Posted by: Rob Lester | January 8, 2012

Chimp/human DNA only 86-89% similar after all

The general public has heard repeatedly that human and chimpanzee DNA is 98-99% similar. It is implied that the charts of human DNA were held up next to chimp DNA and they were virtually identical. But ICR contributor Dr. Jeffrey Tompkins notes that, “The supposed fact that human DNA is 98 to 99 percent similar to chimpanzee DNA is actually misleading.”  First of all, “The human genome was used as a guide or framework to anchor and orient the chimp sequence. Thus, the evolutionary assumption of a supposed ape to human transition was used to assemble the otherwise random chimp genome.” Dr. Tompkins further explains, “One of the main problems with a comparative evolutionary analysis between human and chimp DNA is that some of the most critical DNA sequence is often omitted from the scope of the analysis.” Non-coding  parts of the human genome are often referred to as “junk DNA.” The purpose of such a label is to imply that this area of the human genome is unimportant. But, Dr. Tompkins clarifies, “The genetic information that is functional and regulatory is stored in “non-coding regions,” which are essential for the proper functioning of all cells.” And not only are these areas critically important, but they are a big part of what makes humans human. “The largest differences [between chimp and human DNA] are observed in regard to brain function, dexterity, speech, and other traits with strong cognitive components….a number of recent studies are also confirming that close to 93 percent of the genome is transcriptionally active (functional).6 Not so long ago, scientists thought that only 3 to 5 percent of the genome that contained the protein coding regions was functional; the rest was considered “junk DNA.” In fact, many scientists are back-pedaling in response to this new data. “Evolutionists are now reversing themselves and claiming that the non-coding DNA is where important features related to human evolution are located .”

A new research study ( by Dr. Tompkins published in Answers Research Journal this month did a comprehensive comparison of human and chimp DNA without any pre-sorting and using all of the available genome sequence. Here are the results of the study: “Average sequence identity between human and chimp for both phases of the study varied between 86 and 89 percent.” So, the oft-repeated mantra of 98-99% similarity is wrong. Previous estimates were pre-screened and sorted for similarity which generated an artificially-high similarity. Much of the unmatched human genome was discarded as “junk DNA” but geneticists are now finding that these areas of the human genome (which have no similarity to the chimp genome) are in critical areas which make humans humans. Without agenda-driven cherry-picking, a broad-based straight-up comparison results in genetic differences 10 times what was previously reported by evolutionists to the public.



  1. That’s actually not surprising–even if human and chimp DNA were as similar as previously claimed, it was clear that -which- genes were different must have been truly significant, because of the size of our physical differences.

    However, I’d have to argue that this does not override the dozens of transitional species in the fossil records that clearly trace the path of human evolution from a shared ancestor with apes. We did not, of course, evolve from chimpanzees–rather chimpanzees and humans shared an ancestor millions of years ago, and both species have undergone massive genetic changes since that time.

    The transitional fossils just won’t go away. The recent discoveries like Australopithecus sediba are especially convincing–there’s a clear mixing of human and ape-like features going on, and a clear timeline for the progression of the development of human features. Sediba features some “missing links,” and more such fossils are discovered every year. I’ve yet to hear a convincing theological explanation for this.

    • kagmi:
      Thank you for your comment. I wonder what is the agent of these “massive genetic changes?” Geneticists agree that the vast majority of mutations are harmful. A tiny fraction are neutral and a infinitessimally small number are actually beneficial. Not good odds for “molecules to man” evolution even allowing for billions of years and a whole lot of luck.

      Also, I wonder where are the “dozens of transitional species” you refer to? Are you talking about creatures like the australopithecines? They have been shown to have ape morphology, not human or even pre-human. “Lucy” for example exhibits an ape skull, ape jaw, ape teeth, ape ear bone structure, conical ape ribcage, round rib bones, ape shoulders, locking wrists, curved metacarpals, and an ape pelvis. Perhaps you meant Neanderthals, homo erectus, or Heidelberg Man. These all have features which fall well within the morphological range of modern humans and new discoveries make them appear more “modern” every day. Homo floresiensis is now thought to be a modern human group characterized by microcephaly. They are quite similar to pygmy or aboriginee morphology. I know you didn’t mean “Ida” which was embarassingly shown to be a lemur, not a human ancestor. Apes remain apes and humans remain humans.
      And remember that speciation is not an engine of evolution. It only creates more varieties of the same kind of creature. It’s just swishing around the same genetic information you start with, not adding anything new. New features come from a loss of information and degraded/damaged genes. That’s hardly upward evolutionary change.

      • Thanks for the reply. As to your points–

        It’s true that the vast majority of mutations are harmful. Improving a gene by mutating it is a bit like fixing a watch by throwing it off the roof. However, very rarely, that does happen (I have a pretty good record of fixing things using the throw-it-at-the-wall approach myself :P).

        This is most easily demonstrateable in the lab through bacteria. E. coli bacteria in laboratory test tubes have been seen to, in a few rare cases, spontaneously evolve the ability to use new food sources or to grow and reproduce without oxygen. The latter mutation has been called by a speciation event by some scientists, since oxygen dependence i s one of the defining characteristics of E. coli.

        So it does happen. Just much more rarely than the, say, millions of harmful mutations that E. coli experience every day in laboratory settings (or inside your body, for that matter.) It would actually be shocking if speciation -couldn’t- occur through mutation, since there’s absolutely no reason that genes can’t mutate in helpful ways. If any part of a gene can change in any way through random error, that includes parts that may be holding it back.

        As to transitional fossils, I am indeed referring to the Ardipithecines, the Australopithecines, and of course the other Homo species. While I know that some are disputed–the possible identify of “Homo florensis” as an individual with microcephaly, for example–there are some bone structures that are quite clearly neither human nor ape. Australopithecus sediba displays a distinct and surprising combination of ape- and human-like bones in its wrists and ankles, for example. Much earlier than A. sediba, Ardipithecus ramidus shows clearly nonhuman features all throughout her skeleton, yet she also has several bone structures that indicate she walks upright.

  2. When they reported that human-chimp DNA was about 99% identical, they also claimed this number corroborated other research and verified Evolution.

    Well, if the number was off by a factor of ten, then what does that say about “corroboration” with other research? Either they were lying then or the other research was wrong, and this now falsifies Evolution.

    If 99% similar DNA confirmed that our supposed human-chimp common ancestor lived 6myo, then it stands to reason that if the similarity falls to 86%, that common ancestor must have lived >60myo. What does that suggest about the fossil record? Can the fossil record be so elastic that it supports ANY similarity that is found?!

  3. If you have a predisposition to support Creation beliefs, you leave yourself vulnerable as being uncredible except by those who already agree with your beliefs. There is not even a point to suggest why you would even need to affirm your own beliefs in this matter if that your sole intention. Simply not listening to another does enough in that matter. But here is my suggestion, Christians (who don’t even follow Jesus’ actual beliefs like the fact Jesus doesn’t support violence, yet you guys believe in Gun rights, which means you are not Christian, you are heretics or worse, heathens; or how Jesus believes money is the property of the state, the government; or how Jesus believes that people should give charity to the poor whenever they possibly can, that does not mean just whenever you feel convenient to do so, but rather whenever you can; this means that when you walk up the pearly white steps the gates of heaven, you will not be welcomed in no matter how much you confess to yourselves as Christians, because god as it is written in the old testament and in the ten commandments does not accept being treated as a MORON; if you want to be accepted into heaven, you must do as you are told by god, not what you damn well please, god is not stupid, you heretical morons), if you want people to follow what you believe, you are going to have to be willing though directly acting upon doing so to meet the other person half-way. That doesn’t mean you have to immediately seek a compromise. What it means is if you find yourself proven wrong, you accept being wrong. Like for instance, you find reasonable proof the Devil is created by a person’s imagination, not by a real entity. Then you accept that premise as valid even if your original beliefs tell you otherwise. And likewise, if you find credible proof that Jesus was the son of divinity, then you accept that as true as well.

    • Follower,
      Thank you for taking the time to read the blog and comment. I was disappointed that you failed to respond to any of the information from either of the two studies cited in the article. Instead, you begin with insults, ad hominem attacks, and cliches. I will attempt to respond in a more polite manner than you chose to. Using your own words, you also appear to have a “predisposition” against creationism. You allege that Christians cannot own guns, citing Jesus’ commands without offering a scriptural reference of this. I will provide you with two: Luke 22:36-38 and Matthew 26:51-54. In the Luke passage Jesus is instructing His disciples to prepare themselves for after He returns to heaven. They are told to buy swords if they don’t have one. There is only one use for a sword: to kill (or threaten). It is for self-defense. You cannot slice bread, give a haircut, etc. with a sword. In Matthew 26, they have come to arrest Jesus. Peter attacks the guards with his sword trying to defend Jesus. It is not Peter’s use of the sword that earns him a rebuke from Christ. But rather, it is his interference in the overall plan of God for Jesus to die on the cross (see also Matthew 16:21-23). This blog is not intended for political discussion but I point this out to show your poor understanding and application of scripture. You also say “Jesus believes money to be the property of the state” without (again) offering any scriptural support. I suppose you might be referring to Matthew 22:21 “[looking at the coin] render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” Are you saying that all things (including money) do not belong to God? Has the Creator of the universe surrendered a portion of His omnipotence to the Roman emperor or any other government? The context of the passage indicates Jesus was talking about honor, not money. His enemies were trying to trap Him into saying Jews didn’t need to pay taxes. Then they could have Jesus killed as a rebel against the empire. Instead, Jesus advises His disciples to pay taxes which is in perfect accordance with Paul’s instructions in Romans 13:1-7 which explains this concept. The apostle Peter also told Ananias and Sapphira that their money was theirs to do with what they chose, not the government’s (Acts 5:4). As for benevolence to the poor, you are correct that Christians are commanded to do this. But you don’t know me nor my actions and cannot therefore judge me nor all Christians based upon the actions or inactions of some others. You can certainly not make any judgments about my salvation and if I will enter heaven or not. I would never presume to make such a statement about you or anyone else. God alone can judge that. I can confidently say that Jesus would not condone your insults and name-calling (see Matthew 5:22). From a practical standpoint, it’s not terribly effective in winning people to your argument either. Finally, you say “if you find yourself proven wrong, you accept being wrong.” I have found myself wrong on a great number of occasions. I fully expect this trend to continue into the future as I study, investigate, and learn. I pray that you may have the same courage and humility. As far as creation, I have found through years of intense study that the weight of the evidence overwhelmingly supports a young earth and divine creation. If your research has yielded different results, then fine. But let’s be intellectually honest with each other and stop name-calling like children. “Come, let us REASON together” (Isaiah 1:18). God bless.

  4. Thanks Rob Lester. I wonder why christians get such a bad reputation when a scientific discussion turns into a philosophical debate. Its nice to just search for the truth without someone putting their 2 cents in. Its not witnessing, its embarrassing. It is also sad that only christian or creation based websites seem to be advertising the new genetic information in the article. You simply cannot get unbiased information, even from pubmed. I was wondering if a similar article exists elsewhere on an “unbiased” or secular website / journal? Not that I would be more likely to believe that one over the other, but the only way to eliminate prospective bias is to get both parties to agree. The information may be in the articles themselves, but I may have overlooked it. Thanks

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