Saturday, July 30, 2011
Swapping Rights with our Biological Cousins
Whatever natural history museum you might enter, I will wager that you will be assailed by the “established fact” that we share 98-99% of our genes with chimps. However, this “fact” might not be as well established as the museum might like you to think. Biologist David Tyler writes:
• For over 30 years, the public have been led to believe that human and chimpanzee genetics differ by mere 1%. This ‘fact’ of science has been used on innumerable occasions to silence anyone who offered the thought that humans are special among the animal kingdom. “Today we take as a given that the two species are genetically 99% the same.” However, this “given” is about to be discarded. Apparently, it is now OK to openly acknowledge that those who are involved in this research have never been comfortable that the 1% figure was an accurate summary of the scientific information. But more recent studies have made it impossible to sustain the old orthodoxy. They have raised “the question of whether the 1% truism should be retired.”
More interesting than the biological facts is the question of why these “facts” had been so thoroughly promoted by the scientific community. Along with this strenuous assertion also comes the “conclusion” that we are kissing cousins to the chimp – along with several other hairy “relatives” – and that they should be accorded rights consistent with their levels of DNA correspondence with us. Regarding this narrow biological equation, Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London, writes:
• DNA is beside the point. To concede so much to biology risks taking such privileges away from ourselves. [. . .] Chimps may resemble Homo sapiens in a tedious and literal sense, but in everything that makes us what we are H sapiens is unique indeed. Biology, in its proof of our physical similarity to other primates, underlines its own irrelevance.
What Jones argues is incontestable! It really doesn’t matter how similar we are DNA-wise to the chimp. Profound and obvious differences still remain, however we might explain them. Just ask your chimp to write you a sonnet!
Equally astounding is the suggestion that we should extend our rights to other living things based on our DNA likeness. I think that I had read that we share 50% of our genes with mosquitoes. Should we then criminalize killing them? Should we not use antibiotics against the Giardia parasite, which ravages our intestinal system? And if we do pass such legal prohibitions, would this not bring our legal system crashing down, doing away with the concept of rights entirely? Clearly, by extending to chimps, apes, and mosquitoes similar rights to the ones we enjoy, we endanger our own rights to our own detriment.
So let me ask again, “Why would evolutionists push such notions?” The most direct answer is, “They have vested interests – professional and monetary – for perpetuating their beliefs.” However, this doesn’t explain much. Why have they vested themselves in such questionable and costly ideas to begin with?
To answer such a question, one needs to be a doctor of the human soul. Since I am not that, all I can do is raise questions. “Is it that the shock value and novelty of these ideas is so attractive?” Or perhaps rebellion – the desire to trash traditional, restrictive values – is so irresistible? Perhaps it’s better to hold my tongue at this point.