As usual when social media gets busy, in this case people are home because of ‘COVID–19‘, the theists crawl out of the woodwork, claim evolution is pseudoscience, and make jokes about atheism and their monkey grandparents. It’s all very hilarious, and I get belly aches from laughing every time I see their memes and videos. It’s all terribly amusing. But on a serious note, why do they doubt that humans and chimpanzees don’t share a common ancestor, and humans are in fact Great Apes (Primates).
Biology, evolution and natural selection are great interests of mine, and I’ve put off writing this article for some time as I needed to further my existing knowledge and extensively research. This article will address the most common questions that theists ask, or subjects they attempt to ridicule.
If we came from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?
This question is a classic creationist dilemma, and to answer it we need to establish what exactly they mean by ‘monkeys’. Many people are unaware that apes are not monkeys, and monkeys are not apes. They are a completely different species that potentially share the same ancestor. Monkeys and apes are both primates, but differ in many ways. There are only several species of apes, and these include humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, gibbons, bonobos, or orangutans, as opposed to the multitude of species of monkey. Apes are generally much larger, have larger brains which enables a much higher form of intelligence, they tend to live a lot longer than monkeys, and are adapted to living and swinging in trees, whereas monkeys have a tail that they use for balance as they tend to run along branches more often than swing.
So now we’ve established the difference we can now understand that humans are apes, not monkeys, but apes and monkeys are both primates that share an unknown common ancestor. Through natural selection it’s the species most adaptable to change, so there’s a distinct possibility that the ‘missing link’ was either hunted into extinction, or died out as a species due to strong competition for territory, and/or food.
New species often appear when an existing species is isolated, or exists in a different location, or climate and they adapt to their surroundings, which usually forms genetic changes over generations. Some species don’t adapt as quickly as interbreeding can happen if they come in contact, but a long time in separate colonies with different surroundings and necessities to survive then eventually they’ll be so different that they can’t be described as the same species any more. This is how evolution works, and Darwin described natural selection as
“I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term of Natural Selection. We shall best understand the probable course of natural selection by taking the case of a country undergoing some slight physical change, for instance, of climate. The proportional numbers of its inhabitants will almost immediately undergo a change, and some species will probably become extinct.” – Charles Darwin
We can look at this from another angle.
If Americans came from Europeans, then why are there still Europeans?
This question is no different than the monkey question. America’s ancestors are European, and the reason Europeans still exist is because they are able to survive in the state they’re in. Monkeys survive in abundance as they’ve got all of the resources they need to survive. They have natural predators like chimpanzees, but their numbers are so high that there remains an equilibrium. So there is no need for the monkey to evolve as where they live, for the majority, is the ideal habitat. Take a monkey away from that, place them in a city with no access to wildlife and their natural diet, and over time they’ll have no choice but to adapt to survive.
Why haven’t all other apes turned into humans?
Palaeontologists will say that the modern chimpanzee has been in the same state for over three times as long as homo Sapiens, and the reason they haven’t evolved further is they’ve no need to as they only really have one predator and that’s leopards, and if they defend themselves in numbers then they do just fine.
Why would chimpanzees evolve into humans anyway?
They would no doubt take on another evolutionary path if they had to adapt to survive, and a new species would become, and its highly unlikely that they’d share the exact same characteristics as humans. There’s a strong chance that many species split away from the missing link, and other species of humans didn’t survive as Homo Sapiens became the dominant species.
Creationists think that evolution is a myth, as we should be able to witness the changes in a species within generations. This does indeed happen, and the native ‘green lizard‘ in Florida is an example of this. Due to invading lizards they’ve had to adapt in a short time to survive and to do this their feet have evolved so they can grip thinner, smoother branches higher up trees.
Evolution isn’t about progression like many people assume. It doesn’t work that way. Evolution occurs when a species reaches a point where if they remain in their current state, then survival isn’t guaranteed. Evolution is about surviving and being able to reproduce. That’s it, and if a creature is perfectly happy, living in abundance, perfect dietary needs, and the ability to reproduce, then the creature will remain as it is. Sharks have survived successfully as a species for over 400,000,000 years as their design is perfect, and they have no natural predators, just like crocodiles who survived the extinction of the dinosaurs.
What is the missing link?
The ‘missing link‘ is a pseudoscientific term to describe the lack of fossilised remains to determine what could have been the ancestor of primates. Biologists don’t think the term ‘missing link’ has any credibility and prefer the term ‘common ancestor’. What the missing link implies is a linear basis for evolution, rather than branching out into different species. Many species of early human have been discovered, but I’m certain beyond doubt that the fossil discovery is in its infancy, and there’s much more to discover. The missing link is essentially several pieces missing from a jigsaw, in significant places where the full picture can’t be seen. Creationists use this incomplete scientific theory to imply that for something to be created then there must be a creator, but there’s no scientific basis whatsoever that life was manufactured.
What caused humans to evolve?
Humans have been around for about six million years and have been evolving that whole time to suit their surroundings, and perhaps the reason we evolved and other apes not as much is possibly curiosity. Early humans left the canopies of the jungles and decided to explore, and biologists believe that the first advancement was becoming bipedal (walking on two legs). Whilst other apes have the ability to do this, it’s only for a short time as their feet aren’t fit for walking upright for lengthy periods, whereas humans’ feet evolved flat. Along with the curiosity we learnt to build tools and communicate, and eventually develop spoken language, and this is what separates us from other primates.
The majority of fossilised remains of early humans have been found in the continent of Africa where Paleoanthropologists have estimated that they began to move to Asia over 1.5 million years ago, and gradually spread around the world living in tribes, and the first real civilisations have only existed since approximately 10,000 years ago, when the society formed in Mesopotamia, which was located in the region of Iraq, Syria, Kuwait and Turkey and is affectionately known as the ‘cradle of civilisation’. This is where the first recorded agriculture occurred in the form of farmland, and the first of the cities, Uruk, was built just over 5,000 years ago. Uruk was where the first written languages were developed, and laws were created, time and calendars were devised and public records kept. So as a civilised society we’re aren’t that far away from the days when we were hunter gatherers who literally lived day by day trying to survive as a species.
So how do we know for sure that we are apes?
I can’t just say we are as the evidence is there, as I’d be no better than a creationist who makes a claim but has no basis of fact to back it up.
We are ‘Hominidae‘ which is one of four genera, and we share this group with bonobo and chimpanzee. Due to our almost identical genetic makeup, some animal rights associations believe that non human, Great Apes are people, have a strong sentient consciousness, and are worthy of the same rights as humans, and are potentially susceptible to human viruses like COVID-19. Not only do we have extremely similar genetics, but our bone structure and muscle groups are almost identical. We share almost 99% of DNA with both the Great Ape chimpanzee, and the Lesser Ape bonobo. Humans like our Ape relatives have strong social groups, slow growth and few offspring, as opposed to other mammals that have litters. They also rely on vision and hearing rather than sense of smell and pheromones, and scientists are confident that alongside humans, Great Apes are the only mammals who are able to see a full spectrum of colour.
Don’t we share more than 60% of DNA with bananas?
This argument I’ve encountered many, many times from theists, and whilst it’s true, they have no idea why it’s true, and I’ve read people say that if we’re 99% chimpanzee, then we are 60% banana, but this isn’t as simple as claiming we are 2/3 similar in genetics to a favourite fruit of Ray Comfort. A genome is an instruction manual that every living thing has, and it informs the DNA of how to create protein, which is essentially life. This determines, size, colour, and helps create enzymes and hormones. Due the fact that all life on Earth had the same ‘last universal common ancestor’ (LUCA), the single cell organism, everything that came after shares a similar instruction manual to control cells. So we are as much 2/3 banana as we are a rat, or a turnip.
How did Abiogenesis occur?
This isn’t an easy subject to cover as trying to convince someone that life originated from non-life is like getting blood from a stone, but scientists have theories, and one thing they have to agree on is life began at a quantum level. We can agree that biology is a form of chemistry at heart, and chemistry is the study and understanding of atomic electrons, and quantum mechanics is the study of particles at a subatomic level, and how they interact. Biology studies how highly complex molecules self organise in a perfect way. Some scientists study thermodynamics, which is the transfer of heat and energy, and how processes naturally occur when energy enters their environment.
What is entropy?
Entropy is uncertainty, and is energy that’s in a non-equilibrium state. When something is in an equilibrium it’s in order with its surroundings. Take something as being room temperature. A liquid as an example has reached a state of equilibrium with its surroundings. But this isn’t how life works, it needs heat from the sun, or food for energy, so it can grow.
Everyone has heard of the ‘Miller–Urey‘ experiment that attempted to recreate the conditions of early Earth. They decided that if they placed the gases that they believed that were present on Earth at the time they believed life began, in an enclosed environment, and applied energy, they could potentially create the basis of life (abiogenesis), and over time amino acids were created, which are essential building blocks for life. These experiments are considered by many as pseudoscience as no one could possibly know what’s Earth’s early conditions were like, but after Miller’s death, scientists discovered that in vials in his laboratory there were more than the amino acids that he originally claimed he’d found. And more than what is actually needed for life. There’s more about this in my article The tree of life, which goes into quite extensive detail of how life might have arisen. I’m quite confident of one thing, and that no God was responsible. There’s no question in my mind.