Monthly Archives: April 2008

“What Makes Us Unique?”

I wrote this elsewhere about a talk I went to in the Edinburgh International Science Festival in April 2008.

Of three lectures I went to at the Science Festival, it was the last which was most interesting: I actually got excited about it, perhaps because it was covering new(ish) stuff for me, things I didn’t know much about. I almost wished I had become an evolutionary-neurologist-psychologist (add your –ology to the list here).

The speaker was Robin Dunbar who is now apparently at Oxford. (I can’t help wondering why Liverpool University still hosts his website, but that must be a whole different discussion.) I hadn’t heard of Prof Dunbar before, but I am interested in human evolution and why we evolved as we did, and the lecture topic – What Makes Us Unique? – sounded my kind of bag. (By the way, that website describes Dunbar as an evolutionary anthropologist – an -ology I hadn’t included in my list…)

When I arrived, he was explaining how unique we weren’t – how, essentially we share 99% of our DNA with chimpanzees – or, according to New Scientist, 95%, or 96% or 98.77% – or whatever the figure really is – how, basically, we our very similar to our chimpanzee cousins, at least in terms of DNA.
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