Monday, September 30, 2002

I would argue that this is a difference in degree, not in kind.

CULTURAL DEBATE

Humans are more than mere cheeky monkeys
JAMES REYNOLDS Environment Correspondent

FOR centuries, scientists have compared the genetic development of chimpanzees to our own in an effort to gain more understanding of human origins.

However, this week, experts in evolution will question the established thinking by highlighting fundamental differences between the way the two species have developed.

Experts at the event, which is sponsored by the British Academy and the Royal Society, will argue that the development of chimpanzee culture, while complex, is not comparable to the immense strides the human race has taken. Kenan Malik, a writer and broadcaster, said: "Humans do not simply acquire habits from others.

"We also constantly innovate, transforming ourselves, individually and collectively, in the process.

"There is a fundamental difference between chimpanzees cracking open palm-nuts using stones and humans creating the industrial revolution, unravelling the secrets of the genome and developing the concept of universal rights."

However, as many as 39 cultural variants in chimpanzees have been discovered, and others at the event will argue that the richness of chimpanzee culture undermines the argument that our own human culture is unique.