Saturday, April 21, 2007

Are chimps more advanced than humans?

Well, yes, if you are talking about which species that has gone through most positive selection on genes, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and reported on by ScienceDaily.

Put a human and a chimpanzee side by side, and it seems obvious which lineage has changed the most since the two diverged from a common ancestor millions of years ago. Such apparent physical differences, along with human speech, language and brainpower, have led many people to believe that natural selection has acted in a positive manner on more genes in humans than in chimps.

But new research at the University of Michigan challenges that human-centered view. "We often think that we're unique and superior to other species, so there must be a lot of Darwinian selection behind our origin," said Jianzhi (George) Zhang, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. "However, we found that more genes have undergone positive selection in chimpanzee evolution than in human evolution."


When looking at species and their development, it is natural to hold an anthropocentric view, where you regard your own species as the pinnacle of evolution. However, this view is unfounded, since you cannot consider any evolutionary process better than the other, as long as it result in the survival of a species. The is no doubt that Homo sapiens is among the most adaptive and succesful species on our planet, but so you could say about Rattus rattus (the black rat) or cockroaches.

This research shows that humankind can be considered less advanced, evolution wise, than chimpanzees. Something that quite a few people will probably have some problems accepting, even if they accept evolution. Such problems doesn't not change the facts though, and it might lead to a more healthy understanding of our species' role in the greater scheme of things. A more humble view on ourselves if you will.

An abstract of the study can be found here.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous John said...

Interesting post

April 22, 2007 10:23 AM  

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