Why Glenn Beck is wrong on evolution

glenn beck

It seems that if you want to find out the truth about something, all you need to do is listen to Glenn Beck. Take what he says, switch that statement to its opposite, and then you've got the facts straight.

While this isn't exactly the scientific method, Beck's recent foray into evolutionary biology at least proves this approach is useful.

"I think [evolution's] ridiculous," Beck said Oct. 20, on his radio show. He went on to make a number of statements to bolster his claim that Darwinian natural selection is nonsense - but his claims showed only how little he knows of the subject.

First, he asked, "How many people believe in evolution in this country?" One's "beliefs" has no bearing on whether or not evolution is real. At certain points, most people believed the earth to be flat, and slavery to be good. Both times, the vast majority of people were wrong.

Evolution is an undeniable fact - even if no one believed it the evolutionary process would still exist.

Beck's anti-evolution claims are argued by those who want to replicate them in public schools.

"I don't think we came from monkeys; I think that's ridiculous," Beck said. "I haven't seen the half-monkey, half-person yet. Did evolution just stop?"

This is perhaps one of the most widely-repeated fallacies, the idea that, if evolution is true, there should either be no monkeys, or that there should be some bizarre human-monkey somewhere. But to believe this, you have to misunderstand evolutionary theory. Evolutionists don't say we come from monkeys, at least not any that we see in today's world.

What we do know is that humans and monkeys, as well as other primates, share the same ancestor. At some point, far back in time, there was some species that is the many-times great grandparent of all primates. Its descendents, over the course of millions of years, and based on where they lived and the conditions they faced, branched off into the differently-evolved primates, including humans, that are around now.

"And they've never found the ... species that developed from ape to man?" asked Beck's co-host.

This is a reference to the "missing link" question. The idea is that there must be some creature that is bridges the species of our ancestors and us. The problem with this question is that there is at once no missing link and a seemingly infinite number of them.

We are Homo sapiens. The species before us was Homo erectus. If you were to revive a Homo erectus and put him next to a modern human being, it would be easy to tell the difference, which was which. However, if you were to revive all of our preceding generations, and put one member of each in line, until it reached the generation of our recently-revived ancestor, Homo erectus, you'd have a problem of classification. It would be virtually impossible to mark where Homo erectus ended and where Homo sapiens began. Each generation would be slightly more like the next species than the previous. Evolution is a process of gradual change - very gradual - over thousands of generations; it's not as if a Homo erectus gave birth to a Homo sapiens. Every single generation is, in a sense, intermediate.

It's precisely because whole generations are missing that we are able to label the different species; otherwise, we'd have no idea where to draw the line between humans and our ancestors.

But, as Richard Dawkins and other evolutionists have pointed out, this doesn't appease creationists. Whenever a new intermediate species is found, for example if something between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens were found, many creationists would argue: "Look! You've got more gaps than before! Now there is a missing link between us and the new intermediate species, and between that and Homo erectus!

Beck went on to ask why people cared so much, why he was supposed to care about evolution, why supporters of evolution get so worked up. The answer is simple: Creationists are constantly attacking public education; they try to force schools to teach that evolution and "intelligent design" (creationism through the backdoor) are both equally plausible theories. They're not, and we shouldn't be misleading kids.

Also, the attack on evolution is part of an overall attack on science, on the idea that we can and should study the world around us and make logical deductions based on what we learn.

Glenn Beck uses his show to spout nonsense. Therefore, it's no surprise that he doesn't see the other reason evolutionists get up in arms: because truth is important. It is worth fighting for, and should never be twisted and bent into some ideological framework.

Image: Glenn Beck trying to think Gage Skidmore // CC BY-SA 2.0


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  • To max:
    "If we had an unbroken chain going from Glenn Beck all the way back to unintelligent apes, it would go way back to three or four generations. " win

    Posted by John, 07/27/2011 9:36pm (5 years ago)

  • Excellent article! Someone should forward a copy to every US citizen. You can believe what you want but ignoring evidence is called WILLFUL IGNORANCE. And it's not good.

    Posted by neopythagorean, 11/05/2010 3:37pm (5 years ago)

  • Wonderful piece exposing this ultra-right mouthpiece. One of the hallmarks of scientific theory is its capacity to predict. There was only one fossil Neanderthal (Germany) hinting at human evolution when Charles Darwin wrote "On the Origin of Species." Yet he was able to point to Africa as the probable site of human origins.

    Reactionaries in the 19th century and now have special enmity for Darwin for many reasons. One of those reasons is that he was not only anti-slavery, he was an ardent abolitionist. He was for equal rights.

    It is important to note that science theories always accept some uncertainty. Reactionary elements reject this. Also, evolution is a splitting process that may have long periods of gradual change followed by very rapid change.

    Posted by Len Yannieli, 11/02/2010 8:14pm (5 years ago)

  • His face is so gross and gelatin like.

    Posted by BillySnar, 10/29/2010 11:54pm (5 years ago)

  • I am Australian. When I read and hear the many comments like this one based on the worst book of fiction ever written, the "Holy" Bible, I fear for the future of the USA. It could easily change it's name to the United Christian States of America.
    I am Atheist. I know there are many places in the Bible Belt where I would not be permitted to live.
    There are too many of these FundaMENTAList Bible Thumping brain-poisoned zombies turning America into a Third World Country.

    Posted by Robert Tobin, 10/28/2010 7:52pm (5 years ago)

  • That guy is a moron and the fact that he has an actual audience makes me angry and sad at the same time. Part of me is hoping that he is just pulling a "Colbert" and doesn't believe any of the nonsense he says.

    It truly infuriates me to see science and reason be trampled over when they gave us so much (as in ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING we have today).

    Posted by Nikola Begedin, 10/28/2010 4:49pm (5 years ago)

  • elliott: Scientists don't ask anyone to trust what they say, science is based on physical evidence. There are millions of pieces of scientific evidence for evolution through random mutation and natural selection that are published for all to see. The fact that Beck (a Mormon) is skeptical of evoution but has no problem believing in the ludicrous tenets of Mormonism, for which there is no evidence at all, tells you everything you need to know about his intellectual consistency.

    Another reason that it is important to teach evolution in school is that it is the theoretical underpinning of biology, including our understanding of viruses and bacteria. What would the next generation of medical researchers look like in this country if they were ignorant of natural selection?

    Posted by Sam Clemens, 10/27/2010 8:10pm (5 years ago)

  • Elliott, nobody is asking you to take anything "on faith" about evolution. You can read and study all the evidence yourself. It's all out there. So your argument is a failure. "Agnostic" about evolution versus creationism is EXACTLY the same as being "agnostic" about atomic theory versus fairies, or "agnostic" about physics versus witchcraft. Glenn Beck lives by making people afraid. Ignore him and try education instead of blind faith. It's not that scary to learn.

    Posted by RickK, 10/27/2010 7:23pm (5 years ago)

  • Another way to think about the "too many intermediates makes it hard to classify" is to think of a child. If you're a parent and you see your child every day, you don't see changes every day. "One day older" doesn't have any noticeable attributes. Yet when you look at a picture of your kid at age 1, 5, 10, 15 etc. it's easy to say "this is him as a toddler, this is him as a little kid, this is him as a teenager, etc."

    That's how it is with fossils. The classifications are somewhat arbitrary based on what we physically have (the snapshots). If we had an unbroken chain going from Glenn Beck all the way back to unintelligent apes, it would go way back to three or four generations.

    Posted by Max, 10/27/2010 7:00pm (5 years ago)

  • lame article. I don't like beck but you have taken bits of his comments and made it a debate that I'm sure he could actually have real points on. Also science is asking up to trust them about this sentence "Each generation would be slightly more like the next species than the previous." Where is the science in that thought process. You ask the same blind trust as creationists, you don't have the answers either! Therefore being apathetic towards the beginning and agnostic is the only true answer to both.

    Posted by elliott, 10/27/2010 4:45pm (5 years ago)

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