The Third Chimpanzee


“The gorilla must have branched off from our family tree slightly before we separated from the common and pygmy chimpanzees. The chimpanzees, not the gorilla, are our closest relatives. Put another way, the chimpanzees’ closest relative is not the gorilla but humans. Traditional taxonomy has reinforced our anthropocentric tendencies by claiming to see a fundamental dichotomy between mighty man, standing alone on high, and the lowly apes all together in the abyss of bestiality. Now, the future taxonomists may see things from the chimpanzee’s perspective: a weak dichotomy between slightly higher apes (the three chimpanzees, including the “human chimpanzee”) and slightly lower apes (gorillas, orangutans, gibbons). The traditional distinction between “apes” (defined as chimps, gorillas, etc.) and humans misrepresent the facts.”

Jared Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee



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