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We Share Many Genes with Lettuce, but that Doesn't Make Us Part Salad


It is fashionable these days to denigrate human beings as mere apes. But is that notion supported by science? No.

Over at First Things, I point out some of the errors, get into some of the scientific retorts to the we-are-apes argument made by evolutionary scientists, and illuminate the actual agenda of those seeking to convince us to think of ourselves as mere chimps or gorillas.

For example, we are often told there is only a 2 percent genetic difference between us and chimps.? From "You Are Not an Ape":

"But," would-be apes might protest, "What about the mere 2 percent difference? Doesn't that mean that we are 98 percent ape or, at least, that apes are 98 percent human?"

Absolutely not. We share many genes with lettuce, but that doesn't make us part salad.

Moreover, the "2 percent difference" statistic obfuscates far more than it elucidates. Research comparing human and chimpanzee genomes, published in Nature, found that there are more than 40 million differences between the two species' base pairs, which are the DNA building blocks.

So, what's the "We are apes" meme really about?

Those calling us "apes" are making a moral claim. For varying motives -- to subvert religious faith, support "rights" for animals, convince us to tread more lightly on the earth, reject the intrinsic dignity of human life -- those asserting our putative apehood want us to define ourselves as merely another animal in the forest.

Time will tell whether society chooses to accept this radical equation. We just shouldn't be fooled into thinking that the idea is compelled by "the science." It's about ideology.

Image credit: Dwight Sipler (uploaded by Jacopo Werther), [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Cross-posted at The Corner.