From the Smithsonian: We and the chimpanzees “are one”:
Geneticists have come up with a variety of ways of calculating the percentages, which give different impressions about how similar chimpanzees and humans are. The 1.2% chimp-human distinction, for example, involves a measurement of only substitutions in the base building blocks of those genes that chimpanzees and humans share. A comparison of the entire genome, however, indicates that segments of DNA have also been deleted, duplicated over and over, or inserted from one part of the genome into another. When these differences are counted, there is an additional 4 to 5% distinction between the human and chimpanzee genomes.
No matter how the calculation is done, the big point still holds: humans, chimpanzees, and bonobos are more closely related to one another than either is to gorillas or any other primate. From the perspective of this powerful test of biological kinship, humans are not only related to the great apes – we are one. The DNA evidence leaves us with one of the greatest surprises in biology: the wall between human, on the one hand, and ape or animal, on the other, has been breached. The human evolutionary tree is embedded within the great apes.“What does it mean to be humans” at Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
Except, we’re not “one”. The wall has not “been breached.” So far as anyone can tell, it is not even breachable.
Nobody thinks chimpanzees are the same as humans except a few researchers who may have spent too long in the bush.
“Spent too long in the bush”? As a child, I (O’Leary for News) spent some years in a northern wilderness, where we had occasion to use the expression “bushed.” It meant that a person had gone mad living alone in the wilderness.
One manifestation of this madness is believing that a nearby animal is like a human being. The mood is captured in a British Isles poem in which a lighthouse repairman comes to think that way about a seal.
Similarly, Canadian author Farley Mowat (1921–2014) recounts in Never Cry Wolf that, after spending a great deal of time among wolves, he began to think of them as people. In both these stories, friends noticed the odd behaviour and got the guy out of there. As I recall, bushed people in the far northern community in which I lived were generally sent south by bushplane to see a psychiatrist before something really crazy happened.
None of this silliness about “we are one” has anything to do with protecting chimpanzees or ensuring their humane treatment. That’s done by enforcing legal protection, backed up by education on humane principles, not by airing counterfactual theories.
If only the time and energy wasted on claiming that chimps are just like humans had been spent on rescuing chimps from awful conditions in labs and from the crackpots who try to make them into people and render them unfit for chimp life). The two have tended to coincide, all too often.
But meanwhile, what becomes of sciences that solemnly assert absurdities like “the wall… has been breached ,” commanding the assent of all? Certainly not credibility.
See also: Why can’t we make apes behave like people? A history of doomed recent efforts.
Can animals reason? My challenge to Jeffrey Shallit
University fires philosophy prof, hires chimpanzee to teach, research: A light-hearted look at what would happen if we really thought that unreason is better than reason
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