Not a Chimp

From The Guardian:

GetImages No one who has ever had a baby chimp climb trustingly into her arms (I have) can doubt that Pan troglodytes is the nearest living relative to Homo sapiens. But how close does that make us? Should we, as some influential scientists and philosophers have argued, see chimpanzees as fellow humans and accord them the same rights? Or does science support the assumption of human uniqueness that has prevailed through most of civilisation?

As his title suggests, Jeremy Taylor is firmly in the second camp. A TV science producer, he was driven to distraction by a stream of documentaries showing cute chimps displaying apparently human traits such as empathy, tool-making and language. Egged on by a tendency to anthropomorphism, some primatologists have argued that the difference between chimpanzee and human cognition is simply a matter of degree. Taylor is having none of it: “To call the difference quantitative between alarm calls, food-specific grunts, whoops and Shakespeare; between night nests and twig tools, and the A380 passenger jet; and between retribution and food sharing and Aristotle and Mill is, to my mind, stretching a point, and a bit of an insult to human ingenuity and culture.”

At a superficial level, science supports the chimps 'R' us hypothesis. In 2005, scientists published a letter-by-letter comparison of the chimpanzee and human genomes, with an overall similarity of 96%. For comparison, studies of the human genome now put the similarity between any two individuals at between 97% and 99%.

More here.