Colbert needs another lesson in biology

Almost exactly one week ago, I gave Colbert a little lesson on rodent taxonomy (serious business, as you may recall). And now, time for another quick biology lesson.

On last night’s episode, Stephen presented the results of the Mississippi Republican primary, in which Thad Cochran defeated Chris McDaniel by the slimmest of margins:

Colbert Mississippi

Joked Colbert, “Few things are ever that close in Mississippi other than the genomes of married couples.”

Wait, did I say “joked”?

Because what Colbert said is completely scientifically accurate: genomes of married couples in Mississippi are, without exception, orders of magnitude more genetically similar than 98.2%. I’m going to be lazy and save myself some research by quoting the same article I dug up when I made a similar point about Michael Jackson’s alleged son with Miki “Billy” Howard:

When scientists say we are 85% the same as a mouse, they are referring to the string of letters in a gene. This simply means that on average, if you compare a typical gene from mice to the equivalent gene in a human, 85% of their bases will be the same. Or if the gene was 1000 bases long, 150 bases would be different and 850 would be the same as the other. In other words we are 85% biochemically identical to a mouse.

How biochemically identical are we to our fellow humans? The DNA sequence in your genes is on average 99.9% identical to ANY other human being.

Indeed, humans share a higher percentage of their DNA with chimpanzees than the number of points that separated Cochran from McDaniel.

Of course, Colbert might have been making a joke about marriage between humans and animals-more-distant-than-chimpanzees, such as farm animals, but I think it’s reasonably clear from the accompanying graphic that the comic had incest in mind more than bestiality:

Colbert married genomes

Either way, the joke was an abomination — of science.


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