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REQUIEM

Below are the two final essays to be posted on Allegiance and Duty Betrayed. The first one is written by a friend -- screen name 'Euro-American Scum' -- who, over the past four years, has been the most faithful essayist here. He has written about everything from his pilgrimage to Normandy in 2004 to take part in the 60th–year commemoration of the invasion, to his memories of his tour in Vietnam. His dedication to America’s founding principles ... and those who have sacrificed to preserve them over the past 200+ years ... is unequaled. Thank you, E-A-S. It has been a privilege to include your writing here, and it is a privilege to call you my friend.

The second essay is my own farewell. And with it I thank all of the many regular visitors, and those who may have only dropped in occasionally, for coming here. I hope you learned something. I hope a seed or two was planted. But, even if not, I thank you for stopping by ... 25 March, 2010

10/12/2006

Commuting Chimpanzees


Last evening I watched an interesting "scientific" programme on BBC2. It was called "Chimps are People too". Its presenter, Danny Wallace, set out to show that, as humans and chimps share 99.4 % of their genetic make up, they are too close to treat differently -- hence Chimps are people too?!

For the record, I disagree. However it was amusing to see the reactions of some "eminent" scientists as he lobbied for this view at a scientific reception. Some entered into philosophical debate while a few fundamentalist type scientists reacted in horror to this attack on "classification" and scientific principles.

There were some more sympathetic scientists and the majority of the film was spent with them. He also visited some trained chimps near Hollywood where there were some dark allegations of cruelty in the training methods.

Most interesting was a near cousin of the chimps, the bonobos, which were looked after by a female scientist near Atlanta Georgia. The most able of these were able to cook themselves a pot noodle using a saucepan and gas burners. They had also been trained to use a special computer so they could actually have a short "conversation" with Danny Wallace using this.

These are clearly very intelligent animals, but not humans. Genetically they are only 0.6% different from us but that is an important 0.6%. One geneticist said the disappearance of a particular gene had allowed the human skull to expand until its brain was 3 times bigger than a chimp. Chimps have some form of language but it is not as rich as ours.

However the ultimate evidence against human status seemed to be their attitude toward each other. While they were able to cooperate for mutual benefit and in an experiment one chimp unlocked another chimp to help with a rope that pulled in bananas, the same chimp did not release the other chimp when he could get the bananas independently.

In short, Chimps are not human because they have no moral concern for the welfare of fellow chimps (apart from their own offspring). A chimp will quite happily eat 2 bananas in full view of another chimp that it could unlock and share with. Although appealing in many ways, Chimps are ultimately selfish and cooperate only when there is an obvious gain from doing so. Chimps are not kind and do not practise altruism.

I was happy with this conclusion until I got to the train this morning. Then I witnessed the usual free-for-all as the doors opened and people rushed for seats. Suddenly I realised the programme could have had the wrong approach. While it said "Chimps are People too", a short commute in London would raise the possibility "People are Chimps too"?!

These chimps read newspapers and listen to I-pods but they are grimly happy to sit while others stand. They push each other out of the way to get out of the train. Occasionally an alpha male cries out in anger when someone invades his space too much. These chimps, like all chimps, can cope with automatic ticket barriers, but as commuting chimps no one is bothered about the others and hardly anyone looks at or speaks to each other.

Railway worker chimps man (or "chimp"?) the barriers at the station and grunt as they let someone whose ticket doesn't work through the barrier. London can make us all chimps sometimes but then someone falls over and a few of us rediscover our humanity as we try and help. In a way our daily commutes are little more than learned exercises that could easily be done by Chimpanzees. Maybe some of our jobs could be performed by Chimps too? (I've certainly met a couple working as real estate agents before!)

London, like most big cities, can be hard and uncaring sometimes. We lose something of our humanity and forget about others. To the visitor it can be daunting. I remember how a New Zealand colleague in my previous job said how, on his first visit to London, it took him 15 minutes to get out of Oxford Circus underground station because he had never moved in such a crowded confined space before. The local chimps were obviously oblivious to the visitor's plight and kept on moving as a fast flowing torrent, with the newcomer sticking close to the walls of the station.

Now I certainly believe that none of us are really chimps even if sometimes we act like it. However, the next time you commute, try to remember that you are 0.6% different from a chimpanzee. And it's rude not to share your bananas with hungry neighbours!

by Luis Donatella

(contributing team member of Allegiance and Duty Betrayed)

(Mr. Donatella, weblog London Calling, lives in the suburbs of London)

9 comments:

Dawnsearlylight said...

Just the kind of levity I needed this morning, as I'm drinking my morning coffee and listening to news of N. Korea's latest rantings.

Thanks for the pick-me-up!

Anonymous said...

Cute! Thanks. :-)

CalBrindisi said...

However the ultimate evidence against human status seemed to be their attitude toward each other. While they were able to cooperate for mutual benefit and in an experiment one chimp unlocked another chimp to help with a rope that pulled in bananas, the same chimp did not release the other chimp when he could get the bananas independently.

I know quite a few humans who put bananas before cooperation too. < G >

I enjoyed reading this.

daveburkett said...

Well written and I like your premise!

Minuteman23 said...

I'm not a believer in the theory of evolution but you make reading about it enjoyable. :-)

Anonymous said...

Happy you all enjoyed this.

If you were to commute in London each day you might begin to feel like a chimpanzee !

Minuteman23- glad you found it enjoyable too. I am not certain on evolution myself. However I agree with you in calling it a "theory".

Near to where I live is Charles Darwin's old house which is now a museum. Having been round there recently it was clear to me that he just intended it as a scientific theory (with all the limitations of such theories) and not as something that would undermine timeless truths. Maybe it has since taken by others as a fundemental truth in its own right but that certainly wasn't Mr. Darwin's original intention.

We seem a bit obsessed with Darwin in the UK- his head even appears on the back of the £10 note (the Queen of course the other side :-))

John Cooper said...

The difference between animals and humans is really very simple. It's not "use of tools", "opposed thumbs", or all that blather that so-called "intellectuals" spew.

Humans have a conceptual mode of consciousness and animals have a perceptual mode of consciousness.

About animals, Ayn Rand wrote:

"The higher organisims possess a much more potent form of consciousness: they possess the facility of retaining sensations, which is the facility of perception. A "perception" is a group of sensations automatically retained and integrated by the brain of a living organism, which gives it the ability to be aware, not of single stimuli, but of entities, of things. An animal is guided, not merely by immediate sensations, but by percepts. Its actions are not single, discrete responses to single, separate stimuli, but are directed by an integrated awareness of the perceptual reality confronting it. It is able to grasp the perceptual condretes immediatly present and it is able fo gorm automatic perceptual associations, bit it can go no further."

Humans (most of them) think conceptually. About humans, Ayn Rand wrote:

"A concept is a mental integration of two or more units which are isolated by a process of abstraction and united by a specific definition. By organizing his perceptual material into concepts, and his concepts into wider and still wider concepts, man is able to grasp and retain, to identify and integrate an unlimited amound of knowledge, a knowledge exceeding beyond the immediat concretes of any given immediate moment."

Clearly, we humans have some left-over animal urges, and worse yet, we have the ability to "turn off" our conceptual mode of thinking and revert to the animal mode.

2ndAmendmentDefender said...

An excellent essay.

I'm not so sure I agree with you when you say that a human wouldn't sit there eating 2 bananas when he could easily unlock another human and share with him. (I know many humans who would eat until satiated when they could share with someone else, bananas or otherwise). :-)

Great final observation-----

Now I certainly believe that none of us are really chimps even if sometimes we act like it. However, the next time you commute, try to remember that you are 0.6% different from a chimpanzee. And it's rude not to share your bananas with hungry neighbours!

Ain't it the truth!

a california girl said...

I love your take on this. Very enjoyable reading.