Our DNA is over 98% similar to chimpanzees. This is more similar than the difference from horses to donkeys which can easily produce hybrid offspring, mules.
It has been more than 50 years since there was active research on the genetic uniqueness of humans and the potential hybridization of chimps and humans (humanzees). And even then, there was little appetite for the truth. Each study always abruptly ended. To me this means that deep down inside we already know the uncomfortable truth.
We are 98% chimpanzee and they are 98% human.
And, unlike 50 years ago when Crispr (DNA editing) wasn’t available, we have the present means to isolate, map and individually activate each of the genetic differences between us and chimpanzees to make any form of viable humanzee hybrid that we desire. The question arises, at what level of hybrid does this Frankenstein animal become Human or is the word Human just a convenient term to support our misunderstandings?
If it is just our brain that makes us human, what part of our thoughts and traits are so completely unique to us that we haven’t observed anything similar with other animals?
Very little. We’ve learned so much in this area. We now know that nearly all animals dream; elephants mourn their dead; and dogs can truly love you. There are few remaining natural human behaviors that we have not observed with other animals.
Furthermore, individually we may not even be born as the smartest species. It is possible based upon the density of neuron connections that some whales or elephants could be born individually more intelligent than any single human. However, our true intelligence is our collective wisdom and that seems to grow exponentially by our unparalleled ability to communicate with each other. This would make me think that a large part of this 1% genetic difference will be related to the genetic construction of better communicative abilities — eg the voice box.
Do animals have morality?
There is a local chimp sanctuary near me savethechimps.org that puts rescued chimps in low human interference family groups to live out the rest of their days. They have some unique policies that I found quite fascinating. The chimps that don’t get along well with other chimps are considered “special needs” and placed in individual confinements. This probably mimics behaviors in nature when “immoral” chimpanzees members are cast out of the pack.
Chimps also hunt and kill monkeys. Wolves kill farm animals? Is it immoral for them to do that? If not why is it ok for them but not for us?
It is unquestionable that we have attained the “Human” state of mind, and we have the cognitive ability to grapple with questions like morality so this gives us the moral obligation to do such.
In conclusion what makes us human is not 1% of our DNA but our choices of humanity. There is no doubting that we are the dominant species — the entitlement of this becomes the ethical and spiritual (if not religious) question.
We are humans so we need to choose a life of strength, happiness and one that chooses to do the right things for the right reasons.
I believe that if more people understand how similar we are to other animals we will not only try to treat them better, but we’d also more easily love our fellow humans without regard to falsely created human constructs of race, religion, nationality,…