Zecharia Sitchin, born in Russia and raised in Palestine, is a noted archaeological scholar and author.
The mind-boggling advances in deciphering and decoding the human genome bring closer to realization the hope that the new knowledge will lead to the curing of man’s worst maladies, even a halt to aging and a blissful longer life. The process of unlocking the most basic secrets of life also holds out hope of settling, once and for all, the debate between evolution and creationism, providing the answer to the question: In whose image was the Adam-the first modern human-created?
The biological evidence abounding in nature points convincingly to evolution. The fossil evidence reveals a succession of primates and hominids evolving over millions of years. The archaeological evidence shows a progression from an Old Stone Age to a Middle Stone Age, from early hominids to more advanced ones. Were it not for an unexplained gap (the “Missing Link”) of a sudden progression not over millions of years but all at once that resulted in Homo sapiens, modern man, the tenacious opposing school-those who stand by the biblical tale of Creation-would have no leg to stand on. Man, they assert, was “made to order” by deliberate divine will. Man did not evolve-man was created.
The discovery that all life on Earth consists of the same genetic elements, DNA and its four nucleotide “letters” known by their initials A-C-G-T, and that genetically man differs from chimpanzee by just one percent of their genomes, seemed to counter the biblical tale of the Elohim that says: “Let us create the Adam in our image and after our likeness.”
But if one is to accept a tentative explanation for a group of enigmatic and extraordinary genes that humans possess, the feat of fashioning the Adam was achieved by a group of bacteria.
A “Head-scratching Discovery”
The sequencing of the human genome accomplished in June 2000, and the more recent identification of man’s 30,000-plus genes (the groups of “letters” that express proteins), appear to uphold the theory of evolution. Scientists have been able to trace the vertical genetic progression of life on Earth. The same DNA that formed the first single-celled organisms some four billion years ago raised a tree of life through bacteria, fungi, plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates, all the way to the epitome-modern human beings. Indeed, the findings announced by the Public Consortium and the private Celera group in February 2001 were characterized as “humbling.” Our genes number little more than double those of the fruit fly (13,601), and barely 50 percent more than the roundworm (19,098).
But within the data there looms a mystery that goes to the heart of the evolution-versus-creation dispute-and, unintentionally, the discovery offers corroboration of ancient “myths” about the role of extraterrestrials in bringing us about.
While confirming the evolutionary process genetically, by tracing a vertical progression from the simplest to the more complex, the new findings came up with what Science (February 16, 2000) termed a “head-scratching discovery”-the human genome contains 223 genes that do not have the required predecessors on the genomic evolutionary tree. How did man acquire this group of enigmatic genes?
In the evolutionary progression from bacteria to invertebrates to vertebrates and finally to modern humans, these 223 genes are completely missing in the invertebrate phase. Therefore, the scientists explain their presence in the human genome by a “rather recent [in evolutionary time scales] probable horizontal transfer from bacteria.”
In other words, at a relatively recent time as evolution goes, modern humans acquired an extra 223 genes-not through gradual evolution, not vertically on the tree of life-but horizontally, as an insertion of genetic material from bacteria.
An Immense Difference
Now, at first glance it would seem that 223 genes is no big deal. In fact, while every single gene makes a great difference to every individual, 223 genes make an immense difference to a species such as ours.
The human genome is made up of about three billion nucleotides (the “letters” A-C-G-T, which stand for the initials of the four nucleic acids that spell out all life on Earth). Just over one percent of these are grouped into functioning genes (rather than the almost five percent earlier assumed). The difference between one individual person and another amounts to about one letter in a thousand in the DNA alphabet. The difference between man and chimpanzee is less than one percent. (One percent of 30,000 is 300.)
An analysis of the functions of these genes through the proteins that they spell out, conducted by the Public Consortium and published in the journal Nature, shows that they include not only proteins involved in important physiological and psychiatric functions, but also important neurological enzymes that stem only from the mitochrondrial portion of the DNA-the so-called “Eve” DNA humankind inherited through the mother-line all the way back to a single original Eve.
A Shaky Theory
How sure are the scientists that such important and complex genes, such an immense human advantage, was obtained by us-rather recently-through the courtesy of infecting bacteria?
“It is a jump that does not follow current evolutionary theories,” said Steven Scherer, director of mapping of the Human Genome Sequencing Center at the Baylor College of Medicine.
“We did not identify a strongly preferred bacterial source for the putative horizontally transferred genes,” states the report in Nature. The Public Consortium team, conducting a detailed search, found that 113 genes out of the 223 “are widespread among bacteria,” though they are entirely absent in invertebrates. An analysis of the proteins which the enigmatic genes express showed that out of 35 identified, only 10 had counterparts in other vertebrates, ranging from cows to rodents to fish; 25 of the 35 were unique to humans.
“It is not clear whether the transfer was from bacteria to human or from human to bacteria,” Science quoted Robert Waterson, co-director of Washington University’s Genome Sequencing Center, as saying.
But if man gave those genes to bacteria, where did man acquire those genes to begin with?
Where did the "alien" genes come from-bacteria, or ancient astronauts? Read the rest of the story in the July 2001 issue of FATE!