The More Things Evolve…

16 July 2007


the more elaborate their illogisms become…

“Baffled Science Slow Retires.”

Scene–Conversazione of the Therebihangeatailogical Society.

Dr Fossil. “You observe, like the os calcis, there is a projection here of the –-”

Lady Listener (eager with demonstration). “That shows we cannot have been monkeys, Dr. Fossil; because in real people that part is the funny bone.”

Military Escort (with evidently clear View of the Theory). “Very True. I think it’s absurd, you know, to imagine that–aw–fellah could ever have been a man–arm is much too long to hold a gun properly; proves it beyond a doubt–aw!”

[Exit Dr. Fossil, a sadder if not a wiser man.]

Yet another gem from the Wellcome collection. This cartoon appeared in Punch just over a decade after the Origin was published, and only a couple of years after Darwin’s second most influential book, The Descent of Man.

More than a century later, and the arguments are pretty much the same, as Brian lays out in in recent post on creationist responses to hominid fossils. Of course, our understanding of human evolution has progressed a great deal since Darwin, but fossil and genetic evidence continue to provide solid support for his general thesis that mankind evolved from ape ancestors sometime in the geologically recent past.

Likewise, creationists, IDers and the like continue to rely on a range of rhetorical strategies, from absurdity, non sequitur and obfuscation to out right lying. Oh yeah and don’t forget ad hominid tactics!

3 Responses to “The More Things Evolve…”

  1. laelaps Says:

    Thanks for the link! Outside of realy zany explanations (like Hovind’s explanation that hominids were the result of breeding experiments), it’s amazing how little has changed. What’s even more amazing, though, are ideas that have been lost and are just now being recovered; through books like The First Fossil Hunters and From the Greeks to Darwin it’s become apparent that Greek culture was already becoming familiar with fossils and “transmutation,” although the Dark Ages worked to undo much of the progress made in recognizing past life. Hopefully I’ll have something more substantial up on human evolution soon, but it really is fascinating how these ideas have been evolving themselves.

  2. Neil Says:

    Thanks Brian,

    I read Mayor’s book in college but can’t remember much beyond that crazy dino-skull vase and the Protoceratops = Griffin hypothesis. The Osborn book is going on my list.

    It’s hard to imagine what the ancients might have made of fossils. Certainly some must have recognized some of them as the remains of ancient organisms, although Platonism certainly would have suggested alternative explanations.

    The various pre-evolutionary natural philosophy organizational schemes from Aristotle and Pliny up through the Scala Naturae to and even Linnaeus, all display some appreciation for the nested hierarchies we now know to be a by-product of common descent with variation.

    And don’t be so quick to write off the Middle Ages, I’ll take Paracelsus over Hovind any time!

  3. laelaps Says:

    That’s true Neil; I actually much prefer the explanations of old-time creationists and theologians to the idiotic jabberings of many of today’s creationists. Oddly enough, however, I don’t know many (if any) creationists that have actually read the works of theists that have come before them, instead relying on garbage like Ham’s “War of the Worldviews” and other nonsense. At least knowing more about their own history than they do gives me an advantage, but it doesn’t give me any less of a headache when they open their mouths.

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