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Homo sapiens, or Pan sapiens?

David Klinghoffer

Pan sapiens

A snarky proposal, among others aimed at deflating the idea of humankind’s exceptional place in nature, suggests that our species is really misnamed. Instead of Homo sapiens, we should properly be classified as Pan sapiens, merely a jumped-up type of chimpanzee. Astrophysicist John Gribbin, for one, writes:

It is only through a historical accident and Linnaeus’s fear of arousing the wrath of the theologians that Homo sapiens sits in unique and isolated splendor as the sole member of a genus.

Our shared ancestry with chimps is offered as an argument in favor of reclassification, our relationship with them as extremely close cousins, demonstrated in turn by the near identical nature of human and chimp DNA.

The latter turns out to be a bit of a myth, though. Certainly it has been oversold. On a new episode of ID the Future, biologist Ann Gauger talks with Sarah Chaffee about it, in the context of a discussion of the new book, Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological CritiqueDr. Gauger explains why there is not nearly the rock-solid foundation for the thesis of human-chimp shared ancestry that we’re told there is. Listen to the podcast or download it here.

Photo: Woman, Pan sapiens, chats with a bonobo, Pan paniscus, by Wcalvin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.