In introducing this week's topic, I fear that my language may have painted something of a false dichotomy. Are we "just" wild animals, or are we somehow separate from the many species with whom we share planet Earth? I often find myself guilty of stratifying the human experience far above that of "lesser" creatures, an exercise which can frankly be taken to a dangerous extreme when the sanctity of life is in question.
Stephen Jay Gould elegantly asks, "Why should our nastiness be the baggage of an apish past and our kindness uniquely human? Why should we not seek continuity with other animals for our 'noble' traits as well?"
When reading the comments from yesterday's video post, I noticed a common theme unfolding. We can learn more about ourselves--and yes, we ARE apes--if we study our closest living animal relatives, the bonobos and the chimpanzees of the Pan genus. Of the five living great apes (humans, gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, and bonobos), we share the highest DNA compliment with chimps and bonobos (we only differ by about 1-2%). (Read more...)