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I was talking to my mother yesterday about the meaning of life and stuff, when we found ourselves talking about evolution. She stated that she did not believe in it. She said she refused to believe that us humans evolved from monkeys. She said it was too far-fetched for reality. Now, I admit I have never read any of Darwin's books, nor have I actually studied evolution at school, but I've seen a lot of Discovery Channel in my time, so I figured I was qualified enough to take her on.

“Do you not find your own species to be strikingly similar to gorillas?” say I, calmly, coolly, and collectively.

“What!” exclaims my mother. “We are nothing like gorillas.”

“You’re kidding, right?” say I, in my usual calm, cool, and collected manner. My mother gives me a look that says she is equally shocked at my stupidity as I am of hers. “Okay, give me 5 big differences between the ape and the human.”

“Fine!” she says, certain to win the argument. She opens her mouth. No sound comes out. It’s like someone just pressed “pause”, leaving her with her mouth hanging open for all the world to see as she frantically thought of something, anything that would answer to my challenge. Finally, she slowly said: “Apes don’t talk-“

“Talk?” I say, cutting in. “What do you mean talk?”

She stared at me. “I mean…talk.”

“Oh, you mean like, making vocal sounds?”

“Well….yeah. Making vocal sounds,” she says, trying to look confident.

“So apes don’t make vocal sounds? Ever heard of a mating call? Are you saying gorillas don’t make mating calls?” (In all honesty, I still haven’t checked to see if gorillas make mating calls. )

“No, I mean…..” she looked a little worried now. Things were looking good for the evolutionist. “I mean, gorillas don’t exactly speak English, you know?”

I decided to take this to a petty level. “So you’re saying that gorillas are different because they don’t speak English? What about Hashimoto? He doesn’t speak English, what does that make him, a gorilla?” (He probably does speak English, but she didn’t say anything about it.)

“Well, you know what I mean!”

“No, mother. I’m afraid I do not.” I say that with an air of pride. “Nevertheless, let’s move on. Another factor, please, that makes us different from gorillas.”

She was ready: “They are far more hairy than us.”

“That’s true!” I say, ready to respond. “And Dad is far more hairy than you are. Does that mean one of you is an ape and the other isn’t?”

“What?” she yelled. “Now you’re being silly. Gorillas are ridiculously more hairy than humans.”

She sort of had a point. But I stuck by my guns. “Well, not all gorillas are as hairy as you may think.” She raised her eyebrows, ready for what I was going to say. However, I didn’t really have anything to say, so I suggested that we move on and made it seem like I was saving her the embarrassment of being proved wrong. “What’s next?”

“Apes are stupid.” she says.

Now that’s not true. The way they look out for each other, the way they communicate, the way chimpanzees hunt, there’s got to be more intelligence there than in your average mammal. I said that to my mother and she said “But they’re so stupid compared to us.”

“So? You’re pretty stupid compared to-“. I decided not to finish that one. Even though it’s a safe bet to say someone like Bill Gates is more intelligent than my mother, it probably wouldn’t have gone down well. “Look, is there any thing else that makes apes different to humans?”

She stood up and left the room, returning with some illustrated book of mammals. Upon finding the ape section, she was presented with a drawing of a typical foot found on an ape. It looked very much like the hand, which looked very much like the human hand. In other words, we saw that the apes’ foot had an opposable thumb where us humans simply have a big toe. “There!” she said. “Look at that! I don’t have one of those, you don’t have one of those, I think there’s quite a big difference here.”

I looked at my mother. I looked at the drawing. The drawing could have been a drawing of a human hand and I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. “Yes, it shows that the apes’ foot is different to ours, but by a thumb. One little thumb where we have a big toe. But think about it: is it actually all that different? An ape has a foot with five little stubs coming out of it, which can bend and grip at things and all have hair and a toenail on them. A human has a foot with 5 little stubs coming out of it, which can bend and grip at things, and have hair and toenails on them. Admittedly, our toes bend and grip less well, and have less hair, and one of them isn’t opposable, but is it actually that different? Are you willing to believe that both creatures have this shape for a foot and aren’t somewhat related? I mean, the genes which you’d need to have, to have the basic shape of this foot, seem to be in apes and humans. Either our types of species are related or someone got unoriginal. A coincidence? Okay, let’s pretend both apes and humans have this kind of foot by chance. And two legs. That was just lucky. Not to mention the two arms, the hands (each with 4 fingers and a thumb), the two eyes, the nose, mouth, and two ears. Just look at this picture of the gorilla. They don’t call them anthropoids for nothing.”

She stared at me blankly.

We sat in silence, looking at the book. “What should we have for dinner?”

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