Why bristle at a human-“monkey” relationship?

One of the loudest complaints among creationists, and one of the primary ways in which they blindly mock evolution — as in the clever picture onthe left — is the idea of humans and apes sharing a common ancestor. (They generally substitute “monkey” for ape — we’re related to monkeys as well but are not as phylogenetically close — but such subtleties can be ignored for purposes of this post.)

I’ve often wondered if creationists are primarily motivated to chitter and screch about the supposed impossibility of a close relationship between humans and other primates because they are viscerally repulsed by the notion of being not far removed from apehood, or if it’s simply a matter of Genesis not meshing with what biologists say.

I don’t know why anyone would be put off by the idea of having a chimp as a cousin. Apes are cool. Just watch them at work and at play. You’d have to be an idiot not to recognize how human-like they look and behave compared to all other animals. It’s not as though anyone is saying we’re descended directly from a tapirlike organism.
I figure it’s mostly about the Bible, but I wonder what others think.

13 thoughts on “Why bristle at a human-“monkey” relationship?”

  1. Personally, I feel closer to gorillas.
    That said, when I hear creationists screeching, I am reminded of monkeys.
    Go figure.

  2. I say “it’s the monkeys stupid”. This is total armchair sociology, but I say it’s familiarity breeding contempt. In apes, the average Christian sees the worst in themselves, whereas in the dog or horse, they are able to project their own virtues onto it, and ignore its flaws precisely because it is so much more different. The Christians subconsciously recognize the traits you and I find fascinatingly similar in our ape cousins, and thereby bring human moral measurement to bear on the apes. Thus, a chimp throwing his shit at you is a nasty, impolite critter, whereas the same guy’s dog, who eats cat shit on a regular basis, is dismissed as “just being a dog”.
    It is noteworthy how little, if at all, apes are mentioned in the Bible. One can be excused for wondering if its authors were aware of the existence of apes, and if not, how much more plausible that made the whole human/animal dicotomy. It would be hard to claim uniqueness with your 97% identical cousin sitting next to you.

  3. My armchair psychoanalysis is that it’s about being special. We’re supposed to be God’s special creations, his chosen creatures, made in his image in some ineffable way. That makes us qualitatively different and better than ‘mere’ animals. We have souls, and they don’t, etc.
    If we’re directly descended from a common ape ancestor, perhaps we’re not so special after all. It becomes harder to argue that we’re qualitatively different.
    That’s my guess, anyway.

  4. It’s not as though anyone is saying we’re descended directly from a tapirlike organism.
    But I believe that is exactly what they think. The ‘common sense’ idea of change via common descent is that one generation HAS to look/be drastically different from a previous generation. The idea that hundreds or thousands of little changes could look like a change in species is just not easy to comprehend. Deep time simply doesn’t make sense to most people.

  5. I think they’re jealous. Especially when it come to the flinging shit shtick. At least the apes are overt about it.

  6. Given the way they quote-mine the bible, I don’t see the bible as the cause of their bigotry and ignorance, but rather as their way of expressing that bigotry and ignorance.

  7. Like the creationists, I find chimps a bit, um, disconcerting (though no more so than I find the creationists).
    Unlike the creationists, I don’t see what my emotional reactions have to do with whether or not something is true.

  8. “I don’t see what my emotional reactions have to do with whether or not something is true.”
    Yeah, well, that’s a key difference between us and them. Anyone who doesn’t think that humans invented gods need only listen to a believer utter a plaintive “But without God, this would be all there is!” in order to see how basic psychology feeds into belief, and fostered it originaly in the infancy of modern humanity.
    In terms of truth, people should always be suspect of beliefs that make them feel better. The correlation between how good a belief makes someone feel and its truth is probably about -0.9 with a bar over the 9.

  9. I disagree with Science Avenger’s contention that it is a case of familiarity breeding contempt. Most people know very little about apes and the more they learn the more likely they are to see similarities with humans. Although probably not your dyed-in-the-wool YECers.
    I spend a lot of my free time with chimpanzees (and a little bit of time with orangutans). If it makes you feel any better, plenty of people who visit the zoo where I volunteer make remarks like, “How could anyone think we are NOT related?” So far, in my 15 years talking to the public about apes, no one has made any comment to me challenging the idea of common descent. I keep waiting for someone to ask me whether I think I am descended from “one of them” so I can tell them “no” and that no one who knows anything about evolution does either. Maybe get a conversation going … or at least, overheard.

  10. I think it is because they run up against a problem of logical deduction.
    If ‘Darwinism’ is true then humans are related to other creatures.
    If ‘Darwinism’ is true then humans are not specially created.
    If special creation is untrue then the Adam and Eve story is untrue, meaning there was no original sin.
    If there was no original sin then what did Jesus die for ?
    To save our souls ? From what ?
    Also, if ‘Darwinism’ is true then the idea of humans having a ‘soul’ in contrast to other animals is very problematic (at what point in human evolution did God swoop in and inject the soul into a particular homonid ?)

  11. “I’ve often wondered if creationists are primarily motivated to chitter and screch about the supposed impossibility of a close relationship between humans and other primates because they are viscerally repulsed by the notion of being not far removed from apehood, or if it’s simply a matter of Genesis not meshing with what biologists say.”
    Um.. the viscerally repulsed part comes from being deeply uptight about bodily functions having to do with sex and excretion which they associate with animals.

  12. You never hear anyone shouting from the rooftops that he believes the sun will “rise” in the morning. The shrill, I think, have deep seated doubts that many here have already commented on.
    OTOH, I love my cousins and would love to have feet that grip like chimps or ‘rangs but I especially envy their strength.

  13. Gibbon1 nails it. Go to the zoo, and visit the monkeys. One of them (if not more) will be masturbating furiously.
    Fundamentalist Christians are terrified of masturbation.

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