We recently received a question from an atheist containing a number of claims that evolution was proven because humans and animals had genes left over from evolutionary ancestors. When we asked this questioner what observations or experiments show that whales had leg genes and humans had tail genes, etc, left over from evolution, we received a number of claims with links to various technical and not so technical sites, which we have examined. Our responses are below.

Evolutionary Claim about whales having leg genes: Cetacean (whale) hindlimb genes were selectively inactivated by modification of expression.
Reference: Pharyngula

Answer: Checking the source shows that the description “selectively inactivated by modification of expression” is an interpretation based on a prior belief in evolution, and definitely not a scientific observation of an actual process. The observation is that body form control genes act differently in whales compared with land animals. No-one has observed a land animal’s genes undergo modification to become a whale’s genes, so any claims about how they came to be different is a matter of belief.

Evolutionary Claim about human tails: Humans still have the genes to grow tails but have lost (through evolution) the regulatory sequences needed to control the process.
References: sfgate Talk Origins

Answer: The so called tail genes we possess are simply genes for bones, joints, muscle, nerves etc. But since genes only function under the control of separate and pre-existent regulatory genes, these genes will not build a tail unless the control genes tell them to. Our human regulatory genes do not work to make these other genes ever form a tail. The human coccyx is sometimes called the “tail bone” and is claimed to be a vestigial tail left over from evolution. In fact, the coccyx is a functional part of the human musculo-skeletal system. Again this is not an actual observation of a process, but an evolutionary interpretation of the facts. For more information about the coccyx see our article Vestigial Organs, available as a PDF here

For more detailed versions of the above two answers, see our answer on Ask John Mackay

Evolutionary Claim about hen’s teeth 1: Chickens retain the ability to grow teeth, even though birds lost this feature (through evolution) long ago.
Reference: Scientific American

Answer: The report in Scientific American described the formation of tiny conical protuberances on the jaws of developing chicken embryos that contained a mutation named “talpid2”. These growths were claimed to resemble alligator teeth. The growths did not develop into teeth, mainly because the mutation is fatal and embryos with it normally all die before they are 12 days old. Such a lethal mutation cannot contribute anything to the evolution of either reptiles or birds. Since this experiment no-one has shown that chickens can grow teeth. Therefore, hen’s teeth are still as rare as …

Evolutionary Claim about hen’s teeth 2: Although broken (during evolution), genes for the development of enamel are still present in the chicken genome.
Reference: Biomed Central

Answer: Chickens do have one of four genes thought to be involved in enamel formation (amelogenin, AMEL), but this alone is insufficient to grow teeth. Some fossil birds do have teeth, so if modern birds have lost enamel forming genes there has been degeneration, not evolution. In the same way some people are born without arms or legs. Mum and dad had the genes to make them but they have become defunct in their offspring. This is degeneration, not evolution. We still do not know what every gene in the chicken genome does so the simple situation is more research is needed to find out why they lost genes and devolved, and what these genes actually do in the living chicken genome.

Evolutionary Claim about Cave Fish: The Mexican Blind Cave Fish has the genes to produce eye sockets even though it has lost its eyes (through evolution). Reference: Journal of Hereditary

Answer:This fish does have genes to produce eyes and eye sockets, but they don’t function because they don’t get the right stimulation during embryonic development. The fish need light to start the process of growing eyes. This was shown in an experiment where scientists were able to induce eye development in the cave fish by transplanting tissue from fish that lived in light and had eyes. We have written about this in a previous item in our article Vestigial Organs article.

Evolutionary Claim about human smell genes: Humans can’t smell as well as we could because we lost (through evolution) some specific olfactory receptor genes.
Reference: PNAS

Answer: It is true that human sense of smell is a lot less sensitive than many animals, and this is partly due to loss of functional genes. This is change, but again it is degeneration, the opposite of evolution. The original very good world would have been filled with good smells, but we know our current sin-corrupted world is full of bad smells, so who would like to perceive the world as being smellier than we can sense now? Let’s give thanks for small mercies.

Our concluding statement: All of the above studies actually show either differences in gene function between different living things, or a real loss of gene function. The conclusion that the differences or losses are the result of evolution is a belief by blind faith without any observed process of evolving at all – who are assuming evolution to interpret present day situations which are then claimed as proof of the very thing they have assumed and amount to no more than lots of noise from evolutionists. Since geneticists can only observe how genes function in the present, any claims about what such genes may or may not have done in the past are beyond the limits of science unless such scientists are willing to accept valid historical data on the origin and history of life. But then that’s what this debate is about – the only authority scientists are trained to accept is their own and God is ruled out by definition – sad but true!

But if you are willing to accept God the Creator has given us a real history of the world, surprise surprise, you will find the observations described above can be better explained by the Biblical record that God created separate kinds of creatures with the differences in gene function built in, and some of these genes have degenerated as part of the overall degeneration of living things since man sinned and God judged the world. (Ref. devolution, fall, evolution)

Evidence News 20 July 2011

We have now have a website dedicated to questions and answers. If you have a question for us please go to Ask John Mackay. You may find your question has been answered. If not you can submit it there.