If humans evolve from apes, why didn't all apes evolve at the same rate?

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  • #1
ShawnD
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Obviously apes and humans have different "ideal" environments, but often humans and apes live in the same area. Apes live in jungles. Humans live in jungles. If humans and their predecessors were able to live in such an environment, why do monkeys/gorillas/other still exist in those areas?
 

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  • #2
D H
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First, why should they evolve at the same rate? Evolution moves by fits and starts. A species that is well attuned to an unchanging environment can itself remain unchanged for a long time. Mutations might happen at a more-or-less constant rate, but most mutations do not give an advantage. Most are fatal. Most of those that are not fatal are disadvantageous. A changing environment is a principal envolutionary driver. Humanity's ancestors formed when their jungle home became a savannah.

Secondly, how do you know they aren't evolving at the same rate? They might have just taken a different path than did humans.
 
  • #3
mgb_phys
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They did. Modern apes are all equally evolved.
One species has evolved to live on grassland, invented civilisation but still thinks digital watches are a neat idea (ob. HitchHiker quote)
Other species have evolved to live in forests and eat leaves.

You have to be a little careful about terms. Humans / chimps / gorillas are all (african) apes. We all decended from earlier species that were apes - it doesn't mean we descended from other current ape species.
 
  • #4
ShawnD
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Alright then. So the answer to the creationist question of "why do apes still exist" would be "apes evolved as well, but they evolved into something different"? Does that sound about right?

Thanks for the replies.
 
  • #5
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Alright then. So the answer to the creationist question of "why do apes still exist" would be "apes evolved as well, but they evolved into something different"? Does that sound about right?

Thanks for the replies.
The creationist strawman is 'If humans evolved from monkeys, why do monkeys still exists?'.

- As said earlier, humans did not evolve from other modern day apes or any currently living species.
- The reason both modern day humans and modern day monkeys exists, is because there were initial geographical separations, whereby the different species diverged and adapted to the different environments.
- Modern day humans and monkeys have evolved over the exact same period of time.
 
  • #6
D H
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The creationist strawman is 'If humans evolved from monkeys, why do monkeys still exists?'.
This is such an incredibly horrendous strawman.

The local environment is a key driver of evolutionary change. Suppose the environment in one locale changes. Continents separate, mountain chains form, peninsulas become islands, patches of jungle dry up. All of these tend to separate populations. Evolutionary pressures tend to be local, not global. Evolutionary changes in one isolated segment of a population do not magically teleport across mountain chains or oceans.

For examples of this, google "ring species".
 
  • #7
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"More" evolved....always gives me a chuckle when I hear that. :)

EDIT: Going back, I guess that wasn't said, but it was implied. :O

Keep in mind a chimpanzee is far more similar genetically to a human than it is to a gorilla.
 
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  • #8
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The usual response I have heard to the IDist/Creationist claim that "If humans evolved from apes, why are there still monkeys?" is...

If many present day Americans are of European descent, why are there still Europeans?

If they can wrap their minds around that concept they can begin to understand the answer to their question. I am a bit more cynical about whether they will ever understand Evolution... but at least it is a step.

I suppose a follow up question could be:
If everyone used to be a creationist, why are there still creationists?

-DU-
 
  • #9
Danger
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If many present day Americans are of European descent, why are there still Europeans?
:rofl:
I love that, man! In fact, I love it so much that I'm going to steal it. Actually, I'll trade one for it.
If birds exist, why do we still have alligators? After all, they're both surviving dinosaurs. :rolleyes:
 
  • #10
aren't humans apes just as much as chimps are apes?
 
  • #11
Moonbear
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aren't humans apes just as much as chimps are apes?
Pretty much, yeah.

As has already been pretty well explained, modern humans and modern apes all had a common ancestor from which the two populations diverged, we didn't linearly evolve directly from modern apes.
 
  • #12
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This is such an incredibly horrendous strawman.

The local environment is a key driver of evolutionary change. Suppose the environment in one locale changes. Continents separate, mountain chains form, peninsulas become islands, patches of jungle dry up. All of these tend to separate populations. Evolutionary pressures tend to be local, not global. Evolutionary changes in one isolated segment of a population do not magically teleport across mountain chains or oceans.

For examples of this, google "ring species".
This is also explains the so-called "gaps" found in the fossil record; another favorite claim of the creationist.

"Gaps" are exactly what we should expect!

If one species splits up into say 2 separate groups, and if each group eventually becomes exposed to 2 different environments (say they migrate across a mountain range), each group will evolve independently due to local geographical factors, eventually to the point where they are actually two different species.

Now, say one species "makes it back" over a mountain range throughout the course of many thousands of years and reunites with the other species. There you have it, one species evolving into another, and no "transition fossils" to be found.
 
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  • #13
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I'm of the view that success in dealing with your environment and lack of challenge tends to select for more of the same and an eventual evolutionary cul de sac. It's the unsuccessful that keep evolving and developing. We are what we are because we weren't very capable at occupying the niches of our cousin hominids.
 
  • #14
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And some of the earlier hominids vanished because they couldn't cope with a changing environment or were out competed by others. Ourselves for instance.
 
  • #15
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Using the creationist's logic, one could also ask, "why do some humans still live in huts and speak in clicks while others have built cities and spacecraft and supercomputers?"
 
  • #16
Evo
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Using the creationist's logic, one could also ask, "why do some humans still live in huts and speak in clicks while others have built cities and spacecraft and supercomputers?"
Because those people live in much harsher environments with less available food and have had to spend the majority of their resources just to stay alive. It's only in a stable society that allows free time for creativity along with the resources to make them happen that you see the most significant advances.

Even with our modern technology, we still can't supply a lot of these wilderness areas with 24/7 power and adequate sewage systems, food, etc...
 
  • #17
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Because those people live in much harsher environments with less available food and have had to spend the majority of their resources just to stay alive. It's only in a stable society that allows free time for creativity along with the resources to make them happen that you see the most significant advances.

Even with our modern technology, we still can't supply a lot of these wilderness areas with 24/7 power and adequate sewage systems, food, etc...
Actually, it is the reverse. Why else is it people who live in temperate climates are the ones who live in mud huts? The technological advances came from humans in environments harsh enough to require technology, but with technology we gained the free time for advances beyond those necessary for bare survival.

Those who can live using only simple tools are still using just simple tools. To be extremely simplistic.
 
  • #18
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The main flaw with the type of 'why do monkeys/apes etc. still exist' thought line is that it is based upon the premise that when evolution occurs the more 'primitive' species is mystically all converted to a more 'superior' species. This is not at all how evolution works.

Sometimes a more evolved species will take the place of a 'lesser' evolved species but it doesn't happen immediately and it doesn't mean that evolution of the previous species stops at all. This becomes blatantly obvious when we see a 'more' evolved species living together with their 'ancestor' species... at the same time.
As well you have to watch the way you word things as others have pointed out the Apes which we know today did not evolve into Humans. Evolution just shows that we have a common ancestor.
 
  • #19
Bacteria have very quick lived generations and have been around a very long time. It could be argued that modern bacteria are the most evolved organisms on Earth if one were forced to speak in those terms. It's a very bad idea to use the terms "more evolved" or "primitive" when comparing species against eachother. We are all the very latest model: bacteria,whales,crocodiles,sharks,chimps,humans and all other living things that exist now are the most (for lack of better word) "advanced" version.

Nature shows really do mislead people when they make statements like "Crocodiles and sharks are living fossils" The narrator is taking too much artistic license. Species are NOT frozen in time despite what any nature show might infer by saying "living fossil." They really ought to stop saying that because it is giving people the wrong idea. After hearing enough narators make that claim on those programs; I can't blame people for wrongly thinking that other Ape species are "living fossils" of humans.
 
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  • #20
Evo
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Actually, it is the reverse. Why else is it people who live in temperate climates are the ones who live in mud huts? The technological advances came from humans in environments harsh enough to require technology, but with technology we gained the free time for advances beyond those necessary for bare survival.

Those who can live using only simple tools are still using just simple tools. To be extremely simplistic.
Are you suggesting that living conditions around the Mediterranean were harsh?
 
  • #21
ideasrule
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Because those people live in much harsher environments with less available food and have had to spend the majority of their resources just to stay alive. It's only in a stable society that allows free time for creativity along with the resources to make them happen that you see the most significant advances.
Not true. Greece has little arable land and is covered with mountains. Most of Europe actually receives snow in the winter. Yet it was Europe--mostly Greece, Rome, and Britain--that saw the greatest advances in science, politics, linguistics, and almost every subject you'd care to name, not the tropical African countries. There's nothing remarkable about any of these countries in terms of resources.

Look at Africa now and you'll see that the poorest countries are sub-Saharan, and lie on land that has abundant precipitation, lush rainforests, plenty of resources, and a great climate year-round. It's the countries in the Saharan desert that are relatively well-off.
 
  • #22
apeiron
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Are you suggesting that living conditions around the Mediterranean were harsh?
It has been remarked that the san bushmen (who speak with that click) in fact only have to work a few hours a day to survive, despite being pushed into more marginal areas. And this is generally true of hunter-gatherer lifestyles. But with the switch to agriculture, hard labour was invented.

http://www.environnement.ens.fr/perso/claessen/agriculture/mistake_jared_diamond.pdf [Broken]

Are twentieth century hunter-gatherers really worse off than farmers? Scattered throughout the world, several dozen groups of socalled primitive people, like the Kalahari Bushmen, continue to support themselves that way. It turns out that these people have plenty of leisure time, sleep a good deal, and work less hard than their farming neighbors. For instance, the average time devoted each
week to obtaining food is only twelve to nineteen hours for one group of Bushmen,
fourteen hours or less for the Hadza nomads of Tanzania. One Bushman, when asked why he hadn't emulated neighboring tribes by adopting agriculture, replied, "Why should we, when there are so many mongongo nuts in the world?"
What settled food production did allow was the rise of a class system based on serfs/slaves/peasants. So some had the leisure to indulge in higher intellectual pursuits.

Persian, greek and roman cultures were rather slave dependent - it was harsher for some.

Climate does not explain intellectual advance. But hierarchies of labour that allow specialisation do. And then what really counts is to be a trading nation. Outward rather than inward, exploratory rather than equilibrium, a cross roads for cultures rather than culturally xenophobic.

Of course, you could make a case that the likely story on homo sapiens was that we were pushed along by the ice ages. There were a number of rival hominid strands (including neanderthals) and with such a sequence of climatic fluctuation, brains was eventually favoured over brawn. So climate could be a causal factor there.

Speculative but plausible.
 
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  • #23
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"If humans evolve from apes, why didn't all apes evolve at the same rate?"

Why are all living organisms not identical and indistinguishable? Answer this, and you answer your question.
 
  • #24
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I would like to add a little spice to this topic of conversation. A recent article from March 1, 2010 on Great Ape Trust , which is an excellent place to explore, gives indepth information that might be helpful. Here's a snippet from the article If bonobo Kanzi can point as humans do, what other similarities can rearing reveal?

Among humans, pointing is a universal language, an alternative to spoken words to convey a message. Before they speak, infants point, a gesture scientists agree is closely associated with word learning. But when an ape points, scientists break rank on the question of whether pointing is a uniquely human behavior. Some of the world’s leading voices in modern primatology have argued that although apes may gesture in a way that resembles human pointing, the genetic and cognitive differences between apes and humans are so great that the apes’ signals have no specific intent.

Not so, say Great Ape Trust scientists, who argued in a recently published scientific paper, “Why Apes Point: Pointing Gestures in Spontaneous Conversation of Language-Competent Pan/Homo Bonobos,” that not only do Kanzi, Panbanisha and Nyota point with their index fingers in conversation as a human being might, these bonobos do so with specific intent and objectives in mind.

The difference between pointing by the Great Ape Trust bonobos – the only ones in the world with receptive competence for spoken English – and other captive apes that make hand gestures is explained by the culture in which they were reared, according to the paper’s authors: Janni Pedersen, an Iowa State University Ph.D. candidate conducting research for her dissertation at Great Ape Trust; Pär Segerdahl, a scientist from Sweden who has published several philosophical inquires into language; and William M. Fields, an ethnographer investigating language, culture and tools in non-human primates. Fields also is Great Ape Trust’s director of scientific research.

Because Kanzi, Panbanisha and Nyota were raised in a culture where pointing has a purpose – The Trust’s hallmark Pan/Homo environment, where infant bonobos are reared with both bonobo (Pan paniscus) and human (Homo sapiens) influences – their pointing is as scientifically meaningful as their understanding of spoken English, Fields said.

Great Ape Trust Director of Scientific Research William M. Fields conferring with Janni Pedersen, an Iowa State University student doing her dissertation research with bonobos. Great Ape Trust photo.

The pointing study supports and builds on previous research on the effect of rearing culture on cognitive capabilities, including the 40-year research corpus of Dr. Duane Rumbaugh, Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and Fields, which is the foundation of the scientific inquiry at Great Ape Trust. Those studies included the breakthrough finding that Kanzi and other bonobos with receptive competence for spoken English acquired language as human children do – by being exposed to it since infancy. The bonobos adopted finger-pointing behavior for the same reasons, because they were reared in a culture where pointing has meaning.



“We have argued that apes and humans, while very closely related genetically, differ most dramatically in culture,” Fields said. “Pointing is a function of culture. If Kanzi can do the kinds of things that he is able to do as a function of rearing, what does that mean for humans?”

Fields said studying the effect of culture on great apes’ cognitive capabilities might help scientists learn more about human disorders that cause developmental delays. “This opens the entire question of how you push the limits of genes by cultural forces, for instance in Down’s Syndrome or other genetic variations that limit normal human expression,” he said. “What is the role of culture as a mitigating strategy for Autistic Spectrum Disorders? Is IQ a function of culture?”

Answering those questions brings scientists a step closer to determining the role of epigenesis – the influence of the environment on the expression of the genetic code – in a variety of disciplines, including medicine, education and technology.

The Great Ape Trust scientists conducted the study in rebuttal to a paper written by Michael Tomasello, a leading expert on evolution and communication. Tomasello, co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, asserted in “Why Apes Don’t Point” that though captive apes may appear to point, the genetic and cognitive differences between apes and humans are so great that there is no specific intent behind the gesture.

Pedersen et al. argued that an ape that was not reared in a culture where index finger pointing was common, including most captive apes, would not be expected to exhibit that gesture. The scientists also noted that although pointing isn’t a behavior that wild bonobos and other great apes acquire on their own, it does not mean that they are genetically or cognitively incapable of learning the behavior.

“Tomasello’s argument rests upon questionable empirical evidence,” Pedersen and her colleagues wrote, “since the apes in the referred experimental studies have not been relevantly reared. By providing evidence that language-encultured apes do point, the assumptions about the cognitive differences between humans and apes need to be called into question on both theoretical and empirical ground.”

A chapter based on the Great Ape Trust scientists’ study is included in Primatology: Theories, Methods and Research, published by Nova Science Publishers Inc. and edited by Emil Potocki and Juliusz Krasinski.

http://www.greatapetrust.org/media/releases/2009/nr_39a09.php [Broken]
 
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  • #25
mgb_phys
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Not true. Greece has little arable land and is covered with mountains.
Not a problem if you only want to support a small population.

Yet it was Europe--mostly Greece, Rome, and Britain--that saw the greatest advances in science, politics, linguistics, and almost every subject you'd care to name, not the tropical African countries.
Egypt, India and Sumaria seem to be missing - invented more 'civilisation' than Greece and Rome combined.

There were two archeological/anthropological theories.
One was the 'living is easy' - Greece/Egypt had enough food to allow for people to sit around inventing geometry and it was warm enough that philosophers could jump out of baths and run down the street without getting hypothermia.
At the same time people in northern europe were struggling to keep warm and fight off sabre toothed tigers.

This rather clashes with 'we had it tough' theory - northern europe had to develop advanced technology to cope with the terrible conditions while lazy southerners could just sit around pulling olives off the trees or waiting for the Nile to flood. And that's why you have Volvos and Ikea.

The trouble with both these is that they were invented in the 20s/30s and tend to devolve into arguments with the sort of people that like to dress up in uniforms and prefer blue eyed blondes.

In practice it's a lot more complicated, there were civilisations in Africa (especially east Africa) that were much bigger and more powerful than the middle eastern ones at the same time - they were just harder for victorian archeologists to get to than Athens and the mud cities don't look as impressive as pyramids.

Civilisations rise and fall for a variety of internal and external reasons. Just in Europe, Spain was the main power from about 1300 to 1600, then it was Holland for 150 years, then it was Britain for about 200years, now ....
 

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