Making Room at the Top of the Food Chain

We may not be the only ones perched atop the animal kingdom for much longer. Not if a scientist from Detroit has his way. According to him we may have to move over and share the coveted spot with chimpanzees because he says they're more closely related to us than they are to gorillas, apes, or Crispin Glover. Of course even if they were, they'd never admit to the latter.

The report appeared online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (motto: "Keep moving, there's nothing of interest here"). In it, Morris Goodman, a researcher at Wayne State University, claims that a whopping 99.4 per cent of the DNA in humans is identical to that in chimps, leading him to declare that "Humans appear as only slightly remodeled chimpanzee-like apes." Keep in mind, of course, that scientists also consider soy hot dogs, Cher, and the remake of The Nutty Professor to be just slightly remodeled. He goes on to say that because of the remarkable similarity in DNA, all chimps should be tested to see if they had anything to do with the murders of Nicole Simpson or Laci Peterson. Just kidding. Actually police have already questioned all the chimps in California and they have iron-clad alibis.

The truth is, Goodman thinks chimps should be included in the human branch of the animal family tree. Hanging by their tails, of course. As it is now, humans, which are known in scientific circles as Homo sapiens, are the only creatures in the genus Homo. A genus, for those who slept through eight years of science class because you stayed up late leafing through National Geographic while buried under the covers holding a flashlight searching for photographs of naked tribal women while telling yourself it was preparing you for a career as an anthropologist, is a group of closely related species. Of course if they're too closely related they can't get married. Except if they live in West Virginia, parts of Arkansas, or are Jerry Lee Lewis.

Chimpanzees are currently classified in the genus Pan along with bonobos, which are also known as pygmy chimpanzees, something that insults both pygmies and other chimps, but if Goodman has his way they'll be moved into Homo. And hopefully receive a good relocation package to offset the increased cost of being in a better neighborhood.

It's hard to believe that a measly 0.6 percent of DNA is all that separates furry, feral, knuckle-dragging creatures that can't say anything intelligible from Sylvester Stallone, but who am I to argue with science? Yet for all the similarities the DNA accounts for, there are still a number of things that very definitely differentiate us from chimpanzees:

Chimps eat bananas using their feet. Humans eat supersized hamburgers with one hand while driving the car, talking on the cell phone, changing a CD, and combing their hair with the other.

  • Humans keep themselves entertained by watching a TV show about a desperate woman who chooses a husband from among a group of leather-masked men who look like they should be playing the gimp in a community theater revival of Pulp Fiction. Chimps pick bugs out of each other's fur.

  • Humans wear clothes, generating a quarter ton of laundry per person each year so they can hide their bodies, then go online to stare at photographs of people who don't wear clothes. Chimps, on the other hand, only wear clothes when they're posing as business executives on greeting cards, in advertisements, and on motivational posters no one with that 0.6 percent DNA edge actually thinks are funny.

  • Famous chimps have silly names like Bonzo, Bubbles, J. Fred Muggs, and Cheetah. Famous humans have sensible names like Regis Philbin, Jello Biafra, and Mark Vincent. I mean, Vin Diesel.

  • Humans create products like soy candles so vegans, New Agers, and people with more money than sense can get romantic, procreate, multiply, and come up with even stupider ideas, like the "Suffering Succotash" ice cream served by a shop in Fredonia, NY which mixed corn and lima beans with vanilla ice cream. Chimps pick bugs out of each other's fur.

  • Humans get in an uproar when a woman wants to play professional golf with the guys. Chimps think PGA means Play Golf Annika.

  • Chimps often live in the mountains and communicate by making noises and hand gestures. Humans climb mountains and communicate using the Internet café that was built 18,000 feet up at the base camp of Mount Everest because, face it, you can never be too far removed not to send emails to the office or receive ones which promise bigger body parts, free satellite TV, and the ability to lose 32 lbs while eating all the pizza you want.

  • Humans come up with ideas like staging "Evel Knievel: the Rock Opera," a production Jef Bek of Los Angeles is putting together. Chimps pick bugs out of each other's fur while wondering which Bek will find first, his missing consonants or his common sense.

But for all these differences there's still the problem of that 99.4 percent similarity, which is personified by the one true Missing Link: Carrot Top. Human or chimp? Homo or
  • Pan
  • ? One day maybe science actually will have all the answers.

    More Mad Dog can be found online at: His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation.

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