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Monkeying With Darwin

DARWIN, in his "Descent of Man", specifically states that man is,descended from "Old World monkeys". You will find the statement in next to the last Paragraph of Chapter Six. His precise language is worth remembering :


"The Simiadae then branched off into two great stems, the New World and Old World Monkeys; and from the latter at a remote period, Man, the wonder and glory of the universe, proceeded."


In spite of this, there are those who will deliberately misrepresent Darwin by stating that he never claimed we are descended from monkeys. Thus if you go to Rochester, N, Y., and visit the Rochester Museum of Art and Sciences, you will find there, in a case exhibit of man's family tree, a card bearing these words:


"As Darwin pointed out, there is no reason to believe that man descended from any monkey or ape ..."


On calling attention to the obvious error, Mr. Arthur G. Cromwell of the Rochester Society of Freethinkers with whom I visited the Museum, received a letter from one of the Museum's officials, William A. Ritchie, archaeologist attempting to justify the statement on the card, Mr. Ritchie responded as follows:


"I have your letter of September 14th, addressed to Dr. Parker, concerning a supposed error in a label which I wrote for the exhibiter titled 'The Family Tree of the Primates". Apparently the offensive clause in this label is the statement, 'As Darwin pointed out, there is no reason to believe that man descended from any monkey or ape,' rather all were descended from some unspecialized common ancestor, probably far back in the Miocene or early Pliocene periods'. I then proceed to explain that divergence with specialization for their respective modes of life has operated with the result that the current products of this evolutionary process are far more dissimilar than their progenitors."This is precisely what Darwin stated, as expressed in the folder you enclose, and in another statement from the same chapter of 'The Descent of Man", viz., "The early descendants of this progenitor, before they had converged to any considerable extent from each other, would still have formed a single natural group', etc. (p. 175, Home Library edition).


"Most modern anthropologists, in view of all the evidence now existing (which of course Darwin lacked) still concur in the opinion of a common anthropoid ancestor far the Primates and a divergence of the genera and species, so that it is absolutely correct to say that no known monkey or ape can be designated the ancestor of man, albeit they are his distant cousins."


It is easy to see that Mr. Ritchie doesn't know what he is talking about, and that his letter, glutted with irrelevancies, sidesteps the point at issue. Did Darwin say mankind is descended from "monkeys"? He did. And he named them as "Old World" monkeys.


There are men, psychologists tell us, who can look directly at a printed page, read what it says and inject an opposite.


Thus Mr. Ritchie reads the Darwin statement:


"New World and Old World monkeys... from the latter... Man... proceeded."


The words immediately become:
"New World and Old World monkeys ... from the latter... Man... DID NOT proceed."


Why does this happen? Maybe because the word "monkeys" is emotionally upsetting. Maybe because of some religious prejudice. Maybe because he doesn't like the Darwinian doctrine and is trying to face it in the easiest way he knows how. Whatever the cause, the Rochester Museum gets a fraudulent label.


There are men who, because of a peculiar twist of temperament, or because they believe they are children of God, revolt at the idea that men are descended from monkeys. Henry Fairfield Osborn was one of them. Yet he got over it in time and lived to see the day when he could write: "the ancestors of man, namely, the Lemurs, Monkeys, and Apes." You will find these words on page 274 of his "Origin and Evolution of Life". If the late President of the American Museum of Natural History could do it, maybe there is yet hope for the archaeologist at the Rochester Museum.


Darwin castigated those who, admitting our descent from savages, balk at our monkey descent. "For my own part," said he, "I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper, or from that old baboon, who, descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrades from a crowd of astonished dogs -- as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions."


Let us put a direct question to Mr. Ritchie and ask him to give us an unequivocal reply.


Where, in any of his writings, does Darwin state that man is NOT descended from "any monkey or ape"? We challenge Mr. Ritchie to cite chapter and page. We challenge him further to substantiate his claim that Darwin "pointed out" that "there is no reason to believe" that man came from simian stock. "There can, consequently," says Darwin, "hardly be a doubt that man is an off-shoot from the Old World Simian stem and that under a genealogical point of view he must be classed with the Catarrhine division." The Catarrhine group is classified by Darwin as "Old World monkeys".


If Mr. Ritchie is so sure that Darwin did not teach the monkey descent of man, we challenge him to put the Darwin passage in the Museum's exhibit case next to his own card, and let the people of Rochester decide for themselves. It would make a unique exhibit. On the one hand would be Mr. Ritchie's card, reading:


"As Darwin pointed out, there is no reason to believe that man descended from any monkey or ape." On the other hand would be Darwin's statement: "The Simiadae then branched off into two great stems, the New World and Old World monkeys; and from the latter at a remote period, Man ... proceeded," Who do you suppose would get the big laugh? And what kind of a reputation do you think the Museum would get locally for veracity of statement?


Every fundamentalist knows that Darwin taught the monkey descent of man. Mr. Ritchie has not yet caught up with them, but he can. Let him write to Dr. Hooton of Harvard, whose Family Tree of Man is exhibited in the Rochester Museum, and ask him whether, in his judgment Darwin upheld our "monkey" origin. I know Hooton's hilarious sense of humor and the kind of answer he will give.


And while he is about it let him turn to Hooton's book, "Apes, Men, and Morons", and see what Hooton himself says about our monkey descent. "I still believe," says he, "that man's stock separated from the large anthropoid ape trunk in the Miocene." Wouldn't that be nice to place in the exhibit case next to Mr. Ritchie's remarks?


We suggest that, if it doesn't want to become the laughing stock of science in America, the Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences hire an anthropologist or an anatomist, rather than an archaeologist engaged in collecting arrow-heads and Indian relics, to label its exhibits bearing on the descent of man.


As for "modern anthropologists" who, Mr. Ritchie claims, have access to "evidence" which Darwin lacked'", there is not one of them of any distinction today who does not subscribe-and subscribe fully--to the monkey descent of man, precisely as Darwin did. The list includes Keith, Elliot Smith, Gregory, Tilney, Hooton, Wilder, Schwalbe, Sonntag, and ten times as many we could name.


We challenge Mr. Ritchie to give us a single citation from any of these authorities which states, as he himself states on his card in the Museum, that "there is no reason to believe that man descended from any monkey or ape" All of them, on the contrary, definitely hold that man is descended from a primitive ape stock, just as definitely as they hold that man's more remote ancestors were fish, and, still earlier, worms.


"All the evidence now at our disposal," writes Sir Arthur Keith "supports the conclusion that man has arisen, as Lamarck and Darwin suspected, from an anthropoid ape not higher in the zoological scale than a chimpanzee."


And Dr. William K. Gregory of the American Museum of Natural History, in New York writes: "Man, like his less ambitious cousins, the modern anthropoid apes, is a descendant of the late Tertiary dryopithecine ape stock of Europe, Asia, and Africa."


Where, then, does Mr. Ritchie's label fit in?. Nowhere but at the Rochester Museum, where it stands convicted, not only as a perversion of Darwin's views, but as a misrepresentation of what our leading anthropologists teach concerning the ape origin of man. It is false in every line.


What is all this trash that Mr. Ritchie writes about our "unspecialized common ancestor"? Our "common ancestor" was a highly "specialized" animal, described by Darwin as "a hairy, tailed quadruped, probably arboreal in its habits", and possessing a high degree of "specialization'' in its prehensile extremities. Such was the primitive monkey from which we are descended. It is the monkey which Thomas Henry Huxley and Emst Haeckel recognized as the ancestor of man.


Our "unspecialized common ancestor" is as mythical as Adam and Eve. In man's Family Tree will be found the lemur, the tailed monkey, the anthropoid ape, and ape-man--all highly "specialized". Each, in its own time and place, was a "specialized" organism, as indicated by skeletal remains. There is nothing blurry about our "common ancestor''. Comparative anatomy supplements the paleontological record. Blood tests show even our close relationship to present-day apes.


All Mr. Ritchie's rigmarote about an "unspecialized common ancestor" of the human race and our present-day anthropoid apes, amounts to nothing more than an evasion of the issue and an attempt to avoid the word "monkey" in man's ancestral tree.


If, as Mt. Ritchie admits and as anatomical evidence shows, our present-day apes are merely our "distant cousins'', what does he think our "common ancestor" looked like? An elephant? Look at Man's Family Tree again, Mr. Ritchie, and you will; find that the word "primate" in our remote ancestral line is only a nice word for a primitive monkey, hidden in the fork of the tree where man and our modern monkeys branch but. You can no more duck this point than you can cover up the fact, among those who can read plain English and are honest in the matter, that Darwin taught that men are descended from monkeys.

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