Phil Plait answers creationist questions about evolution


I saw this, and thought it was good. But this answer caught my eye

If we came from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?
Let me ask you this: If you came from parents, why are there still parents?

because it’s not a good analogy at all (though Phil improves the answer further down), but, mostly, because @Brainspore in a comment here yesterday had a much better variation that had stuck in my mind:

if (for example) you are addressing a light-skinned American: “You are descended from Europeans, but there are still people in Europe.”


Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.


I appreciate that Plait isn’t snide because I know from experience how easy it is to become sarcastic when answering the same questions over and over and over. That’s a large part of my frustration with this debate. It’s ridiculous, and it speaks volumes about just how poor science education is in the United States, that we’re still having it.


The problem with the parents answer is that human babies/toddlers/young children actually need ongoing care, unlike many other animal babies. We’re not dispensable for quite a while after birth. So it’s not a perfect analogy.

Another reason we keep having the discussion is because there are always more children being exposed to this question for the first time who may not have had a favorable exposure to science. We shouldn’t ever lose sight of that.


If Species B did indeed “come from” Species A this in no way means that Species A can no longer exist.

If, for example, Species A exists over a range. If a population of Species A becomes geographically isolated (for any number of reasons) then that population can evolved independently of the rest. Given sufficient time, and sufficiently different evolutionary pressures, the isolated population could indeed evolve into a new species: Species B. Meanwhile, Species A could continue on its merry way. Boom - Species B “came from” Species A and yet they coexist.

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Gee, maybe if we taught them about the different finches in the Galapagos they’d finally understand! I’ll bet there’s a book that would explain all about it. snort


The point is when someone asks the question, “If we came from monkeys why are there still monkeys?” the answer we give is, “We don’t come from monkeys. Modern monkeys and man share a common ancestor. But if we did, in fact, come from monkeys there could still be monkeys around because …”

Like I said on the other thread, we don’t come from any modern monkeys, but apes and old world monkeys are closer than they are to new world monkeys. The common ancestor of the three was clearly a tailed simian, something we would call a monkey if it were unchanged today.

What makes it hard how often they aren’t questions in the sense of things people would like to see answered. They’re repeated as rhetorical devices, to be replaced by others as needed, then used again for a fresh audience.

I have a lot of patience for explaining things to those who don’t understand them, but it doesn’t keep up for those who are hostile to understanding.


Hell, I learned high school life sciences from a Bob Jones University textbook and I still get exasperated and sarcastic answering these questions. Even though I know how poorly most of those folks have been educated. God (or whatever) bless Phil for taking it in stride.


If you want a concentrated dose of bad thinking from Christians, look for the Jack Chick tract on evolution. It contains the sentence “science has all the answers”. Tee hee. If science had all the answers, it would cease to be necessary, and it would dry up and blow away.


Right… That’s what I was saying was better about Brainspore’s version.

I’m confused by what you’re saying. I’m saying that the problem with the “parents” answer is that we really were born from our parents (whether or not they are still around), yet we were not born from monkeys in any way. That’s why Phil’s analogy doesn’t answer the question correctly. It doesn’t convey the idea that existing species are descendent from the same earlier species, not from each other.

That is a good read, and thanks for posting it, Maggie. But he’ll never top MC Hawking.

xkcd10k FTW!

You know, I felt moved to create an account just to reply to this.

I’m a Christian. By some standards, a fairly “conservative” one (by others, not so much). I have what might be called a “high view” of Scripture.

And Creationists make me want to pound my head against a wall until I bleed.

They are vocal, and loud, and public. But they do not speak for all Christians. I debate them when I can, not on scientific grounds, but on biblical and theological grounds. (People who read Genesis in a way that demands a “creationist” accounting are doing violence to the biblical text.) I don’t often get very far, alas.

I guess I just wanted to say: please don’t evaluate all Christians by these guys. There’s a lot more of us than you would think who believe that God gave us brains to use, and that there is no incompatibility between science/ reason and faith. I’m not asking that you agree with me on any issue. Just want to state, for the record, that “Christian” (even “evangelical Christian”) does not always mean “wants to deny science.”

Thanks for reading this.



We need some kind of “put your money where your mouth is” law in this country.

Meaning, if you are adamant about creationism then you are not allowed to use any medicine or medical procedures rooted in any of the evolutionary sciences. Then let it work itself out from there.

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For a start, it should be a rule that creationists may only receive Sulfa; no modern antibiotics.

Oh, I see…didn’t realize you meant it that way. I think we’re in agreement, just describing different parts of the elephant.