And The Rest: You Finally Made A Monkey Out Of Me

Question:
If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?

Answer by SmartLX:
Welcome to And The Rest, a potential new series where visitors and I try our best to create serious, concise, easy-to-understand answers to the most ignorant, misguided rhetorical questions and other hopeless arguments posed by theists who think they’ve got the ultimate trump card.

When you get one of these it betrays such lack of understanding and willingness to parrot propaganda that you may get angry and refuse to answer it; most of the time this will simply send the message that it works as rhetoric. I’d rather work on a library of straightforward answers which can be passed on and spread as wide as the questions themselves, until it’s inconceivable in each case that the question was ever given merit by anyone.

Right then, the monkey question is the classic example, so here’s my attempt to clear it up as quickly and simply as possible:

“Because not all the monkeys evolved into humans. Most of them evolved into other kinds of monkeys. They had different offspring like any family does. [Bonus semantics if you’re snarky:] And technically it was apes, not monkeys.”

Think you can come up with something more elegant? You’re probably right, so have a go in the comments. Otherwise, comment with some other faux “stumpers” we should cover in this series. Cheers.

14 thoughts on “And The Rest: You Finally Made A Monkey Out Of Me”

  1. My standard answer is this:

    “We didn’t evolve from monkeys. Monkeys, apes, and humans evolved from a common primate ancestor. Hominids such as humans are more closely related to apes like gorillas and chimpanzees. Both groups split from monkeys. Later, apes split from hominids.”

    Sometimes I add for no good reason:

    “So the real question is, why are there apes and humans when we used to share a common ancestor with monkeys..

  2. Okay, SmartLX, you think you’re so clever. Well, I’ve got a couple of closely-related questions for you that aren’t going to be so easy to answer!

    If Americans descended from Europeans, why are there still Europeans?

    You can’t say that some of them turned into Americans and others turned into “other kinds of Europeans” because the Europeans today (French, Spanish, German, Portuguese etc.) are the same as the ones that existed before the first colonists moved to the New World (French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, etc.).

    Also, I’ve heard people say that modern Americans descended from people who left the African continent countless generations ago and moved north to what we call Europe today. Supposedly, due to the weaker sun and their dark African skin, their bodies weren’t able to produce enough vitamin D to stay healthy, and natural selection led to their descendants developing pale complexions.

    If evolution is true, then why aren’t Caucasian people allowed to call themselves “African Americans,” even though doing so would have a lot of advantages, like getting scholarships and gaining admission to the best colleges? (Does it have something to do with there still being monkeys around today?)

    1. The Americans-from-Europeans reply to the monkey question is awkward because there’s not a lot of evolution going on there, just simple descent. Keeping within that concept, present-day Europeans and present-day white Americans are both descended from the Europeans of the early second millennium, and the analogy holds.

      Caucasians in America could call themselves African-Americans and be technically correct, because Homo sapiens first evolved in Africa. It would however be terribly insensitive as “African-American” effectively means two things today: actual immigrants from Africa and their immediate families, and the descendants of black American slaves forcibly brought from Africa. The latter group in particular faces unique challenges, tremendous prejudice and social obstacles, hence the measures taken to assist them (whatever you think of the merit and effectiveness of the measures). White people have no good reason to identify as part of this group.

    1. Perhaps not sufficient for a self-contained piece here, but interesting nonetheless. The article is a claim by a young-earth creationist that humans likely caused the extinction of the dinosaurs after Noah’s Flood, since they cause so many extinctions now. This is hardly an argument against evolution, and in fact it contradicts a lot of YEC literature which claims that the Flood itself largely wiped out the dinosaurs.

    2. OK, I’ll bite. I read the article. Let’s deconstruct it.

      There are 8 references cited in support of the primary underlying claim that humans and dinosaurs co-existed. The 1st is not a reference but a footnote regarding semantics. Fair enough.
      The 2nd refers to a list of threatened species. OK? Who disputes that? The 3rd refers us to an article on a creationist website discussing a known recently extinct bird (about 600 years ago) for which skeletons exist that was large enough to lift a small child. So what? Who disputes that? The article contains 8 references, all of which are newspaper articles, TV programs or books on mythology. Only one is a peer reviewed scientific paper; it is wholly irrelevant to the claims being made. The 4th reference discusses the finding of a fossilised giant egg. Not surprising that giant extinct birds had giant eggs. So what? Who disputes that? It lists two references. One is a pamphlet for a tourist attraction, the other a newspaper report; both written by the same author nearly 50 years ago. The 5th reference is a comment from a biologist stating that humans are the primary cause of current extinctions. OK. Who disputes that? The 6th reference is an article on a creationist website. It discusses the lack of evidence for the ‘Younger Dryas impact hypothesis’. So what? Just because science cannot find evidence for one of several hypotheses for a single period of extinction just doesn’t make young earth creationism true and is certainly no evidence whatsoever that humans and dinosaurs co-existed. The 7th reference claims that artworks depicting dinosaurs are clear evidence that humans co-existed with them. Much is made and a photograph is shown of the Acámbaro clay figures, found in Mexico in 1944. Interestingly, no references at all are given in this article. Well I’ll give one:
      Carriveau, G. W.; Han, M. C. (1976). “Thermoluminescent Dating and the Monsters of Acambaro”. American Antiquity. 41(4):497-500.
      This paper dates creation of the figures to the late 1930s – early 1940s. No wonder they declined to give any references! They are obvious forgeries! The 8th reference is an article on a creationist website discussing dragons in mythology and claiming that stories of dragons are evidence that humans and dragons co-existed. It, in turn, contains 5 supporting references. One is a biblical quote, three are from other creationist articles and one is a university press release. The press release uncovers typical creationist tactics. It does not support the claims made in the article at all; it shows evidence that native American people had a dragon mythology because we now have evidence they had encountered dinosaur fossils – not living dinosaurs!

      So, no actual evidence is presented in the article you refer to us. Just the usual creationist lies.

      Before finishing I’d like to comment on your claim that extinct dinosaurs lived alongside humans. It’s a personal experience of how creationists operate. On October 14th 2011 on the Creation Today Show (video is on youtube) Eric Hovind and Paul Taylor made the following claim (verbatim):

      “Even as recently as two hundred years ago, there’s an account of a civil war battle, sorry I should make clear, English Civil War, not the American Civil War, the English Civil War battle, the battle of St Fagans, which although is in the English Civil war actually took place in Wales. And after the battle in which there were a lot of people dead on the battlefield, there are some eyewitnesses who wrote about it at the time, who reckon that this large huge bird without feathers, this dragon type thing, swooped over the battlefield and was sort of, it was obviously a carrion eating thing, it was having it’s fill of dead bodies, a rather gruesome story but the description sounds very like a pterodactyl type”.

      I used to work in Cardiff which is 12 km from St Fagan’s. I know the village of St Fagans so I was interested in this story from an historical point of view. I knew people who lived in St Fagans so I asked them about the story. Never heard of it. Not taught in the local primary school. I then worked at Cardiff University so I emailed a lecturer in Welsh History. He too had never heard the story. I searched the catalogue at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. No documentation exists. The National Museum of Wales has a very large open-air facility at St. Fagans, including a completely rebuilt traditional Welsh village with exhibits pertaining to Welsh life over the centuries. On display are skeletons, cannon balls, musket balls, pykes and buttons found on the battle site. I asked them about the pterodactyl story. They were amused. I then searched several UK folklore archives and found nothing.

      The story is not true, not even a legend. Eric Hovind and Paul Taylor were outright lying to their audience. It’s what young earth creationists do.

  3. Ooh, ooh … I like the initiative SmartLX.

    Here’s my list of 10 faux stumpers (without succinct answers for now, to keep the post short):

    1) If evolution is true then why is the “xyz abnormality” observed ? (substitute anything for “xyz abnormality” that the creationist thinks is an abnormality and will stump the atheist)

    2) How do you explain the origin of life (not it’s evolution)?

    2) If there is no god then what happened before the big bang?

    3) How can anything come from nothing?

    4) If there is no god then how can we have morals/ love/ value for humanity/ human dignity etc.

    5) If there is no god then why are there miracles observed all around the world?

    6) Why haven’t scientists been able to prove definitively that there is no god?

    7) Religious people are happier than atheists. If religion gives comfort and hope why fight it? Why are atheists so hostile to it?

    8) How do you explain “xyz” prophecy/ theory of origin/miraculous event/ occurance of some historical figure in “abc” holy book? (Substitute any prophecy or fluke epiphany or unsubstantiated / obviously concocted miraculous event narrative for xyz and any holy book for abc).

    9) What if atheist’s are wrong … should one risk it? (Pascal’s wager)

    10) If religion is incorrect, why are there so few atheists? Why do so many people believe?

    1. Two more …

      11) Isn’t atheism like a religion? Don’t atheists have a blind faith in science?

      12) If evolution is correct, then why not go for eugenics? What was wrong with Nazi eugenics then?

      I daresay the above 12 cover most of what tends to get asked.

  4. In my opinion, the best reply to this question is the Americans-from-Europeans answer. It quickly and succinctly demonstrates the flaw in the question: the assumption that species cannot branch off from one another.

    1. Another example of the flaw in the assumption that species cannot branch off from each other: If dogs come from wolves, why are there still wolves?

      If someone had never seen a dog before and knew nothing of genetics and then encountered, say, an Irish wolfhound and a chihuahua, they would be highly unlikely to consider them to be members of the same species (Canus lupus). If they didn’t have prior knowledge of them being dogs, modern creationists would consider the wolfhound and the chihuahua to be different ‘kinds’. Wolfhounds and chihuahuas, like many other couplings of dog subspecies, cannot have offspring in their natural state because they are unable to physically mate. Artificial selection is merely a speeded up, planned and purposeful version of natural selection. So, if they were let wild, put in the same geographical region (without contact with any other Canus subspecies) wolfhounds and chihuahas would eventually become not only morphologically but genetically isolated from each other, i.e., they would become two different species, with the present day wolf as their common ancestor. There is no biological mechanism that could prevent this from happening.

  5. I have heard this question many times. It comes from ignorance. Not only ignorance of what evolution is and how we came to be what we are, but also ignorance of the bible and what its claims are on the subject. That any individual would take the word of a book that was written by man over two or three thousand years ago over the proof that science can provide to one who is seriously looking for the truth
    of the origin of not only human beings, but indeed all life on this planet only proves their ignorance, that they have a closed mind, and would rather masturbate their minds with superstition and fantasy than to come into the light of truth.

  6. Well heck, following that “monkey” reasoning to its logical conclusion, one would assert that there should be only ONE species of extant life at any one time, if evolution was a linear process.
    The misunderstanding here is that evolution is NOT linear, it is more like a tree. Otherwise, there would be no bacteria, not plants, no snakes, no squirrels…
    Incidentally, the so-called “higher forms” are way, way in the minority, both in terms of species count, and actual numbers of individuals (and even in total weight for that matter). Ever since the very early times, bacteria has been and still is the “winner” in that sense.
    The question “why are there still monkeys” indicates a complete misunderstanding of how evolution works.

  7. The fact is we are Apes. The most sophisticated and evolved ape of the simeon species, but apes never the less. It took over ten million years for our species to become what we are now, not the seven thousand years claimed in Genisis. We have evolved tremendously in physical stature and intelligence and as a result we no longer even resemble that creaure we once were. But, we are members of the Ape family, and only an ignorant fool would not be able to realize this and deny that we are. It is a sad commentary that with all the intelligence we have gained, that the majority of us still cling to the superstitious, nonsence of the bible and the belief in some deity, rather than what science can, and has proven. It is science and mans endless quest for knowledge that has gotten us to where we are today, not some mythological god of the past.

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