Weird creationist meme

This is apparently intended to be a criticism of evolution posted by a Jehovah’s Witness. I don’t quite get it.

Yes. Everything died. Every individual between the current extant cohort and the last common ancestor died. It’s what organisms do. Is this so hard to understand? But that does not imply that every possible intermediate form existed and died. They may also be confusing individuals with populations, but I find it very difficult to read the minds of creationists.

Here’s a tree branch.


There is a twig at A (call it humans), and there is a twig at B (chimps), and there is an ancestral branch point 6 million years ago. A population of cells at the “ancestor” point divided multiple times and split into two extending meristems that produced the branch leading to A and the branch leading to B. I think our creationist is assuming that there had to have been a solid sheet of wood filling the space between A and B, that the space of all possible positions for twigs had to be filled, and that it was somehow pruned back selectively to create just the two twigs.

But that would make no sense, wouldn’t fit our understanding of how branches form, and would be really stupid. They can’t possibly think that, can they?


  1. says

    I think you’re missing a much simpler error. The creator of this image thinks that biologists claim that humans are descended from chimpanzees. What was “in between” is supposed to have been intermediate forms. So it’s actually even stupider.

  2. Sili says

    A few years ago I ended up teaching may third-cousin-once-removed. I guess that must be a lie, because my great-great-grandfather died long before either of us were born.

  3. themadtapper says


    Yeah, this is just a rewording of “if we came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys”. This isn’t even new stupid. This is moldy back of the fridge stupid.

  4. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    They can’t possibly think that, can they?

    The problem appears to be your (and my) definition of “think”, which is blocked out by their Holy Book.

  5. lancefinney says

    Lemme see if I got this correct.
    Italian survived, Romanian survived, but every form or Latin in between died off?

  6. whywhywhy says


    Italian survived, Romanian survived, but every form or Latin in between died off?

    No those are separate kinds and have been spoken in their current form since the Tower of Babel. I also deny any evidence that new ‘kind’ of language has ever emerged. There can be some micro-evolution of language such as adding words for telephone, modem, etc., but there has never been a transition into a new ‘kind’ of language.

  7. says

    I suspect cervantes nailed it, but I have also experienced apologists having a strange understanding of what it means to “survive,” with the impression that there is no way the human species could ever go extinct. That may come from their belief that a god is watching out for us, but it can make understanding them difficult at times since I do not share that premise.
    Therefore, even if it were the case we had descended from chimps, it could be difficult for them to understand how anything in between could have not survived.
    Do we have any examples of any species like that? I could see problems with dividing lines since that is a bit subjective, but anything that might come close?

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

    Sounds to me like they’re saying “if all life forms are leafs on the bush of life, how can there be leafs with the branches between missing?? huh””
    Like thinking gaps completely discombobulate the theory of evolution. That if “darwinistas” say “A–>B–>C–>D” then B and C must still exist to verify the chain from A to D, or else it is totally wrong wrong wrong.
    [referring to a PZ tweet I saw] like saying cousins are no longer cousins if grandparents died. The link between them is gone so, *poof*, so is the relationship.

    Why is this so hard to understand? oohh … rhetorical question.

  9. Hoosier X says

    No, creationist meme. You don’t have it correct. And I doubt very much that you made much an effort to get it correct.

    If you don’t want “to suffer more oppression for your beliefs” (the phrase Christians use for most occasions when they are called out for being dumb and spreading childish lies), then you should probably find out what evolution is from someone who knows a little about it instead of just treating Jack Chick tracts as the last word in anti-science rebuttals.

  10. archangelospumoni says

    If I were President (note use of the subjunctive mood), I would levy a stupid tax.

    I could not balance the budget all that quickly, as it’s a big number. But I could easily chip away. About once a month I would hold a press conference and detail that month’s public stupidity and the affiliated taxes.

  11. karpad says

    Wait, so you’re saying even though my third cousin and I are both still alive, our great grandparents are dead?
    That’s too much, man.

  12. wcorvi says

    PZ, come on, they aren’t stupid! They KNOW god condemned everyone to death because some guy ate an apple!

  13. Crimson Clupeidae says

    …and there’s one idiot on the facebook thread that actually says proudly, ” I always say if people came from apes/monkeys then why are there still apes/monkeys?”

    Not that I’m surprised, stupid is coming out of the woodwork these days.

  14. unclefrogy says

    Yes it makes no sense and some actually think like that. It comes from not thinking very much or very deeply about things.
    If they accept even a little of the scientific explanation of things without it first going through many years of modification by the priests their whole belief system is likely to collapse and they would be just lost little lives in this vastness of space/time.
    They would be just like everyone else completely mortal just a temporary phenomena and not blessed and chosen by their god to live with him for ever and ever.

    uncle frogy

  15. Rich Woods says

    They can’t possibly think that, can they?

    I expect they can think of any potentiality, just as long as it is completely unburdened by evidence or reason.

  16. Menyambal says

    There are groups of survivors exactly as they seem to be wanting. “Ring species” is the term to look up. There are two clearly distinct species of gulls in the British Isles, each of which can breed with the slightly different gulls to the east or west, and so on and on around the Arctic to wind up as the other gull in old Blighty.

  17. Usernames! (╯°□°)╯︵ ʎuʎbosıɯ says

    They KNOW god condemned everyone to death because some guy ate an apple!
    — wcorvi (#16)

    Well, to be technically correct, it was some gal who ate the apple and then gave it to the guy, the latter then punked out the gal when they both got caught by the blind, angry giant.

  18. etchison says

    I am an ex-fundamentalist Christian. I believe the root of this idea comes from about 30 years ago via Duane Gish, a Christian apologist and anti-evolution “scientist.” PZ has talked about this guy before. Gish armed Christians with arguments against evolution, and one of them was “if evolution were true, we would see a myriad of variations between species right now that are dying off.”

    That idea is preposterous, of course, but the straw man continues.

  19. blf says

    Well, to be technically correct, it was some gal who ate the apple

    I suppose some translation somewhere might say “apple” and mean apple in the modern sense, but the KJV (e.g. (admittedly a piss-poor translation)) says “fruit”, which as Did Adam and Eve bite into a forbidden “apple,” or a different fruit? (A lesson in meaning) points out:

    Adam and Eve did bite into a fruit. But the Book of Genesis does not explicitly say which fruit. It could have been an apple. Or, as early depictions suggest, it could have been a pomegranate.

    Up until the 17th century, the word “apple” meant all fruit other than berries but including nuts.

    In Latin, the words for “apple” and “evil” are similar. Mālum is the word for “apple;” mălum is the word for “an evil or a misfortune.”

    Or as the Online Etymology Dictionary says:

    apple (n.)
    Old English æppel “apple; any kind of fruit; fruit in general,” from Proto-Germanic […].

    In Middle English and as late as 17c., it was a generic term for all fruit other than berries but including nuts (such as Old English fingeræppla “dates,” literally “finger-apples;” […]). Hence its grafting onto the unnamed “fruit of the forbidden tree” in Genesis. Cucumbers, in one Old English work, are eorþæppla, literally “earth-apples” […].

    As far as the forbidden fruit is concerned, again, the Quran does not mention it explicitly, but according to traditional commentaries it was not an apple, as believed by Christians and Jews, but wheat. {“The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity,” Seyyed Hossein Nasr, 2002}

  20. Gregory Greenwood says

    cervantes @ 1;

    I think you’re missing a much simpler error. The creator of this image thinks that biologists claim that humans are descended from chimpanzees. What was “in between” is supposed to have been intermediate forms. So it’s actually even stupider.

    That is my reading as well. It is just a reworking of the tired and really incredibly stupid creationist canard of ‘if humans evolved from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?’, which might be the most pathetic attempt at a gotcha since calling atheism just another religion.


    PZ @ 5;

    Sheesh. I have to recalibrate my stupid-o-meter, it’s not measuring the range accurately.

    Creationists do seem to radiate higher intensity stupidity than almost anyone else. If you aren’t set up for that, then the readings will spike off the chart every time. Get a newer stupid-o meter, one that is rated for Trump, and you should be fine…

  21. says

    Sounds to me like they’re saying “if all life forms are leafs on the bush of life, how can there be leafs with the branches between missing?? huh””

    Think the problem here is they wouldn’t have an issue with a tree, but they would with, say, claiming that lemon trees and orange trees are related. So, its more like this – you have a tree, with fruit on it. Two pieces, from different branches fall and grow into new trees. A mutation results in one being different than the other, then someone cuts down the original tree. Or, worse yet, the original is still bloody standing there. Either way, the creationist stance is, “You didn’t see the two pieces of fruit fall, rot away, plant in the ground, and grow into two radically different sorts of trees, one of which looks way similar to the original! Oh, and if you claim you did, you are either lying, or mistaken, and one of them African Swallows must have brought a different seed from some place, sort of like they did with coconuts!”

    They don’t get the branch thing at all, I suspect.

  22. blf says

    There are different sorts of cretinists, and whilst, perhaps, the YEC “kind” may not get the branch thing, they certainly don’t get deep time. The OEC “kind” might get the branch thing, and whilst accepting the age of the Earth, don’t always seem to get deep time (the gap eejits, as I understand it, think modern-ish life was recently plunked down on an old Earth).

    I suspect the meme in the OP is (as others have said) just the old tired and absurd if we descended from apes why are there still apes?

  23. rietpluim says

    Lemme see if I got this correct.
    Jehovah loves you, and He wants your children to die when they need blood.

  24. xeric says

    I think the question is the same reason they reject a common ancestry for the ‘bear kind’ and the ‘dog kind’ and the ‘cat kind’: they don’t see any living branches that look like intermediates between them and a carnivore ancestor. It’s not unreasonable that there are none but to creationists I think explanations sound like excuses.
    But if there were a series of extant intermediates between other mammal ‘kinds’ my guess is that instead of seeing it as result of evolution they would label the combined branches as one created ‘kind’. For instance Answers in Genesis calls the Mustelidae the otter/badger/weasel kind.
    (Of course humans and chimps would never be put into a single ‘kind’.)

  25. Dark Jaguar says

    cerventes is absolutely correct. That’s EXACTLY the error being committed here. Most creationists are ignorant (I hesitate to use the word stupid, because many don’t even know they don’t know that) of that, because they’ve been specifically TOLD that that’s what scientists are claiming. It’s a failure of education committed by the uneducated against the uneducated, and it’s a cycle that perpetuates. I would know, because at one time I was a creationist (a young earth creationist in fact, the most oblivious kind of creationist, because if I’m going to be bad at something, I must insist that I was the MOST bad at that thing so I at least stand out).

    It’s easy to say “the knowledge is there so they have no excuse”, but if you think you’ve already BEEN informed, and aren’t even aware of just how deeply your misinformation goes, then well, that becomes less obvious than you’d think. How would it even occur to someone miseducated in such a way to ask the question “wait a sec, DO evolutionists claim that humans evolved from modern chimps?”. They aren’t even aware enough of evolution to realize the difference between an old and a modern population. It’s a sobering thought, but take heart. Some of us eventually get educated. For my part, it was indirectly through exposure to skepticism and old forum threads in that movement specifically talking about such misconceptions.

  26. Owlmirror says

    @John Harshman: On the one hand, it’s always good to learn new things.

    On the other hand, it’s sometimes very annoying, too.

    Grumpy thanks.