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  #1  
Old 10-30-2006, 09:46 AM
tdn tdn is offline
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If monkeys evolved into people, then how come there are still monkeys?

Every now and then we have a thread on The Stupidest Thing you Overheard or something like that. The question posed in the OP invariably finds its way into such threads. The thing is, is it really that stupid of a question? A few years ago, before I became somewhat more educated on the topic, someone who should have known better posed this question to me. I had to think about it for a while, and my somewhat lame answer was "Try not to think of evolution as a straight line of inevitability, but a branching tree of opportunity."

Actually, the posed question might have been more like "If environmental pressures cause evolution, then how come monkeys and humans live in the same areas?" Had I answered the question more directly, I might have said "Migration."

So my questions to you are:

1) Are the posed questions really all that stupid, giben that the asker is only partially educated on the subject?

2) Were my answers adequate?

3) What are better answers? Where am I missing the absurdity of the posed questions?
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  #2  
Old 10-30-2006, 09:49 AM
Dunderman Dunderman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tdn
1) Are the posed questions really all that stupid, giben that the asker is only partially educated on the subject?
Not really, no. The problem is that humans didn't evolve from monkeys. That's just a very popular misunderstanding. Monkeys and humans evolved from a common ancestor. Completely different thing.
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  #3  
Old 10-30-2006, 09:49 AM
Raygun99 Raygun99 is offline
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Originally Posted by tdn
3) What are better answers? Where am I missing the absurdity of the posed questions?
"If I have cousins, why are my grandparents still alive?"
Obviously, this works better if your grandparents are in fact still alive, but I think the point comes across.
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  #4  
Old 10-30-2006, 09:53 AM
Paul in Qatar Paul in Qatar is offline
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What PriceGuy said.
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  #5  
Old 10-30-2006, 09:55 AM
tdn tdn is offline
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Originally Posted by Priceguy
Not really, no. The problem is that humans didn't evolve from monkeys. That's just a very popular misunderstanding. Monkeys and humans evolved from a common ancestor. Completely different thing.
Sorry, I meant to address this bit. Let us suppose that I had corrected the asker on this bit, or that instead of monkeys the asker said "other nonspecific apes." Of course, that nonspecificity sort of blurs the question.
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  #6  
Old 10-30-2006, 09:55 AM
Staggerlee Staggerlee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tdn
1) Are the posed questions really all that stupid, giben that the asker is only partially educated on the subject?
I think you mean 'gibbon'.
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  #7  
Old 10-30-2006, 10:00 AM
WhyNot WhyNot is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Priceguy
Not really, no. The problem is that humans didn't evolve from monkeys. That's just a very popular misunderstanding. Monkeys and humans evolved from a common ancestor. Completely different thing.
Well, true, but irrelevant to the misunderstanding, really. What people are really asking is if X evolved from Y, why do we still have Y? (Bonobos from chimps, or vice versa, to give one still-living example.) And the lay answer is: because not every single X turns into a Y. Rather one X gives birth to a strange X because strange X has just a tiny chromosomal difference from any other X. That strange X's difference means he survives better - maybe his mutation means he can better see the ripe berries, or can climb trees better or something. He's still a X, he can still have fertile babies with an X, but he's a strange X. Over time, he has more strange X babies who have babies who have babies and you get stranger and stranger Xs - eventually so strange that they can't or won't mate with the regular Xes, and now we call them Y's. There are still all those other, regular X's out there that aren't from our strange X's family line, but now we have X's and Y's.

I find the easiest analogy is: look, Mr. Smith, what's your sister's married name? Mrs. Jones? OK, so if a Smith became a Jones, why are there still Smiths? Because there are dozens of you Smiths, and only one became a Jones. All her children will be Joneses, but that doesn't mean there are no more Smiths!
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  #8  
Old 10-30-2006, 10:03 AM
tdn tdn is offline
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Originally Posted by Raygun99
"If I have cousins, why are my grandparents still alive?"
Funny, when I first read this, I thought it sounded both snide and meaningless. It is a little snide, but upon reflection it is a quite good analogy. A better phrasing might be "If I'm descended from my cousin, then how come we live in the same town?" It's still a little snide, but gets the point across.
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  #9  
Old 10-30-2006, 10:07 AM
robby robby is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tdn
If monkeys evolved into people, then how come there are still monkeys?
"If my ancestors came from Ireland, why are there still people in Ireland?"
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  #10  
Old 10-30-2006, 10:10 AM
lieu lieu is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tdn
Actually, the posed question might have been more like "If environmental pressures cause evolution, then how come monkeys and humans live in the same areas?"
They do? I mean, yes, there are a few instances of overlap but by and large aren't their preferred habitats most often quite removed from each other?
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  #11  
Old 10-30-2006, 10:12 AM
ticker ticker is offline
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I always thought it was because monkeys make better monkeys than people do, and vice versa.
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  #12  
Old 10-30-2006, 10:25 AM
OneCentStamp OneCentStamp is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tdn
A better phrasing might be "If I'm descended from my cousin, then how come we live in the same town?" It's still a little snide, but gets the point across.
Interestingly, many of the people who ask the question in the OP do seem to be descended from their cousins.
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  #13  
Old 10-30-2006, 10:28 AM
mittu mittu is offline
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Originally Posted by ticker
I always thought it was because monkeys make better monkeys than people do, and vice versa.
Clearly you have never seen a PG Tips advert.
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  #14  
Old 10-30-2006, 10:39 AM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Not really, no. The problem is that humans didn't evolve from monkeys. That's just a very popular misunderstanding. Monkeys and humans evolved from a common ancestor. Completely different thing.
Humans didn't evolve from any modern species of monkey, but the most recent common ancestor of humans and modern monkeys was, itself, a monkey. So humans did, in fact, evolve from monkeys. Similarly (and simianly), humans also evolved from apes (and by any rational standard, we are ourselves apes).
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  #15  
Old 10-30-2006, 10:52 AM
griffin1977 griffin1977 is offline
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The short answer being "there aren't". The "monkey" in question (actually the monkey/human ancestor that was neither a monkey or a human, but had some of the characteristic of both) became extinct long ago.
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  #16  
Old 10-30-2006, 10:57 AM
Dunderman Dunderman is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos
Humans didn't evolve from any modern species of monkey, but the most recent common ancestor of humans and modern monkeys was, itself, a monkey.
Exactly, sorry for my sloppy wording. The question "if we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?" clearly indicates that the asker believes we did evolve from modern monkeys, so the best answer to my mind is "we didn't", but griffin1977's answer of "there isn't" is equally correct.
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  #17  
Old 10-30-2006, 10:59 AM
Raguleader Raguleader is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos
Humans didn't evolve from any modern species of monkey, but the most recent common ancestor of humans and modern monkeys was, itself, a monkey. So humans did, in fact, evolve from monkeys. Similarly (and simianly), humans also evolved from apes (and by any rational standard, we are ourselves apes).
I thought only humans in the Mobile Infantry were Apes (and of course, Tophets in the Mobile Infantry are Gibbons)
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  #18  
Old 10-30-2006, 11:05 AM
groman groman is offline
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Originally Posted by WhyNot
Well, true, but irrelevant to the misunderstanding, really. What people are really asking is if X evolved from Y, why do we still have Y? (Bonobos from chimps, or vice versa, to give one still-living example.)
That's ridiculous though. If X evolved from Y you are somehow using some differentiator to claim that X and Y are different. Suppose you declare this branching point to be 10 million years ago. Even if there is a descendant Z of Y today that is in all respects identical to the Y, it still does not make Z a Y. If you are phrasing something as "X evolved from Y" there is no more Y, by definition.

Whatever today's chimps evolved from might just happen to be the same thing today's bonobo's evolved from but that does not necessarily make that 'thing' a chimp or a bonobo. If you are willing to call it a chimp or a bonobo it is only because you choose to do so - and because you think it fits in one category better than in another.

There is no one unified definition of the word 'species' but most rely on ability to produce fertile offspring as well as similar characteristics. Things you would call monkeys millions of years ago might have similar characteristics with modern day monkeys and humans, and are our common ancestors but that does not make them the same species of monkey as any of today's species since as far as I know monkeys can't travel back in time to make any claim of speciation falsifiable.

The last name analogy and the cousin analogy just rub me the wrong way. Last names and cousins are specific relationships when "monkeys" a rather arbitrary collective term. Better analogy is imagine if your great great great uncle was the first airplane pilot in the world and before airplanes he was a soldier. Ever since then everybody in your family follows in his footsteps and becomes a pilot. How come there are still not only pilots not related to you but also soldiers as well?
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  #19  
Old 10-30-2006, 11:08 AM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raygun99
"If I have cousins, why are my grandparents still alive?"
Obviously, this works better if your grandparents are in fact still alive, but I think the point comes across.
I think the analogy should be, "if I am descended from my grandparents, why do I have cousins?" It covers the common ancestor angle better.
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  #20  
Old 10-30-2006, 11:09 AM
Giles Giles is online now
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To take a less contentious example: it's generally accepted that domestic dogs evolved from wolves -- and those wolves would have been much the same as the wild wolves that are around today. But it's not seen as such a paradox for dogs to have eveloved from wolves, but wolves to still be around. Perhaps that's because it's pretty obvous why dogs have evolved faster, firstly to fit in with a relationship with humans, and then with artificial breeeding by humans.

While far from an expert, I've been doing a little reading on the origins of humans, and it seems pretty clear to me that humans evolved fairly rapidly, perhaps because of environmental pressures, and perhaps because they went through a period with a very low population of human ancestors. So the last common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans may well have been much more like modern chimpanzees than like modern humans. Similarly, if we looked at the last common ancestor of the apes and monkeys, it would appear to us more monkey-like than ape-like.
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  #21  
Old 10-30-2006, 11:14 AM
Triskadecamus Triskadecamus is offline
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Try explaining how it might have happened, being sure that the listener is really listening when you explain that it might not be exact, or specifically true, but it is more like the real history of the race than "monkeys evolved into humans" is.

There was a species of primates, in Africa, many million years ago. They spread out over a region that was so large that some of them were very far away from others of them. They lived that way for a million years, and during that time, in one area only those with digestive systems that could digest higher amounts of vegetable material survived, because prey animals decreased in number as hunting pressure increased. During the next million years, as the forest thinned in another area, only those which were able to travel on the ground for long distances survived. Although their prey animals and plants changed, they were still able to maintain an omnivorous diet. After another million years, the two groups were so dissimilar in behavior, and physiognomy, when they met, they were unwilling to breed with each other, even though they were genetically only slightly different, and still biologically the same species. The more ground mobile members of the species found it easier to survive at the very fringes of the forest, while the more vegetarian members found it easier to survive in the densest parts of the forest. After another million years had passed, one group had spread across the plains, adapting to changes in the climate that made dense forest less common. The other group had suffered strong attrition, and now numbered far fewer members, in the reduced habitat.

Twenty six million years ago, climate change became even more intense, and most of both groups, and most of the original variety died out. Only a few of the three groups survived in small areas, over the entire continent. Then the climate moderated, and their numbers began to grow. By this time, there were three types of primates, so dissimilar that they became three species, rather than members of the same species. The least altered, the ones most like the original species were quite rare, having survived only in the regions where climate remained very stable throughout the period being discussed. But, they did survive. The two new species were both very much more common in their respective areas.

Now, one group is nearly identical to the original species. The other two are much different, both physically, and genetically. There are two species which evolved from the original species, but the original species still survives. Which one will eventually have its descendants survive into the modern world doesn't matter. The original species might survive that long as well. Or, they could be the progenitors of a dozen branches of primate species which do survive, while all three eventually become extinct.

You are not evolving. Your children are not evolving, although the might be mutants. If your mutant children survive, they might have children, and their children might inherit their specific mutation. Since your mutant child doesn't know that many other mutants, your child will probably try to breed with non mutants. If the mutation doesn't kill everyone involved, eventually lots of people will be descendants of your mutant kid, and you. They will still be human, assuming you are. The only way they will become other than human is if something isolates them, and changes in genetic inheritance over a large number of generations makes them unwilling, or unable to breed with real humans. Then, after a very large number of new generations, your mutant kid will be the progenitor of a new species. Whether or not your other children survive and leave descendents is immaterial.

Tris
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  #22  
Old 10-30-2006, 11:51 AM
Darwin's Finch Darwin's Finch is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tdn
1) Are the posed questions really all that stupid, giben that the asker is only partially educated on the subject?
If one's understanding of evolution is limited, then I would say, no, this is not as stupid a question as it might seem. There are two general forms of evoltuion whereby new species are created: anagenesis and cladogenesis. In anagenesis, a population gradually transforms over time. After some time, t, the population may look very different from its parent population. In such cases, the subsequent species will, by definition, replace the older species.

With cladogenesis, new species appear when a parent population splits into two or more subgroups, each of which are genetically isolated from the other. In this case, the populations are free to diverge, and one species essentially begets multiple species. This is the form that is primarily responsible for an increase in diversity over time.

The popular understanding, if one only got as far as "descent with modification" in their evolutionary studies, might be that of anagenesis: the next generation, being slightly superior -- better adapted -- to the previous generation will replace it. Thus, of we did indeed evolve from ancestral apes in such a manner, we should have replaced them; we shouldn't currently be co-existing with them.

Of course, the reality is that we did not evolve anagenetically from our ape ancestors. Evolution is, as they say, a bush, not a ladder or chain, so while populations do change and get replaced by subsequent generations, they are also fracturing and creating new populations. This why non-human apes are still around: our particular lineage is bushy. But, of course, we did replace all of our true ancestors. Just as chimps replaced theirs, etc. It's just that chimps and bonobos and gorillas and such aren't our ancestors.
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  #23  
Old 10-30-2006, 12:04 PM
Eonwe Eonwe is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by groman
That's ridiculous though. If X evolved from Y you are somehow using some differentiator to claim that X and Y are different. Suppose you declare this branching point to be 10 million years ago. Even if there is a descendant Z of Y today that is in all respects identical to the Y, it still does not make Z a Y. If you are phrasing something as "X evolved from Y" there is no more Y, by definition.

Whatever today's chimps evolved from might just happen to be the same thing today's bonobo's evolved from but that does not necessarily make that 'thing' a chimp or a bonobo. If you are willing to call it a chimp or a bonobo it is only because you choose to do so - and because you think it fits in one category better than in another.
I'm not so sure about this.

Imagine some homo sapiens flying off in a space ship to colonize some distant star. Life on Earth continues much as it has, but as time goes by the colonists begin to adapt to their new environment, so much so that TPTB decide to classify those colonists as a new species, homo astra.

Now you have homo sapiens and homo astra. If homo sapiens have not significantly changed over that period of time, it is still fair to say homo astra evolved from homo sapiens, yet homo sapiens and homo astra exist concurantly.
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  #24  
Old 10-30-2006, 12:09 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos
Humans didn't evolve from any modern species of monkey, but the most recent common ancestor of humans and modern monkeys was, itself, a monkey. So humans did, in fact, evolve from monkeys. Similarly (and simianly), humans also evolved from apes (and by any rational standard, we are ourselves apes).
Yep. And further, there were undoutably many species of monkeys then, so even if one of those species evolved thru anagenesis (see DF's post) into the ape line that later gave rise to the human line, then there would still be many other species of monkeys that didn't. And those species would either evlove into something else (most likely another type of monkey) or go extinct.

But also keep in mind that categories like "monkey" and "ape" and "human" are human constructs, and only approximate what happens in nature. As you trace the ape line further back in time, you end up with something that isn't quite an ape (in the modern sense) but isn't quite a monkey either. There is no point when a monkey mother gave birth to an ape baby. There was a period of transition when one could make an argument either way that the population should be called an ape or a monkey.
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  #25  
Old 10-30-2006, 12:44 PM
Horatio Hellpop Horatio Hellpop is offline
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Seems to me we were more directly descended from Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals, and they are indeed extinct, GEICO ads notwithstanding.
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  #26  
Old 10-30-2006, 01:07 PM
Voyager Voyager is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Krokodil
Seems to me we were more directly descended from Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals, and they are indeed extinct, GEICO ads notwithstanding.
Cro-Magnons are not extinct - look in the mirror. They're us.

Maybe DF's namesakes are the simplest example. If a bird population from an island with one type of seed moves, or is blown to, an island with another type of seed they will evolve beaks to handle those seeds. Assuming no major change in the original environment, the original bird population will stay basically unchanged. Thus, new variant while the old is still existent. There may not be speciation in this example, but that is not really important to the concept.
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  #27  
Old 10-30-2006, 01:24 PM
Giles Giles is online now
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Originally Posted by Voyager
There may not be speciation in this example, but that is not really important to the concept.
Well, if you want an example without speciation, the first Homo sapiens lived in Africa and probably had dark skin (to protect against the sun). Then some of their descendants scattered to other continents, and those that arrived in temperate climates evolved lighter skin (probably to help in generating Vitamin D). So the white folk descended from black folk, but the black folk are still around.
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  #28  
Old 10-30-2006, 02:06 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Originally Posted by Eonwe
I'm not so sure about this.

Imagine some homo sapiens flying off in a space ship to colonize some distant star. Life on Earth continues much as it has, but as time goes by the colonists begin to adapt to their new environment, so much so that TPTB decide to classify those colonists as a new species, homo astra.

Now you have homo sapiens and homo astra. If homo sapiens have not significantly changed over that period of time, it is still fair to say homo astra evolved from homo sapiens, yet homo sapiens and homo astra exist concurantly.
But that's just a naming convention. We on earth will probably always call ourselves Homo sapiens, not matter how much we may change in the future. It's hard to imagine a scenario when future biologists decide that we've evolved into a new species. Perhaps if there was a catastrphic event that destroyed all civilization and sent us back to the stone age for a few hundred thousand years. In that case, though, it's unlikely that we would remember the term Homo sapiens or what it meant in a scientific sense.
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  #29  
Old 10-30-2006, 03:00 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Originally Posted by Voyager
Cro-Magnons are not extinct - look in the mirror. They're us.
Almost, but not quite. The term "Cro-Magnon" is used only for those early H. sapiens found in Europe. No one would call a skeleton from Africa or Asia "Cro-Magnon". We really don't know how much they would have looked like any current population of H. sapiens on the surface, even if their general build would be pretty much the same. So, they're a subset, and you can say that Cro-Magnons are H. sapiens, but it isn't technically corret to say that H. sapiens are Cro-Magnon.

Also, the poster you responded to said that we were descended from Neanderthals, which is not correct. Neanderthals were a side branch, sharing a common ancestor with us maybe 500k years ago, but we are not descended from Neanderthals.
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  #30  
Old 10-30-2006, 03:29 PM
sqweels sqweels is offline
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Originally Posted by Fear Itself
I think the analogy should be, "if I am descended from my grandparents, why do I have cousins?" It covers the common ancestor angle better.
Even better would be to say, "If my grandparents were farmers, my parents were merchants and I'm a lawyer, why are my cousins still farmers?".

Because your aunts and uncles stayed in the boondocks.
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  #31  
Old 10-30-2006, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by mittu
Clearly you have never seen a PG Tips advert.
We're discussing monkeys, not chimps.
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  #32  
Old 10-30-2006, 03:59 PM
CurtC CurtC is offline
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Originally Posted by Priceguy
The question "if we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?" clearly indicates that the asker believes we did evolve from modern monkeys
Clearly? I've never interpreted it that way. I've always been confused why so many people seem to be so adamant in pointing out that we didn't evolve from apes, or monkeys as the question may be. It's always been pretty obvious that whatever the common ancestor was, it most certainly would fit with what people mean when they say "ape" or "monkey."

Far from being clear that people mean that, I think you're come across as a pendantic stickler if you simply answer the question by pointing out that we didn't come from anything still alive - that wasn't the question.
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  #33  
Old 10-30-2006, 05:06 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Curt: The way I hear it more often is: "If we evolved from chimps, then why are there still chimps out there"?
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  #34  
Old 10-30-2006, 06:07 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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But that's just a naming convention. We on earth will probably always call ourselves Homo sapiens, not matter how much we may change in the future. It's hard to imagine a scenario when future biologists decide that we've evolved into a new species. Perhaps if there was a catastrphic event that destroyed all civilization and sent us back to the stone age for a few hundred thousand years. In that case, though, it's unlikely that we would remember the term Homo sapiens or what it meant in a scientific sense.
Perhaps, but we might still genuinely be the same species. Suppose that in 2050, human cryogenics are perfected, and we head to the stars in sleeper ships. Ten thousand years later, the folks who went to the other stars have changed somewhat to adapt to their new environments (or just via random genetic drift). By this time, maybe the off-worlders have changed enough that they can't or won't interbreed with Earthers. Also ten thousand years later, a person who was frozen in 2050 is thawed out, right here on Earth, and when he's awakened, he finds the future-Earthers perfectly suitible as mates, and the feeling is mutual, and they have kids. In this hypothetical situation, it'd be perfectly valid to say that the Earth-12050 humans are the same species (Homo sapiens) as the Earth-2050 humans, but that the humans on the planet Aurora in 12050 are a different species (let's call it Homo aurora) that decended from H. Sapiens.

In actual practice, of course, there's a shortage of both cryogenically-frozen specimens from ages past and of time machines, so it's very difficult to determine whether two individuals separated widely in time are members of the same species. But in principle, at least, it's possible for them to be so.
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  #35  
Old 10-30-2006, 06:12 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos
Perhaps, but we might still genuinely be the same species. Suppose that in 2050, human cryogenics are perfected, and we head to the stars in sleeper ships. Ten thousand years later, the folks who went to the other stars have changed somewhat to adapt to their new environments (or just via random genetic drift). By this time, maybe the off-worlders have changed enough that they can't or won't interbreed with Earthers. Also ten thousand years later, a person who was frozen in 2050 is thawed out, right here on Earth, and when he's awakened, he finds the future-Earthers perfectly suitible as mates, and the feeling is mutual, and they have kids. In this hypothetical situation, it'd be perfectly valid to say that the Earth-12050 humans are the same species (Homo sapiens) as the Earth-2050 humans, but that the humans on the planet Aurora in 12050 are a different species (let's call it Homo aurora) that decended from H. Sapiens.

In actual practice, of course, there's a shortage of both cryogenically-frozen specimens from ages past and of time machines, so it's very difficult to determine whether two individuals separated widely in time are members of the same species. But in principle, at least, it's possible for them to be so.
But species names are determined by populations, not individuals. And since populations don't, in nature, breed across vast expanses of time, it really doesn't make much sense to apply the BSC in that scenario. Maybe one of our expert biologists can weigh in on this, but perhaps the proper thing to do, scientifically, is to rename both populations once it's established that they do not or cannot interbreed.
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  #36  
Old 10-31-2006, 12:35 AM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Well, in that case, we ought properly to say that we're a new species every century or so, since there's no chance of anyone from 2006 Earth interbreeding with anyone from 1906 Earth. But the Biological Species Concept doesn't rely on any actual interbreeding taking place; it merely requires that, if there were the opportunity, interbreeding would take place. The cryogenics example is merely a way of constructing such an opportunity.
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  #37  
Old 10-31-2006, 01:30 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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No, we needn't do that. There are two different issues here:

1) Does the survival and interbreedability of an individual who was cryogenically preserved for thousands of years have anything meaningful to say about whether a past and future population should be considered the same species? I don't think so, for reasons I already gave.

2. If a population splits in two, and, after a long period of time, they either cannot or do not interbreed, does it make sense to rename only one of the populations as a new species, or should we reanme both? That answer I don't know, and I suspect that the BSC has not been in existence long enough for that to be an issue. I could very well be wrong on that, and would be interested in hearing from a professional biologist on that matter.
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  #38  
Old 10-31-2006, 03:17 AM
Dunderman Dunderman is offline
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Originally Posted by CurtC
Clearly? I've never interpreted it that way.
I see no other way to interpret it. The question presupposes that we a) evolved from monkeys and b) that there are monkeys now. I very much doubt that everyone who asks this question means to insert a qualifier like "not the same kind of monkeys, dontchaknow, but different monkeys, but monkeys nonetheless".
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It's always been pretty obvious that whatever the common ancestor was, it most certainly would fit with what people mean when they say "ape" or "monkey."
I don't know that. Are you saying that the common ancestor of a human and a golden lion tamarin looked like something that would look right at home in the monkey house today?
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Far from being clear that people mean that, I think you're come across as a pendantic stickler if you simply answer the question by pointing out that we didn't come from anything still alive - that wasn't the question.
I disagree. The question assumes precisely that. That's certainly what I meant when I asked the question.
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  #39  
Old 10-31-2006, 09:46 AM
Sean Factotum Sean Factotum is offline
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How about this? A population of the common ancestor was forced out of the trees and onto the savannnah. Within a couple dozen generations, there would be no difference between the two populations (T for the original group, S for the group that went exploring). But in each generation, natural selection forced new traits in S that allowed for a better chance of survival, so that they changed, in time, to a brand new species. T, however, stagnated because their environment stayed stagnant, and there was no need for them to develope these new traits (or any new traits, for that matter.) Therefore, T, which we could call monkeys, are still here, while S became, over time, [/I]h. sapiens[/I].
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Old 10-31-2006, 10:12 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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"T" didn't stagnate-- it evolved, too. In fact we know that "T" left 2 extant species besides humans, if we assume T = common ancestor of humans/chimps/bonobos. And it would be better to call "T" an ape than a monkey.
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Old 10-31-2006, 11:20 AM
sciurophobic sciurophobic is offline
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Wouldn't the simplest answer be, "Because the monkeys you see today aren't the monkeys we evolved from?"
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Old 10-31-2006, 11:45 AM
Freddy the Pig Freddy the Pig is offline
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Originally Posted by sciurophobic
Wouldn't the simplest answer be, "Because the monkeys you see today aren't the monkeys we evolved from?"
No, because it fails to challenge the unspoken premise in the original question--namely, that humans are better than monkeys, so much so that it's impossible to imagine that humans and monkeys could co-exist.

Humans aren't better. They may be bigger and smarter, but in a lot of environments, those attributes don't count for anything.

I'd answer by asking the questioner how well he thinks he or she would do at living on grubs and berries (or whatever it is that the 100 surviving species of monkeys eat) in a tropical jungle. If he hesitates, maybe he'll grasp the concept that, in many environments, monkeys are "better" than humans.
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Old 10-31-2006, 11:46 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Originally Posted by sciurophobic
Wouldn't the simplest answer be, "Because the monkeys you see today aren't the monkeys we evolved from?"
Kinda. Those are not the monkeys you are looking for.

But people often think of evolution as being directed towards some goal, so why weren't those other monkeys not directed along the same course towards the same goal. I think you need to explain more than just what you suggest to a lot of people, even if your proposal might work in some instances.
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  #44  
Old 10-31-2006, 12:39 PM
Darwin's Finch Darwin's Finch is offline
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Originally Posted by sciurophobic
Wouldn't the simplest answer be, "Because the monkeys you see today aren't the monkeys we evolved from?"
It would be simple, but it would also be incomplete. As I noted, if one's perception of evolution is that populations are alleged to simply change over time, then we should have replaced any "monkeys" that we may have evolved from. Which, of course, we did.

The missing piece is that populations fracture as well as change, thus creating more and more populations of more and more divergent organisms over time. So not only are the monkeys and/or apes we see today not the ones we evolved from, they aren't the ones they evolved from, either. We all share a common ancestor way back when which has gone extinct, as expected. And the subsequent species which that ancestor split into are also extinct, as expected. And so on and so on, until we get to the latest generations of each of those respective lineages -- the apes we see today.
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  #45  
Old 10-31-2006, 01:20 PM
Voyager Voyager is offline
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Originally Posted by Freddy the Pig
No, because it fails to challenge the unspoken premise in the original question--namely, that humans are better than monkeys, so much so that it's impossible to imagine that humans and monkeys could co-exist.
My interpretation of the question is that they think that either monkeys woke up one day as men, transforming, or that monkeys had human children. Remember how often creationists say things like evolution can't be true since a cat never turns into a dog and other such nonsense. I think we're overestimating their understanding of the process.
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  #46  
Old 10-31-2006, 02:06 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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I don't think we can presuppose what lack of knowledge the questioner possess, because you'll hear this from a variety of people. Often, it's just an attempt to set up a strawman but a Creationist, and the best thing you can do is simply correct the mistake before he throws up another strawman. If someone is accepting of the idea of evolution, but is just not well educated on the subject, it would behoove the person answering the question to probe deeper to find out what particular assumptions the person has that are incorect. In the US, at least, we do a terrible job of teaching evolution in public school. I don't think that has much to with anti-evolution, but just the poor overal quality of US public education. I am often surprised how many misconceptions my otherwise well-educated friends have about teh subject of evolution. What we typically get-- maybe 2 weeks of coverage in a HS biology class?
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  #47  
Old 10-31-2006, 03:17 PM
Fish Fish is offline
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I don't think it's a stupid question. What it is is a classic example of begging the question: it assumes we did "descend from monkeys," whatever that means to the questioner, and poses the query based on that assumption. It's the kind of logical trap that is easy to fall into, whether one is smart or stupid.
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  #48  
Old 10-31-2006, 03:29 PM
griffin1977 griffin1977 is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos
In actual practice, of course, there's a shortage of both cryogenically-frozen specimens from ages past and of time machines, so it's very difficult to determine whether two individuals separated widely in time are members of the same species. But in principle, at least, it's possible for them to be so.
Actually there is not (if you consider fossils to be "cryogenically-frozen"). Its a pretty common in problem Paleontology to decide if two fossils from difference period are part of the same species.
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  #49  
Old 10-31-2006, 05:20 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Actually there is not (if you consider fossils to be "cryogenically-frozen"). Its a pretty common in problem Paleontology to decide if two fossils from difference period are part of the same species.
Fossils have this distressing tendancy to not mate with anything, though, which makes it a bit hard to apply the Biological Species Concept. You can still make guesses about whether they're the same species, of course, but you can't be sure.
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  #50  
Old 10-31-2006, 06:56 PM
glee glee is offline
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If people and monkeys evolved from single-cell organisms, how come there are still single-cell organisms?

And how could all this happen in just 6000 years?
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