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By John Stonestreet
Putting myths to rest is always a good thing, and right now it needs to be bedtime for Bonzo.
Journalists and science writers endlessly repeat the biological bromide that “humans and chimpanzees are 99% genetically identical,” a factoid that has taken on a life of its own and, pun intended, has evolved into a worldview assumption. If our genes are virtually indistinguishable from those of chimpanzees, the reasoning goes, we must be virtually indistinguishable from chimpanzees!
Kevin Williamson, writing at the National Review of all places, made this leap about Ivanka Trump’s rude welcome by fellow airline passengers recently. If we are, after all, 99% chimps, it’s not surprising our inner apes would make an appearance, say, on a JetBlue flight.
Now, people certainly are capable of acting like animals, and the scientific-sounding assertion that we really are animals at heart seems to explain it. But there’s just one problem: It’s not true. Our DNA is not 99% identical to that of chimpanzees. Even if it were, that wouldn’t make us apes-except-for-one-percent. That’s bad genetic science and reductionist philosophy, to boot.
Writing at Evolution News and Views, David Klinghoffer points out that the “99%” myth is based on hopelessly outdated research. But it got a shot in the arm after researchers at the Genome Consortium announced in 2005 they’d sequenced chimp DNA and compared it with our own.
Newspapers the world over trumpeted the similarity between the two genomes as further proof of our close ancestry. What they neglected to mention was…
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