Not a Chimp

On Saturday, Leeds Skeptics in the Pub hosted Jeremy Taylor, author of “Not a Chimp: The Hunt to find the Genes that Make Us Human” as well as a popular science television producer for many years.

Jeremy delivered a fascinating talk arguing that actually there was a good case for claiming humans really are special. He made the points that chimps are not as clever as we often think they are – tool usage for example is something that can also be observed in crows so it not on it’s own a sign of higher intelligence and went on to say that crows demonstrate signs of problem solving and abstraction that chimps to do.

He suggested that many people, Richard Dawkins being a good example, may be worried that if we don’t push the view that humans and chimps are almost identical and very close together in the spectrum it could open the door for the religious – something which none of us want but to avoid it at the expense of the truth is surely unacceptable.

Finally he put forward the case that it makes no sense to grant chimps human rights because they are incapable of understanding it or nor does it have any real meaning – even if you sign them onto the declaration of human rights that doesn’t mean anything because you still have to protect them. Much like we don’t grant a child rights until it has reached maturity and can understand those rights, it makes far more sense to take the view that we must decide to protect them because they are unable to assert any rights we could award them.

It was a fascinating talk and one that I really enjoyed. I think the real gem of this month’s topic was that many people at the meeting probably didn’t subscribe to Jeremy’s side of the argument, at least beforehand. It is easy for us to preach to the converted on clearly nonsense topics such as homeopathy but I think there is far more to be gained from talks such as this which really challenge our thinking.



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This entry was posted on Sunday, November 21st, 2010 at 3:00 pm and is filed under Events, Humanism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.