Flies and worms in your genome, according to an article in ScienceDaily 27 August 2014, entitled “Evolution used similar molecular toolkits to shape flies, worms, and humans”. The article begins: “Although separated by hundreds of millions of years of evolution, flies, worms, and humans share ancient patterns of gene expression, according to a massive analysis of genomic data”. The genome study was part of the ENCODE project – a large international project involving hundreds of scientists and numerous studies, aimed at analysing how genetic information is put to use to control biological functions.

One new study by scientists at Yale, Harvard and Stanford Universities looked at patterns of gene expression, (programs for turning genes on and off in a coordinated fashion) in worms, flies and humans. The researchers studied the way DNA information is transferred onto RNA – a process called “transcription”. This is the first step in the process of using DNA information by cells to make proteins and control cell functions. The researchers found control of this process was so similar in all three organism that they were able to build “a quantitative model of transcription for humans and then successfully apply it without alteration to the fly and worm”.

One of the leading researchers, Mark Gerstein, a Professor of Biomedical Informatics at Yale University commented: “The special thing about the worm and fly is that they are very distant from humans evolutionarily, so finding something conserved across all three – human, fly and worm – tells us it is a very ancient, fundamental process”.

Gerstein and his colleagues are also involved in a project named the modENCODE project, which is building a catalogue of gene expression in flies and worms so these can be used as “model organisms” in genetics research. In spite of these similarities the three genomes do have significant differences. For a start, the human genome is at least 10 times larger than either the fly or the worm.

What has also emerged in another study, also part of the modENCODE project, is the finding of very great differences in what have been called ‘pseudogenes’ in the three organisms. Pseudogenes are believed to be non functional “molecular fossils of working genes”, but the research team found approximately 15% of these were being transcribed, i.e. having their DNA code transferred to RNA, in all three species. (PNAS, 10.1073/pnas.1407293111, 25 August 2014)


Editorial Comment: This research certainly does indicate that basic cellular functions, such as transcription, are needed for any living cell to work, therefore, it is only to be expected such processes will work in much the same way, but that would be more true because a common designer solved a common problem with a common solution, than if a common ancestor whose genes have been through millions of years of mutations randomly managed to keep a useful feature. Transcription is a complex process involving many proteins and other substances, and therefore has many genes controlling it. Millions of years of random evolution would almost certainly lead to loss or degradation of these, and ruin the whole process, and therefore stop evolution in its tracks.

We would remind whoever wrote the headline about evolution using molecular toolkits that such language is creationist, and ascribes some plan and purpose to a chance random process that supposedly happens without a designer.

In this research we have a good example of the difference between what was actually found by scientific observation, and how it is interpreted by already held beliefs about the past. As such it is a good reminder that the creation/evolution debate is not about science versus religion. It is about how scientific discoveries are interpreted by different world views, e.g. evolution from same ancestor or design by the same Creator. With this in mind we advise you to watch out for the word “conserved” in comparative genome studies when they find the same gene in different organisms. By using the word “conserved” they are imposing the belief that the gene evolved in the creature closest to the bottom of the evolutionary tree, and has been kept intact by all the creatures that evolved from it.

The findings about “pseudogenes” are also interesting. Although these have been written off as the useless wreckage of evolution, we would remind scientists that many useful body structures which were also written off as useless “vestigial organs” have now been found to have real functions. We have also learnt that same lesson about “junk DNA”, so just because we can’t see an obvious function for pseudogenes, that does not mean they are useless leftovers. Writing off things we don’t understand is not a scientific approach to them. When you find something whose function you don’t see straight away, the proper scientific approach is to do more research and find out. The new observation that some pseudogenes are being transcribed indicates they may have a function. Furthermore, if some pseudogenes do turn out to be defunct genes which no longer function, that is evidence that genomes are going downhill, and is evidence that the Biblical history of the world is correct, i.e. all genomes were created fully functional, but have been degenerating since man’s sin and God’s judgement have caused all living things to go downhill. (Ref. genetics, evolution, genomics)

Evidence News vol. 14, No. 17
22 October 2014
Creation Research Australia

For more on vestigial organs download our PDF article from here.