Why do people deny evolution? Not just evolution from single-celled organisms to multicellular lifeforms, but human evolution as well? Most people who deny evolution don’t have the knowledge to assess it correctly. They fall back on the Bible and say “God did this, the Bible says…. God says…” all the while looking at you as a heathen when you attempt to talk some basic biology or, God forbid, the process of evolution.
I met a woman the other day and I asked her what she was studying in school. She tells me anatomy and physiology (right up my alley). So we start talking about some basic anatomy and physiology before I ask the question: “Do you believe in evolution?” She gave me a blank stare and said no.
“Humans as we know them have always existed in this form,” she said. I just started laughing at her ignorance and then she said “Evolution at the macro level is not possible but it is at the micro level”, repeating the same old and tired Creationist talking points. I said to her that there is no evidence for creation and that the evidence we do have points to evolution. I said that the theory of evolution has so much backing, so much evidence, that to believe otherwise you’d have to purposefully close your mind to the truth, to shut out any and all contradictory information.
One of the funniest things she said to me was that she wants to cure diseases. To that, I said if she wants to do that then she must look at diseases from an evolutionary perspective (Gluckman et al, 2011). She said that she doesn’t need to know how diseases were in the past, just how they are today. I also said that if she is studying anatomy and physiology then she must understand that many of our appendages are derived from our hominin ancestors, which began with Erectus as I’ve covered in my article Man the Athlete. Diseases also must be looked at through an evolutionary lens, so if anyone wants to cure diseases, then they must first understand and accept that things are constantly changing and evolving to better survive in that environment.
When I said that there is no evidence for Creation she got really mad. She said that there is no evidence that “we evolved from monkeys” which gave me a good laugh. Even people who believe in evolution still make that mistake of believing that we evolved from monkeys. One of the most common statements from Creationists is “If humans evolved from monkeys then why are monkeys still around?”, wrongly assuming that we literally evolved from monkeys, incorrectly misinterpreting that we share a common ancestor with monkeys 6-12 mya.
About 6mya, there was a chromosomal fusion on chromosome two; two ancestral ape chromosomes fused to make chromosome two (Idjo et al, 1991). That is some nice chromosomal evidence for common descent from our ape cousins. Creationists, however, purport that a gene in chromosome 2, DDX11L2, writing that the “alleged fusion site is not a degenerate fusion sequence but is and, since creation, has been a functional feature in an important gene.” Further, Tomkins’ claim that the fusion site is actually a gene is wrong since the fusion site is more than 1300 bases away from the gene.
The ancestral equivalents of chromosome 2—2p and 2q—fused together in a fusion event some 6mya. This precise fusion site is on chromosome 2 (Hellier et al, 2004). Creationists will say and do anything to attempt to ‘rebut’ this contention. Genetic evidence is the best evidence we have (due to Punctuated Equilibria, which causes the spottiness in the fossil record), and still, these ‘Creationist geneticists’ will do anything they can to attempt to have Evolutionists go on the defensive. However, the onus is on them to disprove the mountains of evidence.
One of the funniest things this woman said to me is that man has always been in this form and that we didn’t evolve from “monkeys”, which is when I said that it’s more complicated than that: we have fish ancestors, named Tiktaalik who had the beginnings of the human arm and hand, along with Pikaia Gracilens—our oldest ancestor. If Pikaia would have died out in the Cambrian explosion some 550 mya, we wouldn’t be here today. We are here today due to the happenstance of numerous accidents of history—contingencies of “just history” to quote Stephen Jay Gould.
Nevertheless, Creationists will always attempt to distort evolutionary science to fit their agendas. Stephen Jay Gould battled Creationists throughout his career. Creationists would quote mine his books to show that Evolutionists do show evidence of “Creation”. One of his most quote mined works is his and Eldredge’s theory of Punctuated Equilibria (1972). Just because a look at the whole fossil record shows species remaining in stasis for most of their history before a short burst of evolutionary change then that must mean that there was a guiding hand involved in the process. Here is a full list of quote mines that Creationists use from Eldredge and Gould.
As you can see, Creationists use any kind of mental gymnastics to disprove evolution. However, no matter how hard you try with Creationists, you can’t educate people into believing in evolution. This is mainly due to the backfire effect which occurs when you show people contradictory information to a dearly held belief and they frantically attempt to gather evidence to shield themselves from contradictory evidence (Nyhan and Reifler, 2010). This cognitive bias holds for more than political debates, though it’s most often seen there. Showing people any kind of contradictory information will have them search and search for anything to shield themselves from the truth. However, no amount of ‘information’ provided by Creationists will disprove evolutionary theory.
Gould and Eldredge aren’t the only Evolutionist that Creationists quote mine–one of the most famous quote mines is from Darwin’s The Descent of Man in which he talks about defending his theory from detractors, mainly the spottiness of the fossil record (which Eldredge and Gould’s Punctuated Equilibria explains). However, this doesn’t stop Creationists—and even some Evolutionists who fall for Creationist trickery—to believe that Darwin was talking about something completely different, in that Darwin was ‘racist’ talking about the ‘superior races’ exterminating the ‘inferior races’. Reading the quote in its entirety, however, shows something completely different. Alas, some people don’t care about facts antruthut and only care about their agenda they attempt to push.
Even setting evolutionary theory aside, basic geology disproves Creationism. The author of the piece, geologist David Montgomery, says that there is a rock outside of his office that proves Creationism wrong. The rock shows that there is more to the geologic record that could be explained by a single grand flood. Now that geologists now have the tools and data to infer that the earth is billions of years old—not thousands as Young Earth Creationists (YECs) claim—YECs change up their interpretation of the Creation story in Genesis to go from literal days to “days in Genesis refer to geological ages”. Clear mental gymnastics in the face of contradictory evidence.
There are five mass extinctions that are accepted in the scientific community (Jablonski, 2001) (though I am reading a book at the moment that talks about nine mass extinction events with Man pushing the tenth, I will return to this in the future). After these contingencies of ‘just history’, we can see that we are incredibly lucky that our ancestors did not die out. From a Pikaia Gracilens surviving the Cambrian radiation, to Tiktaalik and its venturing onto land from the sea and finally the survival of a shrew-like ancestor during the extinction of the dinosaurs, we should thank our lucky stars that these things went our way, because if not, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this at the moment and you would not be reading this. Evolutionary history is littered with these events—events that, if they went the other way would not lead to the evolution of Man again.
In sum, people who do not believe in evolutionary theory clearly are emotionally invested in believing in a story of Creation—sans evidence, only their belief. On the other hand, evolutionists such as we have all the data on our side when it comes to this debate. Creationists have to use any kind of warped logic to not believe the mountains of evidence that have piled up since Darwin wrote On the Origin. However, as everyone knows, reality isn’t what just what you believe. Just because Creationists handwave away the data that people like us provide to them doesn’t mean that evolution isn’t true.