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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

“If We Evolved From Monkeys, How Come There Are Still Monkeys?”

This question is a favourite among creationists; they often ask this to dismiss the Theory of Evolution. Although this probably dates back from the time of Charles Darwin, many creationists, when engaged in a discussion (especially in an online discussion), act as if they had just discovered this particular zinger. They believe this is irrefutable, an argument that would surely reduce those smug, know-it-all evolutionists into blubbering idiots trapped in an existentialist despair. If you see this question in an Internet discussion board, this is usually followed by “HAHAHA,” which tends to make the impression that creationists are raving lunatics.
This caricature of Charles Darwin with the body of an ape was used since the late 1800s to ridicule him and his ideas about evolution

To be fair though, there are people out there who ask this question out of genuine curiosity, maybe because they were told (and taught) all sorts of misinformation and fed lies, deliberately or inadvertently, about science, particularly evolution—of which many have a serious misunderstanding.
It is also interesting to note that the website “Answers in Genesis,” a creationist site that advocates the literal interpretation of the book of Genesis' account of creation (“Creationism”), discourages their followers from using this as an argument. They had probably realized that this is one of the dumbest things a person could ask, when attacking evolution.

And here are the reasons why:

Nowhere in the theory of evolution does it say that humans evolved from monkeys. What evolution shows (among other things) is that humans and modern apes (including monkeys) descended from some ape-like creatures millions of years ago. Humans and the modern apes share a common direct ancestor that existed 5 to 8 million years ago; the species diverged into separate lineages, one of which developed, ultimately, into apes, and the other evolved into early humans called hominids that became the ancestors of modern humans. 
There have been a number of different hominid species; many are close relatives. Most of these species became extinct without giving rise to other species. Some of these species that we know today through fossils are almost certainly Homo sapiens’ direct ancestors. We may never know the exact number of hominid species that existed and their relationship with each other, but our knowledge increases as new fossils are found.     
The “monkey question” also assumes that ancestral forms must disappear as evolution takes place, which is not the case. It is important to know that it is possible for a species’ direct ancestor (that is, the species itself, not the individual) can exist for a long time without evolving. If for example the species became isolated from the rest of the population, and there are no environmental pressures for the species to evolve, then they can go for millions of years with no (or very little) evolution (see living fossils). In these conditions, the species would have no biological imperative to evolve. This means that evolution does not have to occur, if there are no reasons for it.
If however part of this species’ population migrates into a habitat with a new set of conditions, (e.g., new food source, presence of predators, etc.) then there is pressure on the species to evolve. The species may evolve into a new one over time, while the ancestor remains relatively unchanged.   
Charts like these are misleading, for it suggests that humans developed in a linear and progressive manner, from monkey-like to human-like. This is probably one of the reasons that inspired the monkey question.
Creationists do not acknowledge that evolution have happened, and is still happening. Evolution takes a multitude of paths, and not through a process in which species progress up a sort of “stages” or “ladder” in a linear manner. Evolution is not random; rather, random factors affect evolution, and the species that had the best results from those random factors survive.

Next: So You Think Evolution Is Just A Theory?  

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