A planet where men evolved from apes?

By Phil Plait | February 19, 2012 7:00 am

The next time some creationist starts talking smack about evolution being impossible and that humans aren’t animals and they’re not descended from apes, show them this picture:

I was browsing uploaded pictures in the 500px app and this came up; I added the white box and fuzzed out the other thumbnails. Sometimes, coincidence is pretty funny.

MORE ABOUT: apes, creationism, humans

Comments (68)

  1. [Missed opportunity of the century : ]

    They should’ve met the last Space Shuttle landing wearing gorilla suits .. :-)

  2. Martain Chandler (@martchand)

    Seen in an alien T-shirt shoppe near Beta Lyrae: Keep your filthy hands off my prOn, you damned dirty ape!

  3. DonDueed

    Wow, she’s really beautiful!

    And the one on the left is pretty nice, too.

  4. We’re all apes really! ;-)

    Complex, technologically advanced, musical, poetic, philosophical, humourus, messed up, furless apes. (Plus so much more.)

    There’s just some of us wot know that and some what don’t.

  5. Larry S.

    I don’t get it.

  6. Apes capable of such great & also such terrible things.

    Semi-sentient creatures capable of seeing and understanding and reaching out to the stars.

    Of loving and hurting, creating /destroying.

    Paradoxical, amazing and still so self destructive, self creative things.

  7. Sorry, double entry….

  8. Quote from alien, in the movie Contact: You’re an interesting species. An interesting mix. You’re capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you’re not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable, is each other.

    I am reading Dawkins’ “Greatest Show On Earth”. This is a great book to read if you want data and arguments to knock the stuffing out of the claims of “evolution history deniers”. Just read the chapter about Lensky’s experiments with bacterial cultures over 20+ years. Evolution before our very eyes.

  9. Wzrd1

    What is funny is, the anti-evolution crowd doesn’t realize that animal breeding for desired traits is a form of evolution, only guided by humans.
    What selector of traits can be harsher than nature, where undesired traits would not survive.

  10. chief

    Re #1. So completes the cycle of 2001. Nice image, would have loved a front page spread in a major newspaper showing this. (and probably not catching the deeper meaning).

    I am proud to have ancestors as these. What a remarkable climb up from those beginnings through all the ages of hardship and changes to produce modern man.

  11. Trebuchet

    @#8: So you’re saying it’s … Intelligent Design?

  12. Chris

    I don’t get it.

  13. Mike Saunders

    Today on BA:

    Ape O-faces

  14. Wzrd1

    @#10, no. Only that nature is very harsh in natural selection of surviving traits. Humans breed change rather slowly.
    As an example, it took over 20 years to breed a domesticated fox.
    In nature, significant changes can be bred far faster, it’s part of the flexibility of life. Humans aren’t as good at selecting surviving traits, or at least not as efficient.

  15. John Paradox

    I agree with the Librarian at Unseen University:

    Oook!

    J/P=?

  16. Steffen

    Fundamentalist creationist women are especially weird. On the one hand, they vehemently oppose the fact that we are related to apes, despite tons and tons of evidence. On the other hand, they immediately accept and have no problem with the completely crazy tale that they as women descended from a rib. Just because it is written so in a collection of tales from the bronze age.

  17. James Evans

    Problem is, most creationists think the statement “humans evolved from apes” means we evolved from present-day apes (gorillas, chimps, orangutans, etc.), and they ask silly things like, “Well, if we evolved from gorillas, how come there are still gorillas walking around?” A reminder that we and present-day apes all evolved from a common ancestor is an easy correction that sometimes jolts a few of them into embracing reality.

    Sometimes.

  18. abc

    I am not a creationist. But man!! Why did you have to ruin my day in this manner?

  19. Trebuchet

    #10 was a joke by the way!

  20. Renee Marie Jones

    I am proud to be a member of the ape lineage. We have endured much, we have come so far, learned much, and so much more left to do.

    I am ashamed to be related to so many of my fellow humans. Greed, corruption, lies and deceit abound. So much hatred and cruelty, so much promise unfulfilled. We need to do better.

  21. James

    I don’t get it either. Frankly, I read this blog for the science. The frequent, error-ridden political diatribes are an annoyance. And with this one, I can’t even figure out what you’re trying to say, except that you’re probably trying to insult people who think differently than you do.

  22. Gary Ansorge

    ,,,and with the recovery of Neanderthal DNA, I wonder if we could back breed and reconstruct an ancient Neanderthal, the way we recovered the American Bison from the Texas Longhorn?

    ,,,of course, THEN we’d have to figure out what to do with it.

    Gary 7

  23. Chelsea

    Watching the behaviour of Homo sapiens I sometimes I think apes and chimps were evolved from us and went to a higher level. Common ancester, people, common ancester. We should be so proud to have such lofty cousins. Besides, what can we say about the Binobo chimp that hasn’t often been said of humans?

  24. Colin Howell

    “… the way we recovered the American Bison from the Texas Longhorn?”

    Where did you hear that? While the American bison became highly endangered at one point, it never went extinct. It recovered from surviving bison, not from breeding experiments on domestic cattle. However, it is true that many bison do carry some cattle genes, since some cattle-bison hybrids are fertile.

    There have been some attempts to revive the extinct auroch, the ancestor of modern cattle, via back-breeding. Heck cattle are one well-known example.

  25. James

    To whoever is moderating these comments, let me say that you don’t advance science by silencing critics. Your decision to silence critics serves only to reveal insecurities; it does nothing to promote the search for truth.

  26. Dave

    Why the random attack on Creationists? Comparing the gorgeous blonde to the monkey is like comparing our current president to a free market capitalist.

  27. amphiox

    As an example, it took over 20 years to breed a domesticated fox.
    In nature, significant changes can be bred far faster, it’s part of the flexibility of life. Humans aren’t as good at selecting surviving traits, or at least not as efficient.

    This is incorrect. Artificial selection by humans brings about changes orders of magnitudes faster than natural selection does. On evolutionary timescales, getting significant changes in 20 years is like lightspeed.

    The difference is that the changes humans deliberately bring about are, (naturally), changes that would benefit HUMANS, rather than the animals being selected, and so, outside of the domestic setting, would tend to make these creatures less fit.

    (And natural selection can often act of variations so small that humans don’t notice them, and would therefore never be able to artificial select, but again, this process takes thousands and tens of thousands of years).

  28. jearley

    #19-
    I believe that the American Bison was not lost- the current population comes from a small remnant herd. I think that Longhorns are descended from European cattle, which are descended from the Aurochs.

  29. Old Gringo Stan

    The blond ape looks delicious…….theocratic fascism is freedoms greatest enemy today…..the lukewarm enable the zealots….

  30. Ray

    @ Gary #19,

    Ever see the build on those Neanderthal dudes? Perfect fit for NFL linebackers.

  31. Autumn

    @Gary,
    I still would rather have an emu-raptor.

  32. James (21): Easy solution: go away. Or you can read this and stay. Either way, I will continue to post the way I do. Also: I have a spam autofilter that caught your comments. Why jump to the assumption I am censoring you?

  33. mandas

    This article is incorrect and creationists are partially correct – humans did NOT descend from apes.

    But the fact is, humans ARE apes.

  34. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ mandas : Yup. The third species of chimpanzee – sharing 98% chimp DNA if memory serves – as I gather one zoologists book is titled and suggests. :-)

    As one saying goes : We all sprang from monkeys, some of us just didn’t spring far enough! ;-)

    Technically, yeah, we evolved from ape-like precursors that diverged into many species incl. chimpanzees, siamangs, gorillas, astralopithecines, homo habilis and homo sapiens if my vaguely recollected biology understanding is right. But we are very closely related to many modern “great apes” esp. chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas sharing allbuta few percent of the same DNA.

    @12. Chris & @21. James :

    I don’t get it. & I don’t get it either.

    Look again. See how the posture and body language of the blonde model and the monkey /ape* match up rather closely. ;-)

    There’s probably an academic paper or two in the similarities of that pose and its apparent implcations / connotations / associations.

    ——————

    * Anyone know what species the non-homo spaiens ape there is? Doesn’t look like a gorilla or chimpanzee / siamang /bonobo – all those species looking fairly similar, flatter faced & darker furred. Vaguely baboon~ish but not quite right for that either I think. “Barbary Ape” Maqaque or Mandrill maybe?

  35. kat wagner

    She’s the gorilla my dreams (if i was a guy).

  36. Messier Tidy Upper

    A planet where men evolved from apes?

    Don’t you mean : A planet where *women* evolved from apes, BA? ;-)

    (Of course technically we’re all the same species but y’know what I mean, I hope.)

  37. bassmanpete

    MTU, macaques are flatter faced than that. I was thinking a female Drill or Mandrill.

  38. andyd

    So if you show this picture, http://images.allposters.com/images/tel/5565.jpg it becomes evidence we evolved from dogs?

  39. Biologist Al

    Evolution can naturally occur slowly, as with geologic isolation, or rapidly, as in hybridization. The slower/faster-than-artificial-selection argument can be dropped. Plenty of other examples but these ought to do for the moment.

  40. Jeff

    genetically they are almost equal, but the small differences in genetics do create some significant differences. However, yes, ardipithecus, a creature that was partly bipedal and partly had opposible toes to hang from trees, were direct human ancestors; ardi had a common ancestor with the apes. I would suggest the common ancestor was 7 millions years ago; and clearly in Ethiopia.

  41. “Problem is, most creationists think the statement “humans evolved from apes” means we evolved from present-day apes (gorillas, chimps, orangutans, etc.), and they ask silly things like, “Well, if we evolved from gorillas, how come there are still gorillas walking around?” A reminder that we and present-day apes all evolved from a common ancestor is an easy correction that sometimes jolts a few of them into embracing reality.”

    While that is true in this case, it is not true in general. It is certainly possible, and has happened, that species B evolved from species A and species A is still around. In fact, this is probably what usually happens. It is rare that an entire population evolves from one species to another. Usually, what happens is that an isolated group evolves, and the original stays around. Of course, they won’t usually become extinct at the same time, so about half the time one ends up with just species B (your example involving homo sapiens) and the other half just species A. But in almost all cases there was a time when both were around at the same time.

    The “common ancestor” in the response to the creationist is a red herring. One needs to question their assumption that if B evolves from A then B can no longer exist once A exists.

    (When not doing cosmology, I sometimes read about evolution and population genetics.)

  42. James

    Phil, I didn’t mean to suggest that you should change what you write. It’s your blog, and you can obviously write what you want to write. Just as I, the reader, can skip the stuff that doesn’t interest me.

    I’d be a lot more interested in the political topics if the analysis were any good, but frequently it’s not. Often it contains glaring logical fallacies (ad hominem, straw man, non sequitur, you name it), rash generalizations, and conclusions that are far too strong for the evidence that is presented. That appears to be your style of political argument, and if that’s the case, then I’ll keep skipping those posts. It does strike me as odd for someone who is so intelligent in the hard sciences to have such an inferior intellect for social science.

    All that to say, I really do enjoy your science posts. About ten years ago, I took two semesters of astronomy in college and soaked it up like a sponge. Your blog is a perfect way for me to stay connected with a topic that I really enjoy without having to devote my life to it. Thanks for your work.

  43. #33 is right — humans are apes, so it’s a bit misleading to say that we’ve descended from apes. I guess it’s technically correct (since our ancestors were apes, too), but it gives the impression that humans are somehow separate from “apes”, which simply isn’t true. I think that’s also responsible for the common misunderstanding mentioned in comment #17. By happy coincidence, I’ve just recently posted on my blog about this and four other common misunderstandings of biology.

    @10: I think the metaphor of a “climb up” is an inappropriate view of evolution; that’s actually one of the other misunderstandings I address in my post. The language we use to discuss evolution is fully of metaphors implying some sort of progress, which is actually the wrong way to look at evolution.

    @34: I was lucky enough to meet some Barbary Macaques up close in Morocco and this doesn’t look like one.

    @41: I guess that depends on how you think of “species A”. After species B splits off, species A would also keep changing; depending on how much change it accumulated, the result might be species B evolving after splitting off from species A and species A changing over the same period and becoming into species C. I’m a biologist and my impression is that this is far more common than species A remaining static while species B changes, though I’d have to check the literature a bit before making too strong a comment. A good (and relevant) example is the fact that chimps seem to have undergone more directional selection than we have since our common ancestor, so neither modern species is likely to resemble the common ancestor very much.

  44. truthspeaker

    James, creationism isn’t a political topic, it’s a science topic.

  45. Gary Ansorge

    At one time we had two sentient, tool creating species on earth,,,I think we ate the other one(it’s not cannibalism, even though they looked a bit like us).

    Linebackers I have known were quite a bit larger than Neanderthal however, they’d probably make great bouncers in my local pub,,,

    Just read a funny new theory about Neanderthals called Neanderthal Predation. It rather neatly ties together the Homo sapiens population “bottleneck” with the subsequent disappearance of Neanderthal in that, first the Neanderthals hunted us,,,then when our population had recovered enough,,,we hunted and killed them because,,,they were the monsters of our nightmares,,,

    An interesting theory.

    Gary 7

  46. Gary Ansorge

    24. Colin Howell

    I got that from a rancher in Montana who raised and bred bison(in 1975). His bison herd was 5000 strong and he went on and on about how healthy they were, how much easier they were to breed(the calves only weight 75 lbs. at birth), how a 2000 lb bull could clear a six foot tall concrete fence(anything less than concrete and they’d just knock it down) and that they could survive on food that would starve a cow. Bison would typically gain 1000 lbs in their first year on range feed alone.

    I had the chance to sample some bison meat. It WAS way tastier than beef,,,

    Gary 7

  47. James Evans

    Phillip Helbig, you are absolutely right! But hopefully my comment did not imply the preclusion of those ideas from anywhere but the creationist thought process, hence the mention of their questions appearing silly.

  48. Mike Saunders

    A spam autofilter is the same as any censorship… search results in some countries are ‘autofiltered’, I would call that censorship.

  49. amphiox

    At one time we had two sentient, tool creating species on earth,,,I think we ate the other one(it’s not cannibalism, even though they looked a bit like us).

    More than one time. In reverse order from present to past, I can think of:

    1. H. sapiens/H. floresiensis
    2. H. sapiens/H. neanderthalensis/H. floresiensis
    3. H. sapiens/H. neanderthalensis/H. denisova/H. floresiensis(?)
    4. H. sapiens/H. neanderthalensis/H. erectus
    5. H. neanderthalensis/H.erectus
    6. H. heidelbergensis/H. erectus
    7. H. erectus/H. ergaster
    8. H. erectus/H. ergaster/H. habilis
    9. H. ergaster/H. habilis/H. rudolfensis
    10. H. habilis/H. rudolfensis/A. robustus

    (And at the time of 10 there was also A. boisei and A. africanus around, though I don’t know if there is evidence that either of these two used tools.)

    (And there were probably sentient, tool-using corvids, and sentient tool-using cetaceans in existence throughout that entire time period….)

  50. Gary Ansorge

    49. amphiox

    Yes, there are plenty of tool using critters. I was thinking of those with opposable thumbs(I’m biased). Unfortunately, about the only way we have of determining sentience is if the critters involved recognize themselves in a mirror(or in the case of Neanderthal, their tool sophistication and burial practices).

    I’m not aware of anyone who succeeded in applying the mirror test to corvids and cetaceans but,,,maybe,,,

    Thanks for that handy list. Quite informative,,,

    Gary 7

  51. Messier Tidy Upper

    @37. bassmanpete :

    MTU, macaques are flatter faced than that. I was thinking a female Drill or Mandrill.

    Thanks for that. Yeah, Mandrill seems a likely possibility – visited the Adelaide zoo last year & saw them, Siamangs (which looked like chimps – so much so that I first assumed they were – but smaller) & orang utans.

    Is a female mandrill really called a drill or a woman-drill? ;-)

    @43. sedeer :

    @34: I was lucky enough to meet some Barbary Macaques up close in Morocco and this doesn’t look like one.

    Fair enough – cheers. I wasn’t sure with the Macaques, might’;ve been confusing them with another species. Not really an expert on that area.

    @49. amphiox : Good list – you beat me to it! ;-)

    I was going to mention Homo Floriensis and might’ve remebered to add habilis or ergaster but there are certainly a few there I haven’t heard of. Cheers. :-)

  52. Messier Tidy Upper

    @44. truthspeaker : “James, creationism isn’t a political topic, it’s a science topic.”

    I’d say Creationism is both – although if anything more political than scientific.

    There is very little if any real “science” in creationism and lots of politics & religion trying to force stuff that is NOT science into a science classroom and create a public misunderstanding that Creationism / Intelligent Design / Religious mythology has some scientific validity.

    IOW, Creationism is a political movement /issue that badly affects the field of science and science education.

    @48. Mike Saunders :

    A spam autofilter is the same as any censorship… search results in some countries are ‘autofiltered’, I would call that censorship.

    I would not. I’d call it filtering out spam.

    I’d also note that censorship doesn’t usually apply to private individuals deciding what they permit on their own blogs but applies mor eto large governments and groups instead. To use an analogy, I choose NOT to let someone enter my home to preach at me or occupy my house chanting and protesting and making noise in support of /against whatever then I am not censoring them as such. If, OTOH, a government made it illegal for people to preach publicly or hold public protests chanting and making noise in support of / against whatever then *that* is considered censorship.

    @45. Gary Ansorge :

    Just read a funny new theory about Neanderthals called Neanderthal Predation. It rather neatly ties together the Homo sapiens population “bottleneck” with the subsequent disappearance of Neanderthal in that, first the Neanderthals hunted us,,,then when our population had recovered enough,,,we hunted and killed them because,,,they were the monsters of our nightmares,,, An interesting theory.

    Indeed – although isn’t there also some evidence of interbreeding between H. Sapiens and Neandertals which somewhat contradicts that idea? Saw a good doco on that interbreeding idea a year or two ago too.

  53. OneofNone

    @27, amphiox:

    The difference is that the changes humans deliberately bring about are, (naturally), changes that would benefit HUMANS, rather than the animals being selected, and so, outside of the domestic setting, would tend to make these creatures less fit.

    This is not a real difference. Think of snakes deep in caverns, some lost their eyes. Because these no longer gave benefits, but had the costs of grow and maintenance them. This matches the definition of “less fit” in the same way as huge milk production at cows.
    Or think whales and legs. There are many more examples.

    The changes selected by Humans benefit the animals in the same way natural selection does. If the animals possess an advantage for humans, they get the chance to reproduce. Same in nature.

    In general, a species adapts to its environment. If the environment changes, or the individuals move to a different environment, then some adaptations are no longer worth the efforts. This is not different from “artificial selection” by humans.
    Technically humans create a highly selective environment, which may also change very fast.

    In contrast Intelligent Design would involve genetically engineering. Creationists must do that from scratch, while evolutionists might select from the treasure presented by nature.

  54. “A spam autofilter is the same as any censorship… search results in some countries are ‘autofiltered’, I would call that censorship.”

    First, there is a huge difference between a government censoring something and a private person in a blog deciding which comments appear. Second, we are almost all in favour of some sort of censorship: the question is what should be censored by whom to what degree. Third, I take your comment as explicit permission that all spammers have the human right to free speech and can hence send you all the spam they want, on any topic, forever.

  55. ND

    James Evans and Phillip Helbig,

    Doesn’t creationism exclude even the of common ape ancestor reality you were discussing? Creationism is about humans being created separately than other animals and not derived from them. Die hard creationists are just not going to accept evidence contrary to their beliefs, no matter how much you tell them that the old cartoon of ape to human evolution not accurate.

  56. James Evans

    Doesn’t creationism exclude even the of common ape ancestor reality you were discussing?

    ND, yes, the majority of creationism beliefs do. You’ll get the occasional old Earth creationist who claims the Bible and Genesis allow for a 4 billion y/o Earth, and that God initiated evolution and a long list of other natural processes that, in reality, begin and operate on their own without superfluous supernatural assistance, among other odd attempts at retrofitting scripture with accepted scientific theories. But, mostly, you’re right.

    Die hard creationists are just not going to accept evidence contrary to their beliefs, no matter how much you tell them that the old cartoon of ape to human evolution not accurate.

    Not all creationists are die-hard. Some of them, even the young Earth ones that parrot the standard claptrap, can be, well, reasoned with. Often they’ve never even heard the common ancestor idea, because it rarely comes up in creationist circles where the same weak argument, which is wrong in so many ways, that apes wouldn’t exist if they had evolved into other species is repeated and reinforced.

  57. Tony A

    Oooooooooh, Phil, I think you’re on wobbly ground here. After all your enthusiastic posts on pareidolia, it’s pushing things to take two images with similar characteristics & suggest cause & effect. For the record, I’m not a creationist but I am aware that we’re a species with a very strong inclination to pattern recognition. Thanks for a blog that always stretches my mind.

  58. Darth Robo

    However Tony, it’s worth pointing out that the evidence for evolution does not rest solely upon simple superficial patterns with similarities. Comparative anatomy is combined with other evidence, such as fossils, DNA, and nested hierarchies. But wait – aren’t they all just patterns that we are also predisposed to recognizing too? Well if you look at it that way, yes. Except if they are not all related, these separate lines of evidence should not have to fall into the same pattern – the evolutionary hierarchical tree. Each other pattern could be spots, or stripes, or snowflake. Or in fact, they needn’t follow any pattern at all. But they do. And they’re all the same.

    And it is from these patterns we can make successful predictions on discoveries of real world phenomena. Predictions which would not be possible if our view of these patterns were incorrect. Though creationists may disagree, the evidence for evolution is not just a mere case of pareidolia.

  59. Nigel Depledge

    Wzrd1 (9) said:

    What is funny is, the anti-evolution crowd doesn’t realize that animal breeding for desired traits is a form of evolution, only guided by humans.

    Ironically, this indicates they have never read the theory they presume to criticise, since Darwin makes a pretty big deal of this in the early chapters of TOOS.

    Then again, I have seen creationists claim that variation “within a kind” is simple and obvious, and permitted, but I’ve never seen one provide a satisfactory definition of “kind”, nor propose any kind of mechanism that can prevent small variations accumulating over time. Die-hard creationists dismiss the “evolution before our eyes” experioments as variation “within a kind”.

  60. Nigel Depledge

    James Evans (17) said:

    they ask silly things like, “Well, if we evolved from gorillas, how come there are still gorillas walking around?”

    An even simpler refutation of this is to point out that, if a person is descended from their grandparents, how come their grandparents are still alive.

    (Of course, this works best if that person’s grandparents are still alive.)

  61. Nigel Depledge

    James (25) said:

    To whoever is moderating these comments, let me say that you don’t advance science by silencing critics. Your decision to silence critics serves only to reveal insecurities; it does nothing to promote the search for truth.

    Right on, bro!

    You sure fooled Phil with this one. How did you slip a comment criticising the moderation strategy through the censorship system? Any vigilant censor would censor out comments criticising the censorship strategy, right?

    Unless . . . the moderation is only that – moderation – and not censorship.

  62. Nigel Depledge

    Dave (26) said:

    Why the random attack on Creationists?

    Random?

    What’s random about it?

    So, taking your question to be “Why the attack on Creationists?”, I can think of a few answers:

    1. It is not an attack on them as people, but an attack on the specious arguments they make about evolution.
    2. They are either evil or misguided, because they propagate lies about science.
    3. They refuse to live and let live (as rational people had done for so long before creationists started spreading their lies about science), so any attack on creationism is simply a strong defence.
    4. It’s not an attack, it is a correction.
    5. Why not? Do you berate creationists for their attacks on tried and tested science? IOW, what’s your agenda here?

    I’m sure another half-hour’s thought would produce another half-dozen answers.

  63. Nigel Depledge

    Mandas (33) said:

    This article is incorrect and creationists are partially correct – humans did NOT descend from apes.

    But the fact is, humans ARE apes.

    This is both right and wrong.

    Humans are apes indeed. Anatomically, the biggest differences between us and chimpanzees are that they have more hair, are stronger, and are better suited to climbing trees, whereas we are better suited to long-distance bipedal running. And making spaceships and particle accelerators.

    On the other hand, our ancestors are also apes. All of our hominid and Australopithicene ancestors are apes too, as is the ancestor species that we share with bonobos and chimps. And the ancestor species that we and chimps and bonobos share with gorillas and orang-utans. So we are indeed descended from apes.

    Also, more prosaically, if your parents are apes then you are descended from apes.

  64. Nigel Depledge

    James (42) said:

    I’d be a lot more interested in the political topics if the analysis were any good, but frequently it’s not.

    Eh?

    What does a post about evolution and how wrong creationists are have to do with politics?

    Often it contains glaring logical fallacies (ad hominem, straw man, non sequitur, you name it),

    Specific examplwes needed here.

    rash generalizations, and conclusions that are far too strong for the evidence that is presented. That appears to be your style of political argument, and if that’s the case, then I’ll keep skipping those posts. It does strike me as odd for someone who is so intelligent in the hard sciences to have such an inferior intellect for social science.

    But what if Phil isn’t making those arguments, but instead reporting and commenting on arguments made by others?

    Then, his writing style makes perfect sense.

  65. Nigel Depledge

    Sedeer (43) said:

    After species B splits off, species A would also keep changing; depending on how much change it accumulated, the result might be species B evolving after splitting off from species A and species A changing over the same period and becoming into species C. I’m a biologist and my impression is that this is far more common than species A remaining static while species B changes, though I’d have to check the literature a bit before making too strong a comment. A good (and relevant) example is the fact that chimps seem to have undergone more directional selection than we have since our common ancestor, so neither modern species is likely to resemble the common ancestor very much.

    Yeah, that seems most likely.

    I guess the only way a species will remain static for long is if its environment (including such things as predator strategies) remains constant.

    And even then, there’d be a pretty fair chance of change due to genetic drift.

  66. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (52) said:

    I’d say Creationism is both – although if anything more political than scientific.

    There is very little if any real “science” in creationism and lots of politics & religion trying to force stuff that is NOT science into a science classroom and create a public misunderstanding that Creationism / Intelligent Design / Religious mythology has some scientific validity.

    I guess it depends on the context within which you are looking at it.

    Certainly, evolution is science and not political in any way.

    Creationism that contradicts the science is plain old wrong.

    The activities of creationists are very often political in nature, since they often try to influence decisions that will dictate policy to other people.

  67. Nigel Depledge

    Tony A (57) said:

    Oooooooooh, Phil, I think you’re on wobbly ground here. After all your enthusiastic posts on pareidolia, it’s pushing things to take two images with similar characteristics & suggest cause & effect. For the record, I’m not a creationist but I am aware that we’re a species with a very strong inclination to pattern recognition. Thanks for a blog that always stretches my mind.

    I don’t think anyone takes these photos as a serious argument for evolution. It’s, y’know, just a bit of fun.

  68. Nigel Depledge

    Darth Robo (58) said:

    Comparative anatomy is combined with other evidence, such as fossils, DNA, and nested hierarchies. But wait – aren’t they all just patterns that we are also predisposed to recognizing too? Well if you look at it that way, yes. Except if they are not all related, these separate lines of evidence should not have to fall into the same pattern – the evolutionary hierarchical tree. Each other pattern could be spots, or stripes, or snowflake. Or in fact, they needn’t follow any pattern at all. But they do. And they’re all the same.

    I feel this needs some elaboration.

    If you look at morphology (anatomy, but in the broadest sense), you can see that various organisms have various degrees of similarity and difference.

    If you group organisms according to their common features, they naturally fall into a set of patterns that form hierarchies of hierarchies (or nested hierarchies). For example, taking a moth, a butterfly, a housefly, a woodlouse (sometimes called a pillbug, although it is not a bug), a dolphin, a cow, a chimp and a human, you can group them according to similar features (do they have an internal or external skeleton? Do they have articulated limbs? How many limbs do they have? Do they have lungs? Do they lay eggs or give birth to live young? Do they have wings? How many wings do they have? Etc.), and these groups will quite naturally fall into a groups-within-groups pattern.

    In my example, the dolphin, cow, chimp and human have an internal skeleton and give birth to live young, whereas the woodlouse, housefly, butterfly and moth have external skeletons and lay eggs. Only the housefly, butterfly and moth have six jointed legs, whereas the woodlouse has (I cannot recall how many legs a woodlouse has, but let’s call it 14 for the sake of argument). The housefly has only two wings, whereas the butterfly and moth both have four. On the other side, the dolphin has no limbs as such, whereas the cow, chimp and human each have four. And so on.

    If you examine many organisms and classify them according to their anatomy, you get a large structure of relationships that looks a bit like a tree (branches that branch and branch again over and over). However, you only get one or two patterns out of billions of possibilities (i.e. you always end up with the chimp and the human next to each other, and in the same broader group as the dolphin and the cow). There’s no reason that the pattern you end up with has to be the way it is unless something makes it that way – by comparison, you can group cars, for example, in a similar way, but there are many millions of hierarchical patterns that would fit for cars. The pattern you get in classifying organisms this way is a genealogical one, and for good reason.

    If you then analyse the sequences of conserved genes in all the same organisms, you get the same pattern.

    The only possible explanation for the correlation of the two patterns is that there is a genuine hierarchical relationship, i.e. that closely similar species are closely related by sharing a relatively recent common ancestor, whereas less similar species are more distantly related and share a distant common ancestor.

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