Genetic Accounting

By Guy Cramer

Human and Chimpanzee differ in our Genetic Material by only 2%

When tax time arrives many of us approach our accountant with our yearly statements, and receipts, and any other related information in the hope that they can save us from paying more than our fare share in taxes. Many have heard stories about creative accounting where the same numbers positioned slightly different by the accountant can paint a totally different picture, sometimes it works with the rules but usually itís bending or breaking the rules. If this creative accounting is discovered, a penalty is normally imposed not on the accountant but on the person who is paying the accountant. It is your responsibility to make sure your accountant is doing the right thing even though you may not understand any rules or guidelines.

According the Carl Sagan, the difference between humans and chimps is only 160 enzymes.

We have all heard that Chimpanzees and Humans share 98% of our DNA. In some instances this percentage is said to be more than 99% and at the low end of the spectrum the some argue for slightly below 97%. If you watch the Discovery channel, often you will hear this 1% difference between man and chimp, reminding us almost weekly of our closest evolutionary cousins.

Is there only a 1% difference between man and chimp? Yes, however this difference can be as low as 0.4% (99.6% similarity) or as high as 2% (98% similarity).

Well this is what I refer to as creative genetic accounting. We really are being penalized by this information because most of us donít have a clue how to decipher these numbers let alone understand DNA, amino acids, proteins, junk DNAÖ

All LifeÖ

All life posses DNA, that DNA is made up of proteins, the proteins are made up of amino acid chains. One of these well studied amino acid chains is called cytochrome C, because it occurs with most organisms, the results can be compared side by side with the results from other organisms and a percent difference can be tallied up and compared.

Corn shares 66.7% of our cytochrome C chain

Did you know that Tetrahymena thermophila a unicellular, ciliated freshwater protozoan, shares 42.6% of the same DNA amino acid chain that Maize (corn) has! 1

We as humans become quite relieved to find that we share 47.5% of our amino acid chain with that same protozoan. This means that there are more similarities between people and a unicellular protozoan then corn and that same protozoan. 1

However, we find that Maize (corn) and people share 66.7% of our chain, where horses only share 63.7% of their chain with corn, a difference of 3%. Looking further into cytochrome C connections we find that the horse shares 65.7% of the chain with Neurospora (fungi) whereas humans only share 63.7% of the chain with that same fungi. So if we consider this data we find that primates common ancestor must have sprouted from corn (no pun intended) where the common ancestor of the horse/donkey is closer to fungus then to corn. 1

Do we take this seriously? If human and chimp share 98% of our full DNA then we must take a 3% difference between humans / corn and horses / corn with some seriousness. A troubling puzzle indeed when one considers that the ears of corn are more similar in appearance to the ear of a horse then any primate.


Some of you are getting very upset with me at this point and you may even be thinking that I am making a mockery of this. My point is that by utilizing the same creative accounting used by anti-creationists we can also draw some weird conclusions about our heritage. Information which they will never point out to you. Of course that corn / ear thing takes it a bit too far but I just could resist that one.

Seriously Now

When the 1-2% difference between human and chimp is spoken of, we are left with the idea that the difference between simple bacteria and humans is close to 100%, but it is never pointed out that the difference between people and bacteria is only 65%. 35% of human cytochrome C is in the exact configuration that we find in simple bacteria. 2

This concludes the amino acid section. The following section deals with DNA.

Junk DNA

If we removed all the genetic material which seems to be junk (no useful purpose) from both human DNA and the DNA of a chimp and then compared the active DNA of both to each other we find a similarity of 99.6%. That means a difference of only 0.4%! 3

Billions and Billions of Nucleotides

Our DNA is made up 4 billion nucleotides (nucleotides are the smallest part of DNA). According the Carl Sagan, if we know that it takes 1,000 nucleotides to make up one enzyme that means that the difference between humans and chimps is only 160 enzymes. 3 Again this requires some creative accounting because in reality the same number could be stated as 160,000 nucleotides. The anti-creationist will not use the nucleotide number but the enzyme number. It is amazing how the same number can sound so small and yet in reality be so big.

1 penny for every nucleotide in that 2% difference would equal $800,000

However, before this number if ever calculated they have removed what we call useless or junk DNA. Recently, researchers studying junk DNA discovered that some of that DNA does appear to have a function. If we include Junk DNA in the calculation we find that human and chimpanzee have about a 2% difference or 80 million different nucleotides when the complete 4 billion nucleotides in human are compared side by side with the 4 billion nucleotides in chimpanzees.

We differ by only 80 million nucleotides! It just doesnít carry the same weight as the 2% figure.

Knowing this, if you asked someone to give you 1 penny for every nucleotide in that 2% difference between human and chimp you could walk away from that person with $800,000 (eight hundred thousand dollars).

Simple Yet Complicated Life

E Coli, one of the simplest forms of life, has a DNA molecule which is about 4,000,000 nucleotides long. 4 So the small 2% (80,000,000 nucleotide) difference between human and chimp is 20 times more genetic material then the DNA required for the simplest life we know of!

Even a 0% difference in DNA can be a problem.

Now the 4,000,000 nucleotides that make up E Coli is estimated to equal 1 megabyte of information. 5 How is that for a compact information source! So the 80,000,000 nucleotide difference between Human and Chimp is equal to 20 megabytes of information. You can fit a whole computer operating system into 20 megabytes with space left over. Operating systems such as Windows look, work and sound quite different from DOS, and some versions of DOS can fit into only 1 megabyte.

Objective Views

I donít deny the 80 million nucleotide, (2% difference). Only the way in which that data is presented to the layman in the public through the media and schools.

Differences in Duplicate DNA

Even a 0% difference in DNA can be a problem. In any given animal, the liver cells and skin cells contain the exact same DNA, but the liver looks and acts quite different then skin and skin looks and performs different tasks then the liver. There is information content in the differences between the liver and skin cells but it comes in the form of the ratio of proteins, enzymesÖ in the liver/skin cells, not in the DNA. However, the DNA dictates all the proteins in each type of cell and the differences we see between the skin and the liver should be smaller than what we see. So even with identical DNA there is a hidden information system which we do not yet fully understand. 6

So the next time you hear someone talk about your closest genetic cousin, pull a piece of dried corn out of your pocket and introduce them to another close genetic cousin.

© Copyright 1999, Trinity Consulting, All Rights Reserved.

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1. Sequences and Common Descent

2. A Theory of Small Evolution

3. Chimpanzee Relations (Pages 276-279 from Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan.)

4. S.A.S. Operation: Snake Eyes

5. Ludwig, Mark A., "Computer Viruses, Artificial Life and Evolution", American Eagle Publications, (1993) p.33

6. Ludwig, Mark A., "Computer Viruses, Artificial Life and Evolution", American Eagle Publications, (1993) p.110-111

For more papers on this and other related subjects;
Go back to the Main Page ( XWALK.CA )
The Truth is Stranger than Fiction

© Copyright 1999, Trinity Consulting, All Rights Reserved.