Of Chimps and Men

The latest claim that chimpanzees are closer to humans than other primates will undoubtedly warm the hearts of evolutionists everywhere. But they shouldn't start swinging from the trees for joy just yet.

It doesn't mean much, for other animals also share the same genes as Homo Sapiens.

In short, it isn't as if we've learned anything new. More importantly, the news says nothing of the chasm between mankind and chimpdom.

The Latest Science

"We humans appear as only slightly remodeled chimpanzee-like apes," the Associated Press quotes Wayne State University’s Morris Goodman, who notes that chimps and men share 99.4 percent of their DNA.

Thus would Goodman put chimps under the genus Homo. Now Homo Sapiens, or humans, is the only species in the genus. Goodman would add two, Homo troglodytes and Homo paniscus, the common and bonobo chimpanzees.

In sum, the chimpologists say, Tarzan's Cheetah was more closely related to the Lord of the Apes than to the gorillas in the mist.

For the record, in some ways fruit flies are "close" to men, but flyologists do not suggest adding Drosophila melanogaster to genus Homo.

Man's Signature

This alleged revelation about chimps does not mean what the evolutionists so desperately wish.

It matters not, G.K. Chesterton wrote, whether man evolved from monkey, and he would say today that it doesn't matter how "close" chimpanzees are to man. What matters is that man is a substantially different creature.

Chesterton used the famous prehistoric cave drawings in France to make the point.

"It is the simple truth," he wrote, "that man does differ from the brutes in kind and not in degree; and the proof of it is [in the cave]; that it sounds like a truism to say that the most primitive man drew a picture of a monkey and that it sounds like a joke to say that the most intelligent monkey drew a picture of a man. Something of division and disproportion has appeared; and it is unique. Art is the signature of man….

"Monkeys did not begin pictures and men finish them…. The higher animals did not draw better and better portraits; the dog did not paint better in his best period than in his early bad manner as a jackal….

"A monkey does not draw clumsily and a man cleverly; a monkey does not begin the art of representation and a man carry it to perfection. A monkey does not do it at all; he does not begin to do it at all; he does not begin to begin to do it at all. A line of some kind is crossed before the first faint line can begin."

Man is a creator, Chesterton wrote, not merely a creature.

Monkeys do not write novels or poetry, erect statues, contemplate history and mathematics, or most importantly, worship God.

Monkeys do not look in the mirror and ask, "why am I here?"

A Monkey Is What He Is

With a chimp, you get what you see, an insensate brute. With man, you get something unseen: a being aware of himself and his mortality.

Chimpanzees are not dumbed-down hairy men; men are not souped-up simians.

Perhaps chimps belong to genus Homo because of some abstract zoological construct of which the unschooled are unaware. But the unschooled are keenly aware of something else.

A monkey is not a man, and man is not a monkey.

May 21, 2003

Syndicated columnist R. Cort Kirkwood [send him mail] is managing editor of the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va.

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