A Closer Look at Some Biochemical Data that "Support" Creation
"Scientific" creationists insist that scientific data demand creation. Yet very few creationist writings contain any data at all. Their "evidence" usually consists of quoting questions raised by scientists (but not the answers), redefining terms to suit their own purposes, misstating evolutionary theory, and implying their own omniscience by saying that evolution is impossible because they cannot imagine how it could happen.
Sometimes, however, creationists interpret data published by scientists without actually presenting the data for the reader to see. They apparently have good reason for withholding this information. One good example relates to the biochemical data that scientists claim agree with morphological, developmental chromosomal, and genetic evidence in showing that humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas all shared a recent common ancestor. Of course, creationists disagree, and some almost infer that evolutionists are involved in some sort of collusion. They say that evolutionists have to search for the rare "right" molecules that seem to support their case, because most biochemical data actually refute the theory of evolution (Gary Parker, Creation: The Facts of Life, Creation-Life Publishers, 1980; also Homology, Embryology, and Vestigial Organs: Common Ancestor or Common Plan? Institute for Creation Research).
In order to support this argument, ICR creationists list several molecules which they say show that humans seem to be more closely related to quite different organisms than the apes. Here are the relationships they claim:
Nearest Relative to Human
Fetal hemoglobin Horse Tear enzymes Chicken Albumin Bullfrog Blood antigen A Butterbean Cholesterol level Garter snake Milk chemistry Donkey
These data certainly would contradict the main prediction of evolution.
How did such an important conclusion slip past the authors of the papers referenced in the creationist books on the subject? When we read those and related papers, here is what we found.
Fetal hemoglobin. Hemoglobin has four globin molecules, each arranged around a central iron atom and a porphyrin ring. Humans have several different hemoglobins. Fetal hemoglobin has two alpha globins and two gamma globins, each with 146 amino acids. Horses don't have gamma globins. Chimpanzees do, and it is identical to that of humans (W. De Jong, Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 251:217-226). From these data, creationists conclude that a molecule that doesn't exist is more similar to a human molecule than is an identical chimpanzee molecule.
Tear enzymes. The enzyme referred to here is lysozyme, which is found in human milk, tears, leukocytes, and so forth. Variants exist in tissues of other species, for example, in chicken egg whites. Prager and Wilson showed that chicken lysozyme differs from human lysozyme by fifty-one out of 130 amino acids (in E. F. Osserman, Lysozyme, Academic Press, 1974, pp. 127-141). Chimpanzee lysozyme is identical to human lysozyme. It is apparent that the creationists either had not bothered to look at this paper when they made their claims or they believe that fifty-one is less than zero.
Albumin. Human and chimpanzee albumin differ by six out of 580 amino acids. Human and bullfrog albumins differ so much that they don't cross-react in immunological tests. They are too different to allow this method to be used for estimating the number of amino acid differences (Wallace and Wilson, Journal of Molecular Evolution 2, 1972). The supposed evidence for creation is contradicted again by reality.
Blood antigen A. This is one of the molecules that determine blood types. They are called glycoproteins because they have sugars attached to a protein. Butterbeans contain a sugar configuration that is similar enough to the glycoprotein sugar that it can react with antibodies directed against the A blood type if the butterbean sugar is at a high concentration (Gottschalk, Glycoproteins, 1972). Chimpanzees have blood antigens that are identical or nearly identical to those of humans (J. Ruffie, "Immunogenetics of Primates" in Perspectives in Primate Biology edited by A. B. Chigrelli, Plenum Press, 1972, p. 217). Butterbeans, having no blood, obviously have no blood antigens.
Cholesterol level. Cholesterol is a simple lipid (a wax) and its structure doesn't vary among species. Furthermore, its concentration can vary several hundredfold in an individual human depending upon diet and genetic background. Therefore, it is a useless molecule for determining genetic similarity. This datum isn't just wrong, it's nonexistent.
Milk chemistry. We have not found a direct comparison of human and chimpanzee milk chemistry. R. E. Sloan, et al., showed that human milk proteins (whey and casein) were much more like macaque milk than donkey milk (Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, 1961, 4:47-62).
Human and chimpanzee milk lysozymes are identical. Even this limited comparison disproves the creationist claim that the donkey is our nearest relative based on milk chemistry.
Not to be outdone, and perhaps even inspired by the foregoing ICR arguments, the Laymen's Home Missionary Movement has published an anonymous tract called The Evolution Theory Examined. On page fourteen, this missive has a section called "Blood Tests No Proof of Evolution." It reads:
Blood tests are another argument that evolutionists allege for their doctrine. They put the argument like this: Dog's blood injected into a horse kills the horse; but, man's blood injected into an ape does it very little harm. Hence, they reason, the dog and horse are not nearly related, while man is nearly related to the ape. In reply, we say: Dog's blood is poisonous to most animals, while the blood and blood serum of the sheep, goat, and horse are not poisonous to other animals and man. Hence serums are usually made from these animals, especially from the horse. But no serums for man have been made from apes, because they do not help man. These facts would prove man to be more nearly related to the sheep, goat, and horse than to the ape, if the argument under examination were true.
This bit of fantasy is so outlandish and so contrary to the facts that the usual biologist's response to it is laughter, followed by consternation or anger. First, the article confuses antibody-antigen reactions with poisons. Nineteenth-century physicians experimenting with blood transfusion found that they could give sheep blood to some people—once. A second transfusion always killed the recipient, but it had nothing to do with poisons. Landsteiner's work with blood groups is very well known. Whoever wrote this article should have spent a few minutes reading about blood in any good encyclopedia published since 1900. The foreign blood proteins cause antibodies to build up. With a second transfusion, the antibodies react with the blood cells, causing them to clump together, fatally blocking circulation. The same thing happens in transfusions between persons with incompatible blood groups.
Next, statements in the article about serum are as misinformed as those about transfusions. Serum is used to provide antibodies that protect the body by reacting with a specific substance, such as botulus toxin or rattlesnake venom. Apes are not used for serum production because they are too expensive to maintain. Horses are relatively inexpensive and easier to acquire. One horse produces a lot of serum, thus keeping costs down. All horse-derived serums bear warnings indicating that severe allergic reactions may occur. Many persons have died from such reactions. So much for "harmlessness." The missive continues:
Again, the thyroid gland of the sheep serves man better when it replaces his than that of the ape, as operations have proved. This also spoils the argument under review.
Vaccine matter is taken from cows rather than from apes—another fact against the argument under review. The Abrams Dynamizer, one of the most accurate of blood-testing instruments, proves that the blood reactions of the sheep, goat, and horse are nearer that of human blood than is that of apes. This disproves the argument under examination. We conclude, therefore, that blood tests do not prove man's descent from apes.
This paragraph surpasses the first as an example of sublime ignorance. To begin with, persons with defective thyroids, or whose thyroids have been removed, do not receive thyroid gland transplants from sheep. The organs would quickly be rejected. Such persons receive the thyroxin. This thyroid hormone is not a protein but an amino acid derivative, usually containing four iodine atoms. Like cholesterol, this simple molecule does not vary among vertebrate species. It is extracted from sheep, cattle, and pigs, rather than from some other vertebrate, simply because slaughter houses have a cheap, plentiful supply. Human or ape thyroxin would be no better and is not available in quantity.
As for the Abrams Dynamizer "proof," the reader is referred to the preceding discussion of blood protein structural data. Humans and chimpanzees have identical or nearly identical hemoglobins, A, 0, and Rh antigens, lysozymes, albumins, and many other blood molecules. These same blood proteins are very similar in cattle and sheep, but differ from human and chimpanzee proteins by many amino acids. For example, Morris Goodman showed that human and sheep alpha hemoglobin differ by twenty-three of 143 amino acids (In G. Fasman, Proteins, Vol. 3 of Handbook of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Third Edition, Chemical Rubber Company, 1976, pp. 441-447).
The entire disproof is nothing more than a baseless pseudoscientific fantasy that preys upon the scientific credulity of its intended audience. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) summed up the ethics of the purveyors of this nonsense when he wrote: "Men never do evil so cheerfully and so completely as when they do so from religious conviction."
We have just examined several typical examples of "scientific facts that fit the creation model better than they fit the theory of evolution." If the creationist had any real data that supported their claims, why would they publish such patent nonsense?