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The four percent human mouse? A classic in pop science

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An alert reader, Robert Preisser, sends in some apt comments on this story:

The hybrid is what scientists call a human-animal chimera, a single organism that’s made up of two different sets of cells — in this case, a mouse embryo that has both mouse cells and human cells.

This human-mouse chimera has by far the highest number of human cells ever recorded in an animal, according to researchers. Their experiment suggests that many types of human cells can be generated in mouse embryos, and at a much faster rate than in human embryos.

And that, the scientists say, carries enormous potential for the treatment of human diseases, possibly even Covid-19.

Harmeet Kaur, “Scientists made a mouse embryo that’s 4% human — the highest level of human cells in an animal yet” at CNN

Preisser writes,


This is one example of misreporting of science for public consumption:

First of all, scientists did not make a mouse embryo that is actually 4% human and 96% mouse. They merely incubated human cells within a developing mouse embryo. There is a difference because that embryo will likely never survive or fully develop into an adult mouse-human hybrid.
The article does not ever say that these developed into adulthood, and there is every reason to believe that at a certain developmental point (say, when the immune system becomes functional) these alien human cells would be rejected and the embryo would die.

But secondly, the author intentionally puts words into the scientist’s mouth to make a story that is really all about design from start to finish, in order to force fit it into the naturalistic evolutionary narrative.

Scientist’s words: The team’s experiment indicates that the “the genetic program embodied in a mouse embryo and the genetic program embodied in human stem cells can crosstalk pretty well,” Feng said.

Science writer’s (mis-)interpretation: In other words, there’s enough evolutionary compatibility between mice and humans that mouse embryos are a relatively good environment for cultivating human cells.

No, that’s not what Feng said. Feng said the genetic program (a hallmark of design) “can crosstalk pretty well.” The science writer twisted those words to fit into the standard evolutionary narrative instead. But this only highlights the point: common descent is only one possible explanation, while common design can equally (or even better) explain the same evidence.

The author goes on to quote Feng saying: “Life is a DNA-based software system that harnesses energy to produce information,” Feng wrote. “This experiment is kind of like emulating Windows in a Mac.”

Emulating Windows in a Mac environment is an example of two wholly designed systems being designed to work together. Not an example of two things that share a common ancestor. That only underscores the reality that design is a better explanation for why mouse embryo’s can produce the right signals at the right time to trigger the innate programming in the human stem cells to differentiate into human blood cells.

Actually, this experiment runs counter to what one ought to expect if the evolutionary paradigm were actually true. If the reason why this works is because humans and mice both inherited their genetic programs from a common ancestor, then one would expect the human stem cells to respond to the control signals of the mouse embryo and produce MOUSE cells wherever the mouse DNA instructs.

After all, both human and mouse DNA came from some most recent common ancestor, and only mutations that occurred later would differentiate them. But given the overarching genetic program is the mouse DNA (since the human stem cells were inserted into it), then all control signals would be to build mouse cells. It is actually not predicted by evolutionary theory that these cells would still be fully human cells developing in a mouse embryo. Instead, either those subsequent mutations to the human cell DNA would break them so no human cells would develop, or there would be enough residual inherited DNA so that the cells would become fully mouse cells.

In no way does naturalistic evolution from universal common descent predict fully human cells to develop following control signals from mouse DNA.

But that is what would be predicted if humans and mice were separately designed but share similar design features.

One last note, although the author puts evolutionary words into Feng’s mouth, here, even Feng’s own words reverse cause and effect, here: “Life is a DNA-based software system that harnesses energy to produce information…”

It is more accurate to say “Life is a DNA-based software system that uses information to harness energy to reproduce itself.” The information must already be present in DNA for DNA to harness energy in the first place. It reverses cause and effect to argue that DNA harnesses energy to produce the very information required for it to do anything at all.

And it is overly simplistic in any case, because DNA alone does not control or guide development of life.


Popular science writing often amounts to covering science energetically—with a pillow until it stops moving.

7 Replies to “The four percent human mouse? A classic in pop science

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    a few related notes:

    If DNA really rules (morphology), why did THIS happen? – April 2014
    Excerpt: Researchers implanted human embryonic neuronal cells into a mouse embryo. Mouse and human neurons have distinct morphologies (shapes). Because the human neurons feature human DNA, they should be easy to identify.
    Which raises a question: Would the human neurons implanted in developing mouse brain have a mouse or a human morphology?
    Well, the answer is, the human neurons had a mouse morphology. They could be distinguished from the mouse ones only by their human genetic markers.
    If DNA really ruled, we would expect a human morphology.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....is-happen/

    DNA doesn’t even tell teeth what they should look like – April 3, 2014
    Excerpt: A friend writes to mention a mouse experiment where developing tooth buds were moved so that the incisors and the molars were switched. The tooth buds became the tooth appropriate to the switched location, not the original one, in direct contrast to what we would expect from a genecentric view.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....look-like/

    Darwinists, by focusing solely on DNA (i.e. genecentrism), simply have no clue why a mouse should be a mouse nor why a human should be a human.

    As Stuart A. Newman noted, “genes do not uniquely determine what is in the cell, but what is in the cell determines how the genes get used. Only if the pie were to rise up, take hold of the recipe book and rewrite the instructions for its own production, would this popular analogy for the role of genes be pertinent.”

    The Gene Myth, Part II – August 2010
    Excerpt: “It was long believed that a protein molecule’s three-dimensional shape, on which its function depends, is uniquely determined by its amino acid sequence. But we now know that this is not always true – the rate at which a protein is synthesized, which depends on factors internal and external to the cell, affects the order in which its different portions fold. So even with the same sequence a given protein can have different shapes and functions. Furthermore, many proteins have no intrinsic shape, (intrinsically disordered proteins), taking on different roles in different molecular contexts. So even though genes specify protein sequences they have only a tenuous (very weak or slight) influence over their functions.
    ,,,,So, to reiterate, the genes do not uniquely determine what is in the cell, but what is in the cell determines how the genes get used. Only if the pie were to rise up, take hold of the recipe book and rewrite the instructions for its own production, would this popular analogy for the role of genes be pertinent.
    Stuart A. Newman, Ph.D. – Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....rt-ii.html

    And as Jonathan Well noted, “It’s the organism controlling the DNA, not the DNA controlling the organism.”

    Ask an Embryologist: Genomic Mosaicism – Jonathan Wells – February 23, 2015
    Excerpt: humans have a “few thousand” different cell types. Here is my simple question: Does the DNA sequence in one cell type differ from the sequence in another cell type in the same person?,,,
    The simple answer is: We now know that there is considerable variation in DNA sequences among tissues, and even among cells in the same tissue. It’s called genomic mosaicism.
    In the early days of developmental genetics, some people thought that parts of the embryo became different from each other because they acquired different pieces of the DNA from the fertilized egg. That theory was abandoned,,,
    ,,,(then) “genomic equivalence” — the idea that all the cells of an organism (with a few exceptions, such as cells of the immune system) contain the same DNA — became the accepted view.
    I taught genomic equivalence for many years. A few years ago, however, everything changed. With the development of more sophisticated techniques and the sampling of more tissues and cells, it became clear that genetic mosaicism is common.
    I now know as an embryologist,,,Tissues and cells, as they differentiate, modify their DNA to suit their needs. It’s the organism controlling the DNA, not the DNA controlling the organism.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....93851.html

    Directly contrary to Darwinian presuppositions, there simply is no ‘blueprint’ for an organism to be found within DNA, As this recent article noted, “DNA cannot be seen as the ‘blueprint’ for life,”

    DNA may not be life’s instruction book—just a jumbled list of ingredients – Kimbra Cutlip, University of Maryland – APRIL 22, 2020
    Excerpt: The common view of heredity is that all information passed down from one generation to the next is stored in an organism’s DNA. But Antony Jose, associate professor of cell biology and molecular genetics at the University of Maryland, disagrees.
    In two new papers, Jose argues that DNA is just the ingredient list, not the set of instructions used to build and maintain a living organism.,,,
    ,,, “DNA cannot be seen as the ‘blueprint’ for life,” Jose said. “It is at best an overlapping and potentially scrambled list of ingredients that is used differently by different cells at different times.”
    ,,, In addition, scientists are unable to determine the complex shape of an organ such as an eye, or that a creature will have eyes at all, by reading the creature’s DNA. These fundamental aspects of anatomy are dictated by something outside of the DNA.
    https://phys.org/news/2020-04-dna-life-bookjust-jumbled-ingredients.html

    (Paul) Davies And Walker On Origin Of Life: Life As Information – March 7, 2020
    Excerpt: However, the genome is only a small part of the story. DNA is not a blueprint for an organism:1 no information is actively processed by DNA alone [17]. Rather, DNA is a (mostly) passive repository for transcription of stored data into RNA, some (but by no means all) of which goes on to be translated into proteins. The biologically relevant information stored in DNA therefore has very little to do with its specific chemical nature (beyond the fact that it is a digital linear polymer).
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/davies-and-walker-on-origin-of-life-life-as-information/

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    A few more notes

    The mouse is not enough – February 2011
    Excerpt: Richard Behringer, who studies mammalian embryogenesis at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas said, “There is no ‘correct’ system. Each species is unique and uses its own tailored mechanisms to achieve development. By only studying one species (eg, the mouse), naive scientists believe that it represents all mammals.”
    http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/57986/

    Evolution by Splicing – Comparing gene transcripts from different species reveals surprising splicing diversity. – Ruth Williams – December 20, 2012
    Excerpt: A major question in vertebrate evolutionary biology is “how do physical and behavioral differences arise if we have a very similar set of genes to that of the mouse, chicken, or frog?”,,,
    ,,, On the other hand, the papers show that most alternative splicing events differ widely between even closely related species. “The alternative splicing patterns are very different even between humans and chimpanzees,” said Blencowe.,,,
    http://www.the-scientist.com/?.....plicing%2F

    Widespread Expansion of Protein Interaction Capabilities by Alternative Splicing – 2016
    In Brief
    Alternatively spliced isoforms of proteins exhibit strikingly different interaction profiles and thus, in the context of global interactome networks, appear to behave as if encoded by distinct genes rather than as minor variants of each other.,,,
    Page 806 excerpt: As many as 100,000 distinct isoform transcripts could be produced from the 20,000 human protein-coding genes (Pan et al., 2008), collectively leading to perhaps over a million distinct polypeptides obtained by post-translational modification of products of all possible transcript isoforms (Smith and Kelleher, 2013).
    http://iakouchevalab.ucsd.edu/.....M_2016.pdf

    Mouse gene expression reveals “widespread differences” from humans – Nov. 22, 2014
    Excerpt: an international group of researchers has found powerful clues to why certain processes and systems in the mouse — such as the immune system, metabolism and stress response — are so different from those in people.,,,
    Mice are widely used to model human metabolism, disease, and drug response. But results published today (November 17) in PNAS reveal widespread differences between human and mouse gene expression, both in protein-coding and noncoding genes,,,
    Michael Snyder of Stanford University and his colleagues compared how genes are expressed in 15 different human and mouse tissues, including brain, heart, liver, and kidney. They found that gene expression patterns clustered by species rather than tissues. For example, gene expression in a mouse liver more closely resembled the patterns observed in a mouse heart than those observed in a human liver.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....om-humans/

    What scientific idea is ready for retirement? – Mouse Models
    Excerpt: A recent scientific paper showed that all 150 drugs tested at the cost of billions of dollars in human trials of sepsis failed because the drugs had been developed using mice. Unfortunately, what looks like sepsis in mice turned out to be very different than what sepsis is in humans. Coverage of this study by Gina Kolata in the New York Times incited a heated response from within the biomedical research community.
    AZRA RAZA – Professor of medicine and director of the MDS Centre, Columbia University, New York
    http://www.theguardian.com/sci.....t-edge-org

    Comparing the human and chimpanzee genomes: Searching for needles in a haystack – Ajit Varki1 and Tasha K. Altheide – 2005
    Excerpt: ,,, The chimpanzee has also long been seen as a model for human diseases because of its close evolutionary relationship. This is indeed the case for a few disorders. Nevertheless, it is a striking paradox that chimpanzees are in fact not good models for many major human diseases/conditions (see Table 2) (Varki 2000; Olson and Varki 2003).
    http://genome.cshlp.org/content/15/12/1746.full

  3. 3
    AaronS1978 says:

    They didn’t do this for the enormous potential to battle covid 19 what a crock of shit

  4. 4
    Seversky says:

    Bornagain77 @ 1

    Darwinists, by focusing solely on DNA (i.e. genecentrism), simply have no clue why a mouse should be a mouse nor why a human should be a human.

    Neither do theists. But biologists are not claiming access to a fount of all knowledge which, on close inspection, seems not to exist.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Seversky in response to,,,,

    Darwinists, by focusing solely on DNA (i.e. genecentrism), simply have no clue why a mouse should be a mouse nor why a human should be a human.

    ,,, Seversky states

    Neither do theists.

    You are either grossly ignorant or purposely lying. Theists since Aristotle, and Christians since Augustine, have held that it is the immaterial ‘essence’ of a species, which is not reducible to material particulars, which makes a mouse a mouse, a cat a cat, a squirrel a squirrel, and a human a human,

    Darwin, Design & Thomas Aquinas
    The Mythical Conflict Between Thomism & Intelligent Design by Logan Paul Gage
    Excerpt: First, the problem of essences. G. K. Chesterton once quipped that “evolution . . . does not especially deny the existence of God; what it does deny is the existence of man.” It might appear shocking, but in this one remark the ever-perspicacious Chesterton summarized a serious conflict between classical Christian philosophy and Darwinism.
    In Aristotelian and Thomistic thought, each particular organism belongs to a certain universal class of things. Each individual shares a particular nature—or essence—and acts according to its nature. Squirrels act squirrelly and cats catty. We know with certainty that a squirrel is a squirrel because a crucial feature of human reason is its ability to abstract the universal nature from our sense experience of particular organisms.
    Think about it: How is it that we are able to recognize different organisms as belonging to the same group? The Aristotelian provides a good answer: It is because species really exist—not as an abstraction in the sky, but they exist nonetheless. We recognize the squirrel’s form, which it shares with other members of its species, even though the particular matter of each squirrel differs. So each organism, each unified whole, consists of a material and immaterial part (form).,,,
    One way to see this form-matter dichotomy is as Aristotle’s solution to the ancient tension between change and permanence debated so vigorously in the pre-Socratic era. Heraclitus argued that reality is change. Everything constantly changes—like fire, which never stays the same from moment to moment. Philosophers like Parmenides (and Zeno of “Zeno’s paradoxes” fame) argued exactly the opposite; there is no change. Despite appearances, reality is permanent. How else could we have knowledge? If reality constantly changes, how can we know it? What is to be known?
    Aristotle solved this dilemma by postulating that while matter is constantly in flux—even now some somatic cells are leaving my body while others arrive—an organism’s form is stable. It is a fixed reality, and for this reason is a steady object of our knowledge. Organisms have an essence that can be grasped intellectually.
    Denial of True Species
    Enter Darwinism. Recall that Darwin sought to explain the origin of “species.” Yet as he pondered his theory, he realized that it destroyed species as a reality altogether. For Darwinism suggests that any matter can potentially morph into any other arrangement of matter without the aid of an organizing principle. He thought cells were like simple blobs of Jell-O, easily re-arrangeable. For Darwin, there is no immaterial, immutable form. In The Origin of Species he writes:
    “I look at the term species as one arbitrarily given, for the sake of convenience, to a set of individuals closely resembling each other, and that it does not essentially differ from the term variety, which is given to less distinct and more fluctuating forms. The term variety, again, in comparison with mere individual differences, is also applied arbitrarily, for convenience’s sake.”
    Statements like this should make card-carrying Thomists shudder.,,,
    The first conflict between Darwinism and Thomism, then, is the denial of true species or essences. For the Thomist, this denial is a grave error, because the essence of the individual (the species in the Aristotelian sense) is the true object of our knowledge. As philosopher Benjamin Wiker observes in Moral Darwinism, Darwin reduced species to “mere epiphenomena of matter in motion.” What we call a “dog,” in other words, is really just an arbitrary snapshot of the way things look at present. If we take the Darwinian view, Wiker suggests, there is no species “dog” but only a collection of individuals, connected in a long chain of changing shapes, which happen to resemble each other today but will not tomorrow.
    What About Man?
    Now we see Chesterton’s point. Man, the universal, does not really exist. According to the late Stanley Jaki, Chesterton detested Darwinism because “it abolishes forms and all that goes with them, including that deepest kind of ontological form which is the immortal human soul.” And if one does not believe in universals, there can be, by extension, no human nature—only a collection of somewhat similar individuals.,,,
    Implications for Bioethics
    This is not a mere abstract point. This dilemma is playing itself out in contemporary debates in bioethics. With whom are bioethicists like Leon Kass (neo-Aristotelian and former chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics) sparring today if not with thoroughgoing Darwinians like Princeton’s Peter Singer, who denies that humans, qua humans, have intrinsic dignity? Singer even calls those who prefer humans to other animals “speciesist,” which in his warped vocabulary is akin to racism.,,,
    If one must choose between saving an intelligent, fully developed pig or a Down syndrome baby, Singer thinks we should opt for the pig.,,,
    https://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=23-06-037-f

    Darwinists themselves admit that they have no real clue how to properly define a species, and they even consider it a triumph of evolutionary theory that humans are not considered special since there really is no way to differentiate humans from other species.

    What is a species? The most important concept in all of biology is a complete mystery – July 16, 2019
    Excerpt: Enough of species?
    This is only the tip of a deep and confusing iceberg. There is absolutely no agreement among biologists about how we should understand the species. One 2006 article on the subject listed 26 separate definitions of species, all with their advocates and detractors. Even this list is incomplete.
    The mystery surrounding species is well-known in biology, and commonly referred to as “the species problem”. Frustration with the idea of a species goes back at least as far as Darwin.,,,
    some contemporary biologists and philosophers of biology have,,, suggested that biology would be much better off if it didn’t think about life in terms of species at all.,,,
    One of the great discoveries of evolutionary biology is that the human species is not special or privileged in the grand scheme of things, and that humans have the same origins as all the other animals. This approach just takes the next step. It says that there is no such thing as “the human species” at all.
    https://theconversation.com/what-is-a-species-the-most-important-concept-in-all-of-biology-is-a-complete-mystery-119200

    Seversky goes on to state,

    biologists are not claiming access to a fount of all knowledge

    No, but Darwinian biologists, (as opposed to real molecular biologists), do claim that the “Origin of Species”, (i.e. the origin of ALL species on earth by unguided Darwinian processes), is an indisputable fact. Yet, as should be needless to say, if you can’t even define what a species truly is in the first place, then your supposedly ‘scientific’ theory cannot possibly be the correct scientific theory about the how all the various species on the face of earth came about.

    Seversky then claims that

    a fount of all knowledge. (omniscient God) which, on close inspection, seems not to exist.

    LOL, here is a picture of Seversky, and his atheistic friends, looking for evidence for God, “on close inspection”, at an atheist convention,,,
    https://static.independent.co.uk/s3fs-public/thumbnails/image/2014/11/13/15/bury-heads-australia-v3.jpg?w968

    🙂 🙂

  6. 6
    Seversky says:

    Bornagain77 @ 5

    ,,, Seversky states

    Neither do theists.

    You are either grossly ignorant or purposely lying. Theists since Aristotle, and Christians since Augustine, have held that it is the immaterial ‘essence’ of a species, which is not reducible to material particulars, which makes a mouse a mouse, a cat a cat, a squirrel a squirrel, and a human a human,

    Essentialism is a metaphysical claim not a scientific explanation. In my version of ‘naturalism’, for example, I hold that everything that exists has an observable, physical nature – that which makes a thing itself and not something else. So, if God or ghosts or things that go bump in the night actually exist other than figments of our imagination then they are natural phenomena. On this view, of course, there is no such thing as the “supernatural”, just the unknown and unexplained as yet. However, this is also just a metaphysical position, not in any way a scientific theory.

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Seversky states,

    Essentialism is a metaphysical claim not a scientific explanation.

    Well actually essentialism is a metaphysical claim that turns out to be the correct scientific explanation. Whereas Darwinian materialism is also a metaphysical claim that turns out to be the incorrect scientific explanation.

    Metaphysics
    Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between potentiality and actuality.[1] The word “metaphysics” comes from two Greek words that, together, literally mean “after or behind or among [the study of] the natural”. It has been suggested that the term might have been coined by a first century AD editor who assembled various small selections of Aristotle’s works into the treatise we now know by the name Metaphysics (ta meta ta phusika, ‘after the Physics?’, another of Aristotle’s works).[2]
    Metaphysics studies questions related to what it is for something to exist and what types of existence there are.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphysics

    In fact, although Darwinian materialism is itself a metaphysical claim as to the fundamental nature of reality, Darwinian materialism commits epistemological suicide as a metaphysical claim since it denies the existence of the metaphysical realm.

    As Sedgwick chastised Darwin, “There is a moral or metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical. A man who denies this is deep in the mire of folly”,,,

    From Adam Sedgwick 24 November 1859
    – Cambridge
    My dear Darwin,
    ,,, There is a moral or metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical A man who denies this is deep in the mire of folly Tis the crown & glory of organic science that it does thro’ final cause , link material to moral; & yet does not allow us to mingle them in our first conception of laws, & our classification of such laws whether we consider one side of nature or the other— You have ignored this link; &, if I do not mistake your meaning, you have done your best in one or two pregnant cases to break it. Were it possible (which thank God it is not) to break it, humanity in my mind, would suffer a damage that might brutalize it—& sink the human race into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen since its written records tell us of its history.,,,
    https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-2548.xml

    Seversky, you go on to state,

    I hold that everything that exists has an observable, physical nature – that which makes a thing itself and not something else. So, if God or ghosts or things that go bump in the night actually exist other than figments of our imagination then they are natural phenomena. On this view, of course, there is no such thing as the “supernatural”, just the unknown and unexplained as yet. However, this is also just a metaphysical position, not in any way a scientific theory.

    It is really embarrassing to have to point out your self-contradiction, but you just defined what is beyond nature, (i.e. what is beyond and/or ‘super’-natural), as somehow being ‘natural’ and then immediately after that incoherent definition, you then claimed that what you just defined as being ‘natural’ is “not in any way a scientific theory.”

    Yet you, as a Darwinist, also hold that ‘methodological naturalism’ is the only way to do science,

    Methodological naturalism is the label for the required assumption of philosophical naturalism when working with the scientific method.
    – per wikipedia

    You can’t have it both ways Seversky. If the ‘super-natural’ realm actually exists and is thus, according to your new definition of reality, ‘natural’, then it directly follows that your new expanded definition for what constitutes the ‘natural’ realm must therefore also fall under your original rubric of methodological naturalism, and therefore your new expanded definition for what is to be considered ‘natural’ must now also fall under your original naturalistic definition for being ‘science’.

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