1. brucegee1962 says

    I just heard a history teacher say that the United State “evolved” from being a colony of Great Britain. But last time I checked, Great Britain still exists. Take that, “Revolutionary war”-ists!

  2. Die Anyway says

    To my deepest chagrin, I was asking that same question back in 1965 (Sr. year in high school). I guess it speaks to the lack of coverage of evolution in my high school science courses. Four years later I had a B.S. degree in Biology and probably still didn’t have the best grasp of population dynamics and how evolution really works. The topic was sort of hush-hush. The community was extremely religious and any teacher who espoused evolution would have been shunned at the very least. I sincerely hope that some 50 years later there is better education on the subject.

  3. peptron says

    If babies come from women, how come there are still women?

    But seriously, how would that work? It’s worse than Pokémon evolution. What do they expect would have happened? Every monkey in the world looking at one another, saying “It is time”, and all enter a chrysalis state at once? And then a freaked out God would go “What the hell just happened!?” and flush them all. And then, later, humans?

  4. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re #1:
    yeah, I too once had a history teacher try to get all etymological. Teaching us “American Revolution” was just colloquial for a much more long winded phrase… getting lost in it my self, burp.
    “Revolution” was just a convenient, single word term, when describing the process of “breaking away to become an independent country” where formally, “revolution” means destroying the existing government and replacing it with a brand new one, with France the example of a literal Revolution while America just uses figurative “Revolution” (as in: metaphorically).


    aside from evolushun [sic], seems a very common faux-eureka usually involve quantum physics (obviously).
    people think that all it takes is to think outside the box to discover the next big breakthrough, not realizing the breakthrough is a result of “out-of-the-box” without being directly caused by it. hmmm let that sink it … resulted from, not caused by… hmmm … I’m out of the box…. back into box… breakthroughs are very tricky and require a lot more than just imagination. the imagination needs to be extrapolating/integrating lots of data to make any meaningful insights. that cn later be attributed to o.o.t.b [tm] thinking which is just colloquial slang

  5. corwyn says

    It is a surprisingly deep question… if you asked it in 1800. It is (approximately) what Charles Darwin was asking.

    His answer, THE answer is evolution.

    Thank you kindly.

  6. monad says

    @6: People didn’t evolve directly from monkeys, but we are still closer relatives of Old World monkeys than New World monkeys, so we have a common ancestor that would have been a “monkey” by most standards.

  7. Bob Foster says

    Oh, that last one. Pure genius. Another Philip K. Dick in the making. The reality you see is hiding another one, usually darker, more essential.

  8. screechymonkey says

    If America was settled by Asians, then much later by Europeans and (mostly involuntarily) Africans, then how come there are still Asians, Europeans, and Africans?

  9. Menyambal says

    If Jesus was the Messiah, why are there still Jews?

    If humans evolved from Australopithicenes, why are there no Australopithicenes?

    If NASA and all those scientists faked a moon landing, why can any gum-jaw in a trailer park see right through it?

  10. Nemo says

    @Die Anyway #2:

    To my deepest chagrin, I was asking that same question back in 1965

    Can you please explain what you were thinking then — why the question had meaning to you? I’m serious; I want to understand this. I was raised accepting evolution, never been any kind of creationist, and when I finally encountered “Why are there still monkeys?”, the question made no sense to me, and still doesn’t. I’ve only seen it a) recited, or b) debunked, but never properly explained, from the perspective of a creationist or reformed creationist. And when I’ve posted essentially this same comment before, I’ve gotten only attempted, unsatisfactory explanations from people who didn’t fit those categories.

    Why does anyone think this question is a “gotcha”? What imagined tenets of evolutionary theory do they think this question undercuts? I’m genuinely asking. (Please only answer if you’re someone who actually did — or does — think this.)

  11. says

    Creationists don’t assert creationism because they expect to change anyone’s mind. They assert it because it is scandalous and bizarre, and it becomes proof of their faith — they believe in God so much they’re willing to make fools of themselves and be laughed at by millions of people.

    Fundamentalism is all about forcing people to choose if you’re with God or with Satan, no middle ground, no “well maybe each day was millions of years.” And once you choose to be with God, you have to show that you’re not backsliding and that you deserve to be among the Elect, and you do this by constantly doing and saying self-consciously strange things, things that alienate people who don’t accept your beliefs in totality.

    There’s really no point in debating them or arguing with most of them, generally; the argument itself is the objective. You might think that you’re winning if you can show their beliefs to be meritless and without evidence, but to them you’re actually losing, because the more ridiculous their belief is, the more their belief is unquestionable evidence of their absolute faith in God.

  12. Ichthyic says

    Fundamentalism is all about forcing people to choose if you’re with God or with Satan, no middle ground, no “well maybe each day was millions of years.”

    actually, that’s authoritarianism.

    and yes, that is what drives creationism indeed.

  13. says


    Why does anyone think this question is a “gotcha”? What imagined tenets of evolutionary theory do they think this question undercuts?

    When you say “humans evolved from monkeys” some people might choose to hear that as “humans evolved from ALL monkeys.”

    Bad assumption 1: There is only one species of monkey.
    Bad assumption 2: “Evolution changes species,” as opposed to successive generations of individuals, mating or otherwise.

    Then you might run into someone who’s thought it through a little and knows there’s more than one species of monkey, and thinks:

    Bad assumption 1: Evolution creates living things which are successively “better” with each generation.
    Bad assumption 2: Evolution says competition always favors better creatures.
    Conclusion: Humans are newer than monkeys, therefore better, therefore monkeys should all have died out.

  14. penalfire says

    The cartoon unfortunately borders on credentialism, given that a
    “background in science” is what Ben Carson has.

    “Providing no evidence” is what is self-discrediting.

  15. erichoug says

    Frankly, my best argument against creationism, if not for evolution is just the differences between the two ideas. One postulates that the universe is almost unimaginably old and impossibly vast and that everything we know and everything we love developed from weird chemicals and the accumulation of minor changes through the combined struggles of billions of generations and that this idea can both predict the future development of living things and also get the tiniest of glimpses into our ancient past. That we are just a spec of dust clinging to a rock as it hurtles through space at speeds to fast for us to suitably grasp. But, if we’re clever and if we’re smart, we can discover mysteries aplenty and fill our teenie tiny lives with awe and wonder.

    The other Theory says we were all made last Tuesday and that we are completely alone in the vast expanse of the universe and that there is no point in doing much of anything because we’re only supposed to suffer and die in this tiny shoe box for a few days.

    One theory is Dragon hiding in a dark, smoky room saying “Come and find me, motherfucker! The reward is worth way more than you could ever imagine, provided I don’t eat you first.” The other one is a cheap painting of Jesus in the basement of an abandoned building saying “Love me or else.”

    That’s an easy choice

  16. =8)-DX says

    @Nemo #11
    I believed that shit and basically it’s just rank ignorance (propped up by a need to reject actual science because God/hellfire.) I literally thought that evolution had to be wrong because evolution was something like modern day bacteria => worm => fish => rat => monkey => human. Especially with YEC the notion that no process could possibly lead to so much change so soon, that each species today was the progeny of a single ancestral created species. Try to imagine the evolutionary tree cut off at just 6000 years ago: Anything in the “monkey” category obviously cannot have been an ancestor of anything in the “human” category.
    Hope this helps explain the monkey question!

  17. John Harshman says

    @6 @7

    This again? Yes, we evolved from monkeys. Yes, apes are monkeys. Yes, humans are apes and monkeys too. Groups within groups within groups.

  18. karpad says

    That was never my state of mind, and was raised on evolution, but I can still see why people make the mistake.
    You are descended from your great great great grandparents. But your great great great grandparents aren’t still around, right?
    The actual situation is that the monkeys are our cousins, not our great great great grandparents, and our great, great great grandparents are quite dead.

    A similar problem I see a lot, and one I thought when I understood less was the thought that something might be “more evolved” which is a weird hybrid of various creation beliefs that humans are somehow above other animals, not simply well suited to our current environment and also quite lucky. Pop culture is a fan of this. Even Star Trek had those awful episodes where people could “devolve”

  19. WhiteHatLurker says

    @brucegee1962, #1
    I just heard a history teacher say that the United State “evolved” from being a colony of Great Britain.
    Proving that evolution is not directed toward a better outcome.

    … and the monkeys are still wondering why humans exist at all.

  20. Menyambal says

    What Sigaba said in number 12. The whole point of Creationist-type Christianity is to believe. Faith has become the entire blessed point for some folks. They have sacrificed their brains to their god.

    I think monkeys are more evolved than us ape-monkeys. They have riffled through more generations than we have, since we split, and they are probably under a great deal more selection pressure. We may look more different from our mutual ancestor, but they are really good at monkeying.

  21. anchor says

    ‘Descended from some common ancestor’ is the concept they cannot for some reason assimilate into an understanding. They evidently regard monkeys and humans and every other species as fixed in perpetuity. They literally HATE the idea of change. They can’t stand the sight of it. It would wreck their beliefs.

  22. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Perhaps they are not objecting to the science of evolution but the phraseology. Interpreting the phrase, “monkeys evolved into people”, absolutely literally. The literal version says that the entire species of monkeys became humans. Therefore, if the species turned into humans, why are there still monkeys.
    Which turns it into a reverse, double inverse gotcha question. Where our reaction to such a stupid question, when we interpret it in the more metaphorical sense, can get them to still say “gotcha”, that we’re misinterpreting their objection due to our being overly defensive.
    ugh. I hope that came out sensibly. I’m drowning in their pea soup of pseudo-logic.

  23. anchor says

    But here’s the thing. The rejection of the idea isn’t due to an inability, but to something much worse: an ingrained trained habit, courtesy tradition and social continuity, that removes independent thinking from the common responsibility of human beings under the guise of cultural pressures that constantly pretend to better themselves with belief systems that can’t hack the challenge of change.

  24. robro says

    OT but related to science stuff: Astronomy Picture of the Day has posted a “Placeholder” picture which says: “A new and exciting APOD will appear here today at 11:00 am Eastern Time (USA) after the LIGO press conference in Washington, DC has begun.” They don’t say which “today” they are talking about, but I would guess it’s Thursday.

  25. Nick Gotts says


    It seems unlikely that the announcement is going to be: “No, we haven’t detected any gravitational waves yet.” But I hope they’ve been careful and it won’t turn out to be another BICEP-type fiasco.

  26. says

    Menyambal @10,

    … why can any gum-jaw in a trailer park see right through it?

    Could you please refrain from that? What does living in a trailer park have to do with anything we’re talking about? It just means you’re comparatively poor.

  27. ianrennie says

    A neat response to this I’ve seen is to turn it round and ask”Why wouldn’t there still be monkeys?”

    Done that way you can better explore what it is the person is either misunderstanding or refusing to examine closely enough.

  28. Bill Buckner says

    It seems unlikely that the announcement is going to be: “No, we haven’t detected any gravitational waves yet.”

    It better not be! I have a class that ends at 10:45 but I am ending it at 10:25 and taking the students to a room we’ve set up to watch the pressie. Given that the LHC has a new standard (5-sigma on the Higgs) on mega-announcements, I’m hoping that they (LIGO) are a) making a positive announcement and b) really, really multi-sigma certain.

  29. says

    @19. No, we are not evolved from monkeys! Please. Humans and monkey ancestors diverged millions of years ago from creatures which were neither apes nor monkeys. I mean, lumping and splitting is arbitrary, you can call them either apes or monkeys if you want to, but what is relevant to the stupid question being discussed here is that they were not any species of creature which lives today.

    Sheesh, this is so stupid. It’s similar to the idiotic argument over whether we are related to apes, or we are apes. It doesn’t matter, it’s just arbitrary.

  30. prae says

    If the bible came from god, why is there still god? And, my god (pun intended), I hate this atom-solarsystem comparison so very much. Even more than the why “are there still monkeys”-thing.

  31. says

    Its as if none of the “why are there still monkeys?” crowd has a cousin. If you have a cousin, do you still have grandparents?

    That ought to clear it up.

  32. corwyn says


    Well no, the answer is that people did not evolve from monkeys.

    Of course we did. What do you think Simiiformes means?

    it would still be a stupid question.

    Really? Answer it *without* resorting to evolution then.

  33. John Harshman says


    If it’s so stupid, why are you so adamant that we didn’t evolve from monkeys? If our ancestors weren’t monkeys, what would you call them? And why do you object so strongly to cladistic terminology?

    By the way, this has nothing whatsoever to do with lumping or splitting. “Monkey” isn’t a species; it’s a taxon with lots of species, some living and some extinct, some given other names, like “baboon” or “ape” or “human”. What’s the problem?

  34. monad says

    @34 Your sketch is oversimplified. Apes and cercopithecid monkeys diverged millions of years ago, from a common ancestor that had itself diverged from the ceboid monkey ancestors several million years earlier. That’s why John and I are saying these ancestors were monkeys, though very obviously not one of the many species today.

  35. woozy says


    But my grandparents are dead and aren’t still around.

    I always assumed the argument was “if some monkeys evolve to humans why did some monkeys stay the same and not evolve at all; wouldn’t they all have evolved.” As a 10 year old I figured the answer was obvious, we didn’t evolve from *these* monkeys; we and *these* monkeys evolved from other monkeys that aren’t around anymore. (Yeah, I know…)
    I think the other assumption is that if evolution is a process of getting better and better and higher evolved then wouldn’t all monkeys have taken the better path of becoming human rather than the not so good path of becoming a columbus monkey. Which as a 10 year old … I never even considered. Or Maybe I considered humans were the best humanish things *so far* and columbus monkeys were the best columbus-monkeyish things so far.

    Oh, I did once hear an old woman in the zoo ask this as a sincere question she didn’t quite understand. A bit like the line “I understand how the projector shines an image from the film onto the screen but what I don’t understand when you shut the projector off where do those images go?”

  36. blf says

    Shane Warne is a well-known ex-cricket player. And apparently something of an eejit, I’m saying we started from aliens — Shane Warne questions evolution:

    On reality show I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, former Australian cricketer asks if humans evolved from monkeys, why haven’t today’s monkeys evolved?

    If we’ve evolved from monkeys, then why haven’t those ones [monkeys today] evolved? Warne asked his fellow contestant, the dancer Bonnie Lythgoe, as they lounged on a riverbank in South Africa’s Kruger national park.

    Because, I’m saying, aliens. We started from aliens.

    “Look at those pyramids, Bonnie,” Warne continued. You couldn’t do them. You couldn’t pull those ropes, huge bits of brick and make it perfectly symmetrical. Couldn’t do it. So who did it?

    Make that a complete eejit, at least outside of his expertise & skill in cricket.

    Whatever planet they’re on out there, they decided that they were gonna start some more life here on earth and study us, Warne went on.


    Maybe they turned a few monkeys into humans and said, ‘Yeah, it works’, Warne replied [to some doubts from Lythgoe: “Scientifically, we have so many similarities to monkeys, so I don’t know.”]

    Darwin’s well-settled theory of evolution does not propose humans evolved from monkeys, but rather that monkeys and humans share an extinct common ancestor.

    There is a slight possibly Mr Warne was just trying to wind Ms Lythgoe up — a tactic Ozland cricket players routinely do (called “sledging”) in an attempt to disrupt their opponent’s concentration — but, tongue-in-cheek, I prefer the explaination he used his helmet rather than his bat to hit the ball a few too many times…