Let’s get back to basics
Since I’ve been digging into the theory of Evolution with the help of Amit Goswami, I’ve decided to take a look at precisely what that theory is. The Scientific American issue May 2009 is partly devoted to evolution. It has a column by a scientist visiting a creationist conference for instance. He notes, the dismay is kept very light in his piece, that they don’t think humans and animals have a common ancestor. Amit Goswami sits comfortably on the side of scientific opinion on this one: he does think humans have animal ancestry.
Looking at our closest relatives – from a genetic standpoint – chimpanzees share 99% of our DNA. This means that any one trying to prove we’re not related will have a hard time. By the way, Blavatsky maintained we ARE related, but that chimpanzees and other great apes are in fact descended from the first humans, not the other way around. Since she proposes a non-physical humanity coming BEFORE a physical one, her theory is rather hard to prove.
Let’s get back to those genes: When they started looking at that one percent of genes we don’t share with chimps, they found the following:
- The HAR1 DNA sequence is the same for chickens and chimpanzees, but very different for humans. It plays an important part in how our brain develops, specifically the cerebral cortex which is responsible for abstract thought.
- Another brain related part of DNA has to do with simply the size of it. ASPM it’s called. The human brain is a lot larger than that of other animals – compared to our body size.
- The FOXP2 DNA sequence differs significantly from chimps and is involved in our speech. It probably enables us to talk and was already present in Neanderthals.
- HAR2 is a DNA sequence that has an impact on the way the wrist develops enabling us to use complex tools (like me typing ten fingered).
- AMY1 is a gene sequence that helps digest starch. Compared to other primates, humans have particularly many of these. This probably helped early humans digest a large variety of foods. Cooking food also helps us digest plant derived foods, but early humans also developed the ability to get more out of them without that help. Similarly there is a very recent gene development helps humans from Europe and Africa to digest milk. This gene, LCT, is only present in part of the human population and not in chimps at all. This accounts for the inability for people with Asian ancestry to digest milk – we would usually call that a milk allergy. But the fact is: it is simply a very new ability that humans elsewhere have acquired, but hasn’t spread throughout the whole human population yet.
All of these things are, of course, physical characteristics of human beings. That is after all the only thing genetics can say anything about. From a spiritual perspective all of this may be true, but it is hardly satisfying. Our instincts tell us that what makes us human isn’t the wrist-hand abilities, our speech or even our large brains. Yet from a biological standpoint: those are the only things that can be said at present.