Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Another Republican Gets Evolution Wrong

This time, it is Rush Limbaugh, who, in one of his daily shows, questioned the wisdom of evolution.  Writing about the unfortunate incident in which the gorilla, Harambe, was shot to protect a human child, Rush stated:
A lot of people think that all of us used to be gorillas, and they're looking for the missing link out there. The evolution crowd. They think we were originally apes. I've always had a question: If we were the original apes, then how come Harambe is still an ape, and how come he didn't become one of us? "Well, that's why they're all missing link, Mr. Limbaugh. Your question is absurd." Here's one more from Ashley Byrne from PETA. "You know, the gorilla's endangered, he was 17 years old. They've had him for quite a long time."
Rush, if my children came from my wife, why is my wife still alive? This notion that evolution is strictly linear has been known to be wrong since the time of Charles Darwin, yet it is perpetuated by people who don't like evolution but won't learn anything about it.  This is why we have systematics.  As a refresher to Rush, here is a diagram that I concocted during one of my back and forths with someone about my BioLogos post on hominins of the Middle Pliocene:

In this example, there is no straight lineal relationship between any two forms.  In fact, the one salient feature of systematics is that it can only delineate taxonomic sister groups, it cannot delineate ancestor-descendant relationships.  There is no such thing as the "missing link."  Viewed within this prism,  it becomes apparent that transitional forms abound in the fossil record.  Think of the form Gerobatrachus hottoni, otherwise known as the “frogamander.”  It has the basal characteristics of both frogs and salamanders and represents the stem group to both of those forms.  Everything that follows in each node, leading to salamanders and frogs, is transitional.

This is how modern evolutionary theory is practiced.   It would sure be nice if some news people would learn this.

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