produce material essential to the well-being of the cell (as one would expect given its viral origins) it will eventually become inactivated by mutation. The presence of endogenous viral elements in an organism's genome is proof of a prior retroviral infection. When two related organisms share the same ERV at exactly the same place in the genome, we have powerful evidence that these organisms share a common ancestor in which the original viral infection took place and was then passsed down to the descendant species.

Special creationists are fond of comparing the human genome to an encyclopaedia, but the truth is that if your genome was represented by a 100 volume encyclopaedia, most of it would be gibberish, with only around 20-30 at most containing meaningful information:

Over half of our genome is parasitic DNA such as LINEs, SINEs, ERVs and pseudogenes. Just the existence of this almost completely non-functional parasitic material is impossible to square with an intelligent design of the genome, but makes sense only in the light of an evolutionary origin of the genome.

This summarises the basic science required to understand the evidence from shared genetic errors. Part 3 will look at several examples (a tiny selection of the total evidence) to show why many biologists regard the genomic evidence for common descent to be the most powerful demonstration of the reality of evolution.


1. Ostertag E.M. et al "SVA Elements Are Nonautonomous Retrotransposons that Cause Disease in Humans" Am J Hum Genet (2003) 73:1444-1451

2. Callinan, P. and Batzer, M.A. (2006) Retrotransposable elements and human disease. In Genome and Disease. Genome Dynamics (Vol. 1) (Volff, J., ed.), pp. 104–115, Karger

3. Crow, Mary K. "Long interspersed nuclear elements (LINE-1): potential triggers of systemic autoimmune disease." Autoimmunity 43.1 (2009): 7-16.

4. Schneider, Anna M., et al. "Roles of retrotransposons in benign and malignant hematologic disease." Cellscience 6.2 (2009): 121.
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I must admit that I never expected this page to attract much traffic at all, let alone the intriguing spectacle of a YEC Christadelphian and a Christadelphian atheist carrying out a discussion in the comments section.

As I mentioned before, I have only one rule: any argument against evolution is to be made solely from the peer-reviewed literature. YEC material has poisoned the minds of too many impressionable people, and I do not tolerate its presence here. No apologies will be made for swift deletion of anything coming from CMI, AiG, ICR or the Discovery Institute.

Outside of that, provided nothing resembling:

* Libel
* Profanity
* Spam
* Web page touting

appears in the conversation, feel free to carry on.
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Despite the fact that the geological record abounds in transitional fossils [1] special creationists still allege that none exist. Unfortunately, this assertion is frequently made in our community. On example is found [2] in the November 2009 Christadelphian magazine, where John Morris repeats a shopping list of long-rebutted anti-evolution arguments, beginning with:

*  Evolution does not explain where the universe came from.
*  Evolution cannot demonstrate how life originated.
*  Evolutionists observe small variations in families of plants or animals (as Darwin did with his orchids and finches), and then confidently assert that they see evolution at work. Invariably the variations are no more than modifications within species. Missing links are still missing!

Morris' utter ignorance of evolution is readily apparent just from the first two points, where he conflates cosmology and abiogenesis, respectively with evolution. The first two are separate fields in their own right, and have nothing to do with the fact of evolution. The third point shows that Morris has conflated evolution as fact (common descent and large-scale evolutionary change) with evolution as theory (the modern evolutionary synthesis). Even if the modern synthetic theory was falsified tomorrow, the facts that it seeks to explain, including the 'missing links' would still exist, and require a more credible explanation than special creation.

Anyone who asserts that 'missing links are still missing' has demonstrated that he is utterly ignorant of the subject of palaeontology.[3] Vertebrate palaeontologist Donald Prothero notes that just in the terrestrial hoofed mammals, the fossil record abounds in transitional forms:

"In the past few decades, many new discoveries have provided numerous transitional fossils that show the evolution of hoofed mammals from their primitive ancestors. We can now document the origin of the odd-toed perissodactyls, their early evolution when horses, brontotheres, rhinoceroses, and tapirs can barely be distinguished, and the subsequent evolution and radiation of these groups into distinctive lineages with many different species and interesting evolutionary transformations through time. Similarly, we can document the evolution of the even-toed artiodactyls from their earliest roots and their great radiation into pigs, peccaries, hippos, camels, and ruminants. We can trace the complex family histories in the camels and giraffes, whose earliest ancestors did not have humps or long necks and looked nothing like the modern descendants. Even the Proboscidea and Sirenia show many transitional fossils linking them to ancient ancestors that look nothing like modern elephants or manatees. All these facts show that creationist attacks on the fossil record of horses and other hoofed mammals are completely erroneous and deceptive. Their critiques of the evidence of hoofed mammal evolution are based entirely on reading trade books and quoting them out of context, not on any firsthand knowledge or training in paleontology or looking at the actual fossils." [4]

Apart from terrestrial hoofed mammals, whale evolution, the dinosaur to bird transition, tetrapod evolution and the evolution of the mammalian inner ear are other spectacular demonstrations of the fact of large-scale evolutionary change. The fact that an error-riddled, naive, misleading article has not been withdrawn from our flagship magazine is embarrassing to me as a Christadelphian.

In the next posts, I will be providing examples of large-scale evolutionary change, in order to show the open-minded Christadelphian that evolution has occurred.


2. Morris J "Darwin or the Gospel?" The Christadelphian November 2009
3. Ironically, Morris admits later in his article that "The trouble is, in trying to answer an ‘expert’, we can so readily be wrong-footed. Few of us have advanced qualifications in the relevant sciences, and if we fail to hold our own in discussions about fossils, for example, or if we reveal our ignorance of current molecular biology, we shall be deemed to have lost the contest!" Needless to say, further commentary from me would be superfluous.
4.Prothero D "Evolutionary Transitions in the Fossil Record of Terrestrial Hoofed Mammals" Evo Edu Outreach (2009) 2:289-302
3. Thewissen J.G.M. et al "From Land to Water: the Origin of Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises" Evo Edu Outreach (2009) 2: 272-288
4. Chiappe L "Downsized Dinosaurs: The Evolutionary Transition to Modern Birds" Evo Edu Outreach (2009) 2: 248-256
5. Clack J.A. "The Fish–Tetrapod Transition: New Fossils and Interpretations" Evo Edu Outreach (2009) 2:213-223
6. Zhe-Xi Luo et al "A new eutriconodont mammal and evolutionary development in early mammals" Nature (2007) 446;288-293
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Cell biologist and scourge of special creationist charlatans Kenneth Miller comments on chromosome 2. There really is no special creationist answer to this evidence for human-ape common ancestry. Honest answer, that is.
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The evidence for human evolution: Part 1. Chromosome 2 fusion
The subject of evolution and the Flood have been recently  debated at the main Christadelphian Facebook page. Inevitably, human evolution has been raised, with one of the resident evolution denialists asking:
But your wholesale dodge of a really important question still requires address. I repeat: could you please clarify whether you believe Jesus (on his mother's side) is ultimately descended from the apes? [1]
Whether the question is meant in good faith or not, or simply meant to poison the well and make rational discussion impossible is beside the point. The question is one which is definitely on many people’s minds.
What do you mean when you say that all humans share common descent with apes? The only thing I can agree on is that God created both apes and humans but we do not come from apes. God formed man Adam from the dust of the earth. I don't know what genetic evidence you are referring to anyway. [2]
I am sorry but I believe in creation and that humans did not come from apes. If we did it would have been in the bible that we did. So I will never buy that. Oh and I do not believe that Jesus ever descended from apes. That is silly. I agree. [3]
OK. So if we are going for exact terms... Do you...believe that apes form part of our human ancestry. In otherwords if we go back far enough, do you believe that our great great great....... (n'th degree) grandfather was an ape...We share DNA with cabbages, but that doesn't mean we descended from them! Please clarify your response. Thankyou. [4]
Clarinda it is only when in creation that some say that we share some of the same DNA with apes when we clearly do not. To me that is the offensive part. In death humans and animals die the same death. We go back to the dust of the earth but the difference between humans and animals is that humans that have decided to follow Jesus have the hope of the resurrection as the animals do not. The only thing we have in common with animals is when we die and cease to breath and turn back to dust. [5]
Speaking as someone who actually knows a considerable amoung about human molecular genetics (that sort of knowledge comes with the turf when you're a medical doctor who has studied for post-graduate examinations) these responses betray a complete ignorance of the subject among those making them. In the spirit of disabusing people of their ignorance, here is an outline of the evidence for human-ape common ancestry, which contrary to what many in our community think, is overwhelming.
Part 1. Human chromosome 2 is a fusion of two ape-like chromosomes
Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, but the great apes have 24 pairs. If humans and apes shared a common ancestor, then one of the chromosomes would need to be a fusion product. This prediction has been confirmed: chromosome 2 was produced by a fusion of two chromosomes in our remote evolutionary past. We've known about the close similarity between human and ape chromosomes as long as thirty years ago, with the researchers behind the seminal paper in Science in which this data was published noting:
The telomeric fusion of chromosomes 2p and 2q accounts for the reduction of the 24 pairs of chromosomes of the great apes to 23 in modern man. [6]
Over the following 30 years, further work has pinpointed the exact location in human chromosome 2 where the fusion event occurred. Twenty years ago, careful examination of human chromosome 2 showed that it was the result of an ancient telomere to telomere fusion:
"The inverted arrangement of the 1TAGGG array and the adjacent sequences, which are similar to sequences found at present-day human telomeres, is precisely that predicted for a head-to-head telomeric fusion of two chromosomes...These data provide strong evidence that the inverted repeats in c8.1 arose from the head-to-head fusion of ancestral telomeres. [7]"
One year later, further research showed evidence [26] of an ancient centromere in human chromosome 2, giving us evidence of both centromeric and telomeric remnant DNA which is what one would expect if human chromosome 2 was the product of a fusion event. This is no longer controversial in molecular biology. For example, a decade ago, researchers investigating the structure and evolution of human chromosome two noted in passing:
"Humans have 46 chromosomes, whereas chimpanzee, gorilla, and orangutan have 48. This major karyotypic difference was caused by the fusion of two ancestral chromosomes to form human chromosome 2 and subsequent inactivation of one of the two original centromeres (Yunis and Prakash 1982). As a result of this fusion, sequences that once resided near the ends of the ancestral chromosomes are now located in the middle of chromosome 2, near the borders of bands 2q13 and 2q14.1. For brevity, we refer henceforth to the region surrounding the fusion as 2qFus. Two head-to-head arrays of degenerate telomere repeats are found at this site; their head-to-head orientation indicates that chromosome 2resulted from a telomere to telomere fusion. [9]"
The evidence is unambiguous and irrefutable. Human chromosome 2 is the product of an ancient fusion of two ape-like chromosomes, as evidenced by the telomeric and centromeric remnant in the chromosome.
Creationist claims that such chromosomal fusion events hinder fertility are incorrect. The molecular biologist Arthur Hunt points out that contrary to creationist assertions, such chromosomal translocations do not necessarily impact on fertility and quotes numerous examples of observed chromosomal translocations in mammals, and concludes that "it should be clear that [the creationist claims] are simply not reflective of the current thinking in mammalian cytogenetics. [10]"
Recently, DNA from a hominid bone found in the Denisova cave in Siberia was sequenced, showing that it came from a species closely related to the Neanderhals. It turns out that the Denisovan hominids also had the fused second chromosome. Palaeoanthropologist John Hawks quotes the researchers, noting that:
"Sometime in our evolution, two separate chromosomes fused into one, giving us a karyotype of 46 chromosomes where chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas have 48chromosomes. The high-coverage genome was sufficient to show that Denisova shared the human fusion:
"Of more relevance may be examination of aspects of the Denisovan karyotype. The great apes have 24 pairs of chromosomes while humans have 23. This difference is caused by a fusion of two acrocentric chromosomes that formed the metacentric human chromosome 2 , and resulted in the unique head-to-head joining of the telomeric hexameric repeat GGGGTT. A difference in karyotype would likely have reduced the fertility of any offspring of Denisovans and modern humans. We searched all DNA fragments sequenced from the Denisovan individual and identified twelve fragments containing joined repeats. By contrast, reads from several chimpanzees and bonobos failed to yield any such fragments. We conclude that Denisovans and modern humans (and presumably Neandertals) shared a karyotype consisting of 46 chromosomes."

"We still have no idea whether this fusion made any difference to any phenotype in ancient humans.
"Many, many people have written me over the years to ask whether this fusion of two ancestral chromosomes might have been important to our evolution. Perhaps, many suggested, if Neandertals had a chromosomal incompatibility with us, that would explain why they became extinct. I have always doubted this, but without information it was impossible to be certain.
"It's nice to now have the information in hand: This fusion happened earlier in our evolution. [11]"
This poses a huge problem for special creationists. Why would God not only create humans with chomosome 2 looking like the product of a fusion of two ape chromosomes, but do the same thing to an extinct species of humans who llived thouisands of years before Adam (assuming we place Adam around the time animals and plants were domesticated in the ANE)? Common descent solves this problem neatly - the Denisovans and Homo sapiens share a common ancestor in which he chromosomal fusion took place. Special creationists have no credible answer.
We make ourselves look like idiots when we blithely declare that there is no evidence for human-ape common ancestry when this material has been in the public doman for years And this is only one part of the genetic evuidence for human-ape common ancestry. More to come in later posts.
6. Yunis J.J. Prakash O, "The origin of man: a chromosomal pictorial legacy". Science (1982) 215:1525–1530.
7. IJdo JW, Baldini A, Ward DC, Reeders ST, Wells RA, Origin of human chromosome 2: an ancestral telomere-telomere fusion. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA (1991)88:9051-5
8. Avarello R et al "Evidence for an ancestral alphoid domain on the long arm of human chromosome 2" Hum Genet (1992) 89:247-9
9. Fan Y, Linardopoulou E, Friedman C, et al  "Genomic Structure and Evolution of the Ancestral Chromosome Fusion Site in 2q13–2q14.1 and Paralogous Regions on Other Human Chromosomes" Genome Res. 2002 12:1651-1662
10. Hunt A "The Rise of Chromosome 2: The Fertility Problem" The Panda's Thumb February 8th 2009 
11. Hawks, J "The fused chromosome 2 was in Denisova" John Hawks Weblog 1st Sep 2012 
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