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Monkeys make men

Lucky Wilbury
courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Before you blow a gasket, remember this - Darwin said it, not me.

I simply quoted Darwin.

Now, I have to admit when I listen to my atheist friends jokingly describe God as “the invisible man in the sky”, my beliefs do seem pretty weird, even to me.

Skeptic Michael Shermer even wrote a book trying help me/us understand Why People Believe Weird Things.

Wondering about the best answer that question myself, I read it.

His book is really good. Shermer is an excellent writer. I don't agree with some of his conclusions, but not many people agree with mine, so it no longer bothers me.

But I had to ask myself (since no one else was listening) -- why is it that only my beliefs are considered weird?

What about the beliefs of, let’s say, I don't know....

How about Charles Darwin?

My wife and I recently visited the Fernbank Museum to see the Darwin exhibit.

I remembered that Richard Dawkins said that if I would only examine the evidence for evolution myself, I would not have any remaining doubts about the theory.

It could be that I’m thick-headed and I was probably the only person who felt that way, but I left Fernbank largely unimpressed.

Nevertheless, a couple of things caught my attention and made the trip somewhat worthwhile.

One was a display that asserted Darwin once wrote in his notebook that “monkeys make men.”

I thought, really?

For some reason, I believed that we’d moved well beyond the somewhat antiquated notion.

Now the theory we're supposed to believe suggests that "man and ape shared a common primate ancestor."


I seem to recall that while apologizing to archaeopteryx, I still found myself being chastised by a few critics for explaining why I have a problem with Darwin’s idea.

Wandering around Fernbank, I couldn’t help but wonder if Darwin’s interesting notation was somehow the inspiration for Mick Jagger’s lyrics for Lemon Squeezer.

Great tune, by the way.

So, I wondered while I wandered.

To be fair, more people have speculated LSD played a role in the words to that song than Darwin.

I may be the only person on Earth who has speculated such a connection even might exist.

However, if you read along what few lyrics in the song that do seem to make sense (when Jagger isn’t barking like a dog, for example), you’ll see they could apply to Darwin’s scribbles. Until Mick denies it categorically, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

And quite frankly, the Rolling Stones don’t really have to make sense to sound fantastic. I didn’t need much of an excuse for transitioning from Darwin to the Stones.

Let's be honest -- Darwin was pretty boring.

Which do you think would be more interesting -- Mick Jagger or a stuffed bird?

Speaking of not making much sense but sounding really good, there is also the The Traveling Wilburys’ song Tweeter and the Monkey Man.

Since we seem to have found a theme...

Lucky Wilbury is awesome.

But I digress. Again.

When Darwin theorized that “monkeys make men”, he based his conclusion on the fact he observed similarities between apes and men.

Fair enough. Even I am not so dense that some similarities can be seen between forms.

Nor do I dispute the contention by scientists that DNA of chimpanzees or bonobo apes is remarkably similar to humans. But so is earthworm DNA.

Does that mean without argument that earthworms and humans unquestionably share a common ancestor?

I think not.

Darwin observed and collected many examples of variations or mutations within a species (such as Larus Gulls, or in his case, Darwin’s finches).

But it takes a lot of conjecture in evolution to assume the biological process that allows for the variation of an existing species is an equally satisfying explanation for the emergence of a distinctly new species.

Scientists have described interesting phenomena of natural “hybrids” such as the polizzly bear or the charming apple maggot fly (basically a “maggot” fly that prefers apples to hawthorns).

The academics may feel free to argue how many species of maggot fly exists. I really don’t care.

I’m more interested in the question of how do maggot flies and butterflies both come to exist from some ancient common ancestor, if sexual reproduction and time are the two most significant contributing factors to the formation of a new creature.

What I would like to understand is why some people believe there is a literal physical relationship by common descent between me and a maggot fly if you go back far enough along the family tree -- which is an oak, by the way.

That was sarcasm, in case you wondered.

Not that I haven’t been called worse things than an apple maggot fly -- but it is a curious thing to believe, isn’t it?