If humans evolved from monkeys, why do monkeys still exist? Isn’t the eye too complicated to have evolved naturally?
Kwantlen Polytechnic University psychology instructor Dr. Farhad Dastur addressed these and eight other commonly held misconceptions about evolution as part of a presentation at the Telus World of Science on May 29.
His talk, titled “Moths, Monkeys & Missing Links: Ten Myths about Evolution,” was preceded by a series of activities that let participants gain some knowledge about the theory of evolution. One such activity consisted of building your own phylogenetic tree, while another featured a table full of bones including the cranium of a bear, the tooth of an elephant, a human cranium, and many more.
To address the question about monkeys, Dastur made his answer surprisingly simple.
“Humans did not descend from monkeys,” he told the audience. “We descended from an ancestor that monkeys also descended from. The idea here is that we all have ancestors …. If you keep going back at some point, they are not going to be human. They are going to be something else.”
Dastur cited the fossil evidence of “Lucy,” a member of a human-like species who lived 3.2 million years ago and is believed to be one of the earliest known ancestors common to certain apes and modern humans.
“She is Australopithecus afarensis, which is a hominid species that has gone extinct,” Dastur explained. “Between her and us … there are other species, and that was the one that we came from and then monkeys came from too. Monkeys went one direction and we went one direction.”
Dastur also addressed the question of the eye being too complicated to have evolved naturally, an idea used in creationist arguments against the theory of evolution.
“The eye is incredibly complicated [and] is not perfectly designed,” he said. “The fact that we have optometrists and ophthalmologists tells you the eye is subject to all kinds of disease.”
KPU University Librarian Todd Mundle, who goes to many of the Science World lectures featuring KPU instructors, says Dastur’s was one of the most well-attended presentations that he had seen there.
“Part of it is that Farhad’s delivery is really good. He takes a really complex topic and brings it down … to a level for us to be able to understand it,” says Mundle.
Mansi Tandon, another attendee, echoes Mundle’s enthusiasm.
“Farhad was very articulate,” she says. “Despite explaining pretty complex subjects, he tried to make it very simple to understand.”
Tandon believes that scientific institutions around Vancouver should be doing more talks like Dastur’s.
“Especially when you realize that a lot of the people who actually go to the universities and get scientific education are misinformed, this is very crucial for the society,” she says.
Dastur says he chose to explore the theory of evolution for his lecture because he believes it’s an interesting topic and wanted to “set the record” straight about prevalent misconceptions.