If humans evolved from apes, why are there still apes?

The short answer

  1. Nothing in the evolutionary history of life says that humans evolved from apes.
  2. Evolution is branching, not linear: ancestral groups can persist even as new groups branch out of them.

The longer answer

I. Does the evolutionary history of life say that humans evolved from apes?

Let’s acknowledge a technicality that can then be set aside.  Technically, the word ape is a synonym for hominoid, which means member of the superfamily Hominoidea. Humans are hominoids, so technically humans are apes. Understanding this, we can put it aside, because those who ask whether humans evolved from apes normally use the word colloquially to refer exclusively to whatever kinds of currently existing nonhuman hominoids they are familiar with, like gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and gibbons. So let’s just use that colloquial sense.

With this in mind, nothing in the evolutionary history of life says that humans evolved from apes. Rather, in the evolutionary history of life, humans and apes both evolved from a common ancestor that is no longer around. Richard Dawkins explains, with respect to chimpanzees:

II. Evolution is compatible with the continued existence of ancestral groups

Even if evolutionists did claim that humans evolved from apes, the continued existence of apes would not pose any problem for evolution. To argue otherwise would be like arguing that no American can have Japanese ancestry since Japanese people still exist. The evolutionary tree of life has the structure suggested by its name—the branching structure of a tree—not the linear structure of a ladder where old and new cannot possibly coexist.

III. Giving credit where it is due

At least one creationist organization, Creation Ministries International, has completely disavowed the argument that the continued existence of apes refutes evolution (CMI n.d.)


CMI. n.d. Arguments we think creationists should NOT use. creation.com/arguments-we-think-creationists-should-not-use. Spotted 3 July 2018.