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When I go to the zoo I often attempt to engage in conversation with the gorillas. It doesn’t usually work out. The problem is that gorillas are not humans and as such, do not exhibit any ability to converse in English. The other problem is that I cannot distinguish gorillas from humans, so this is, probably, going to continue well into the future.

There, I said it. You people all look the same. And by people I mean primates.

Call the P.C. firing squad.

The differences between humans and other primates are, in reality, not that amazing. They have a lot of the same bits and pieces that we do yet there is a pretty incredible resistance within human communities to the idea that we’re cousins of a sort separated only by a very short span of time (in terms of universal time, anyway). Human beings are proud creatures for whatever reason, but when I look around, I don’t see a great deal to be proud of, but hey, that’s me. This pride (often inspired by religion or a general lack of awareness) is instrumental in allowing many people to disconnect from their heritage and to see the animal world as somehow being “other” or, even worse, as simply being another resource to mine for our personal benefit. I’ve often found the best remedy for this is a healthy dose of science. To learn about our common ancestry is to recognize our common origin and to see the family ties between us and the creatures that share the world with us.

Now, I’m not denying that people have done some pretty marvelous things in their short time on this earth. They’ve created civilizations, music, culture, and medicine. They’ve shared and been shared with. They’ve learned to communicate with spoken and written language and they’ve learned how to tell stories. It can be tough to look at animals living out their rather limited existences in the forests and out on the plains and not feel some sense of superiority, that, somehow, there is a purpose in us being the top of the food chain. There isn’t. We are animals just like all the other animals, though we are remarkably successful ones. We can look at these things we have created and see ourselves as masters of this earth and of its creatures, but that’s ignoring the darker side of our rise to power. We are the only species that can not only destroy itself entirely, but that can also take much of the rest of the earth with us. Does that sound supreme and intelligent to you? Does it sound divinely ordained? It sure as shit doesn’t sound like it to me.

It sounds pretty goddamn stupid.

I understand that this is a nuanced issue of weaponry and the right to defend oneself and ones borders, believe me. My point here is that while we may be more intelligent, in some ways, than our animal brethren, we are ridiculously stupid on a macroscopic level. Humanity as a whole needs to think about things like this every now and again to keep ourselves humble both as individuals and as a species.

That’s what evolution and science in general have taught me: humility. It’s hard to think you’re this perfect creature that is somehow above and separate from the wildlife that surrounds you when you know that you’re family in some very meaningful ways. To know that we share DNA that is very close to that of the apes and all other animals is to know that we owe them our respect and our recognition.

Denying the kinship between animals and humans is a travesty. To look at the things we do to creatures that can’t really defend themselves and justify it with books we write to satisfy our own egos is criminal. I’m not saying we need to live right alongside the gorillas, here. It would just be nice if people would recognize this connection and appreciate it.

I mean, gorillas are so stupid anyway, right? They live out their lives in the forests, eating fresh fruit, relaxing, and having sex without any real inhibitions to speak of. That sure sounds terrible compared to the awesome lives most of us have, chained to desks trying to pay off our college loans. And that’s the lucky ones among us.

I take back what I said before, we’ve clearly got this shit figured out.

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