Saturday, January 11, 2003

This reporter implies only humans can empathize with others. To the contrary, primatologists have documented that chimpanzees share this quality as well. Indeed, is is debatable that all humans possess it.


The 1.2 percent secret

- Look closer at that reflection in the mirror, and you might see a chimp.

Chimpanzees are our closest relatives. The genetic instructions for making a chimp and human differ by about 1.2 per cent. Our "genomes," or full sets of genes, are 98.8 percent identical....

So what's the 1.2 percent secret? How do people really differ from animals? What makes us human?

Those old answers from school, church, synagogue and mosque are going to get a scientific update from the Human Genome Project (HGP)....

The chimp genome project may lead to important disease-related genes. Chimps infected with influenza and hepatitis C, for instance, get only mild symptoms.

And chimps are immune to malaria....

Scientists think that comparing the genes in chimps and humans will shed new light on evolution. And it should reveal that 1.2 percent difference.

"It will tell us what makes us human," said Dr. Yoshiyuki Sakaki, a University of Tokyo expert who already has begun deciphering the chimp genome.

Scientists will compare the two genomes, and identify the exact differences.

Do people have an ethics gene that would make a chimp agonize over good and evil? Is there a gene for empathy, the ability to put yourself in another's place and imagine how you would feel?...