I understand there is a debate on whether chimps should B reclassified as humans!
Should jws there4 begin 2 evangalise chimps?
I understand there is a debate on whether chimps should B reclassified as humans!
Should jws there4 begin 2 evangalise chimps?
Do they have a story about two chimps?
This week, scientists claimed that chimps are so close to mankind that they should be reclassified as practically human. So should they have the same rights as us? Tim Radford reports on a debate that could help save them from extinction, while Stephen Moss visits them in 'person' at London Zoo
Tim Radford and Stephen Moss
Wednesday May 21, 2003
The Guardian Chimps have language. They can, and do, communicate with humans. There is a linguist chimp called Nim Chimpsky with a vocabulary of 125 signs, all used correctly. Chimps can solve problems, use tools and when they lose their teeth, even improvise a makeshift food blender. Two observers have now claimed to see chimps in the wild leaving each other "notes". Separate groups of chimpanzees have different ways of doing things, and pass these ways on through the generations: that is, chimpanzees have culture, just as humans have culture.
Some laboratory animals can count up to nine, and remember a sequence of up to five Arabic numerals. Captive chimps have starred in films, performed in television commercials, and served each other afternoon tea at London Zoo. They are naturally political creatures: they have been observed forming alliances, using subterfuge and launching breakaway parties. They use violence to get their way when they can, and sex to get their way when they cannot.
In a word, they might be human. But Morris Goodman, a geneticist at Wayne State University school of medicine in Detroit, is prepared to take the matter further. He argues, in a scientific journal published yesterday, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that chimpanzees should be included with humans in the same evolutionary grouping. That is, chimps and their close relatives, bonobos, would no longer be Pan troglodytes and Pan paniscus, but Homo troglodytes, and Homo paniscus. They would take a new place in creation's pecking order, as near as dammit Homo sapiens - that's us.
The evidence is not in the capacity to stand upright, use computer touch screens or indulge in sex for pleasure and profit. The evidence is in the DNA. Instead of comparing digits, or spinal structure, or the emergence of teeth, taxonomists - scientists who deal in evolutionary relationships - have now begun to consider the basic information of life, reproduction and development. Goodman and his colleagues report in their article that they compared 97 genes in six different species: humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans, old world monkeys and mice. DNA is common to all life: the closer the DNA match, the closer the evolutionary link. Humans and chimps came out with a similarity of 99.4%. On the strength of this, Goodman says: think again, humans. All the surviving great apes should be included in the family grouping known as Hominidae. And both humans and chimps should share the genus Homo.
At one level, he is reviving an argument about classification: what is it that makes animals alike, and different, and how do you logically group them. But at another level, he is raising an argument about human links with the rest of creation. Are humans a breed apart, with dominion over fish, flesh and fowl? Or are humans just gifted apes, lucky enough to have an edge over their nearest relatives? And if the latter, then what responsibilities do humans owe to their fellow creatures? This is because even if chimpanzees are hominids, they might not be members of the human genus for long. There are probably only 250,000 great apes - gorillas, orang-utans, chimpanzees - in the wild. That is, all the great apes at large in the world would not fill the London borough of Brent (263,000). They would be outnumbered by the people of Bolton (261,000). These creatures exist in scattered, broken communities in 23 countries. Many of these countries are torn by civil war; in others, the forests are being cleared by loggers or developed for farmland. In many of these countries apes are slaughtered for trophies or just for food, and in one of those countries, chimpanzees and gorillas are perishing in an Ebola virus epidemic.
So a small change in classification translates into a big one in moral attitudes. If apes were reclassified as human, would they then be entitled to human rights? And if apes were classified as humans, would Homo sapiens be guilty of genocide?
It is not a new question: four years ago, scientists and lawyers petitioned New Zealand's parliament to pass a bill conferring "rights" on chimpanzees and other primates. The move drew snorts of exasperation from Roger Scruton, the fox-hunting moral philosopher and pundit. If chimps had human rights, they would be moral beings like humans, with liabilities and duties like humans. "Do we really think that the jails of New Zealand should henceforth be filled with malicious chimpanzees? If not, by what right are they to be exempted from punishment?" he wrote at the time. In fact, the New Zealand decision gave the great apes something less than human rights, but also something more practical: it provided legal protection from animal experimentation. The first country to take such a decision was Britain: Home Office guidelines now forbid experiments on chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas.
Ian Redmond started working with gorillas more than 20 years ago, before going on to become chairman of the pressure group Ape Alliance, which is working with the United Nation's environment programme and Unesco on an international initiative called the Great ape survival project, or Grasp. For him, the attempt to reclassify the great apes is unconvincing: morphology is part of the story, too. Chimpanzees look different, they have a quadripedal gait, a different shaped foot, and opposable big toe. They are already grouped with humans as family (as opposed to genus). Hominids or not, they had a right to survive.
"Clearly we have changed quite a lot since we shared a common ancestor," he says. "But it is very important in terms of respecting great apes. It should make us think more carefully about how much effort we are putting into ensuring that they survive our ravaging of the planet. But as a whole-animal biologist, I am fascinated by the difference - why they exist, and so on. I think the morphology speaks: having them in the same family is very good. It reminds us of our responsibilities."
Last month, a team warned in Nature that chimps and gorillas in Gabon and the Congo were on the verge of extinction. In one well-studied gorilla population, there had been 140 named individuals. A recent exhaustive search had found only seven. "The stark truth is that if we do not act decisively, our children may live in a world without wild apes," they wrote. Redmond talks of the clock standing at "one minute to midnight" for the great apes. This concern about the survival of wild animals has marched in step with increasing interest in the nature of animal consciousness. Animals react to stimuli: does that mean they "feel" pain? And if so, do they know that they know that they feel pain? Are they aware that they are aware? If these things are the case, then how are they different - in essence, if not in taxonomy - from humans?
And would it make any real difference if chimpanzees were reclassified as members of the genus Homo rather than Pan? The taxonomic system is manmade, and like all manmade things, subject to revision. Taxonomists routinely wrangle over say, the groupings of finches or the descent of the whale. But arguments about the great apes carry an emotional loading rare in the world of ferns and liverworts, or Amazonian fire ants. To reclassify great apes along with humans is to raise questions of power and responsibility already dramatised by popular fiction: in the pathos of Tarzan's foster mother, in the allegory of The Planet of the Apes. At one level, the question is academic, but there is no chance of the debate being academic.
Christophe Soligo of the human origins department at the Natural History Museum - a world centre of taxonomic arbitration - sees Goodman's proposals as a question of choice. "It seems fairly clear now that chimpanzees are our closest relatives. The question they are trying to answer is: how closely are we related to our closest relatives?" he says. "They set a length of time for the criteria: if two lineages split so many years ago, we say they are sub-genera; if they split however many million years ago, they are genera. It is really a question of choice."
But it was also potentially a moral issue."The political consequences are potentially there. If we call chimpanzees Homo, it might influence the public mind to a certain extent; it might also ultimately influence how we treat these animals both in research and in the wild. It is not a frivolous piece of research at all."
'I can't say I look exactly like them'
The news that chimps are genetically almost identical to humans - and apparently more developed than some England football fans - did not appear to have penetrated London Zoo. Small knots of cooing visitors gathered round the gorilla, while the family of three chimps were largely ignored. Who said size doesn't count?
The chimps - Johnny, Koko and Cherry - looked bored. Lacking the word processors on which they might have typed Hamlet, all they could do was stuff themselves with apples, nibble carrots, pick up bits of straw, and think about swinging on the ropes that criss-cross their enclosure.
They didn't actually do any swinging, because, as the zoo's young woman "explainer" explained, this was a retirement group. Their swinging days were over. Even the small boy bashing the glass front of their enclosure failed to elicit a response. "Beware - Koko sometimes spits and throws poo at people," said a sign. In her headstrong youth, perhaps.
The menage-a-trois is a complex one. Cherry, who is 43, is Koko's mother. They were at different zoos for 25 years, but when Cherry came to London in 1998, they recognised each other immediately. Johnny is 37 and reckoned to be "a bit of a thug". When things get rocky between him and Koko, the poo must really fly.
Visitors to the zoo yesterday - a hardy bunch braving wind and rain - were not surprised to hear that you could hardly get a slice of carrot between the genes of chimps and humans. "I've seen lots of documentaries about them," said Jules, who was with her friend Tracey and two young children. "They're very aggressive and when they go hunting in groups they pick on monkeys - like blokes after a couple of bevvies."
"We can learn a lot from them," said Tracey. "So much of human behaviour is about dominance and submission." I told them that this was an old, settled, forty-ish group unlikely to wreak havoc. "Yes, I've been a lot less aggressive since I reached 40," said Jules. "Bless 'em - they're just like us."
"It doesn't surprise me that they're so similar to us genetically," said Ross, who was with his wife and young child, "though I can't say I look exactly like them." Ross was wearing a beret, carrying a walking stick and did not have an especially protuberant bottom, so he certainly had a point. "Given that they're so like us, I'd rather not see them in cages."
"It's not right that they should be kept like this," agreed Stephen, a lion researcher based in Botswana, who was making his first trip to London Zoo. "Because they are so close to us, they deserve more investment in their well-being. We can learn a lot about human activity by watching them: they act by instinct while we seemingly think about it, but the same sorts of battles break out in human society as occur between groups of chimps."
Whether Johnny any longer exhibits quite so strong a territorial imperative is a moot point. He had a vasectomy a few years back, which may explain why he spends so much time poking sticks into a large log. With the chimps munching peacefully on barrowloads of fruit and veg, this feels like the ape equivalent of Eastbourne.
We got the message about the intelligence of these animals several decades ago. Their closeness to man is etched on their mournful faces, and the genetic match only confirms the fact. Look, too, at their thumbs, flat fingernails and the similarity of a chimp's penis to that of man. But best not mention that to Johnny.
Any idea that chimpanzees are like humans are quickly dismissed by Jehovah's Witnesses. Argh! Quick! Get the "Creation" book out, we need relief from Satan's media!
I understand David Attenborough gets bombarded with Witnesses praising him for his programmes, but dissapointed that he presents evolution as fact not theory.
Badboy, remember animals die and will continue to die (of old age of course) in the new system. There is no resurection for the animal kingdom and so there is no reward for a chimp accepting the truth and so he would be better carrying on his debauched monkey business while he can.
The following arcticle discusses from a creationist (non-Watchtower) prespective some of the DNA information regarding chimps and humans.
: Should jws start preaching 2 chimps?
No. This would be classified as "chimp abuse" and I'm sure there is some law protecting chimps from this sort of crap the dubs offer. No. The dubs should stick with HUMAN losers as their main focus in recruitment and leave the poor chimps alone.