Via Afarensis I connected to an article by William Meikle and Eugenie Scott addressing a very typical creationist question: if humans evolved from apes, then why are there still apes (or monkeys…variation on the same theme)? Meikle and Scott of course get right to the heart of the matter. Such a question demonstrates a clear misunderstanding of how evolution works, specifically in regard to the erroneous expectations that modern species represent evolutionary stages in linear fashion (and are not themselves the result of their own evolutionary trajectories) and that ALL ancestors are replaced by the descendants…every time. Meikle and Scott spend time to explain the issue using analogies with your own cousins (as opposed to your direct lineal descendants, mom/dad, grandma/grandpa, etc.). It’s a good teaching tool (I actually have a T-shirt with a primate phylogeny on it that says “Monkey’s Cousin” at the top – I have to explain it frequently). However, I have a fundamental problem with anyone asking “why are there still apes”?
It’s a stupid question.
The question reflects the typical ignorance of evolutionary theory expressed by the proponents of creationism. It also reflects ignorance of a basic tenet of biology, one that should have been grasped by even the most dimwitted church-going high school student. The very utterance of the question reflects all that is basically wrong with science education, the war on science and the general American culture at large (I doubt if European culture raises the question with anywhere near the same frequency as here). First, if you ask that question you probably despised learning biology in high school (you’re ignorant and wish to remain so), you didn’t want to put the effort forward to learn biology (you’re ignorant and lazy), or your biology teacher was either a creationist at heart or was unable to properly teach biology because of local creationist pressure on the school board (in that case, you’re having the ignorant and lazy being imposed upon you). Alternatively, you’re asking the question because you think it’s a rhetorical home run against those evil evolutionists; in which case, you are not only ignorant of evolution (the very subject you despise) but you inherently have no desire to understand the issue anyway.
Asking that question says more about you than it does about evolution.