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The U.N. Monkeys Around

The 'Great Ape Project' degrades humanity.

12:00 AM, Aug 22, 2008 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
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So why hasn't this far larger genetic difference been considered important? We need only look at the scientific process that gains knowledge incrementally over time for an explanation. When the human genome was first explored, it was thought that non-coding DNA was a mere vestige of evolution that no longer served a purpose--hence the term "junk DNA." But more recent studies have surprised scientists, showing that junk DNA isn't really junk, but has a function. Research continues as to its exact purposes, but given the significant differences between human and chimp non-coding DNA, even if the purported 98 percent similarity of coding-DNA is true, it actually applies to only a small percentage of our total functional genetic makeup.

Non-coding DNA aside--whether we share 94 or 98 percent of coding-DNA, these numbers gloss over the profound biological differences between humans and chimps contained within these seemingly insignificant statistical differences. First, according to physician William Hurlbut, Stanford professor and member of the President's Council on bioethics, "Even where genes are similar, the timing and degree of gene expression (making proteins) can result in dramatically different adult body structures and functions." This means that areas of genetic similarity between us and chimps do not necessarily produce the same outcomes.

More to the point, whether we share 94 percent or 98 percent of coding-DNA, the numbers gloss over the profound and obvious biological differences between humans and chimps. An article published in the Scientific American in 2006 ("Scientist Identifies Gene Difference Between Humans and Chimps") stated, "The DNA sequences of humans and chimpanzees are 98 percent identical. Yet that 2 percent difference represents at least 15 million changes in our genome since the time of our common [evolutionary] ancestor roughly 6 million years ago." (Recent fossil finds suggest the evolutionary paths of chimps and humans probably diverged about 20 million years ago.)

Beyond that, the 15 million "biological changes" may itself be a vast understatement. After the coding-DNA of the chimpanzee was fully mapped and compared with that of Homo sapiens, research published in Nature by an international consortium found that there are actually 40 million identifiable basic biological distinctions between the two species. This research was summarized in the Harvard Gazette in 2005: "Among the 3 billion base pairs [DNA building blocks] in the DNA of both humans and chimpanzees, researchers found differences in 40 million sites. It is in those sites where the differences between the two species lie."

Forty million biological differences at the most fundamental biological level of life from whence our form and function spring is no mere crack in the pavement, as the likes of Goodall, Dawkins, and Singer would have us believe. No wonder geneticist Svante Paabo, a chimp consortium member based at Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, told Science, "I don't think there's any way to calculate a number [of similarities between chimps and humans]. In the end," he said, "it's a political and social and cultural thing about how we see our differences."

Exactly right. Ideology--not science--is the nub of the matter, reflecting a fervent desire among the "all we are is apes" crowd to destroy the cultural values explicitly upholding the highest moral worth of human beings. Society may choose to go the ape route, of course. But it is perfectly clear that the proposed radical changes in morality and law are not justified by current scientific understanding.

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow in human rights and bioethics at the Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture.