Thursday, May 29, 2008

Science, nature and people

I've been watching an HDTV show about the lowland gorilla in the Congo.

Gripping. Couldn't tear myself away. A British scientist followed a family of gorillas through thick and thin, danger and happiness, birth and death, and her party gained the confidence of the gorillas. They never got close enough to touch, but after years of encounters the silverback finally stopped aggressing and acted nonchalant, accepted the group of humans, and the studying really began.

Fascinating, and enjoyable, at least 'til the very end.

The very last line uttered by the scientist?

"we have so much more to learn about this other kind of humanity."

Um, no. Yes, they hold hands and kiss and embrace and grieve and love and all that. Gorillas are, after all, very highly developed mammals.

But 'other kind of humanity'? Let's see.... do they recognize the rights of others? Do they sacrifice themselves for others?

Some would say yes, but the truth is they only do such things for their own tribe. Strangers are all enemies, as it is in nature. Chimpanzees will casually tear babies limb from limb if the babies are from a different family than their own. It's nature. It's the competitive instinct, my line, my family, my children first.

Humans, of course, recognize other humans as such even when strangers. In Israel, hospitals routinely treat sick and injured Palestinians, without questions, without reservations. Being human is the only qualification for deserving help. Our own soldiers treat the battlefield injuries of the other side.

This is the kind of accommodation that apes will never make. Highly developed they are, but they are NOT the complex and mysterious synthesis of mind, soul, spirit and body. They are not made in His image and likeness, but each according to its kind.

We may never know the full extent of the consciousness of the great apes, what they think, how they feel, what they really are.

But they are not human.

Unless you're a wacky scientist-- courageous and dedicated to be sure, but wacky.

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