Creationist Meme Week, Part 5: Hope You Kept The Receipt For Your Education

Frogs to Princes

I don’t know what university you attended, Mr Carlson, but at my university I was taught that princes (and by extension all humans) did not evolve directly from modern frogs. All modern life descends from a common ancestor. Rather than being our greatest grandparents, modern frogs are our distant, distant, distant [approximately 50 instances of the word distant deleted] distant cousins.

Mr Carlson, like so many Creationists, seems to be confused about how the tree of life is organized. He apparently views it as an obelisk, with single-celled organisms at the base and humans at the pinnacle. Falling somewhere in between are frogs, monkeys, paramecia, and every other organism which Creationists have mockingly (and mistakenly) placed in humanity’s evolutionary history. No wonder Mr Carlson mocks his understanding of evolution! I mock it also!

The tree of life, if you were to visualize it properly, would look more like…you know…a tree. A really freaking big tree. This metaphorical tree started growing when life began on Earth, and it put out its first branches as life diversified and expanded to fill all the niches available to it. The branches spread out along crooked paths, splitting over and over, pushing into new territory. Many times a branch just stops; here some species met a challenge to which it could not adapt, and perished. The tree is full of these dead-end branches but every time a branch comes to an abrupt halt, other branches diversify to fill the space going forward. No region stays unoccupied for long.

At the top of the tree are all species that are still alive, including humans, chimpanzees, and yes, frogs. If you want to see how a human and a frog are related, you have to follow their individual branches back in time to the point where they meet, but what you find there will be neither frog nor human. You won’t recognize it, because you’ve never seen anything like it, but it’s your great great great [approximately 68 million instances of the word great deleted] great grandpappy, and mine, and that of all frogs. So tell it I said hi. Or ribbit. Or whatever.

It is a mistake to think of humans as occupying a special place at the endpoint of evolution, which is why biologists don’t think that way. In fact, nobody but a Creationist thinks of evolution as a linear morphing of X into Y, where X and Y are both extant species. If you want to discredit the idea of evolution, you have to understand how it is supposed to work. If you refuse to educate yourself even to that extent, then you have little business calling one of the most well-supported ideas in scientific history into question.

I would recommend that Mr Carlson read The Ancestor’s Tale by Richard Dawkins if he wishes to truly understand the relationship between frogs and princes. I would recommend that, but many Creationists begin frothing at the mouth at the mere mention of Dawkins’ name. See, they regard him as something of bully. Granted, that’s not an entirely unwarranted opinion, but at least the man understands evolution.

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