Posted in evolution, religion, science

I don’t care what your magic book says, we are related.

(This post is based on one I wrote for my main photography blog.)

Humans — Homo sapiens — are closely related to chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans: the other great apes. This is simple fact. We share a last common ancestor (LCA) with chimpanzees; this ancestor lived about 6–8 million years ago (Mya). The LCA of (Humans/Chimps) and gorillas lived about 10 Mya, and the LCA of (Humans/Chimps/Gorillas) and Orang-utans lived about 10–16 Mya.

Humans are apes: let’s make no bones about it. There are some arguments that say that humans should even be in the same genus as chimpanzees, the relationship is that close.

And yet… something like 51% of Americans believe that humans were separately created by God within the last 10,000 years. 51%! That’s of the order of 150,000,000 people, residents of supposedly the most technologically advanced nation on the planet. In the UK, somewhere between 15–20% may be young earth creationists.

I’m prepared to defend anyone’s right to believe whatever they wish. Everyone has the right to be wrong. Even to be massively, mind-bogglingly wrong. That doesn’t mean that I have to respect the belief, though: there’s a difference between respecting your right to believe and respecting your belief (or even respecting you, once I know what you believe). If what you believe is ridiculous, then I will ridicule it.

Now, evolutionary biologists may not be entirely correct, but any theory that has survived 150 years of every test that can be thrown at it has to have something going for it. If current evolutionary theory is ever replaced, it will be by something that has it as an approximation in the same way that Newtonian mechanics is an approximation to relativity. Einstein didn’t depose Newton, he expanded on him. In the same way, future evolutionary theory will expand on the current one (indeed, it has already expanded on Darwin’s theory).

Anyway, even if the Theory of Evolution were shown to be wrong (it isn’t), that would not in any way change the simple fact that creationism is still utterly wrong.

So why do so many people believe something that is so demonstrably incorrect? Is it a failure of teaching? Effective brain washing? A desire to believe as others do — to be part of the crowd?

I don’t know, but I find it a bit scary that they do. And I find it very troubling when they try to enact laws to force their erroneous beliefs to be taught as if they were genuine science.

I’m happy to be an ape: to know what my relationship is to the vast, seething plethora that is life on Earth. It’s both humbling and ennobling to understand that you have a lineage that goes back some 4 billion years, that every other living organism on this planet can say the same thing and that every one of those lineages converges back there in deep time to a single common ancestor of everything.

I’m an ape, and here are some pictures of my cousins taken at Frankfurt zoo:



Photographer and science geek. Rugby fan (Sale Sharks).

One thought on “I don’t care what your magic book says, we are related.

Comments are closed.