Not so very long ago we humans thought of ourselves as a separate creation—the pinnacle of God’s work—that had been granted dominion over nature. But then along came Darwin, and we discovered that we are related, through descent, to other animals. Despite this blow to our dignity we long maintained a polite fiction that we’re special enough to merit classification in our own scientific family—the Hominidae. In our minds at least, we thus maintained a comfortable distance from the apes. But the analysis of DNA put an end to that, with the demonstration that only 2 percent of our genetic code differs from that of the chimpanzees. Now we and chimps must share a twig in the family tree, and the Hominidae has been expanded to encompass the other “great apes”—chimps, gorillas, and orangutans.
more from Tim Flannery at the NYRB here.