Do you want to be descended from a monkey?
|The divine comedy|
Several creationists (and other anti-evolution advocates) have raised the question (broadly speaking):
Evolution says you are descended from a monkey. Do you want to be descended from a monkey?
There are numerous problems with this argument.
The obvious logical response is that truth has nothing to do with whether you like it or not. The pleasantness of a fact, or lack thereof, does not detract from or add to its validity. However, for those looking for a more witty retort, a few are listed below:
- Do you want to be descended from a pile of dust, as the creation story in Genesis 2 claims? Since Creationists don't seem to mind being modified dirt, it's not clear why they have a problem with being modified primates, especially when said primates might just be extremely modified dirt as well.
- Do you want to be descended from people who personally wrecked the entire universe, as the Biblical creation story claims? Creationists pin the blame of the fall squarely on the shoulders of humanity's legendary ancestors Adam and Eve, yet somehow presume that these two troublemakers are more acceptable ancestors than monkeys.
- Alternatively, how would it feel to know that your preferred creator punished your oldest ancestors for the heinous crime of... eating a fruit? Would evolution punish a monkey for doing that?
- Science is not about what we want, it is about collecting, testing, and explaining data. Do you want deadly earthquakes to happen? Most people don't, but that doesn't stop earthquakes from happening, nor should it stop people from studying earthquakes.
- As the old truism goes, "We can pick our friends, but we can't pick our family." It would be very nice to be the son/daughter of (insert name of celebrity, potentate, pirate, or historical figure), and it's undeniably true that we are relatives of (insert name of criminal, ne'er-do-well, potentate, or historical figure). Unfortunately, science is about what the evidence says about reality (in this case, the ancestry of humans), and not wishful thinking.
- First, evolutionary theory suggests that both Homo sapiens and contemporary "monkeys" descend from a common ancestor living 25 million years ago, during the Oligocene. Second, which may be particularly interesting, from recent molecular studies and other data, that the common ancestor may have been more like us than like monkeys. Therefore, perhaps the more accurate question is whether monkeys would want to be descended from us!
- The classical response to this is the one supposedly given by Thomas Huxley to Bishop Samuel Wilberforce in the famous 1860 Oxford evolution debate. Huxley allegedly stated that he would not be ashamed to have a monkey for his ancestor, but would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used his great gifts to obscure the truth.
- Do you like being related to Torquemada?
- Would you rather be purposefully designed to be/look like a monkey? (Rather than the similarity being just a matter of purposeless physical laws, there is a Divine Reason for the similarity?)
- Being descended from monkey-like beings is extremely helpful as far as testing goes – countless medical, biological, and anthropological insights applicable to and improving the lives of humans have happened precisely because of this relationship. If we didn't have such a relationship, we'd either have to do such tests and experiments on humans or go without this knowledge. Do you want to be several decades behind the latest advances in vaccines? (Anti-vaxxers, don't answer that.)
- Biblical creationism maintains that the children of Adam and Eve must have procreated incestuously since there were no other people around. Do you want to be descended from incest? Even worse, since Eve is created from the body parts of Adam, do you want to be descended from masturbation? And if we were manufactured with that purpose in mind from minerals... would you want to be descended from self-replicating sex toys?
- The only reason a "monkey" ancestor might seem so scandalous derives from the myths and tropes of Western culture assigning a certain kind of ineffable, unsavory quality to monkeys. Imagine if someone asked, "do you want to be descended from dinosaurs?" or "do you want to be descended from tigers?" There would be a less instinctively negative reaction than implying one's common ancestor was a cockroach or a slug, even though the outcome from the perspective of the anthropomorphic principle would be the same. Questions like this rather betray a narrow-minded cultural chauvinism, and ignore the very real cognitive gifts of primates, a name that comes from the Latin for "number 1" in reference to our supposed higher intelligence than other mammal orders.
- The similarity is obvious, which is what makes it so uncomfortable to have it pointed out. Like teenagers who don't like it pointed out how similar they are to their parents because they are like their parents.
- Do you want to be a degraded descendant of ancestors who were taller, longer-lived, and otherwise more perfect, as the Bible suggests, or would you rather be a new form of ape (longer-lived and much smarter than other apes)?
- "Evolution" itself doesn't "say" anything, it has no mouth or tongue. The body of evolutionary theory just provides a toolset that may help scientists to explain certain facts or to address certain issues, such as perceived similarities between a monkey and an archbishop.
- Okay, so what? These monkeys are long since dead anyway, and can't show up at a family gathering and embarrass you (perhaps by being smarter than you, but whatever).
- In spite of that we reached so much — why, we should be proud of this! Conversely, this argument implies that personal achievement means nothing, and it's only the pedigree that matters.
- What's so bad about being descended from monkeys? Monkeys are fucking awesome.[citation NOT needed]
Fallacies contained in this argument
- Emotional appeal
- Argument from adverse consequences
- Wishful thinking ("What ought to be true is true"), obviously
- Straw man, as we only share a common ancestor with monkeys
- "The central figure and the transitional period", Moon, Rev. Sun Myung. 1976 (7 Mar.).