Wesley J. Smith has written a blog on human exceptionalism at Secondhand Smoke, his blog at First Things, in light of the recent publications about “Ardi”, the hominid that is supposedly “pretty close” to the common ancestor of humans and chimps way back 4.4 million years ago.
Human exceptionalism received a boost today with the news that human beings apparently did not evolve from apes…I bring this up because some Darwinsists and other assorted materialists have attacked human exceptionalism on the basis that our supposed emergence from the great apes and/or our genetic closeness means that we should not think of ourselves as distinctive. I never thought that was in the least persuasive. What matters is what we are now, not what might have been millions of years ago or how we got here…
And that brings me to Ewen Callaway’s review in New Scientist of the book Not a Chimp: The hunt to find the genes that make us human authored by Jeremy Taylor. As Mr. Callaway explains, Jeremy Taylor’s book sheds light on the issue of genetic similarity:
In this book, his first, the former BBC producer synthesises recent genetic, behavioural and neuroscientific research to argue that far more than a handful of genes divides humans from our evolutionary cousins, 6 million years removed.
Take that 98.4 per cent, an oft-repeated figure that has been used to argue that chimps deserve human rights. True, Homo sapiens and Pan troglodytes share an extraordinary amount of genetic similarity – yet humans and mice share almost as much.
My own conceptual difficulty of evolution’s measurement and falsification is this:
So it appears that humans didn’t evolve from apes after all, so the correlation of modern genetic similarity between us seems a non-issue. It’s interesting to me to note that genetic similarity is used in evidence for evolution, showing how closely related organisms are, but so is genetic dissimilarity, showing that evolution accounts for why they have grown apart. After all, evolution is supposed to exist in the differences, otherwise something isn’t evolving unless it is moving away from something else. And if something isn’t going away from something else, then there is no evolution. But in order to know the proximity of something to another thing, you have to know the basis for comparison, but the basis of comparison is assumed to be a result of evolution too. The measuring stick and the thing being measured are both evolving, and are indeed both the continuing result of evolution, so there cannot be a steady baseline for comparison because the measurement has evolved along with the variation it is supposed to be measuring in a continual process. Unless the measuring stick is separate from the thing being measured, you can do no measuring, to paraphrase C. S. Lewis. That is one difficulty.
This is my second difficulty. What is outside the circle of evolution that is used to compare evolution to? If all living things evolved, what are we using to determine that against? Something has to exist to be used as a basis for comparison that isn’t itself the thing being compared. Similarity and dissimilarity are both used to support evolution, which is, quite honestly, circular and a tautology in the respect that no new information is being given and all possibilities have been exhausted. It is like saying that it is either raining or not raining outside. Conceptually, by wanting too much, evolutionists will get nothing. If it explains everything, it explains nothing in particular. The knot comes loose when you try to pull it tight.
Aside from having it’s own measurement problem, what’s left to falsify it, since all comparisons are used to be evidence for evolution? It seems to me you have to pick one or the other, and choosing the similarity of forms as your baseline, is based on an idea that “at bottom” forms should be fundamentally similar and evolve to different, which is really just smuggled in teleology. There is no conceptual nor evidential reason why anything should be similar with the assumption of evolution. If we say that things that are similar survive better, then there is no reason to evolve. And if we say that things that are different survive better, then we have removed the basis for why things should be similar, ourselves and our ” reciprocal altruism” included. Or if we go the third route and claim both as true, then nothing stands to falsify it.