Humans and Chimps Compared
In case you had an identity crisis last time at the zoo, Current Biology can provide psychoanalysis. The May 25 issue posted two articles side by side: one, simply entitled “Humans,”1 and the other, “Chimps.”2 Various comparisons are contrasts are drawn, including a few surprising facts, such as this statement: “Based on relative amounts of genetic variation, humans are more endangered than chimps!”
Both articles are noteworthy for what scientists don’t know, more than for what they do; a number of controversial issues are discussed, such as whether humans are still evolving, how much humans are affecting the environment, what races mean (if anything) and how they should be defined, and whether humans should be reclassified with the chimps based on sequence similarity of genes, or on the other hand, whether humans, due to their cognitive/mental abilities, deserve to be classified in their own kingdom: “Psychozoa” (Gr., soul-life).
Neither article questions the Darwinian assumption that humans and chimps diverged from a common ancestor 5-6 million years ago. But neither do they dispute that the most distinguishing characteristic of humans is language. Linda Vigilant writes in the “Chimps” article,
One defining human trait that chimpanzees lack is language. Although some captive chimpanzees and bonobos have been laboriously taught to use sign-language or communicate using icons on a keyboard, it seems that their communicative abilities in the wild fall far short of what we do with language, and so this chimpanzee�human difference remains profound.
How and when this skill arose in humans is unknown and the subject of much dispute among primate zoologists.
See also 05/26/2004 headline, “Human and Chimp DNA Compared.”
1David A. Hughes, Richard Cordaux, and Mark Stoneking, “Humans,” Current Biology, Vol 14, R367-R369, 25 May 2004.
2Linda Vigilant, “Chimps,” Current Biology, Vol 14, R369-R371, 25 May 2004.
These articles contain some interesting facts and useful information, but are imbued with the typical Darwinian fluff and storytelling about how our primitive ancestors arose in Africa millions of years ago, invented fire and language and took over the world (now read this). Every element of the plot has its detractors willing to point out contrary evidence. The first article wrongly repeats the mythoid that humans are 98% to 99% identical to chimpanzees in terms of genetic sequences, a phony figure (see 10/25/2002 headline). But it does rightly point out that gene expression may be much more significant than the contents of the DNA library, as seen from comparisons with the genomes of other organisms: “In other words, it’s not so much what you have, but what you do with what you have, that matters.” That’s true for me and thee and the chimpanzee.
It is a legitimate biological investigation to analyze human mammalian characteristics and to draw comparisons and contrasts with our fellow creatures. We are, as Wernher von Braun once described it, “souls cast into animal bodies.” Animals are fun to watch and have as companions. We have a lot in common with them, especially other primates. But there is no evidence, and there are numerous problems, trying to relate us all to a common ancestor or reducing humans to mere genes in motion. Language, for instance, truly is a “profound” difference, with no parallel in the animal world. But what is language without cognition, and what is cognition without the ability to think in abstract thoughts? Even dogs and crows have intelligence, but no animal uses logic or writes books on philosophy. How did the laws of logic evolve? Why would natural selection produce a physicist able to compute 23 decimal places of a cube root in his head? Why do we care about justice? What is the survival value of writing a symphony? Humanness is all about soul.
The articles also fail to recognize many other human distinctives, such as conscience, bipedalism, naked skin and enhanced touch, blushing, laughter, the moral sense, art, music and religion. None of these can be demonstrated by a sequence of transitional forms, and none can be explained by genetic mutations and natural selection; they go far beyond the necessities of biological survival. Understood instead as the handwork of a Designer who wants to be known by creatures made in His image, they make possible a unique realm of communication with one another and with our Maker that no animal can share. Chimps have nostrils, but what makes us distinctively human is that our Creator breathed into our common (human) ancestor’s biological nostrils the breath of life, and man became a Psychozoa, a living soul (Gen. 2:7). Yes, we deserve a kingdom of our own, but what’s a kingdom without a King? Read the following passages with this view of man in mind: Isaiah 57, and I John 1-2. They express issues and ideas no chimp will ever comprehend.