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 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 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, and yet, somehow presume that these two troublemakers are more acceptable ancestors than monkeys.
- Science is not about what we want, it is about collecting, testing, and explaining data. Do you want deadly earthquakes to happen? Most people do not, but that does not prevent them from happening, nor should it prevent 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 is undeniably true that we are relatives of (insert name of criminal, ne'er-do-well, potentate or historical figure) but, sadly, 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 "monkeys" descend from a common ancestor living 25 million years ago, during the Oligocene. Second, what may be particularly interesting, from recent molecular studies and other data, that 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 he 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?
- 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?" - it'd get 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.
- The similarity is obvious. That 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 tool-set which may help scientists to explain certain facts or to address certain issues, such as (for example) perceived similarities between a monkey and an archbishop.
- Ok, so what? These monkeys are long since dead anyway and cannot show up at family gathering and embarass 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.
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