Charles Darwin was a gift to Victorian cartoonists and caricaturists, both in Britain and overseas. His bushy eyebrows, bald head, deep-set eyes, short nose, and long beard made him look like some ancient species of monkey, a perfect target for those who wanted to lampoon his then-controversial claim that Man was descended not from Adam and Eve but from some kind of ape. But is it true, did humans evolve from apes?
About 4,200 million years ago life emerged on Earth. 610 million years ago first animals, 505 million years ago first fish, 395 million years ago first animals with for limbs, 220 million years ago first mammals, 80 million years ago first primates, 2.5 million years ago first humans, less than a million years ago first anatomically modern humans appeared. In this timeline, when did our ape ancestors live?
Knight Rider’s KITT
When the TV show “Knight Rider” hit the air in 1982 on NBC it was an instant hit. The show had two main characters: Michael Knight, the mysterious loner dedicated to pursuing justice, and KITT, the amazing black vehicle that is his friend and ally.
KITT was a modified Pontiac Trans Am that could speed along at 300 mph, was equipped with flamethrowers, smoke bombs, and numerous other gadgets, had a bulletproof exterior, and was powered by an advanced computer that could think and even talk. Yet, KITT was still a car, a fancy one that is.
Up until the second half of the 19th century, science was under the administration of Theology in Europe. Theological dogmas were the truth, and scientific findings could not possibly contradict Christian dogmas.
“God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth.”–Genesis, the sixth day
The literalist reading of the bible constructed the theological dogmas of the time: God created the first humans in their current form. Subsequently, there were the animals, and there were the humans. It was unthinkable to categorize the latter under the former.
Despite the fact that Darwin’s evolution theory became established by the end of the nineteenth century, out of habit perhaps, scholars’ use of the word “ape” still didn’t include humans. It is rather recently that scholars have dropped the human bias, “apes” included humans too. Conceivably, when scholars nowadays use the word “ape”, they make it clear if they are referring to a human, a non-human ape, or altogether apes.
The contemporary use of the word “ape“ leads us to conclude “have humans evolved from apes?” is an unsound question therefore with no answer.
What Knight Rider’s KITT is to a car is essentially what a human is to an ape.
No, humans have not evolved from apes. That a bipedal hairless ape can now make music, draw a picture, or author poems does not change the fact that the bipedal hairless ape is still an ape, a fancy one that is.