The question of evolution and why apes and moneys still exist today is most commonly asked by creationists, mostly well-meaning Christians who wish to hold up their Bibles as absolute and literal truth in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Still, it’s an intriguing question, because on the face of it, it sounds like it would sort of make sense.
You have apes long ago that slowly get smarter and less hairy, eventually becoming humans with all of the benefits thereof, fast food, fast cars, fast Internet connections, etc.
If they evolved from a lower form (apes) to a higher and better form (humans), then you’d think the laws of evolution would ensure that all the members of the species would also change, right?
Well, in reality the question is a little like asking, “If I evolved from my great-grandfather Fred, how could it be that my cousin Bertha also evolved from him?”
The scientific evidence points to the conclusion that all primates evolved from some no-longer-existing common ancestor. What’s interesting is that not all the primates split off at the same time into different groupings.
Scientists believe that almost 7 million years ago, some early forms of gorilla split off from the chimps-and-humans line, and that a little over 6 million years ago, early human ancestors went a different direction from the early chimps. Since that time, scores of different species branched off from each of the lines.
All of these species were like tree branches, the theory goes, splitting off in different directions, many of them living concurrently, some thriving, and some dying out.
For example, in the same time as early modern humans, Homo sapiens, lived, at least three other people-like cousins also lived: Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, and Homo neandertalensis. Also living, of course, were all of the other various cousins, the gorillas, the chimps, etc.
The different primates evolved in different ways to best adapt to the environmental conditions of the place and time in which they lived. Gorillas, chimps, and humans evolved with characteristics that made each best suited to their particular environment, whether plains, forest, or the urban jungle.
No one species is necessarily higher or more advanced than another, just differently adapted. So that’s why there are still apes living alongside us.
Wave hello to your cousins.
They may have limited intelligence and lousy table manners, but that’s often true of cousins in general, wouldn’t you say?