Sunday, July 29, 2007

Chimps are people too?

Take a look at this photo of an apple and a pear. Wouldn’t you say that even a 3-year old will be able to tell you that they are different? Do you need learned scientists with big degrees behind their names to conduct all sorts of elaborate tests of their composition, juiciness, mineral content, DNA structures etc. to tell you they are simply not the same?

(Photo by Flickr member Monikahoinkis)

And yet, I saw this highly-touted “documentary of the week” on Channel News Asia recently, where they tried to argue that chimps are actually the same as human beings. The title of the documentary was; Chimps are People Too. It was produced by Horizon and presented by Danny Wallace, a British Comedian and writer. To make sure I really understood where these people are coming from, I recorded the show and watched it a second time.

Danny Wallace travels to many places and interviews a number of experts in areas, and here are some of his conclusions:

1) Dongo National Park, Africa – Wallace spends a full day here observing the behaviour of chimps in the natural environment. He learns that chimps could make a variety of sounds. They can even communicate sentences like “I found really good food.” His conclusion? Chimps have the “beginnings of a language”.

“Look into the eyes of a chimp. You do get this weird sense of recognition. So this make me think, that more and more, really, in my opinion, chimps are people.”

2) Philosopher – Next Wallace speaks to a philosopher, and learns that a full grown adult chimp has a lot of sophisticated awareness of itself and its environment. It is more advanced than a new born child. His conclusion?

“It just might be possible that chimps could be people too.”

3) Sexual attraction – Next Wallace goes to Cambridge University and learns about a ‘ground breaking experiment’ where 3 women are asked to sniff the dirty T-shirts of 3 male subjects – 2 men and a chimp, and choose the one each found the most attractive. All three women found T-shirt B to be not very attractive or unattractive. In other words, they could not tell the difference.

So what? I am completely lost??? Have they tried a similar experiment with a bear or a cat or a donkey?

4) Chimp Trainer in Hollywood. This guy trains chimps to do ‘human things’ like nod head (good), shake head (bad), do hand signals, bare teeth etc. He treats his chimps like 5-year olds and even disciplines them. Wallace’s conclusion?

“What they were doing were people-like. They looked fairly human. I’m not sure if it’s enough.”

4) Geneticist. Chimps and human share 99.4% of DNA and are almost identical genetically. He believes that the difference is due to ‘thousands and thousands of years of culture.’

“Layers and layers of culture which we build up over thousands and thousands of years that make us increasingly more sophisticated. If you take them outside that cultural context, you might find that their behaviour is a little bit more like a chimpanzee.”

5) Primate Center in Atlanta. Here Wallace asks the question, “Do chimps have culture.” Here he observes chimps learning 2 different methods of getting M&M’s from a device which required them to lift or poke something. His conclusion?

“The experiment proves absolutely that chimps have a capacity for culture and pass it on to each other down the generation

6) Bonobos – Wallace’s final visit was to a centre which studied bonobos (pygmy chimpanzee) by treating them like humans. Wallace finds that he could communicate with the Bonobos through some kind of computer software, play with them and even ‘bonds’ with one them. He is completely convinced.

And his parting words.

“Ultimately, I think all this is a question of potential. Give them time. Again …
So should they be treated as if they are people too? Well that’s up to the chimps that got there first: Us.”

And my conclusion: Danny Wallace certainly has a great deal of faith in his ‘religion’ – Evolution. He sets out fully convinced that humans evolved from chimps. He looks for the slightest hint of similarity and declares it as scientific proof. If this is not evidence of faith, I don’t know what is.

Interesting, I also saw an hour-long video webcast of a studio discussion about this same show which involved a panel of experts here. Surprisingly, a straw poll amongst the audience indicated that more people believed that chimps are not people after watching the show than before watching the show.

During the discussion, one of the panelists, Dr. Mark Thomas, a human evolutionary geneticist at University College London said that it was over-simplistic and misleading to attach too much to this 99.4% similarity in DNA of humans and chimp, because bananas have 60% and rats and more than 90% similarity in their DNA with humans.

As for me, I believe that for such a simple question, there is no need for scientific tests. What constitutes human-ness anyway …. looks, behaviour and personality perhaps?

(Photo by Flickr member Gandalf Grey)

- Does this chimp look 99.4% human?

- Does he behave 99.4% like a human? Can he talk, reason, argue, write, read, design equipment 99.4% like a human? (Of course evolutionists say; give the guy a couple of million years, and he will. But then, we won’t be around to verify that would we?)

- Can he devise elaborate systems to capture and enslave other chimpanzees and ship them half way around the world to be sold for profit?

- Can he look up to the night sky and be so captivated by its beauty and order that he is moved to write words like these in praise of his creator?

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth forth His handiwork.” [Psalm 19:1]

So then, why do these brilliant scientists go to such pains to deceive themselves? I think the answer is found in something the apostle Paul wrote nearly two thousand years ago.

“Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.” [Romans 1: 19–22, New International Version]

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