Debunking Denialism

Defending science against the forces of irrationality.

Questioning Evolution…by Spouting the Same Old Creationist Canards

I am frequently amazed at individuals who sincerely put forward what they consider strong “arguments” in favor of a particular form of pseudoscience when these assertions have already been debunked and destroyed thousands and thousands of times. I often wonder if these people have even bothered to perform a simple Internet search to see if those arguments have been rebutted before. After all, there are many websites on, for instance, evolution that efficiently refutes creationist arguments (such as Index to Creationist Claims). Then again, if they used the Internet for gathering credible scientific information, they might decide against making such arguments.

The Youtube user Khalid Elmekki recently uploaded an anti-evolution video entitled Questioning Evolution. In it, he put forwards some classic creationist assertions that lack any evidential or rational support whatsoever. Let us take them apart, one by one.

Evolution is not a belief

Throughout the video, Elmekki insinuates that evolution is a belief system. On the contrary, evolution is a well-supported scientific explanation for the observed diversity of life, backed up by tons and tons of evidence. One can read about some of this evidence in the National Academy of Sciences publication Science, Evolution, and Creationism or in the online book 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution: The Scientific Case for Common Descent by Douglas Theobald. Even the Wikipedia article on the evidence for common descent gives a good introduction to the topic.

Saying you “believe” in evolution is just as silly as saying that you “believe” in gravity. Evolution, gravity or any other scientific model is not something you believe in, it is something you accept based on the evidence.

Creationists use the term “Darwinism” as a rhetorical tool

Originally, the phrase “Darwinism” use to refer to the Darwin’s models for evolutionary biology, predating the New Synthesis. This was done to distinguish it from other forms of biological change over time, such as Lamarckism and Mutationalism, and from religious doctrines for the origin of different kinds of species such as creationism.

Today, creationists use the term “Darwinism” to make it look like modern evolutionary biology is an ideology (-ism) and not science, and to suggest that “Darwinism” and creationism are two different -isms on the same level. In reality, modern evolutionary biology is a well-supported scientific explanation, whereas creationism is pseudoscience that does not accurately describe reality.

To say that humans are animals is no different from saying that crocodiles are reptiles

Traditionally, life was classifies as different kingdoms: animals, plats, bacteria, fungi and protists. If humans are not animals, does that mean that humans are plants? Bacteria? Joking aside, to say that humans are animals is exactly the same reasoning as stating that crocodiles are reptiles or that frogs are amphibians. It is simply a way to place one group of animals into another, larger group of animals. To call humans animals is also a way to signify that they have animal cells (rather than, say, plant cells) or that humans belong to the monophyletic clade of Metazoa and share a common ancestor with all other animals.

Whether humans are animals or not is a question of biological classification and phylogeny, not a question about ethics and morality. It does not mean that humans are “just animals” and can behave in any way they like. That is because biological classification is descriptive, whereas ethics are prescriptive. While the nature of reality surely matter for ethical questions, it is not appropriate to arbitrarily infer prescriptive statements from descriptive ones.

The accurate of scientific explanations are not determined by emotion

Elmekki says that he does not believe in evolution because he finds the idea that humans evolved to be disgusting. Unfortunately, the factual accuracy of scientific explanations do not depend on what emotions they provide in humans. A model can be correct even if disgusting, and wrong even if pleasant. Whether or not Elmekki feels disgusted by a particular scientific explanation should not be an argument against the validity of such an explanation. Appeal to emotion, is, after all, a logical fallacy.

Humans are classified as apes

Elmekki asks the rhetorical question “if we evolved from apes, wouldn’t we be the same as apes?”, believing that this somehow undermines evolution. On the contrary, the statement is correct. Again, it is no different than asking: “if a crocodile evolved from reptiles, wouldn’t that mean that a crocodile is a reptile”. Humans are apes, share a common ancestor with other apes and evolved from an ape, or an ape-like creature.

Humans cannot have children with other apes because of species barrier

Elmekki claims that if humans evolved from apes, then humans should be able to reproduce with other apes. This is an erroneous statement for several reasons: (1) humans and other apes represent different species that cannot interbreed and (2) humans have different number of chromosomes, so even if an embryo could get fertilized, it is not necessarily that cell divisions would proceed.

Later, Elmekki agrees that it would be biologically impossible for a human to reproduce with a gorilla. This suggests that Elmekki confuses different levels of biological classification. Humans and gorillas are two different genus, whereas Hominoidea (“ape”) is a superfamily. Not the same thing. It is no different than saying that because crocodiles and snakes are both reptiles, they should be able to reproduce together, which is of course a nonsense argument.

Humans share a common ancestor with other apes

Elmekki then trouts out the old classic “if humans evolved from apes, why are there still apes?”. This is a mistaken question because the central thing here is that humans and other apes share a common ancestor. This common ancestor, which was also an ape or an ape-like creature, does not still exist. The question is analogous to asking: “If Americans descended from Europeans, why are there still Europeans?”. The answer is simple: some ancestral Europeans emigrated to North American and their lineage became present-day Americans, whereas other ancestral Europeans stayed in Europe and their lineage became present-day Europeans. Similarly, the lineage of the common ancestor of all apes split into multiple branches, some leading to humans and some to the other apes.

Birds did not descent from Pterodactyl, but from theropod dinosaurs

To defend the above argument, Elmekki brings up the evolution of birds and states that birds evolved from Pterodactyl and that Pterodactyl does not exist. So why should apes still exist? First of all, birds did not evolve from Pterodactyl, but from theropod dinosaurs. Second, the confusion arises from mixing the ancestral ape or ape-like species with the currently existing ape-species. The ancestral ape or ape-like species does of course not exist, but some of their non-human ape descendants does exist. It also betrays a misunderstanding of evolution: it is not a ladder, but a tree.

In this part of the video, Elmekki uses the biologically meaningless phrase “Stegosaurus rex”, which seems to be a combination of “Stegosaurus” and “Tyrannosaurus rex”. He also claims that the descendant of “Stegosaurus rex” is the giraffe. This is wrong, because giraffes are mammals and mammals are descendants of synapsid reptiles that does not include Stegosaurus or Tyrannosaurus.

He then goes on to claim that basically this: if X comes from Y, then Y must be extinct. There is an obvious contradiction to this: dogs evolved from wolves, but wolves still exists.

“Race” in “Preservation of Favored Races” means “variety”

Darwin did not use the term race to mean what we today mean when we use the term race. Rather, he meant something akin to variety. Simply put: some varieties of, say, a plant, produce more offspring than other varieties. This is what is meant by the “preservation of favored races”. Evolution is not racist, but a description of what goes on in nature.

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2 responses to “Questioning Evolution…by Spouting the Same Old Creationist Canards

  1. Emil Karlsson March 16, 2013 at 22:46

    “This video has been removed by the user”.

    Hopefully he discovered how irrational his arguments were…

  2. Pingback: Khalid Elmekki and “Questioning Evolution” Redux | Debunking Denialism

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