Aping Controversy

19 Mar

The Aping of Controversy:  The Non-Issue of Richard Dawkins being an Ape

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… What we find is that over these 40-odd years that I and others have been  studying chimpanzees and the other great apes, and, as I say, other mammals with  complex brains and social systems, we have found that after all, there isn’t a  sharp line dividing humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. It’s a very  wuzzy line. It’s getting wuzzier all the time as we find animals doing things  that we, in our arrogance, used to think was just human.

Read more: http://www.sweetspeeches.com/s/612-jane-goodall-what-separates-us-from-the-apes#ixzz1pZrzfcx6

And now a word on the whole “Richard Dawkins is (or isn’t) an ape” fight in the media.  Set aside the whole what it means to “be an ape”/we’re descended from apes discussion; I think the essential lesson from this story is being overlooked.  Whether ‘we are apes’ is really unimportant, whether we’re ‘descended from them’ or ‘from a common ancestor with today’s great apes’ is also of little meaning.  The real question is whether we and apes as conscious creatures have an essential dignity, or can and should we be treated ‘like dirt’?

The creationist argument in some quarters seems to be indicating that people, whether or not they’ve biological roots and are biological creatures, have an inherent spiritual dignity that raises them above the animals, and that therefore animals can be treated like chopped liver to an extent by virtue of not being spiritual.

But notice this: apes to a certain degree mirror many of the same higher characteristics that only humans as rational animals are supposed to possess.  And yet, if we look at the research of Goodall and others in the field, we see it’s not the case that mankind alone exhibits these qualities.  (Apes do too.)

So, it has really little bearing whether we and Dawkins are apes or not.  Either way you look at it, human dignity remains the same.  The only thing that changes is that, if we are apes, then what we thought of as being essentially human features are shared by our primate relatives as well.

Christians should not feel demeaned by us as human beings being apes. They’re creatures of wonder just as we are; and I half expect so is most of the world of mammals … On that count, our being apes doesn’t diminish our human dignity.  Rather it bolsters it in new and exciting ways.

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One Response to “Aping Controversy”

  1. Luke Rondinaro March 19, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    For those who noticed, the link that I originally included in this post to TED Talks and Jane Goodall’s speech there was broken. Here is is again in case you need to copy and paste it into your browser. Please be sure to visit TED and support them through viewing. They have great programs.

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