If you visit Ken Ham’s creationist site, you’ll see an article titled, “Did humans really evolve from ape-like creatures?” Here’s a key concern raised in the article:
Perhaps the most bitter pill to swallow for any Christian who attempts to “make peace” with Darwin is the presumed ape ancestry of man.
It’s difficult to believe the ignorance displayed by this sentence. Why can’t creationists understand that not only did humans evolve from other ape-like creatures (the scientific evidence is abundant and irrefutable), but that humans are apes. Check the features listed here:
The similarities can be seen throughout our bodies. For instance, humans and the African apes all lack external tails and have hands with a thumb that is sufficiently separate from the other fingers to allow them to be opposable for precision grips. Humans are also sexually dimorphic–males are 5-10% larger on average and have greater upper body muscular development. Like chimpanzees and bonobos, we are omnivorous. We kill other animals for food in addition to eating a wide variety of plants. Internally, our bodies are even more similar to the great apes. We have essentially the same arrangement of internal organs and bones. We share several important blood types. We also get many of the same diseases.
The comparatively minor anatomical differences between humans and apes are largely a result of our habitual bipedalism . A number of changes in our bodies were related to the development of this form of locomotion. Unlike apes, our arms are relatively short and weak compared to our legs. Our feet no longer have the ability to effectively grasp and manipulate objects because the big toe moved up into line with the others. Human feet also have lengthened and acquired an arch, making them better body supports. The human pelvis and spinal column also have been modified for an erect posture and bipedal locomotion. We are now essentially fully terrestrial animals.
Why is it so difficult for so many people to admit that humans are animals? I’ve commented on this topic many times, with many of my comments and links found here, in an article on Terror Management Theory (TMT). Also see here. And carefully consider what it means to refer to the “human body.” Consider, also, the panic that many human feel when remembering that human animals breastfeed, much like all the other animals. Yet I”m using “animal” in a straightforward way.
Animals have several characteristics that set them apart from other living things. Animals are eukaryotic and usually multicellular(although see Myxozoa), which separates them from bacteria and most protists. They are heterotrophic, generally digesting food in an internal chamber, which separates them from plants and algae (some sponges are capable of photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation though). They are also distinguished from plants, algae, and fungi by lacking cell walls. All animals are motile, if only at certain life stages. In most animals, embryos pass through a blastula stage, which is a characteristic exclusive to animals.
Those who see “animal” as a disparaging term will need to take several deep breaths and get over it. It is nothing to be ashamed of to be an “animal.”
[photo of chimpanzee by Erich Vieth]