Climbing the tree: the case for chimpanzee ‘personhood’

I’m serious. Grant chimpanzees human rights, before they all get killed and eaten. ‘Bush meat’ is cannibalism.

The Latin name for our species is Homo sapiens. “Wise man”.How does that grab you, ladies? Rubbish name. Excludes 51% of the frugging species.

And ‘wise man’? You’re having a laugh, mate. Homo ludens? Better. We is good at laughing, telling jokes and stuff. Showing off. Ladies seem to like that. Homo bellicus? The warlike man? That too. As Douglas Adams pointed out, we think we are more intelligent than dolphins because all they do is fuck about in the sea and eat fish, whereas we invented war machines and nuclear bombs. Dolphins think they are more intelligent than humans because all they do is fuck about in the sea and eat fish, whereas humans invented war machines and nuclear bombs.

An actual wise man, IMHO Jack Cohen, suggested that we rename us Pan Narrans, the storytelling ape. Because we share 99% of our DNA with 2 other chimpanzees, the famous chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes, and the critically endangered, polyamourous, feminist, peaceful Bonobo, Pan paniscus, the gracile ape. We are just the third chimpanzee. We stand upright, lost most of our fur, talk and invent stuff. Big hairy deal.

The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal by Jared Diamond

(“Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen are the source of the coinage Pan narrans, of which they say
”We are not Homo sapiens, Wise Man. We are the third chimpanzee. What distinguishes us from the ordinary chimpanzee Pan troglodytes and the bonobo chimpanzee Pan paniscus, is something far more subtle than our enormous brain, three times as large as theirs in proportion to body weight. It is what that brain makes possible. And the most significant contribution that our large brain made to our approach to the universe was to endow us with the power of story. We are Pan narrans, the storytelling ape”… “…if you understand the power of story, and learn to detect abuses of it, you might actually deserve the appellation Homo sapiens”

The Science of Discworld II: the Globe, Terry Patchett with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, Ebury Press 2002 )

I don’t need to remind my management consultant chums of the power of storytelling. Or my politician chums, if I had any.


‘Bush meat’ is cannibalism. Show that we are wise and compassionate, that we deserve the label ‘sapiens’: grant chimpanzees human rights, before they are all  killed and eaten.

Those Planet of the Apes movies don’t help either.


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