Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Unanswered question.

The other day when I was blog-surfing, I came across this gem of unreason:

“If men are descended from apes, how come there are still apes?”

Once I got over my initial snort of derision, I realized that this simple interrogative phrase held yet another key to how the manipulators create confusion. I could easily go down the road of a false premise, and that is the usual response to a statement like that, but suddenly I saw it in a different light. This is not an original statement. This person is parroting something that they have heard. Why was it accepted as factual? It does not offer any conclusion, just an odd sort of challenge. It was accepted as a credible refutation of evolution theory because it was a question that the listener failed to answer.

When this person heard someone else bellow that challenge, their brain locked up. The listener’s inner dialogue said “I don’t know... Hey! That doesn’t make sense!” Indeed it doesn’t, but our listener went no further. The listener has searched their knowledge bank, and not finding an answer, will typically do one of two things. The listener will conclude that there is no answer, or the listener will go into a receptive state and wait to be told the answer. I strongly suspect that a mind in that state is in a state of suggestibility, meaning that the mind will accept information without some of the usual barriers of doubt. Societies and cultures have long been based on the (alpha) leader-follower principle. This has likely bred into us an automatic response of looking to a leader for answers to questions that our own experience can’t resolve. In any room full of people where one person is lecturing and all others are listening, a deep part of the brain will identify the lecturer as the leader. This identification is reinforced in the classroom, and in such settings as a church service where the lecturer does set themselves up to be an authority and disciplinary figure as well. Unfortunately, in circumstances like this one, the half-baked question is also a set-up, because it has no proper answer. The person who originally asked the question was not looking for an answer, s/he was looking to create puzzlement, or confusion. This was not just a badly framed question, it was a rhetorical badly framed question. When the listeners turned to that person for an answer, they were receptive to any statement that sounded like a conclusion drawn on this false premise. Unfortunately, the poser of the question was not a valid source of information.

Evolution theory does not claim that we are descended from apes, it claims that both apes and humans had a common ancestor. This is a concept that some find impossible to accept. It is difficult for the human brain to conceptualize a span of time on the order of ten or twenty million years, let alone one billion. All of recorded human history only traces back some 180-230 (modern time) generations. King Richard of the Crusades was only about 28 generations ago. Does anyone know the name of his stableman, or what he looked like, or what he liked to eat for breakfast? This is already the dim, remote past to most of us. Our ancient ancestors probably had a shorter lifespan, and a shorter generational cycle. Even modern man, if necessary, could reproduce on about a 16-year cycle. How many thousands of reproductive iterations between us and that common ancestor, and we have trouble remembering back a mere 28? This creates in some, a certain prejudice of thought that equates evolution theory to calling one’s grandmother sub-human. Some would prefer to think of humans as special, and indeed we have a lot of unique characteristics compared to the rest of the animal kingdom. The same can be said however, of the Platypus, for one example of many. Scientific evidence supports a common ancestor with that beastie too. The bottom line is, we don’t accept scientific evidence on the basis of our own prejudices or sensibilities, we accept it because it exists.


At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I’d like to inform you of the Frappr! map for freethinker blogs:

If you have a blog please considering adding your push-pin and blog URL.
In addition, if you know of any other blogging freethinkers I’d appreciate
it if you forward this invitation to them.

I participate in a similar map and we have close to 200 international
members. In short: it’s a great way to visually promote blogs within our
nontheistic community.

Thus far no members outside of America. Who's gonna be the first from the international community?

Finally, feel free to grab the image I created for your own blog. Or, for
that matter, make your own!


Bob Patterson

Got Blog? Add it to Freethinkers!

Blogroll me!

At 8:32 AM, Blogger BEAST FCD said...

I addressed this issue of "Man and Ape share a common ancestor" in my dialogue, which I also told christians in the past.

Apparently, Science teachers in my school are not very adept at teaching Evolution, which really is a pity, and a torture, when christians come to you with all the creationist bullshit.

The Beast

At 11:33 AM, Blogger Pixelation said...

Hmm... Yeah, I got the Frappr! map too. I don't know what it is or whether I should support it. I'd investigate, but the 'wait & see' attitude has so much more going for it in the terms of laziness.

About the post...
Rhetorical questions have some severe power. Too much, really.

My mate Anson was clued in to this was when he asked "Do you know how many people have died in the Australian Outback?" and realized he had no idea what the answer was, but everyone accepted it as a statement of a large quantity.

Sadly, rhetoric works. Even more sadly: rhetoric works best on people who are already inclined to believe it. Saddest of all: most people are inclined to believe in some form of religion and/or creation story.

At 6:23 PM, Blogger Rev. Barky said...

If I hear one more person tell me "it's just a theory" I'm going to fart! There is no arguing with people who have decided to let someone else tell them how to think. Why should they listen to you? You're not the one that feeds them the crap they've been trained to hear that prevents them from hating themselves to death.

At 2:45 AM, Blogger BEAST FCD said...

The question:

"If Christianity came from Judaism, wouldn't there be no more Jews left?"

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