Thursday, October 27, 2016

Mysteries of the Human Genome



Many who read this blog regularly will know of my interest in human genetics and the evolutionary process by which God guided the creation of humans and imprinted the imago dei upon us. I have frequently written about various creation and evolutionary theories and I recognize that this is a controversial topic in some Christian circles and in discussions with humanistic evolutionary theorists. Some of the greatest evidence that God used evolution to create all life can be found in contemporary DNA studies. We now have the capability to analyze our entire human genome at detailed levels and compare it to ancient humanoid DNA and the genome of other animal species. This has led to remarkable findings as shown in the following quote.

Less than a decade ago, scientists discovered that human ancestors mixed with Neandertals. People outside of Africa still carry a small amount of Neandertal DNA, some of which may cause health problems (SN: 3/5/16, p. 18). Bohlender and colleagues calculate that Europeans and Chinese people carry a similar amount of Neandertal ancestry: about 2.8 percent. Europeans have no hint of Denisovan ancestry, and people in China have a tiny amount — 0.1 percent, according to Bohlender’s calculations. But 2.74 percent of the DNA in people in Papua New Guinea comes from Neandertals. And Bohlender estimates the amount of Denisovan DNA in Melanesians is about 1.11 percent, not the 3 to 6 percent estimated by other researchers.
While investigating the Denisovan discrepancy, Bohlender and colleagues came to the conclusion that a third group of hominids may have bred with the ancestors of Melanesians. “Human history is a lot more complicated than we thought it was,” Bohlender said.  (from Science News October 21, 2016)
 
My own theological paper regarding Denisovan DNA carried by some humans was written in 2010 and 2011 (as partial fulfillment of an MA in Theological Studies at Regent College) just a few months after ancient Denisovan DNA had been analyzed. The paper allowed me to wrestle with theological questions about the nature of the image of God and what makes us human. Such discussion, questioning, and research leads me to understand that my faith in the scientific process and my faith in Jesus, the Son of God, are both well-founded. Both the Bible and the biological world are ways in which God reveals himself to humans. Our theological understandings of both the natural world and the Bible are what must adapt so that we might have a greater perception of God's message for his people.

I encourage us to read widely and in a scholarly fashion. We need not fear what science discovers for it is God who gives us our minds and allows us to discover the insights of our universe. Let us read with the Bible in one hand and scientific writings in the other.

Links:
https://www.sciencenews.org/article/neandertal-dna-may-raise-risk-some-modern-human-diseases
http://www.sciencenews.org/article/dna-data-offer-evidence-unknown-extinct-human-relative 
http://spasique.com/genes-of-this-tribe-carry-a-dna-of-a-third-unknown-human-species/ 

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