Most Species the “Same Age” with No “In-Between” Species

Mark Stoeckle of Rockefeller University and David Thaler of Basel University recently published a very interesting study based on extensive analysis of over 100,000 species (“Why should mitochondria define species?”, Human Evolution, 2018).  What they found shocked them. Their data showed that almost all animal species on Earth today emerged about the same time as humans.

For the planet’s 7.6 billion people, 500 million house sparrows, or 100,000 sandpipers, genetic diversity “is about the same,” Stoeckle told AFP.

“This conclusion is very surprising, and I fought against it as hard as I could,” Thaler told AFP.  (Link)

This study was based on the analysis of genetic differences within mitochondrial DNA of different species of animals.  Unlike the genes in nuclear DNA, which can differ greatly from species to species, all animals have the same set of mitochondrial DNA, providing a common basis for comparison.  The genetic sequences within the mitochondrial DNA can be neutral with respect to function.  So, counting up the number of neutral mutational differences can be used as a clock to calculate elapsed time (given that one can determine the average mutation rate).

Several convergent lines of evidence show that mitochondrial diversity in modern humans follows from sequence uniformity followed by the accumulation of largely neutral diversity during a population expansion that began approximately 100,000 years ago. A straightforward hypothesis is that the extant populations of almost all animal species have arrived at a similar result consequent to a similar process of expansion from mitochondrial uniformity… (Stoeckle and Thaler, 2018).

What is surprising here, from an evolutionary perspective anyway, is that almost all animal species have around the same number of these neutral mitochondrial mutations within their individual populations.  And, the mutation rate based on phylogenic evolutionary relationships suggests that all of these tens of thousands of different species, including humans, came into existence between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago.  This, by itself, is rather shocking from the Darwinian perspective.  And, that’s not all.  All of these species where extremely isolated from each other, genetically, in “sequence space” with very clear genetic boundaries and nothing in between.

“If individuals are stars, then species are galaxies,” said Thaler. “They are compact clusters in the vastness of empty sequence space.”

“The absence of in-between species is something that also perplexed Darwin,” he said. (Link)

So, we have here distinct “kinds” of animals with very clear genetic boundaries all coming into existence at the same time? All this is starting to sound rather designed or even Biblical… but what about the hundreds of thousands of years?

Contrary to what some might think, the mitochondrial mutation rate used here was not determined by any sort of direct analysis, but by supposed phylogenic evolutionary relationships between humans and chimps. In other words, the mutation rate was calculated based on the assumption that the theory in question was already true. This is a rather circular assumption and, as such, all results that are based on this assumption will be consistent with this assumption – like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Since the mutation rate was calculated based on previous assumptions of expected evolutionary time, then the results will automatically “confirm” those assumptions.

If one truly wishes independent confirmation of a theory, then one cannot calibrate the confirmation test by the theory, or any part of the theory, that is being tested. And yet, this is exactly what was done by scientists such as Sarich, one of the pioneers of the molecular-clock idea. Sarich began by calculating the mutation rates of various species “…whose divergence could be reliably dated from fossils.” He then applied that calibration to the chimpanzee-human split, dating that split at from five to seven million years ago. Using Sarich’s mutation calibrations, others, like Stoeckle and Thaler, apply them to their mtDNA studies, comparing “…the ratio of mitochondrial DNA divergence among humans to that between humans and chimpanzees.” By this method, scientists have calculated that the common ancestor of all modern humans, the “African Eve”, lived about 200,000 years ago. (Link)

Obviously then, these dates, calculated from the mtDNA analysis, must match the presupposed evolutionary time scale since the calculation is based on this presupposition. The circularity of this method is inconsistent with good scientific methodology and is worthless as far as independent predictive value is concerned. The “mitochondrial clock” theory was and still is, basically, a theory within a theory in that it has no independent predictive power outside of the overarching theory of evolution. It is surprising, then, that scientists did not catch this inherent flaw earlier. Interestingly enough though, this flaw in reasoning was not detected for many years and perhaps would have remained undetected for much longer if more direct mutation-rate analyses had not been done.

Eventually, however, scientists who study known historical families and their genetic histories (or pedigrees), started questioning the mutation rates that were based on evolutionary phylogenetic assumptions. These scientists were “stunned” to find that the mutation rate was in fact much higher than previously thought. In fact it was about 20 times higher at around one mutation every 25 to 40 generations (about 500 to 800 years for humans). It seems that in this section of the control region for mtDNA, which has about 610 base pairs, humans typically differ from one another by about 18 mutations. By simple mathematics, it follows that modern humans share a common ancestor some 300 generations back in time. If one assumes a typical generation time of about 20 years, this places the date of the common ancestor at around 6,000 years before present (Jeanson, 2015). But how could this be?! Thomas Parsons seemed just as mystified. Consider his following comments published April of 1997, in the journal Nature Genetics:

“The rate and pattern of sequence substitutions in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region (CR) is of central importance to studies of human evolution and to forensic identity testing. Here, we report a direct measurement of the intergenerational substitution rate in the human CR. We compared DNA sequences of two CR hypervariable segments from close maternal relatives, from 134 independent mtDNA lineages spanning 327 generational events. Ten substitutions were observed, resulting in an empirical rate of 1/33 generations, or 2.5/site/Myr. This is roughly twenty-fold higher than estimates derived from phylogenetic analyses. This disparity cannot be accounted for simply by substitutions at mutational hot spots, suggesting additional factors that produce the discrepancy between very near-term and long-term apparent rates of sequence divergence. The data also indicate that extremely rapid segregation of CR sequence variants between generations is common in humans, with a very small mtDNA bottleneck. These results have implications for forensic applications and studies of human evolution.

The observed substitution rate reported here is very high compared to rates inferred from evolutionary studies. A wide range of CR substitution rates have been derived from phylogenetic studies, spanning roughly 0.025-0.26/site/Myr, including confidence intervals. A study yielding one of the faster estimates gave the substitution rate of the CR hypervariable regions as 0.118 +- 0.031/site/Myr. Assuming a generation time of 20 years, this corresponds to ~1/600 generations and an age for the mtDNA MRCA of 133,000 y.a. Thus, our observation of the substitution rate, 2.5/site/Myr, is roughly 20-fold higher than would be predicted from phylogenetic analyses. Using our empirical rate to calibrate the mtDNA molecular clock would result in an age of the mtDNA MRCA of only ~6,500 y.a., clearly incompatible with the known age of modern humans. Even acknowledging that the MRCA of mtDNA may be younger than the MRCA of modern humans, it remains implausible to explain the known geographic distribution of mtDNA sequence variation by human migration that occurred only in the last ~6,500 years.”

Parsons, Thomas J. A high observed substitution rate in the human mitochondrial DNA control region, Nature Genetics vol. 15, April 1997, pp. 363-367 (Link)

The calculation is done in the following way: Let us consider two randomly-chosen human beings. Assuming all human beings initially have identical mitochondrial DNA, after 33 generations, two such random human families will probably differ by two mutations, since there will be two separate lines of inheritance and probably one mutation along each line. After 66 generations, two randomly chosen humans will differ by about four mutations. After 100 generations, they will differ by about six mutations. After 300 generations, they will differ by about 18 mutations, which is about the observed value.

These experiments are quite concerning to evolutionists who previously calculated that the “mitochondrial eve” (who’s mitochondria is thought to be the ancestor mitochondria to all living humans) lived about 100,000 to 200,000 years ago in Africa. The new calculations, based on the above experiments, would make her a relatively young ~6,500 years old. Now, the previous notion that modern humans are up to 10,000 generations old has to be reevaluated or at least the mtDNA basis for that assumption has to be reevaluated – and it has been.

More recent direct mtDNA mutation rate studies also seem to confirm the earlier findings by Parsons and others. In an 2001 article published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, Evelyne Heyer et al., presented their findings of the mtDNA mutation rate in deep-rooted French-Canadian pedigrees.

Their findings “Confirm[ed] earlier findings of much greater mutation rates in families than those based on phylogenetic comparisons. . . For the HVI sequences, we obtained 220 generations or 6,600 years, and for the HVII sequences 275 generations or 8,250 years. Although each of these values is associated with a large variance, they both point to ~7,000-8,000 years and, therefore, to the early Neolithic as the time of expansion [mostly northern European in origin] . . . Our overall CR mutation-rate estimate of 11.6 per site per million generations . . . is higher, but not significantly different, than the value of 6.3 reported in recent the recent pedigree study of comparable size . . . In another study (Soodyall et al. 1997), no mutations were detected in 108 transmissions. On the other hand, two substitutions were observed in 81 transmissions by Howell et al. (1996), and nine substitutions were observed in 327 transmissions by Parsons et al. (1997). Combining all these data (1,729 transmissions) results in the mutation rate of 15.5 (Cl 10.3-22.1). Taking into account only those from deep-rooting pedigrees (1,321 transmissions) (Soodyall et al. 1997; Sigurdardottir et al. 2000; the present study) leads to the value of 7.9. The latter, by avoiding experimental problems with heteroplasmy, may provide a more realistic approximation of the overall mutation rate.”

Evelyn Heyer, Ewa Zietkiewicz, Andrezej Rochowski, Vania Yotova, Jack Puymirat, and Damian Labuda, Phylogenetic and Familial Estimates of Mitochondrial Substitution Rates: Study of Control Region Mutations in Deep-Rooting Pedigrees. Am. J. Hum. Genet., 69:1113-1126. 2001 (Link)

Also, consider a 2003 paper published in the Annals of Human Genetics by B. Bonne-Tamir et al. where the authors presented their results of a their study of “Maternal and Paternal Lineages” from a small isolated Samaritan community. In this paper they concluded:

“Compared with the results obtained by others on mtDNA mutation rates, our upper limit estimate of the mutation rate of 1/61 mutations per generation is in close agreement with those previously published.” [compared with the rate determined by Parsons of 1/33 generations, a rate of 1/61 is no more than double]

B. Bonne-Tamir, M. Korostishevsky, A. J. Redd, Y. Pel-Or, M. E. Kaplan and M. F. Hammer, Maternal and Paternal Lineages of the Samaritan Isolate: Mutation Rates and Time to Most Recent Common Male Ancestor, Annals of Human Genetics, Volume 67 Issue 2 Page 153 – March 2003 (Link)

One more interesting paper published in September, 2000 in the journal Science by Denver et al. is also quite interesting. These scientists reported their work with the mtDNA mutation rates of nematode worms and found that these worm’s molecular clocks actually run about “100 times faster than previously thought”.

“Extrapolating the results directly to humans is not possible, say the scientists. But their results do support recent controversial studies suggesting that the human molecular clock also runs 100 times faster than is usually thought. This may mean that estimates of divergence between chimpanzees and humans, and the emergence of modern man, happened much more recently than currently believed, says the team. ‘Our work appears to support human analyses, which have suggested a very high rate,’ says Kelley Thomas of the University of Missouri. ‘This work is relevant to humans,’ says Doug Turnbill of the institute for Human Genetics and Newcastle University, UK. ‘If the human mutation rate is faster than thought, it would have a lot of impact in looking at human disease and forensics, as well as the evolutionary rate of humans.’ . . .

Mutation rates of mtDNA in humans are usually estimated by comparing sequences of DNA from people and other animals. ‘This is kind of analysis that was used to determine that the African origin of modern humans was about 200,000 years ago,’ says Thomas. ‘The problem with this approach is that you are looking at both the mutation rate and the effects of natural selection,’ he says. The technique would also miss multiple mutations in the same stretch of mtDNA, says Paul Sharp of the Institute of Genetics at Nottingham University, UK.

More recent studies have looked at the mtDNA of people who are distantly related but share a female ancestor. This approach has revealed higher mtDNA mutation rates. But the results have not been accepted by many scientists.

Knowing the exact rate of mutation in humans is very important for forensic science and studies of genetic disease, stresses Turnbill. Forensic identification often rests on comparing samples of DNA with samples from suspected relatives. Faster human molecular clocks could complicate established exact relationships, he says.”

Denver DR, Morris K, Lynch M, Vassilieva LL, Thomas WK. High direct estimate of the mutation rate in the mitochondrial genome of Caenorhabditis elegans. Science. 2000 Sep 29;289(5488):2342-4. (Link)  Also reported by: Emma Young, Running Slow, New Scientist, September 28, 2000. (Link)

Obviously then, these rates, based on more direct observations, are nowhere near those based on indirect evolutionary assumptions. This certainly does “complicate” things just a bit now doesn’t it? Isn’t it strange though that many scientists are still loath to accept these results? The bias in favor of both evolution as well as millions of years for assumed divergence times between creatures like apes and humans is so strong that changing the minds of those who hold such positions may be pretty much impossible.

For another example from a different species, direct comparisons of modern penguins with historically sequenced penguins have shown that their mtDNA mutation rates are 2 to 7 times faster than had previously been assumed through indirect methods.

Lambert, D.M., P.A. Ritchie, C.D. Millar, B. Holland, A.J. Drummond, and C. Baroni (2002) “Rates of evolution in ancient DNA from penguins.” Science 295: 2270-2273. (Link)

Certain of these problems have in fact led some scientists to stop using mitochondrial control-region sequences to reconstruct human phylogenies.

Ingman, Max, Henrik Kaessmann, Svante Paabo, and Ulf Gyllensten (2000), “Mitochondrial genome variation and the origin of modern humans,” Nature 408: 708-713. (Link)

Those scientist who continue to try and revise the molecular clock hypothesis have tried to slow down the clock by showing that some mtDNA regions mutate much more slowly than do other regions. The problem here is that such regions are obviously affected by natural selection. In other words, they are not functionally neutral with regard to selection pressures.

For example, real time experiments have shown that average mitochondrial genome mutation rates are around 6 x 10-8 mut/site/mitochondrial generation – in line with various estimates of average bacterial mutation rates (Compare with nDNA rate of 4.4 x 10-8 mut/site/human generation). With an average generation time of 45 days, that’s about 5 x 10-6 mut/site/year and 5 mut/site/myr.

This is about twice as high as Parsons’ rate of 2.5/mut/site/myr, but still about 40 to 50 times higher than rates based on phylogenetic comparisons and evolutionary assumptions. Still, this is the average rate of the entire mitochondrial genome of 16,000bp – including regions still under the restraints of natural selection. Functionally neutral regions would obviously sustain more mutations over a given span of time as compared with functionally constrained regions.

So, the most reasonable conclusion here, it would seem, is that this data strongly favors of the claims of the Bible – claims regarding distinct non-overlapping “kinds” of animals that were recently created and which recently survived a severe bottle-neck event in the form of a catastrophic world-wide Noachian Flood that occurred just a few thousand years ago (Link).  The genetic evidence that is currently in hand strongly supports that claim vs. the Darwinian story of origins where animals have existed and evolved continuously on this planet, beginning with a single common ancestor of all living things, over the course of hundreds of millions of years.  That story simply doesn’t predict the genetic evidence that is in hand today.  After all, the “missing links” within the genetic data are even more clear and striking than the missing links in the fossil record that “perplexed” Darwin so…

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12 thoughts on “Most Species the “Same Age” with No “In-Between” Species

  1. While data suggesting the hand of the Creator God in the creation of all living things is always welcome, one should exercise great caution in assuming the constancy of mutation rates. After all, God shortened human lifespans from ca. 900 years to ca. 70 years in only a few generations. Do you suppose He might have done that by altering mutation rates? Do you suppose that a powerful God who breathed life into a lump of clay could easily tinker with mutation rates? Furthermore, mutation rates would have highly variable effects on life forms in different species based upon average lifespans. Let us hope and pray that more scientists will be troubled by uncovering data that will lead them to trust the Genesis creation account as the only scientifically logical explanation of how we got here.

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    • I’m not sure why God would need to tinker with genetic mutation rates? It seems to me as though they would naturally occur without the need for Him to modify them…

      The interesting thing about mtDNA mutation rates is that they’re similar over a given span of time for a great many different kinds or species of animals – with most types of animals showing very similar numbers of neutral mutations. That’s unexpected from the Darwinian perspective of origins, but not at all unexpected from the Biblical perspective.

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  2. We may have observed mutation rates in the recent past, but how do we know what mutation rates were 100 years ago, 1,000 years ago, or 6,000 years ago? Prior to roughly 6,000 years ago, we can safely say mutation rates were ZERO, as God’s creation was perfect, and there was no sin, death, or deterioration in the genomic code!

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  3. Prior to the fall of Adam and Eve, I’m not so sure everything decayed. Perhaps sin was the cause of the beginning of decay?

    I tend to agree with Ken that we really have no idea what mutation rates were in the past.

    “Gods ways are not our ways.”

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    • Yes, but the only reason why there was no genetic decay prior to the Fall was because God was actively preventing it. As soon as Adam and Eve left that active care of God (to at least some degree), they started to decay according to natural laws that govern such decay processes (such as thermodynamic as well as informational entropic forces). Another way to look at this is that decay is perfectly natural while non-decay would require deliberate intelligent effort to avoid – as in God performing active maintenance very similar to me mowing the lawn or fixing my car when things break over time. The existence of an old Model-T Ford on the road is evidence of active intelligent maintenance over time which has effectively combated the otherwise natural tendencies for decay outside of such careful maintenance and constant repairs.

      So, as far as the genetic mutation rates themselves, there’s no reason to believe, as far as I can tell anyway, that these were significantly different in the past several thousand years since the Flood than they are today. At minimum then, it seems pretty reasonable to me to conclude that genetic mutations can be used as a type of clock to roughly estimate the time that a population has existed since it’s most recent common ancestor existed (which for humans and land animals would be since the time of Noah at maximum).

      As a rule, I don’t think that God alters natural laws, but works within them in His general dealings with created beings like us. This allows us to reasonably understand the universe and the world in which we live – according to the predictable laws of nature that God originally set in place to govern the universe. It is the very predictability of theses laws that allows for scientific investigation to exist in a meaningful way.

      So, is God bound by these laws that He created? Of course not. However, it makes little sense for Him to create such laws only to then decide to consistently work outside of them so as to make our universe and world appear to be irrational, arbitrary or magical – unpredictable. I just don’t think that’s what happens now or what happened in the past as a general rule. This doesn’t exclude miracles of Divine power, of course, but I believe that these miracles are exceptions, not the rule, for the general workings of our world. That being said, the very predictability of our universe is one of the most magical things about it since it didn’t have to be set up to be such a predictable place. This is one of the main things that most intrigued Einstein.

      Albert Einstein in a letter to a friend (1956, Lettres a Maurice Solovine) commenting on the mathematical comprehensibility of the world noted:

      “You may find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world to the degree that we may speak of such comprehensibility as a miracle or an eternal mystery. Well, a priori one should expect a chaotic world, which cannot be in any way grasped through thought… The kind of order created, for example, by Newton’s theory of gravity is of quite a different kind. Even if the axioms of the theory are posited by a human being, the success of such an enterprise presupposes an order in the objective world of a high degree, which one has no a priori right to expect. That is the miracle which grows increasingly persuasive with the increasing development of knowledge.”

      Similarly, physicist Eugene Wigner in a widely quoted paper entitled, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Physical Sciences” (1960) wonders aloud regarding the predictability of the universe:

      “The enormous usefulness of mathematics is something bordering on the mysterious…There is no rational explanation for it…The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve…”

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  4. Decay is perfectly natural in a sinful world. There was NO decay prior to the Fall. Non-decay does not require active maintenance on the part of God. His creation was perfect and did not require maintenance like human creations require. Model T’s require active maintenance as they are human creations. The human body God created would have lasted an eternity if sin (disobedience) had not interrupted such perfection. That is when decay started. That is when the genomic code started to deteriorate. It ultimately led to disease and death. God cannot be compared to a mechanic in heaven, as His perfect creation does not require repairs. While the price of sin (disobedience) has been fully paid for, the restoration to perfection has not happened yet. Once it occurs (which I believe will be soon), there will be a complete restoration that will not require a “mechanic” for active maintenance, as decay, degeneration, decay, death (all those ugly D’s) will no longer exist.

    As for assuming that genetic mutations have occurred at a constant rate since the fall of Adam and Eve, we should consider the fallacies of assuming constant degradation of Carbon-14 and the problems such assumptions have created. As Creationists, we should exercise caution in making assertions we cannot prove.

    As for God being bound by His own laws, let us consider Jesus bringing perfect peace and tranquility just by commanding the elements to be still during a raging storm. We cannot understand such divine power over EVERYTHING, including the power to breath life into a lump of clay which was instantly transformed into a perfectly fine human body with over 5 billion base pairs (the human genome) and able to perfectly replicate without decay or deterioration of the system. Satan also has supernatural power, but God’s power is infinitely greater. Whenever there is supernatural activity, it can come from only of two sources. We do know for a fact that postdiluvian human life spans rapidly contracted from ca. 900 years to circa 70 years in just a few generations. I’m sure most Creationists would agree that God had a hand in this, and that this was not “natural”. Whether He did this by altering the mutation rate, we have no way of knowing, as mutation rates were not measured at that time and there is no way for us to reconstruct those past mutation rates.

    As for Einstein, Newton, and others, I would exercise restraint in following any of their religious or theological assumptions.

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    • We must remember that all of creation, even the holy angels in heaven, are dependent moment upon moment upon God’s active and continual care for their very existence. Apart from God’s active care, decay and ultimately death is inevitable. It wasn’t that God had to tweak something within Adam and Eve that allowed their otherwise perfect bodies to decay, grow old, and die. That’s not it at all. Rather, they started to decay as a natural consequence of stepping outside of God’s continual rejuvenating care for them and their bodies. For they were made out of nothing but dust from the ground and to dust they would easily and very naturally return without God’s intervention (Genesis 3:19).

      The consequences of sin, of separation from God, are naturally realized outside of any need for any direct act of God. God didn’t actively cause Adam and Eve to start to decay and get old and eventually die when they rebelled. That just happened over time because they were no longer being rejuvenated by Him – by eating from the Tree of Life as a symbol of their very close connection to God and His rejuvenating power in their lives. Otherwise, there would be no need for God in order for eternal life to exist – since God, according to your argument, is not required to maintain that which is already “perfect” and inherently eternal. Your argument suggests that God has made a bunch of other inherently immortal Gods. On the contrary, it is only “in Him” that we can “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Outside of Him and His constant care for us, we are not inherently immortal or God-like. Without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5) – literally! Without God’s active and constant care, we could not exist. We are not like God in this respect and never will be.

      Just so there’s no confusion here, the Bible is quite clear that only God is inherently immortal (1 Timothy 6:16) – having life within Himself that is unborrowed and underived (John 5:26 and John 1:4). Everything else “borrows” life from God. And, without God, everything else would naturally decay over time and die. Even when we get to heaven, the leaves of the Tree of Life will be “for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2). This will be a constant reminder to us all, throughout eternity, that everything we are and have is dependent upon God – always.

      I like how Ellen White puts it here:

      It is not by an original power inherent in nature that year by year the earth produces its bounties and the world keeps up its continual march around the sun. The hand of infinite power is perpetually at work guiding this planet. It is God’s power momentarily exercised that keeps it in position in its rotations. The God of heaven is constantly at work. It is by His power that vegetation is caused to flourish, that every leaf appears and every flower blooms. It is not as the result of a mechanism, that, once set in motion, continues its work, that the pulse beats and breath follows breath. In God we live and move and have our being. Every breath, every throb of the heart, is the continual evidence of the power of an ever-present God. It is God that maketh the sun to rise in the heavens. He openeth the windows of heaven and giveth rain. He maketh the grass to grow upon the mountains. “He giveth snow like wool: and scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes.” “When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, … he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures.” Although the Lord has ceased His work in creating, He is constantly employed in upholding and using as His servants the things which He has made. Said Christ, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (EGW, Manuscript 4, 1882).

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    • @Ken Christman: Ken, I am a creationist, and I believe in the constant degradation of carbon 14. In fact, recent advances in the carbon 14 dating of fossils tends to support creationism. Nuclear decay (fission) and also the second law of thermodynamics appear to be built in to God’s creation, and I doubt that they are a result of sin. Furthermore, the lives of Adam and Eve were only sustained as they ate the fruit from the tree of life which God had provided. I think I have to agree with Sean on this one.

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  5. Sean, thank you for an excellent article. I do have some clarification questions. First, this study indicates that “almost all animal species on Earth today emerged about the same time as humans.” However, we creationists commonly speak of baramins (created kinds) that were created at the same time, but we also state that speciation has subsequently occurred within these created kinds. So how does this fit with almost all current animal species emerging at the same time as humans? Also, how do extinct animals like trilobites and dinosaurs fit into this scenario? And what about plants? I ask because we believe that all animals (present and extinct), as well as plants, emerged during a literal creation week, which was essentially at the same time.

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    • Yes, the basic created “kinds” (like all dogs, for instance, arising from the original wolf “kind” or all the animals in the Equidae Family such as horses, donkeys, and zebras that can all produce viable hybrids with each other) gave rise to specialized variations of the original gene pool of options (largely through Mendelian variation). The mitochondrial differences within each animal “species” would, therefore, be no greater than that of the original gene pool. If significant divergence took place fairly rapidly after the Flood (as for the various kinds of cats for instance – from lions to house cats) most of the resulting “species” would have a similar mitochondrial age (with some being a bit younger – as per the following illustration):

      As far as extinct animals, like dinosaurs and trilobites, we don’t have their mitochondrial DNA to analyze. But, if we did, their mtDNA would probably be a bit older since they died during the Flood so they didn’t go through the population bottleneck of those land animals and birds that made it through the Flood on the Ark. I’d be curious about sea animals however – since they probably didn’t go through the same degree of population bottleneck since they survived outside of the Ark.

      The mtDNA of plants isn’t the same as that of animals. There’s a lot more variation of size and variation of genetic elements in plant mtDNA as compared to animals. So, it’s a lot harder to compare plant mtDNA as far as a molecular clock is concerned. However, there may be a way of doing this of which I’m not yet aware…

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