A brief look at human evolution

Published on September 30, 2020   36 min

A selection of talks on Genetics & Epigenetics

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Hello, my name is Steve Jones. I'm a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London. I'm going to be talking today about evolution, specifically about human evolution.
Or, perhaps even worse, to raise orangutans and chimps to become almost human? Well, the Victorians were worried about Darwin and our resemblance to apes, and the fact still worries millions of people today. Their concern indeed, is that evolution shows humans to be just an animal, loaning ourselves to the level of chimps perhaps. Even today, there's another side to that coin, a kind of what I think of as neo-creationism.
Jane Goodall, the famous primatologist has claimed some form of human rights for primates, based on the sharing of more than 90 percent of our DNA, particularly with chimpanzees. She set up a system called The Great Ape Project, and that's led to the prohibition of medical research on chimpanzees in many countries. Well, it seems a very strange decision to me, particularly as she specifically says, that the amount of human rights that a chimpanzee should have, should be about the same as the level applied to infants and the mentally ill. Well, the argument has certainly persuaded plenty of countries and they have banned laboratory experiments on chimps as a result. It seems to me odd to use DNA as an alibi for an ethical decision. After all, we share lots of DNA with bananas, but nobody talks of giving them any form of rights as a result. I once wrote a book called The Language of the Genes, and that drew the rather obvious parallel between changes in the double helix in DNA, and changes in language both over time and from place to place. However, to understand that to speak a language, you need more than just words. You need grammar. The theory of evolution is the grammar of biology, the framework which makes the science of life make sense. Amazingly to me, vast numbers of people across the world do not believe in evolution.