A monkey can’t give birth to a human

One of the daftest objections I had of evolution was the notion that an animal of one species cannot give birth to an animal of another. Now that I understand evolution a bit more I can happily laugh at my past beliefs, yet I do see creationists making the same criticism, so I was obviously not alone in my errant ideas.

My thinking basically went along the lines of, species A lives and exists for some time, for evolution to be true species A will eventually evolve into species B. This will happen when one animal in the species randomly gives birth to an offspring that is somehow not species A but actually species B. However, there are no other species B specimens about so the lone animal of species B has to hope that another member of species A gives births to another species B within its lifetime. Since this is obvious nonsense, evolution must be false.

(Go on, have a good chuckle, I know you want to)

Sadly, I very often see hints that I was not alone in this line of logic and that it really is how creationists often portray evolution.

This creationist idea of evolution is utterly utterly wrong.

Creationists who believe this really do need to take a step back and pay attention to what is being said. No scientist has ever suggested that evolution works by one species giving birth to another. To suggest otherwise is to be either wilfully deceptive or unwilling to be educated; and yes I include my former self in the second one of those.

When pondering evolution and how it could work, I would spend ages imagining scenarios where one species morphs into another. Generally my thinking boiled down to an individual member and how it could be the parent of another species. I always hit a dead end because my thinking was too narrow.

Eventually I hit the bigger picture and grasped the understanding that if a groups of species A splits into two smaller groups and the two become separated to the point that there is no mixing between the two; there will eventually become a point where those two groups are classed as distinct species. This happens because the random variations that happen with each new generation have mixed among each group to the point where the two groups have a wholly different set of variations and so become independent species in their own right.

Its so easy and obvious to understand, it’s a wonder it took me so long to get it.

That’s not all the story of course

There are complications though. The idea above does not explain how you get huge differences like a duplication of the entire DNA sequence or a difference in the number of chromosomes. My understanding does not yet extending to grasping those concepts and how they would impact the first individual to receive the change. However, my lack of understanding does not negate the bigger concept.

Back to the Species idea

The best explanation for me was the example of a ring species, this is where you get a source species and a group splits off and relocates to form group B (leaving the source group as group A). Eventually group C splits from group B and so it goes until you have groups A through H. Now let’s say the groups create a large circle and group H ends up next to the original group A. Each group would be able to mate with its neighbours, so would be counted as variations within a single species. Yet groups H and A would not. Where do you define the difference between species?

This is not an impossible idea. Biologists have had many challenges and problems in drawing the boundaries between species. There is only one possible explanation for these issues; evolution.

If the creationist idea was right, then there would be easy definable differences between species. This would be because each species would have been created as unique and fully formed. Yet the basic idea of categorising species is very problematic. This is very strong evidence for common ancestry and evolution.

The only other possibility is that God created everything intentionally confusing. Why on earth would he do that?

So a monkey gives birth to a human.

Well not really, but a common ancestor did once give birth offspring that would eventually lead to monkeys and humans, I wonder if they were twins.

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10 Questions for Atheists

Over at http://bittersweetend.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/the-atheist-challenge/ thebiblereader has asked 10 questions for atheists to answer.

Rather than me repeat the questions here, it is probably best you go there to read them. I will post my responses as a reply to his blog as well as in this post. There are already a lot of responses there.

 

1)      That’s not true. No god does not mean no measurement for morality. Morality is consistent with evolution because as a group of individuals develop rules will have to develop increase the changes of the groups survival. Watch groups of animals in the wild and this becomes clear, it is not the anarchy those who believe this would have us believe. There is currently a lot of study in this area and some very interesting experiments and result are coming out of it.

2)      Again, this is also not true. Meaning is not placed on us from an external being based on whether or not we believe in him. Meaning is a much more personal thing and is a reasonable result in a species that has developed self-awareness.

3)      If New Atheism means the active opposition to religion on the understanding that it causes more harm than good and that accommodation of the religious is for the weak. Then no, I do not subscribe to that and nor do I support eugenics. I accept that there could be an extreme end of the spectrum that sees eugenics as not only acceptable but good. Just because that extreme might exist does not mean that atheism is rotten. Much the same as religious extremism does not in and of itself disprove religion.

4)      Transitional fossils exist and are documented. DNA evidence is however far more convincing and has enabled more accurate maps of how species have diverged and evolved. Gaps in the fossil record exist because not every species will leave fossils. For all the millions of animals that have existed, a tiny minority have survived to fossil form. DNA explains the relationships far better anyway.

5)      Yes. Even as a Christian the concept of Human Nature was never a problem for me. It is Human Nature to seek a greater purpose, for a long time that purpose was encapsulated in God. That doesn’t make him real.

6)      I won’t pretend to understand the beginning of the universe and how it came about. I consider it disingenuous for the religious who also don’t understand it to try and discredit it based on that simplistic misunderstanding. My challenge in response is that it is better to learn about something in order to better understand it, than it is to mock it out of fear for what it might do to our beliefs.

7)      Straw man alert! Atheists are not automatically immoral or self-destructing, this is an untruth believed by believers. I’ve been there before so I understand the mentality. Picking those countries as examples of a godless society are as helpful as picking Afghanistan and Iran as examples of a Godly Society. Picking an objectionable extreme to prove a point is never a good idea.

8)      I would image I would enter an initial state of panic. After that, I really don’t know. It is not something I worry about becoming true.

9)      Having already made the move from Christianity, having considered it right for many years. I would need absolute and undeniable proof. It would have to be a physical manifestation of God that could not be explained in any other way and it would have to happen more than once. Given some of the things I have already attributed to god in my Christian years, this proof would need to be something special.

10)   Basically, I was once a YEC and a better understanding of science made me realise how wrong I had been all those years. I tried to reconcile my Christianity with my new found acceptance of evolution but I failed. I now think that it is far more reasonable to say there is no god because that is what the evidence indicates.