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Old 09-26-2018, 11:02 PM
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Somebody screws up teaching evolution


but I'm not sure who.

The BBC has a story up about the opening of the Milner Center for Evolution at the University of Bath. Included in the article us a 7 question quiz on evolution. Question 5 is "Humans are descended from monkeys. True or false." answer correctly (true) and you will be told that you are wrong:

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FALSE: It's a common misconception that humans evolved from monkeys. In fact, we both evolved from a common ancestor, which lived millions of years ago. Humans and chimps share more than 90% of their genetic sequence. Thus, they are our closest living relatives, but they are not our great-great-great ancestors.
This is wrong--yes, humans and all apes are evolved from monkeys. The most recent common ancestor between modern apes and modern monkeys is a monkey. And the apes branched more recently from the Old World Monkeys than the Old World Monkeys branched from the New World Monkeys. (The common ancestor of both of those branches was also a monkey.)

Now, if this was a screwup by the BBC, that wouldn't be suprising. But what is more disturbing is if this accurately reflects what Paula Kover of The University of Bath told the BBC, and what they are teaching at The Milner Center. i sent the BBC the following email--who knows if there will be a correction:

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In your September 25th quiz on evolution, the answer to the fifth question, which reads in part “It’s a common misconception that humans evolved from monkeys. In fact, we both evolved from a common ancestor, which lived millions of years ago.” is incorrect. The evolutionary branching event between Old World Monkeys and Apes came much later than the branching event between Old World Monkeys and New World Monkeys. The common ancestor of Old World Monkeys and New World Monkeys would have itself have been a monkey. Not only are humans evolved from monkeys, but Old World Monkeys are more closely related to humans and other apes than they are to New World Monkeys–or put another way, a colobus is more closely related to a Capuchin monk than it is to a capuchin monkey.
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Old 09-26-2018, 11:33 PM
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The BBC is correct, IMO, that we did not evolve from monkeys; their phrasing is accurate.

Last edited by Snowboarder Bo; 09-26-2018 at 11:34 PM.
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Old 09-27-2018, 12:12 AM
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Humans are descended from mammals. True or false.

I used to be one of those people who would object if you called a gorilla or a chimpanzee a "monkey". "Those aren't monkeys, those are apes!" But I was wrong about that. Gorillas and chimpanzees are apes; but they're also monkeys. And, since humans are also apes, we are also therefore monkeys. (All apes are monkeys; but of course not all monkeys are apes. All humans are apes; not all apes are humans.)

Here is the family tree for the primates. Note those two groups, the Platyrrhini and the Catarrhini, who split off from the tarsiers. This little guy is from the Platyrrhini. He's obviously a monkey; anyone would agree "Hey, that's a monkey!" (Specifically, he's a capuchin monkey, AKA the "organ grinder monkey", a downright iconic monkey.) She is also a monkey, right? She's a "rhesus macaque" (or what I used to just call a "rhesus monkey"), which again is an extremely well-known monkey. She's from the Catarrhini branch of the monkeys.

From this website we can get an idea of when any two species diverged from each other. The last common ancestor of the rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) and the white-headed capuchin (Cebus capucinus) probably lived about 42.6 million years ago. But the last common ancestor of Homo sapiens and Macaca mulatta was only around 28.1 million years ago. And the last common ancestor of Homo sapiens and Cebus capucinus was...about 42.6 million years ago, at the same time as the LCA of Cebus capucinus and Macaca mulatta. Unsurprisingly, the LCA of Pan troglodytes (the common chimpanzee) and Cebus capucinus clocks in at 42.6 million years ago, while (of course) the LCA of Pan troglodytes and Macaca mulatta was around 28.1 million years ago, same as it was for Homo sapiens and Macaca mulatta.

We are from the chimpanzee/human branch of the African great apes. We (the chimpanzees and the humans, and also the gorillas) are African great apes, as opposed to Asian great apes (the orangutans). We are great apes (with the orangutans), as opposed to gibbons. We great apes along with the gibbons form the "ape" branch of the Old World monkeys. Together with our 42.6 million-years-ago distant cousins, the New World Monkeys, we are all monkeys (as opposed to tarsiers, or lemurs). And of course all of us monkeys, tarsiers, and lemurs are primates; primates are mammals; mammals are vertebrates; vertebrates are animals; animals are eukaryotes; eukaryotes are life-forms from planet Earth. (If there's anything beyond "all life on Earth" we haven't found it yet. And of course that's leaving out a lot of complications and additional branch points like "synapsids" and "chordates" and "deuterostomes" and much much more.)

Humans are "descended from monkeys" because we are monkeys.
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Old 09-27-2018, 12:25 AM
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I think the intent was to say that humans didn't evolve from chimpanzees, which is accurate and fits in better with the rest of the sentence. Somebody either miswrote the first line or it was written correctly and somebody further down the line edited it into error.
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Old 09-27-2018, 12:39 AM
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Originally Posted by MEBuckner View Post
Humans are descended from mammals. True or false.

I used to be one of those people who would object if you called a gorilla or a chimpanzee a "monkey". "Those aren't monkeys, those are apes!" But I was wrong about that. Gorillas and chimpanzees are apes; but they're also monkeys. And, since humans are also apes, we are also therefore monkeys. (All apes are monkeys; but of course not all monkeys are apes. All humans are apes; not all apes are humans.)

Here is the family tree for the primates. Note those two groups, the Platyrrhini and the Catarrhini, who split off from the tarsiers. This little guy is from the Platyrrhini. He's obviously a monkey; anyone would agree "Hey, that's a monkey!" (Specifically, he's a capuchin monkey, AKA the "organ grinder monkey", a downright iconic monkey.) She is also a monkey, right? She's a "rhesus macaque" (or what I used to just call a "rhesus monkey"), which again is an extremely well-known monkey. She's from the Catarrhini branch of the monkeys.

From this website we can get an idea of when any two species diverged from each other. The last common ancestor of the rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) and the white-headed capuchin (Cebus capucinus) probably lived about 42.6 million years ago. But the last common ancestor of Homo sapiens and Macaca mulatta was only around 28.1 million years ago. And the last common ancestor of Homo sapiens and Cebus capucinus was...about 42.6 million years ago, at the same time as the LCA of Cebus capucinus and Macaca mulatta. Unsurprisingly, the LCA of Pan troglodytes (the common chimpanzee) and Cebus capucinus clocks in at 42.6 million years ago, while (of course) the LCA of Pan troglodytes and Macaca mulatta was around 28.1 million years ago, same as it was for Homo sapiens and Macaca mulatta.

We are from the chimpanzee/human branch of the African great apes. We (the chimpanzees and the humans, and also the gorillas) are African great apes, as opposed to Asian great apes (the orangutans). We are great apes (with the orangutans), as opposed to gibbons. We great apes along with the gibbons form the "ape" branch of the Old World monkeys. Together with our 42.6 million-years-ago distant cousins, the New World Monkeys, we are all monkeys (as opposed to tarsiers, or lemurs). And of course all of us monkeys, tarsiers, and lemurs are primates; primates are mammals; mammals are vertebrates; vertebrates are animals; animals are eukaryotes; eukaryotes are life-forms from planet Earth. (If there's anything beyond "all life on Earth" we haven't found it yet. And of course that's leaving out a lot of complications and additional branch points like "synapsids" and "chordates" and "deuterostomes" and much much more.)

Humans are "descended from monkeys" because we are monkeys.
I understand the point you're making and I don't dispute your facts. I'm just questioning whether it's accurate to say that humans and other apes are still monkey just because our evolutionary line branched off from monkeys. After all, if you go back far enough, our evolutionary line branched off from fish. But nobody would argue that homo sapiens are fish. It's clear that at some point an evolutionary line can pass beyond an old classification.

My understanding (and I'll readily concede I'm not a zoologist) is that monkeys and apes are both simians. Monkeys were the first type of simian to evolve and therefore at one point all simians were monkeys. Then some monkeys evolved into apes and effectively ceased to be monkeys so that there are now two separate branches of simians.
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Old 09-27-2018, 02:10 AM
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I think the intent was to say that humans didn't evolve from chimpanzees, which is accurate and fits in better with the rest of the sentence. Somebody either miswrote the first line or it was written correctly and somebody further down the line edited it into error.
Yep. right answer - badly formed question. The answer even conflates chimps and monkeys - the intent appears to have been to ask if humans evolved from modern-day species of monkey.
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Old 09-27-2018, 02:18 AM
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I think it is nit-picking and the question as it stands is not "wrong" but merely incomplete.

It seems clear that the point being made is that humans did not evolve from what we see and label as a "monkey" today. We can't point to an extant creature and say "we evolved from that" and it is clear from the question phrasing that it is referring to extant species.

I know the primate evolutionary tree fairly well and if someone said that humans are not descended from monkeys I'd know exactly what they meant and accept it for the general truth that it is.
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Old 09-27-2018, 03:12 AM
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After all, if you go back far enough, our evolutionary line branched off from fish. But nobody would argue that homo sapiens are fish. ... Then some monkeys evolved into apes and effectively ceased to be monkeys so that there are now two separate branches of simians.
Actually, humans are fish and monkeys.
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Old 09-27-2018, 03:20 AM
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The misconception that arises is that evolution can be regarded as a progression from a more primitive species to a more evolved one, in exactly the sense that modern homo sapiens originated from the chimpanzee-human Last Common Ancestor. If one states that "humans evolved from monkeys", the natural objection is, "so why are there still monkeys?". Referring instead to a common ancestor is more precise.
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Old 09-27-2018, 03:22 AM
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Wikipedia says "Monkeys are non-hominoid simians". I don't think we can generally call humans "monkeys". How about:

The line of evolution from which humans arose goes back to simple multicellular organisms. Somewhere along that line of evolution we passed through as animals that in today's terms we would call a kind of monkey.
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Old 09-27-2018, 03:36 AM
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The misconception that arises is that evolution can be regarded as a progression from a more primitive species to a more evolved one, in exactly the sense that modern homo sapiens originated from the chimpanzee-human Last Common Ancestor. If one states that "humans evolved from monkeys", the natural objection is, "so why are there still monkeys?". Referring instead to a common ancestor is more precise.
And that common ancestor was precisely a monkey.
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Old 09-27-2018, 04:14 AM
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And that common ancestor was precisely a monkey.
but not precisely the same monkey as exists today. We didn't evolve from the monkeys we see now and that seems to be the misconception that the question seeks to challenge.
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Old 09-27-2018, 04:21 AM
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And that common ancestor was precisely a monkey.
Sure, but so what? This is not a point about evolutionary biology, it's a point about language, and how some words convey greater clarity than others, and are less susceptible to misunderstanding.

If someone hears "we're descended from monkeys", you can't really blame them for a certain skepticism that we're descended from the creatures that they just saw at the zoo today. Because of course we're not. We're descended from a more primitive common ancestor that gave rise, along different evolutionary paths, both to modern monkeys and to homo sapiens.
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Old 09-27-2018, 06:10 AM
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Some classifiers are paraphyletic. It's ok for us to not be fish.
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Old 09-27-2018, 07:16 AM
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As a professor of science, I assure you we did, in fact, evolve from filthy monkey-men.
My money's with science.
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Old 09-27-2018, 07:27 AM
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If someone hears "we're descended from monkeys", you can't really blame them for a certain skepticism that we're descended from the creatures that they just saw at the zoo today. Because of course we're not. We're descended from a more primitive common ancestor that gave rise, along different evolutionary paths, both to modern monkeys and to homo sapiens.
The obvious answer is that I'm descended from my parents. But my parents are still around. And my siblings are also descended from my parents. But I am not my siblings.
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Old 09-27-2018, 09:43 AM
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Yep. right answer - badly formed question. The answer even conflates chimps and monkeys - the intent appears to have been to ask if humans evolved from modern-day species of monkey.
Yes, that's how I see it. The last part, about modern-day species does seem to be what they are getting at. Conflated chimps and monkeys is technically OK, but if you're going to do it in front of the general public, you need to be clear why you are doing it. But best not to go there as it just makes thing more difficult to understand.

Better answer: Humans and all living species of apes and monkeys are descended from a common ancestor. This common ancestor would be called a monkey, but it would NOT be the same as any species of monkey that we would see today.
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Old 09-27-2018, 10:18 AM
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If someone hears "we're descended from monkeys", you can't really blame them for a certain skepticism that we're descended from the creatures that they just saw at the zoo today. Because of course we're not. We're descended from a more primitive common ancestor that gave rise, along different evolutionary paths, both to modern monkeys and to homo sapiens.
If you show someone both an Old World Monkey and a New World Monkey, they would say "yep, those are monkeys." This very strongly suggests that the common ancestor between the two branches--if brought forward in time--would still be obviously to everyone a monkey.
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Old 09-27-2018, 10:27 AM
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Some classifiers are paraphyletic. It's ok for us to not be fish.
Right. Like wolfpup said, this is a problem with language, not science. Is “monkey” a paraphyletic term meaning “the common ancestor of Old World and New World monkeys and its descendants, excluding apes”? Or, is it a monophyletic term meaning “the common ancestor of Old World and New World monkeys and its descendants”? Once we decide what we’re talking about, we can answer the question.

This sort of issue often shows up when scientist apply specific definitions to words with more general usage. Neither usage is wrong, but it can make communication more difficult.
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Old 09-27-2018, 10:31 AM
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They should have asked a simpler question like: Are birds dinosaurs? or: What, if anything, is a zebra?
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Old 09-27-2018, 10:35 AM
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Question 5 is "Humans are descended from monkeys. True or false."
What I'm getting from this thread is that the only really correct answer is "It depends on how you define monkeys."
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Old 09-27-2018, 10:35 AM
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I think it's worth saying "yes, we are monkeys" because it's a scientifically valid way of classifying things, it properly places us in the Great Tree of Life, and it challenges our unwarranted sense of separateness from "the animals". I think the whole point of the general re-classification of the "hominids" is that if it were any species other than us it would be pretty much a no-brainer, given what we now know in terms of comparative DNA and so forth.


As far as "fish" goes, a proper classification of things does seem to produce some absurd results. Not only are we "fishes", but so are all other terrestrial vertebrates. Lizards are fishes. Birds are fishes. Cows are fishes. Horses are fishes. (No, not these). Kittens are fishes. (OMG! PETA was right!) Whales are fishes after all!

I think we need to bite the bullet and admit that coelacanths aren't really fishes. They're "fish-like marine animals" or something, to be sure, but they're more closely related to us than they are to the "true fishes". Last common ancestor of us and coelacanths (Latimeria chalumnae) lived about 414 million years ago; LCA of coelacanths (and people, and cows, and so forth) and goldfish (Carassius auratus) lived about 432 million years ago. This would also mean that lungfish aren't fishes, either. (How can lungfish not be fishes?!? Well, jellyfish, starfish, crayfish, and cuttlefish aren't fishes either.)

Looking at the family tree for the "fishes", you may also notice that by this logic it turns out sharks aren't fishes either. Yep, goldfish are more closely related to us (LCA: approximately 432 million years ago) than they are to great white sharks, Carcharodon carcharias (LCA: approximately 465 million years ago). So, sharks (that is, the Chondrichthyes, including manta rays and so forth) aren't "true fishes" either. Everyone knows that dolphins aren't fishes, and neither were the icthyosaurs. So, now we would say that sharks aren't fishes either.

Basically, I say we should confine the term "fish" (in a formal sense, anyway) to the Actinopterygii, the ray-finned fishes. According to Wikipedia, that's nearly 99% of all the known species of fishes; most things you would think of as "fishes", from minnows to marlins, would still count as fishes. We (terrestrial vertebrates, plus a few oddball "fish-like" marine forms), the "true fishes", and the sharks and their relatives are all "gnathostomes" or vertebrates with jaws.
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Old 09-27-2018, 10:43 AM
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Are birds dinosaurs?
Hell, yes! We should just embrace this one, because it's both scientifically valid and it makes the world so much cooler. In the Jurassic Park movies, they're always nattering on about "What would happen if humans shared our world with dinosaurs?" It turns out that we would eat them. (With a special blend of 11 herbs and spices.) Some humans keep tame dinosaurs, which they use to hunt other dinosaurs!

"The majestic bald eagle, the national dinosaur of the United States..."
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Old 09-27-2018, 11:03 AM
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After all, if you go back far enough, our evolutionary line branched off from fish. But nobody would argue that homo sapiens are fish.
Oh yeah? Hold my beer.
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Old 09-27-2018, 12:05 PM
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Haven't checked in on Jerry Coyne lately--he's all over this.
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Old 09-27-2018, 04:56 PM
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Hell, yes! We should just embrace this one, because it's both scientifically valid and it makes the world so much cooler. In the Jurassic Park movies, they're always nattering on about "What would happen if humans shared our world with dinosaurs?" It turns out that we would eat them. (With a special blend of 11 herbs and spices.) Some humans keep tame dinosaurs, which they use to hunt other dinosaurs!

"The majestic bald eagle, the national dinosaur of the United States..."
I agree. I love the idea! I just think it's one of those questions that cannot be answered with a short answer like the one given in the OP. It can if you're trying to catch people up, but not if you're trying to educate people who aren't familiar with the science.
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Old 09-28-2018, 12:28 PM
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In case anyone hasn't seen it, there's an XKCD cartoon on this very topic:

https://xkcd.com/1211/
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Old 09-28-2018, 05:59 PM
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In the Jurassic Park movies, they're always nattering on about "What would happen if humans shared our world with dinosaurs?" It turns out that we would eat them. (With a special blend of 11 herbs and spices.) Some humans keep tame dinosaurs, which they use to hunt other dinosaurs!
A more interesting question is what would happen if we shared our world with megafauna dinosaurs? Well, we pretty well know the answer to that question, too: We'd hunt and eat them, even if we were somehow reduced to stone age technology.

In simple terms: Before humans came to New Zealand, there were Moa. After humans, there weren't no Moa no mo'.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moa

Quote:
The moa[note 1] were nine species (in six genera) of flightless birds endemic to New Zealand.[4][note 2] The two largest species, Dinornis robustus and Dinornis novaezelandiae, reached about 3.6 m (12 ft) in height with neck outstretched, and weighed about 230 kg (510 lb).[5] It is estimated that, when Polynesians settled New Zealand circa 1280, the moa population was about 58,000.

[snip]

They were the dominant herbivores in New Zealand's forest, shrubland and subalpine ecosystems for thousands of years, and until the arrival of the Māori were hunted only by the Haast's eagle. Moa extinction occurred around 1300[8]–1440 ± 20 years, primarily due to overhunting by Māori.[6]
Yes, the Haast's eagle is extinct as well. Its food source got hunted to extinction by something which was better at hunting than it was, and, guess what, a flying death dino couldn't destroy all humans, either.

Dinosaurs can open doors? We can open a whole can of tool-using whoop-ass.
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Old 09-28-2018, 06:10 PM
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Now I want to know what question 6 on the BBC quiz that Jerry Coyne won't discuss is.

The distinction between monkey and ape is not made in a number of languages that I know something of or have asked about: French, German, Dutch, Spanish, and Italian and arose only a few hundred years ago in English. But if we are monkeys, then we are fish, we are bacteria. What is the point in such a claim. On the other hand we are evolved from ancestors of all them. It is more a semantic than scientific question.
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Old 09-28-2018, 07:20 PM
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But if we are monkeys, then we are fish, we are bacteria. What is the point in such a claim. On the other hand we are evolved from ancestors of all them. It is more a semantic than scientific question.
Well, there's the scientific accuracy of the "We are monkeys" claim, as discussed above. I also think another point to these discussions is that the popular notions of how to classify living things can reinforce false notions of who we are and how we (and all other life) came to be. There can be kind of a sense of:

"Once, there were fishes living in the sea. Most of them were lazy and unmotivated fishes, and they remain fishes to this day. But some of them were smarter and more adventurous (and had fins with a different bone structure to them) and THOSE fishes Conquered the Dry Land! And eventually, after going from fishes to amphibians to reptiles to little furry scurrying mammals to monkeys to apes, some of the apes Came Down From the Trees and became cave-men, until finally you get to us, Mankind, the Pinnacle of Life on Earth and the End-Goal of Evolution!"

But fishes (and all the rest of living things) aren't the inferior slackers of Life on Earth which failed to have enough gumption to evolve into us. The ray-finned fishes are simply a different branch of the jawed vertebrates is all, and have been quite successful at the only "End-Goal" of evolution there is, which is making more fishes and continuing to pass on the instructions for making fishes. The goldfish is just as much the end product of 400+ million years of gnathostome evolution as we are.
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Old 09-28-2018, 09:23 PM
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Now I want to know what question 6 on the BBC quiz that Jerry Coyne won't discuss is.

The distinction between monkey and ape is not made in a number of languages that I know something of or have asked about: French, German, Dutch, Spanish, and Italian and arose only a few hundred years ago in English. But if we are monkeys, then we are fish, we are bacteria. What is the point in such a claim. On the other hand we are evolved from ancestors of all them. It is more a semantic than scientific question.
Question 6 is the one about progress that is shown below the illustration of the cladogram showing the abundance of monkeys in our ancestory.

We are apes, which are a specialized branch of monkeys, which are a specialized branch of placental mammals, which are a specalized branch of synapsids, which are a specalized branch of amniotes, which are a specalized branch of amphibians, which are a specalized branch of lobe-finned fish, which are a specalized branch of cordates, which are a specialized branch of deuterostomes, which is a specalized type of nephrazoans, which is a specialized branch of bilateralans..each one of these is true, scientificly. (The hard part is marking limited but meaningful descriptions.)

As for bacteria, well, that is where it really becomes messy and neat cladograms break down--at that stage we are a merger of probably at a minimum two types of bacteria and possibly several including both bacteria and archaea. (Never mind all the many, many times viral DNA became integrated throughout evolutionary history.)
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Old 09-28-2018, 10:33 PM
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We are apes, which are a specialized branch of monkeys, which are a specialized branch of placental mammals, which are a specalized branch of synapsids, which are a specalized branch of amniotes, which are a specalized branch of amphibians, which are a specalized branch of lobe-finned fish, which are a specalized branch of cordates, which are a specialized branch of deuterostomes, which is a specalized type of nephrazoans, which is a specialized branch of bilateralans..each one of these is true, scientificly. (The hard part is marking limited but meaningful descriptions.)

As for bacteria, well, that is where it really becomes messy and neat cladograms break down--at that stage we are a merger of probably at a minimum two types of bacteria and possibly several including both bacteria and archaea. (Never mind all the many, many times viral DNA became integrated throughout evolutionary history.)
No, I am rejected this argument. The principle you're trying to sell is that once a species exists, all subsequent species that evolve from it remain part of that ancestral species.

Which is nonsense. If it were true then there wouldn't be any species; all living beings would all be part of one single ancestral species.

Yes, my ancestors were fish. But I am not a fish. That's the whole point of evolution.
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Old 09-28-2018, 11:37 PM
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No, I am rejected this argument. The principle you're trying to sell is that once a species exists, all subsequent species that evolve from it remain part of that ancestral species.

Which is nonsense. If it were true then there wouldn't be any species; all living beings would all be part of one single ancestral species.

Yes, my ancestors were fish. But I am not a fish. That's the whole point of evolution.
(Shrug) Reject it all you want, it will remain a fact. You don't seem to understand the meaning of "species." A species is an...um... specific group of very closely related organisms defined with a binomial name (first word capitalized, second word not, both italisized.) A clade is an ancesteral species that developed a specific trait and every species that evolved from it. "Fish" is not a species.

The principle I'm trying to sell is that once a clade exists, all subsequent species that evolve from it remain part of that ancestral clade. Saying that humans are apes, that humans are primates, that humans are mammals, and that humans are lobe-finned fish are exactly the same principle. You aren't claiming that you aren't an ape, a primate, or a mammal, are you?
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Old 09-29-2018, 06:04 AM
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I just noticed this thread. The following two posts (which do not contradict each other) are an eloquent statement of what I'd have posted:

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The misconception that arises is that evolution can be regarded as a progression from a more primitive species to a more evolved one, in exactly the sense that modern homo sapiens originated from the chimpanzee-human Last Common Ancestor. If one states that "humans evolved from monkeys", the natural objection is, "so why are there still monkeys?". Referring instead to a common ancestor is more precise.
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And that common ancestor was precisely a monkey.
The quiz question should have been avoided altogether; but if asked, 'True' is the best answer.

Last edited by septimus; 09-29-2018 at 06:05 AM.
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Old 09-29-2018, 08:07 AM
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"Fish" is not a species.
Right. It's a paraphyletic typological classification. Which is why I'm not a fish.
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Old 09-29-2018, 08:49 AM
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Right. It's a paraphyletic typological classification. Which is why I'm not a fish.
But "lobe-finned fish" is monophyletic, which is why you are. And saying "I'm a sarcopterygian but not a lobe-finned fish" isn't pedantry, it is self-contradictory. (Of course if it really bothers you so much to be considered a fish, you could settle for being called a eutelostome and saying that there is no such thing as a "fish.")
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Old 09-29-2018, 07:06 PM
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Meh, there's talk in my mom's family about a Roman soldier in our ancestry. Doesn't make me Italian.


Pretty cool if it's true though.
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Old 09-29-2018, 07:17 PM
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Meh, there's talk in my mom's family about a Roman soldier in our ancestry. Doesn't make me Italian.


Pretty cool if it's true though.
This is not a remarkable claim for genealogical ancestry, which behaves very differently from genetic ancestry. Because we have two parents, four grandparents etc., the number of genealogical ancestors increases almost geometrically. Just a few thousand years ago, a large proportion of the population were genealogical ancestors of everyone alive today (and the rest were ancestors of nobody). Everyone's set of genealogical ancestors is identical in the fairly recent past.

http://www.stat.yale.edu/~jtc5/paper...wsAndViews.pdf

Last edited by Riemann; 09-29-2018 at 07:22 PM.
  #39  
Old 09-30-2018, 01:21 AM
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Meh, there's talk in my mom's family about a Roman soldier in our ancestry. Doesn't make me Italian.


Pretty cool if it's true though.
Further to what Reimann posted, anyone with ancestry in Europe has some ancestry that would trace back to Rome. Same thing with being descended from Charlemagne (born in the 8th century). All Europeans. Seriously, it's a completely unremarkable thing. That's actually the cool part!

The Identical Ancestor Point for Europeans is only about 1,000 year ago. So, for Europeans, you only have to go back about 1,000 years before you find the same set of common ancestors of every European alive today.
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Old 09-30-2018, 01:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darren Garrison View Post
(Shrug) Reject it all you want, it will remain a fact. You don't seem to understand the meaning of "species." A species is an...um... specific group of very closely related organisms defined with a binomial name (first word capitalized, second word not, both italisized.) A clade is an ancesteral species that developed a specific trait and every species that evolved from it. "Fish" is not a species.

The principle I'm trying to sell is that once a clade exists, all subsequent species that evolve from it remain part of that ancestral clade. Saying that humans are apes, that humans are primates, that humans are mammals, and that humans are lobe-finned fish are exactly the same principle. You aren't claiming that you aren't an ape, a primate, or a mammal, are you?
I still maintain that you're pushing the concept of clade too far. Clade is not identity. Humans are part of the clade of fish but humans are not fish. (And I understand, before you raise the objection, that you're saying those two statements are identical.)

In some cases clade and identity are identical. I can say that humans are mammals and monkeys are mammals and bears are mammals and squirrels are mammals. I'm fine with that because I can identify common characteristics that all of these species have. And in this case, the group of species that has the characteristics which define mammals also happens to be the same as the clade of mammals.

But that's not always the case. I can define the characteristics which makes a species a fish. But there are numerous species which are in the clade of fish which are not in the group of species which do not have the characteristics of fish.

To use a more extreme example, all animals are in the clade of plants. But to say that humans are plants is to use the term plant so broadly that it's rendered meaningless. I doubt you're going to find many scientists who would agree that humans are plants. Most scientists recognize that there is a definition of what a plant is that's more narrow than anything which is in the clade of plants.
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Old 09-30-2018, 07:31 AM
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But humans do have characteristics in common with lobe-finned fish, such as two pairs of appendages containing one bone, then two bones, then multiple bones. We have characteristics in commn with other eutelostomes including lungs (which have been converted into swim bladders in many but not all water-based eutelostomes.) If you tried, you could spend all day coming up with derived characters shared with fish but not with arthropods, comb jellies, or placozoa.

No, animals are not in the clade of plants--the last common ancestor of animals and plants was not a plant. Take a look at the cladogram near the bottom of this page--plants are a couple of levels down the clade named Archaeplastida, animals are obvious. Plants and animals are both eucaryotes in exactly the same way that humans are mammals, that mammals are tetrapods, and that tetrapods are lobe-finned fish.
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Old 09-30-2018, 08:50 AM
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This discussion doesn't pass The Tomato Test.

What's The Tomato Test? Simple: Is the discussion more complicated than the question of whether a tomato is a fruit?

The tomato is a fruit botanically, in that it's a seed-bearing structure in a flowering plant formed from the ovary after flowering.

The tomato is a vegetable culinarily, in that it's savory.

So the tomato is a fruit in any biology textbook, but a salsa isn't a fruit salad and ketchup isn't a jelly.

Humans are fish cladistically. We're also tetrapods, mammals, and monkeys for the purposes of a modern biology textbook, but we're none of those things for tax purposes. Or the purpose of marriage laws, or laws about who needs to go to school, or who needs to register for the draft.

The only people who are wrong are the people who demand that words only have one meaning regardless of context. You don't have to make a bustle in a hedgerow to know sometimes words have two meanings, or twelve, or any other number.

And I will make a stand on this because linguistics is just as much of a science as biology.
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Old 09-30-2018, 09:47 AM
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This discussion doesn't pass The Tomato Test....
The claim that it's just semantics assumes that there's nothing about evolutionary relationships that people don't understand. That's not a safe assumption, so it's certainly worth clarifying the issues.

Last edited by Riemann; 09-30-2018 at 09:48 AM.
  #44  
Old 09-30-2018, 11:27 AM
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This discussion doesn't pass The Tomato Test.

What's The Tomato Test? Simple: Is the discussion more complicated than the question of whether a tomato is a fruit?
Not all answers are simple. It is okay to try to make an answer shorter and easier to understand for a lay audiance or children, but you shouldn't make the answer so simple that it is wrong. Which is what occured with the answer to the question that kicked off this thread.
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Old 09-30-2018, 02:18 PM
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The whole idea that evolution never said we evolved from monkeys is itself a common meme used to argue against a reductionist Creationist argument: "If we evolved from monkeys, why do monkeys still exist?" The answer was "We didn't evolve from monkeys. Both we and monkeys evolved from a common ancestor."

The person asking that question clearly is using "monkey" to mean modern monkeys, and so this response makes sense. But, as a meme by itself, it no longer does. It may have been created with good intentions, but it is now spreading inaccurate facts.

The problem is, fixing the question breaks it. You can't ask "Did humans evolve from modern monkeys?" because it gives away the answer. If you pick a specific monkey, then it doesn't get the point across.

The only good way to ask the question is to have the answer being "yes," and have it teach that this little factoid is false. Have it explain "It is true that humans did not evolve from any monkeys existing today. We merely share a common ancestor with them. However, that common ancestor is scientifically classified as a monkey, and would likely be called a monkey if seen today."
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Old 09-30-2018, 02:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derleth View Post
This discussion doesn't pass The Tomato Test.

What's The Tomato Test? Simple: Is the discussion more complicated than the question of whether a tomato is a fruit?

The tomato is a fruit botanically, in that it's a seed-bearing structure in a flowering plant formed from the ovary after flowering.

The tomato is a vegetable culinarily, in that it's savory.

So the tomato is a fruit in any biology textbook, but a salsa isn't a fruit salad and ketchup isn't a jelly.

Humans are fish cladistically. We're also tetrapods, mammals, and monkeys for the purposes of a modern biology textbook, but we're none of those things for tax purposes. Or the purpose of marriage laws, or laws about who needs to go to school, or who needs to register for the draft.

The only people who are wrong are the people who demand that words only have one meaning regardless of context. You don't have to make a bustle in a hedgerow to know sometimes words have two meanings, or twelve, or any other number.

And I will make a stand on this because linguistics is just as much of a science as biology.
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Originally Posted by Darren Garrison View Post
Not all answers are simple. It is okay to try to make an answer shorter and easier to understand for a lay audiance or children, but you shouldn't make the answer so simple that it is wrong. Which is what occured with the answer to the question that kicked off this thread.
Darren is exactly right. It's not about whether the answer is simple or complicated. It's about whether it's correct, and it's not. Especially when there actually is a fairly simple answer that is also correct. The discussion is only complicated because some people are denying the answer and some people, it seems, don't even understand the question.
  #47  
Old 10-01-2018, 08:26 AM
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The Identical Ancestor Point for Europeans is only about 1,000 year ago. So, for Europeans, you only have to go back about 1,000 years before you find the same set of common ancestors of every European alive today.
Your link appears to claim that Europeans are all descended from Brett Kavenaugh. Although I admit I didn't read it all the way through.😁
  #48  
Old 10-01-2018, 08:34 AM
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Your link appears to claim that Europeans are all descended from Brett Kavenaugh. Although I admit I didn't read it all the way through.😁
This is where John is being thankful that the wrong link he gave was that tame...
  #49  
Old 10-01-2018, 09:35 AM
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Darren is exactly right. It's not about whether the answer is simple or complicated. It's about whether it's correct, and it's not. Especially when there actually is a fairly simple answer that is also correct. The discussion is only complicated because some people are denying the answer and some people, it seems, don't even understand the question.
It isn't incorrect it is merely incomplete, ambiguous and the terms used not fully defined.

But this is a simplistic Q&A on a website and it gets a valid point across in a way that only the truly pedantic could object to. It isn't a University degree course. It is talking about a scheme to engage kids and improve the teaching of evolution in classrooms. Christ it even involves cuddly sharks and I just know someone out there will be outraged at the attempt to poison our kids minds with the belief that some aquatic creatures are a 90% polyester/nylon mix.

The whole tone of the quiz is evolution 101 and it would be silly to stray too far into cladistics and taxonomy when the point being made is clear. i.e. No, we did not evolve from the monkeys that we call monkeys today but from a creature that was an ancestor to us both. That's a perfectly good place to start, accurate and succinct if not technically perfect.

Last edited by Novelty Bobble; 10-01-2018 at 09:36 AM.
  #50  
Old 10-01-2018, 10:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darren Garrison View Post
Not all answers are simple.
You aren't responding to the point I made and, perhaps, deliberately misunderstanding it.

My point is that words have meanings derived from context, which will be met with varying levels of comprehension and enthusiasm depending on the audience. That is the full, complete answer of what a word means, not the lies-to-children one which emphasizes dictionaries and other reference works as being normative. It's the full, complete answer of what every word means.

So when you're arguing over whether humans are fish, you have to define "fish", and you run into the fact I outlined above. That fact is what underlies The Tomato Test.
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