Not A ‘Planet Of The Apes’, Could Be Worse
Watched Rise of The Planet Of The Apes yesterday. Excellent movie: great plot, great special effects, and a thought-provoking story. How some “lab test apes” acquire higher intelligence through human’s experiments, and the beginning of their rule over earth. (This is actually the prequel for ‘Planet of The Apes’. Watch for the astronaut hint in the movie :))
The movie shows how chimpanzees become test subjects, living in a pitiful cages, exposed to harmful chemicals. Because we don’t want to harm humans, hence we turn to them to try out our ‘inventions’. Hey, if they die, they are just chimps, right?
It just happens that I just finished a book titled ‘The Third Chimpanzee” by Jared Diamond. The book is about human evolution in general, but it mentions something interesting about our relationship with chimpanzee. Chimpanzee is indeed the closest ‘cousin’ to humans, as we emerge from the same ancestor, and it shows in our genetic profile. Despite our obviously different looks, we share 98% of our genes with chimpanzees (which also explains why they make good experiment subjects for human drugs).
But here is a disturbing question raised by Diamond’s. Now that we know we are SO CLOSE genetically to chimps, shouldn’t that knowledge disturb you that we experiment on them? Not only by exposing them to often harmful chemicals, but also kidnap them from their natural habitat, put them in cages, and disregard their fears, pain, and anxiety? In the past, chimpanzees’ much less intelligence, hairy body, and primitive way of life made us treat them like ordinary animal. But with the genetic fact made known, do we still feel the same?
I must say Jared Diamond’s question did make me think.
Humans are notorious in treating others considered ‘inferior’ beings badly – even to fellow humans. Never forget the Europeans or Americans’ past encounters with South American and North American Indians, how they got slaughtered because they were considered ‘less than humans’. Or how the Africans used to be seen as less humans and hence suitable as slaves. Only recently majority of people recognized humanity whatever their skin color is. In some parts of the world, religion and political beliefs replace genetic as justification for murder.
Jared Diamond then used this dark history as a warning against alien encounter. Many times and much money has been invested to send message to aliens, in expectation to make contact with them. Diamond asked, what makes us so sure that an advanced alien civilization would treat us NICELY? What if they were just like human explorers of the past, considering any living things more primitive as slaves or test experiments, much like what we do to chimpanzees today?
The earth is not ‘The Planet of The Apes’, yet. But I wonder whether humans’ treatment of other primates, or nature in general, actually makes ‘Planet of The Humans’ a meaner place.
Until we learn how to treat our closest cousin nicely, I guess we are not in position to demand any aliens to treat us well too…..