One Monkey Typing

Well, I am an ape really, one of the “great apes”, although sometimes I will admit that I am just so-so. Desmond Morris calls us “naked apes”, although we generally do our best to be otherwise. Of course, he means that we lack all the hair of our closest cousins. Don’t get me started on the significance of hair in the stages of life, from baby to oldster.

Even if we are not feeling particularly ape-like, Frans de Waal wants us to get in touch with “Our Inner Ape” (the title of one of his books). This particular kind of “innerness” would seem to conflict with the precepts of Freudian psychology. Perhaps it would be useful for Dr. de Waal to get in touch with Dr. Freud.

By the way, there is also a book (by Neil Shubin) entitled, “Your Inner Fish”. Which is it, really, ape or fish?

Ignorant people conflate apes with monkeys; in fact they think of all primates as monkeys. This probably would disturb lorises and aye-ayes, but they likely haven’t heard about it. I have a hunch that gorillas have heard about it, which could explain why they seem so thoughtful and grumpy. They no doubt think themselves above the monkeys; you can see it in their ambling swagger.

Ignorant people also wonder, “If humans are evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” This question is a sure sign that the person asking it has no idea how evolution works, in particular the fact that humans and present-day monkeys are all descended from a common ancestor, an ancestor that was neither human nor monkey, although we can be sure that the ancestral species had many of the physical characteristics that we share with monkeys. But the question is intended to be rhetorical and answerless, thus “disproving” evolution.

There is a point at which ignorance leads to utterances that are indistinguishable from stupidity. Much ignorance is self-imposed, by people who choose not to learn. They might not be organically stupid, just functionally stupid, just as a person who can read, but doesn’t, is functionally illiterate.

Again, humans share a common ancestor with present-day fish as well. One result of all this is that you cannot automatically claim that humans are “more evolved” than present-day fish or monkeys. But if you are wondering what the common ancestor of fish and humans looked like, I can tell you that it had a backbone, bilateral symmetry, and eyes. And it looked like a fish.

Anyway, we were talking about monkeys: there is a cliche that if 100 monkeys type furiously at random, eventually they will reproduce the works of Shakespeare. But what would be the point? Just buy the book. Put the 100 monkeys to work packaging foods that can be labeled “Untouched by human hands”.

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