Why do we not see any transitional ape/human creatures alive today?
Well every creature is a transitional creature. But here are a few issues.
There is no reason to believe that homo Sapiens are going to evolve back into a basal form of knuckle walking super hairy creatures.
Even as the chimps , or whatever, evolves there is no reason to believe that they will evolve into humans. We are a separate genus.
Now what you probably mean is why are their no strictly bipedal hairless Chimps that are all smart as we are. Well because they have not evolved to that point. But in a million years we may have something closer to that. If you go back far enough you would find a smarter, mostly hairless creature that eventually became humans.
It may help to read at least one book on evolution and get a grasp on what it actually means. It’s often misunderstood and so people ask for things like “ half this and half that” when that’s not a good understanding of the process.
Why are there no Koroa Indians?
Why are there no Beothuk Indians?
Why are there no Pensacola Indians?
Why are there no Westo Indians?
Why are there no Aberginian Indians?
Why are there no Ababco?
Why are there no Calusa Indians?
Why are there no Utina Indians?
Why are there no Agna Dulca Indians?
Why are there no Chimeriko?
Why are there no Timucua Indians?
Why are there no Tocobago Indians?
Why are there no Kalinago?
Why are there no Pequot?
Why are there no Narraganset?
Why are there no Yaquis?
Why are there no Chaco people?
And these eradications of peoples in the Americas are just the most recent and thus best documented. The total genocide of human populations are a frequent feature in history – some of which are even told of in the Bible. Mostly we have no record of such people because the dead tell no tales when they are complete replaced by those who destroy them. We don’t know how many peoples were completely eradicated by the Mongols, the Vikings, or other conquering groups who kept no record of the peoples they exterminated. There are also many examples around the world where systematic exterminations were carried out but still left a tiny remnant of those people in the end and so we cannot say that they have completely disappeared.
The point here is that humans have a long habit of removing competition for land by others even remotely similar to themselves. The broad term for this is natural selection. We diverged from other primates by becoming the long distance running hunters. That advantage over the animals we hunted were also advantages over other humanoid groups and so it is hardly surprising that only the best hunter-killers remained in the end.
You haven’t met my son in laws. Just kidding, they are great guys!
However, I read somewhere the average intelligence has gone down from the 1800s. How you can really measure that is a mystery, but it does recognize that intelligence is possibly not a measure of the paragon of development. I could see that in an urban industrial society, having more intelligence could be mal-adaptive and less intelligence with perhaps more manual dexterity might be a beneficial trait. Who knows.
In inverse proportion to the acceptance of conspiracy theories.
The ones who were our ancestors evolved. That is, each generation was a little bit different than the one before. The earlier ones died, of course, as creatures tend to do. Similarly, we’re intermediate between what our ancestors were and whatever our descendants (if any) will be.
Other branches in our family tree died out, as most do eventually, and an couple of recent branches (Neanderthals and Denisovans) merged back in, more or less. And of course, other branches still have descendants. Chimpanzees, for example, more similar to us than either is to gorillas, and all three species are more similar to each other than they are to other ape species.
The very best sci-fi for me on this is Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio & Darwin’s Children and Larry Niven’s '73 Protector. The latter explores the hugely powerful evolutionary mechanism of neoteny. When a larval life form becomes sexually mature. As a larva. Not prematurely necessarily. The larva just keeps growing as a larva. Man is a neotenous, infant, naked, baby ape. What is our adult? Our imago? That can happen in very few life cycles. Very few. Which is an understatement or rather overstatement compared with what Bear describes. Which is awesome at every level, levels you really don’t expect in good hard science fiction.
Earth’s life story is only just less.
I’ll have to look it up. Sounds really interesting to me.
A good (so-so?) analogy would be the question “Why doesn’t anyone speak Old English anymore?”.
Which book do you recommend I start with?
For just a general introduction I suggest the 2nd edition of “Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution” by Carl Zimmer. It’s sort of like a textbook, but is not quite one but it’s closer to that than most general books on evolution.
I also really like EO Wilson’s “ Diversity of Life” but it’s more focused on our role as being good stewards of the land and how evolution and ecology works together and how to use that info to combat a decline of species. But but the first book is the better one to get as a introduction to evolution.
There are also great podcasts like, “ Common Descent” that talks about different aspects of evolution on almost every episode.
Or if there is a specific thing you’re really interested in. I like books more focused on coevolution of insects and their host plants or botany in general. Evolutionary ecology is always something I enjoy though many of the books start off with the assumption youre be already studied evolutionary theory to some degree.
Although I haven’t read it, “Your Inner Fish” by Neil Shubin (the co-discoverer of the T. roseae, the tetrapod transitional species) might be worth a read. Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True” is another possibility.
I read Your Inner Fish to my son last year and we really enjoyed it. It is accessible to non-scientists and does a good job highlighting how features in organisms today are related to features in ancestor species. It isn’t a technical “proof” of evolution for skeptics, but it’s interesting, and gives you insight into the kind of connections evolutionary biologists see every day.
That’s exactly what we did in my Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy course when I was an undergrad. “Your Inner Fish” might be a good suggestion to homeschoolers out there.
FWIW, I really wanted to like Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True. It was very accessible and well written but I found him too preachy in his asides about how this and that was evidence against a creator God. Even as a Christian who happily accepts the factuality of evolution, I found that an unhelpful barrier to the reader.
Out of interest, has anyone here read Grandmother Fish? (T recommending ‘Your Inner Fish’ reminded me of it). I bought Grandmother Fish for my boys a few months ago. Great for explaining evolution to little ones. It has some great information in the back for non-science background parents too.
Very good points. Is there anything from Kenneth Miller that you would suggest?
I don’t have any personal experience with Kenneth Miller, though I have heard good things about Finding Darwin’s God - one of those books that’s been on the To Read list for a while but never seemed to find the time. Apparently, Miller’s engagement in the book with Behe’s irreducible complexity in Darwin’s Black Box is supposed to be particularly good - though perhaps somewhat historic now given the time that has passed.
How long transitional forms survive after the descendants become distinctive will vary. A transitional form may be at a disadvantage, because it still has a number of features of the ancestral form. But it’s also possible that the transitional form can do well in its own special niche and survive there. Of course, those “transitional” descendants of the transitional form will be evolving in ways of their own as well. All this gets terribly garbled and confused in a lot of bad anti-evolution arguments.
A particular example may be helpful. Tiktaalik is a transitional form between fish and amphibians. Fossil trackways suggest that it was not the first animal to have a similar level of development along that line. But as fish first developed some ability to crawl around, they were far better than other fish at scooting around on beaches and mudflats and catching the occasional arthropod. That worked well for a while, but as some of their descendants developed better walking ability and other specializations for getting around on land, the merely scoot on the beaches approach wasn’t as successful in competition, and those intermediates died out, replaced by their more advanced descendants. (Although a similar approach can succeed in the right setting, such as for the modern mudskippers.) But there are living lungfish and living amphibians. They have certain similarities, as well as certain differences, with those early transitional forms. They can be considered as transitional in a certain sense, though they are significantly removed from the actual ancestors of modern amniotes.
As already noted in the Old English analogy, part of the reason for no living ape-human transitional forms is simply that their living descendants have changed. These changes are not necessarily advantageous; they may have no particular effect one way or another. But descendants are not identical to their ancestors. It is also likely that the adaptations of populations leading to modern humans, with our large brains and better running ability, allowed us to outcompete more ape-like populations when there was any direct competition.
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