WELL I’LL BE A MONKEY’S OFFSPRING!

It seems that once again, scientists have discovered something to finally convince the skeptics that Darwin was right. This has happened before, and surely will happen again. It turns out that chimps and humans are almost identical, especially if you ignore the 30 million bits of data that don’t mesh.

As there are over 3 billion bits of code that make up a chimpanzee, and 1% appear to be different, you could come up with the number such as 30 million. Wow. I’m ecstatic.

Here are more numbers. Five countries, eighteen institutions, and 25 million dollars. For what? For a group of atheists to sit down, give their life purpose, and to figure out exactly what makes us human. Is this a pressing issue? Are we on the verge of being overrun by intelligent apes? Is Charlton Heston sending us messages? Where is Bono when you really need him? How many people could this have fed? Do you think people who are starving to death really care about the closeness of our DNA with that of a chimpanzee? So many unanswered questions.

Have you ever seen a Ford next to a Chrysler? Have you seen the similarities? I guess they both came from the same product, or perhaps they were designed similar, but different. What a concept. How about the fact that the difference between chlorine and table salt is only one atom, does this make them practically the same thing, or two totally different things?

The press release that gave us this heart stopping story also states that “scientists identified all 40 million molecular changes that today separate the two species”. I guess that my estimate of 30 million was a little off. Oh wait, the study then mentions 35 million differences. A little further into it, the same study mentions a 4% gap, but then goes on to claim that 3% are “minor variations and mutations, thus they feel secure using the 1% figure. Boy, they almost had me there.

As well, it stated that “At the same time, it is powerful evidence that seemingly modest changes in molecular code can lead to very different stations in the web of life.” In English, this means that two things that can be very similar in DNA structure can be two altogether unrelated things.

Kind of what I was thinking.

Several scientists Wednesday used the occasion of the chimp genomes unveiling to focus attention on the creatures’ plight, calling for renewed conservation efforts and new rules to govern over the use of apes in research. Shortly, we will be asked to extend our health and welfare plans to them. Perhaps we will allow them to marry. After all, they are our, um, your cousins.

If you think I am just going off on a tangent with that thought, consider the following: Pascal Gagneux of the Zoological Society of San Diego wrote in a Nature commentary that a stricter code of ethics for chimpanzee research is needed and have recommend rules similar to those now in place for research on humans who cannot give meaningful informed consent because of their age or mental status. He was joined in his call by two colleagues, both of whom were apparently human. I think that we should make these researchers spend a compulsory amount of time away from their laboratories.

Apparently the genetic traits that seem to be unique to humans are some involved in brain development, body plan, and one believed to be crucial to the development of language. That pretty much covers everything, doesn’t it? That is pretty much what separates us from the entire animal kingdom, not just apes.

The co-director of Harvard’s Mind, Brain and Behavior Program, Marc Hauser wrote, “We are woefully ignorant about how genes build brains, and how the electrical activity of the brain builds thoughts and emotions.”

Ya, Mark, no kidding.