[asa] Restating the case for human uniqueness

From: Alexanian, Moorad <alexanian@uncw.edu>
Date: Sat Aug 08 2009 - 13:00:31 EDT


Friday 26 June 2009
Restating the case for human uniqueness
A brilliant new book cuts through all the media-oriented research about ‘clever chimps’ using tools, doing maths and feeling emotions, and reminds us that, in truth, there is nothing remotely human about primates.
Helene Guldberg

Not a Chimp: The Hunt to Find the Genes That Make Us Human is a refreshing defence of human uniqueness. ‘We are a truly exceptional primate with minds that are genuinely discontinuous to other animals’, Jeremy Taylor writes.

The first half of Not a Chimp challenges ‘the basis of a 40-year-old concept of human genetic chimp proximity’. Taylor does admit that ‘over very appreciable lengths of their respective genomes, humans and chimpanzees are very similar indeed’. He writes: ‘This is where the oft-quoted “1.6 per cent that makes us human” comes from. Despite 12million years of evolutionary separation, six million for each species since the split from the common ancestor, we are surprisingly similar in our genes.’

Yet he argues that, despite the very small difference in the gene coding sequence between humans and chimps, some of the important genetic differences are in genes that regulate a whole host of other genes. So a small change can make an immense difference. The genetic difference between us and chimps may be much greater than the 1.6 per cent figure implies, as our uniqueness is based on a powerful network of gene regulation, he argues.............................................

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Received on Sat Aug 8 13:01:57 2009

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