evolgen

Creationist Myths

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Via this press release I learned about this book: The Top Ten Myths About Evolution. The book deconstructs ten myths that creationists propagate while spreading misinformation. It also gives me an excuse to post cute pictures of furry primates.

The official website lists the ten myths:

1) Survival of the Fittest; 2) It’s Just a Theory; 3) The Ladder of Progress; 4) The Missing Link; 5) Evolution is Random; 6) People Come from Monkeys; 7) Nature’s Perfect Balance; 8) Creationism Disproves Evolution; 9) Intelligent Design is Science; 10) Evolution is Immoral

It sounds like a good treatment of why creationism is wrong — like Talk.Origins in dead tree media. The website has snippets from each chapter. I’m especially fond of the people come from monkeys point:

To evaluate this myth–that evolution claims “we come from monkeys”–we can start by asking what evolution really says about our connection to the rest of living things. Once our place in evolving nature is revealed, we can examine the second claim, that being related to monkeys is a degradation.

They decided to go after the idea that it’s an insult to say we’re related to monkeys. But there are other reasons it doesn’t make sense to attack evolution by saying that humans didn’t evolve from monkeys. First of all, we didn’t evolve from monkeys; we share a common ancestor with monkeys. Included in this myth is the one about humans evolving from chimpanzees. Just like humans and chimps did not speciate.

On top of that, we are monkeys! See:

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A good cladist wouldn’t refer to apes as non-monkeys because that would break up a monophyletic taxon.

I also appreciate that they go after the concept of the ladder of evolution. This myth, propagated by creationists, states that humans are the goal of evolution. Sadly, this myth is often spread by legitimate scientists when they discuss “higher eukaryotes“.

Comments

  1. #1 Ahcuah
    December 19, 2006

    Isn’t there a basic contradiction in saying both “First of all, we didn’t evolve from monkeys; we share a common ancestor with monkeys” and “On top of that, we are monkeys!”?

    For us to be a monkey, and for all the monkeys to be monkeys, surely that common ancestor must also have been a monkey (by whatever cladistic features that identify monkeys).

    Of course, what is happening here is not really a contradiction, but just a bit of sloppy use of the language. When creationists say we are not descended from monkeys, they are denying any common descent at all. What biologists are really saying is that we are not descended from any extant monkeys. That is, we are not descended from any of the currently existing monkey (or ape, for that matter) species.

  2. #2 sparc
    December 19, 2006

    On top of that, we are monkeys!

    Indeed, and this is nothing to be ashamed of.

  3. #3 Richard Simons
    December 20, 2006

    . . . we didn’t evolve from monkeys. . .

    So what kind of animal was it that we and the modern monkeys descended from? Rabbits?

    Statements like this just serve to confuse people who are trying to find out about evolution. What you mean is that we are not descended from modern monkeys, a quite different concept. If our common ancestor were around today it would be called a monkey. Likewise, the last ancestor common to us and a chimpanzee would be called an ape if it were found roaming in the African forests or grassland, so it is reasonable to say that we are descended from apes.

  4. #4 Jonathan Badger
    December 20, 2006

    Statements like this just serve to confuse people who are trying to find out about evolution. What you mean is that we are not descended from modern monkeys, a quite different concept.

    Well, I think it is a *good* idea to get the public to understand that you can’t just cram extinct species into categories created to describe modern animals. That’s what leads to the misunderstanding that evolution can only occur within one “kind” of animal.

    if our common ancestor were around today it would be called a monkey

    Yeah, and if ichthyosaurs were around today, people (at least non-biologists) would call them fish, because they kinda look like modern fish. It wouldn’t make it so, though.

  5. #5 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    December 20, 2006

    Since the Creationists myth is sometimes worded as, “if we’re descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?“, the distinction between modern monkeys and ancestral monkeys is pretty important.

  6. #6 RPM
    December 20, 2006

    I agree, the way I presented it was a bit confusing. It should be:

    1) We share a common ancestor with extant monkeys.

    2) We belong to a single, monophyletic group including old world monkeys, new world monkeys, and other apes. The term “monkey” is fairly meaningless to a cladist.

  7. #7 Richard Simons
    December 21, 2006

    I think it is a *good* idea to get the public to understand that you can’t just cram extinct species into categories created to describe modern animals.

    If you consider calling the last common ancestor between humans and monkeys a monkey to be ‘cramming’ exactly what are the major differences between it and the modern Old and New World monkeys?

    Yeah, and if ichthyosaurs were around today, people (at least non-biologists) would call them fish, because they kinda look like modern fish. It wouldn’t make it so, though.

    Of course not, because there are major differences between ichthyosaurs and fish.

    I know that ‘monkey’ is no more a clade than ‘reptile’ is, but if you are addressing the general public then the words used should have the same meanings that are generally understood by them, unless the differences are clearly explained.