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