Recently I have watched a series on the National Geographic Channel entitled, “Going Ape”. It is a fascinating observation of the comparisons between humans and apes. In watching this series I have been left with an increased awareness of the similarities between the two species which are quite compelling, and thus making it easy to understand why evolution theory is so broadly received by the rationally minded and why creationists are losing credibility in a modern age. The series highlights behaviors such as mating instincts, emotional responses and social interactions that are parallel behaviors between humans and apes. As I watched I also observed the physical likeness between humans and apes. Remove the head and hair from a chimp body and the physique is remarkably comparable to that of a human, right down to shape and muscular structure.
But oh, skeptical me! As with everything I have questions, and as is my custom I began questioning – What am I really seeing here, are these similar characteristics due to biological causes? Or, are they the result of social dynamics necessary to form a tribe?
It seemed apparent that the intent of the series is to promote and solidify the idea that the human species evolved from a common ancestor primate as evidenced through relatable biological and emotional characteristics. Yet, as I watched I realized that the parallels in the behavior seem more the result of tribal interactions. Although compelling, the resemblance of behaviors did not convince me that humans and apes are so biologically intertwined that it should become obvious that there is no intelligent designer, and both man and ape are just the product of universal happenstance through the process of evolution.
My skepticism about such things is not unordinary. My mother informs me that as a child my most dreaded conversations with her always began with the words, “but why?” Since the time that I was able to form my own conclusions from reason, logic and curiosity I have been resistant to the slanted view of others. I am skeptical of ulterior motives in advertising, or the news, or the opinions of the academically educated, politically minded and religiously devoted. I guess you could say that I am an equal opportunity skeptic regarding the opinions and preferences of others and how they should affect my own perspectives. I look for the fringe of the presentation, or as my mother would say, the fly in the soup.
Watching this series I can say that the evolution hammer pounded a few nails into the Creationist’s coffin. But I can also say that I see the fly in the soup- a big ole self-aware fly.
I consider that there remain pieces to the puzzle, and unanswered questions. Why are humans, rather than apes, driving cars, launching space shuttles or curing diseases? In the millions of years that evolution has occurred, why is it that apes are not further along in intellectual development? Will a day ever come when an ape becomes capable of cloning itself?
I feel the need to reiterate that I am not a Creationist. I see the Adam and Eve story as symbolic myth attempting to explain the beginning of self-awareness. So I am not someone prone to deny that humans and apes did not evolve from a common ancestor. But there is that pesky fly, the unexplained reason why humans are self-aware, and my curiosity as to how humans became self-aware, and why no other species has come close to the intellectual abilities of man.