Of all the great battlefields of science, the debate between creationists and people who accept the theory of evolution is the most fraught with emotional obstacles. And how could it be otherwise? These are two diametrically opposed ideas about the origin of life on Earth. (*Evolution does not deal with the first appearance of life, that is a separate concept called abiogenesis – the formation of life from non-life.)
On the one side we have the scientific community (and those who support the scientific community) who accept the evidence of fossil and genetic data and do not add any supernatural explanation to the origin of life (*or the descent of all species from that point).
On the other side we have the proponents of a faith-based idea of how man arose to walk the planet. This is a religious standpoint based on the writings of a holy book of some denomination it is not revised or based on evidence.
I’m not going to get into much more of the rigorous debate than that (unless you really want me to!). What I want to do is look at some of the uncommon claims, made by proponents of either camp, to see whether or not these ideas hold water.
I’m going to cull these nuggets from discussion boards and comment threads whenever I find them, and then take them apart carefully here.
The first lady for a shave is August, who posted the following gem on Athiest, Agnostic and Non-religious, a facebook group I participate in. August says:
I really didn’t understand that either. And I had a suspicion that August was just trolling, so I went rolling on over to his/her profile and found a note with a slightly more… “thought out” version:
August’s comment displays one of the most staggering misunderstandings of the theory of evolution that I have ever come across (which is why it inspired this post). August believes that when we die our bodies will return to the form from which they were created. This is really quite a bizarre idea. But cremation is not a natural process, and can’t possibly be a useful way of determining anything to do with the origin of our species.
When we die, our bodies decay into their constituent elements, assisted by time and the digestive tracts of numerous scavengers. By August’s tortured reasoning, when we are buried we would turn to dust as well. But what we do is more akin to turning into plants and worms and other things that harvest the nutrients we have been hogging for so long.
What happens to our bodies after death has less than nothing to do with the theory of evolution. It would be like claiming that gravity doesn’t exist because the sky is blue. The two concepts are completely unrelated. This is a beautiful example of a non sequiteur, a conclusion that does not follow from the premises.
The theory of evolution states that all the life forms that are alive on the planet today, and all those species that have gone extinct after a brief flurry of activity, are descended from many generations of species that came before them. That’s the abridged version.
August is so wrong that he/she isn’t even wrong.
August’s comment on the AANR group states that evolution is insulting to humans because it suggests that we are descended from apes. This is also wrong. The theory of evolution states that humans and apes have a common ancestor. About 6 million years ago, the ancestors of humans, chimpanzees and bonobos were the same grassland dwelling creatures. Neither human, nor chimpanzee but some magnificent forbearer who gave rise to all the species of humans and chimpanzees that have existed since that time. (Owen has pointed out an omission, humans are apes.)
Knowing this is not an insult, it is a glorious moment when you realise that you are not separate from your fellow creatures. You are not better, somehow remote and above them. You are, in a sense, connected to every ape, monkey, mouse, frog, tree, mushroom… everything. And that connection is in every cell that makes up every part of your body.
This is the deepest kind of connection possible, and we all share it. Without the theory of evolution, and the hard work of geneticists, we would never know this.