Glenn Beck denies his “half-human, half-monkey” roots

Glenn Beck is the descendant of a tree-dwelling primate.

So are you. So am I. Around 4.4 million years ago, a small hominin primate called Ardipithecus ramidus climbed down out of one of the dwindling number of trees on the African plains and walked upright on the ground, a trick made possible by the unique bone structures of its feet and pelvis. The decades of research into the Ardipithecus fossils and their transitional features shows how our primate forbears made the shift from arboreal locomotion (swinging from branches) to bipedalism. It is a crowning achievement of anthropology and a testament to the human capacity for discovery.

But to Glenn Beck, who claims to revel in education and the pursuit of the truth, it's all a bunch of crap.

Where to begin...

Let's start with Beck saying “I haven't seen a half-monkey, half-person yet.” Too true! The half-monkey, half-person hasn't been discovered, likely because it doesn't exist. This is a mutation (evolution puns!) of the “missing link” straw man. Or straw monkey-man. Whatever. Anyway, anthropologists don't waste their time looking for “missing links.” Instead, they search out transition features in hominin fossils. As noted above, Ardipithecus ramidus is unique in that it has pelvic and foot bones that are capable of both arboreal and bipedal locomotion. They weren't “half-human, half-monkey” -- they were neither.

Moving on, let's examine this observation from Beck flunky Pat Gray: “And they've never found the [inaudible] species that developed from ape to man and they've claimed to over and over and over. And then when you bring it up it's like 'OK, now we have Lucy!' Well, a while ago you had Piltdown Man, which for 40 years was considered to be the missing link, and then proven a hoax!”

Also true! Piltdown Man, “discovered” in 1912, was proven to be a hoax. In 1953. In the interim, archaeologists have discovered what's known in the scientific community as “other stuff,” including, as Gray mentions, "Lucy," the Australopithecus afarensis fossil unearthed in Ethiopia in 1974. Lucy was a major discovery because that little fossil demonstrated that primates had been bipedal for at least 3 million years. What Gray fails to establish is what, exactly, the Piltdown hoax has to do with Lucy. The answer, of course, is nothing. But Gray wants you to believe that evolutionary science can't be trusted because of one century-old hoax.

Lastly, let's examine Beck's contention that truth in science is self-evident:

BECK: They have to make you care. They have to force it down your throat. When anyone has to force it, it's a problem. You didn't have to force that the world was round. You didn't have to.

GRAY: No, because it's true.

BECK: Right. Truth is truth. You don't have to force the truth. You just keep adding evidence and evidence and evidence and evidence until it becomes self-evident.

“Truth is truth.” Truthier words have never been spoken. Unfortunately for Beck, the truth often does have to be forced. Let's expand upon Beck's example of a self-evident scientific truth, the earth's sphericity. The greatest scientific minds of the ancient and Medieval worlds did indeed know as a solid fact that the earth is spherical. They also knew as a solid fact that it was the fixed center of the universe. The self-evident truth of geocentricity was clung to so ardently that two of the world's greatest scientific minds -- Copernicus and Galileo -- were persecuted by the Catholic Church for “forcing” their truth of heliocentricity “down the throat” of everyone else.

I guess what all this comes down to is a choice. You can believe the people who dedicate their lives to expanding the scope of human knowledge and discovering our origin as a species, or you can believe the guy who thinks the arctic ice caps are melting because “heat rises” to the north.

Your choice.