Are humans really THAT special?

3 05 2008

Everytime a documentary runs on National Geographic saying “Humans evolved from apes”, I switch the channel as it is usually a repetition of the same facts proposed over and over by many researchers. E.g: Pictures of hunched humans, bone structure comparisons and capability comparisons. Today however, Wayne told me about this TED video which proposes something along similar lines with a unique twist.

The presentation was made by Susan Savage-Rumbaugh, a researcher who has spent decades in the field of ape language studies who believes that the unique traits(intellectual thinking, language learning) human beings possess may have been culturally nurtured rather than biologically in-grained into our DNA. Her research with the Bonobo ape species has shown that in a culture of interaction where researchers are not “aiming to teach” but rather be part of the Bonobos’ daily lives, these mammals were able to learn through observation very human tasks like starting a fire with a lighter, playing Pac-man and delicately using a scissors to groom their offsprings. A comparison made between stone knives crafted by the Bonobos and those by pre-historic humans from 2 million years ago show stark similarities, creating the notion that we may have once lived like how the Bonobos are living today.

After watching the presentation, I was very convinced that humans developed the traits and capabilities we have today through millions of years of cultural interaction and development. If what Rambaugh proposes is true, then does the widely championed phrase “Humans are special” still hold? Or are we just equals of animals who happen to culturally advance through some chance encounters and interactions with a mix of other species’?

Here’s the video to fascinate your mind:




One response

16 06 2008

That’s pretty cool…

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