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Scientists Map DNA of Rhesus Monkeys

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the next-up-the-apes-in-un'goro dept.

Biotech 104

KingKong writes "Scientists have unraveled the DNA of another of our primate relatives, this time a monkey named the rhesus macaque — and the work has far more immediate impact than just to study evolution. These fuzzy animals are key to testing the safety of many medicines, and understanding such diseases as AIDS, and the new research will help scientists finally be sure when they're a good stand-in for humans. 'Having a third primate will allow scientists to compare the three genomes, with an added emphasis on singling out the genes possessed by humans alone. The end goal is to reconstruct the history of every single one of the approximately 20,000 genes, to determine when they first appeared in history, and in what species. All of this requires an extraordinary amount of information.'"

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104 comments

Yeah RIGHT (4, Funny)

Absolut187 (816431) | about 7 years ago | (#18723027)

Like we really evolved from *monkeys*.

Pffft.

Re:Yeah RIGHT (2, Funny)

ArcherB (796902) | about 7 years ago | (#18723117)

Like we really evolved from *monkeys*.

Pffft.


Well, at least not chocolate and peanut butter monkeys!

Re:Yeah RIGHT (2, Funny)

Mockylock (1087585) | about 7 years ago | (#18723165)

I wouldn't doubt that we somehow evolved from crap-slinging, organ-grinding, spider monkeys. My 2 year old reminds me of it every day.

Re:Yeah RIGHT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18723359)

"I wouldn't doubt that we somehow evolved from crap-slinging, organ-grinding, spider monkeys."

Of course, silly. This is the basis of modern government.

Re:Yeah RIGHT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18723959)

Sounds like your 2 year old is not very advanced. By the time each of my kids reached two, they were already building and disassembling duplos (Bigger toddler Legos).

Re:Yeah RIGHT (1)

Mockylock (1087585) | about 7 years ago | (#18725093)

Well, he was putting blocks and such together way before he was 2... now he's moved on to puzzles and such.... BUT, his Monkey side comes about when he climbs on the counters and tries running around without his undies on. His sister just turned 1 and was walking when she was 8 months old (he didn't till he was 1.) She's a bit more civilized though... more like an orangutan. BUT, they still remind me of monkeys.

Re:Yeah RIGHT (1)

Evilest Doer (969227) | about 7 years ago | (#18728469)

Sounds like your 2 year old is not very advanced. By the time each of my kids reached two, they were already building and disassembling duplos (Bigger toddler Legos).
Oh yeah? Well my daughter was already designing her own warp drive by the time she was 2 years old. Hopefully, she will have it done by her 4th birthday.

Re:Yeah RIGHT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18730787)

Legos my arse, fuckwad. You're in no position to call anyone retarded.

Re:Yeah RIGHT (1)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | about 7 years ago | (#18724745)

We, as Atheists, affirm that once life appeared as a very basic form of joint C-H-O-N molecules. From that on, evolution. We don't know yet all the steps in that evolution, but we are sure that once life on earth didn't exist, then a very basic form appeared just because the environment caused those chemical reactions, and that those very basic forms of life somehow evolved into us, into monkeys, into birds ... We may not know the specifics, but we know THAT. And we are also sure that, because of this, at some point of evolution the chimp and what we currently are come from the same specimen. We just don't know how far away it is in this tree. It might be some close mammal that we both came from, or maybe our common origin was far away as the form of some primitive unicellular algae.
OTH, religious persons say that some magnificent form of superior being designed us all. At the same time.
So, we say that we and monkeys evolved from a common hominid somewhere in between the beginning of earth and Fri Apr 13 21:20:36 2007.

And we both are wright. We evolved from monkeys. They didn't =).

Religion of Evolution (1)

ArcherB (796902) | about 7 years ago | (#18725027)

We, as Atheists, affirm that once life appeared as a very basic form of joint C-H-O-N molecules...

Why must you be an Atheist to believe in evolution? Who am I, as a Christian, to say that God didn't create the creatures of the world via evolution, or the universe via the big bang? All I can be sure of is that I don't know much of anything beyond my own existence, and even then I sometimes have my doubts. :-) It's like the time I asked Descartes if he could prove MY existence. He started by saying, "Well, I don't think..." and vanished.

I guess my only point is that don't assume you have to be an Atheist to believe in evolution. Personally, I don't see Creationism (ID) and Evolution as mutually exclusive.

Re:Religion of Evolution (1)

Ramze (640788) | about 7 years ago | (#18727549)

I understand that if you don't take the Genesis creation story as fact, you can believe in evolution and still be a Christian. However, I live in the deep south (South Carolina) where most people would consider you to be a non-Christian for believing in evolution. You'd be dismissed as a heretic or member of a cult (like the Mormons) for not believing in "the sacred and literal word of God that is the Bible".

    I understand that individuals each have their own beliefs -- even if they fall under the greater umbrella of a particular religion, but region is the belief in the supernatural while evolution is belief in the natural -- they are by definition mutually exclusive. To incorporate "something magical happens" into the process invalidates the science of the study and the theory that makes everything work. This isn't to say that it's impossible for the two processes to co-exist in the universe, but the scientific viewpoint of evolution would be that they do not, have not, and will not co-exist -- because the fundamental idea is to understand the natural process... not the possible supernatural processes that could have taken place. If one is to research the natural processes that lead to evolution, one must omit any religious possibilities for the sake of science... Atheists can do this rather well.

I do not believe that only atheists can believe in evolution, but I do believe that it is an area of study that should be researched without the interference or bias of religious beliefs. It's an exercise in atheism, to some degree. I can understand why one might view anyone who can truly appreciate and believe in the theory of evolution (meaning the natural origin of all life on earth from non-living chemicals)as also being an atheist -- given that most religions propose alternate explanations.

Having said that, I do know a few Buddhists who believe in evolution -- simply because they claim their belief system is not incompatible with evolution. How we got here or where we go next (if anywhere) isn't as important to them as how we choose to behave and treat others.

I recognize that the grandparent poster shouldn't assume that only atheists believe in evolution, but he doesn't explicitly say that. You inferred it, but only because he didn't include others in his statement. I think the issue is more of your wanting to not be excluded from group of people who share the belief in evolution. The grandparent post is correct in saying that atheists believe in evolution -- because they have no alternative theory... save aliens or seed theory -- which just moves the evolution off-world to have begun someplace else.

My point being... you're making an argument over a statement the grandparent poster never made or possibly even intended to imply. :-)

Re:Yeah RIGHT (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18723155)

What will these creationists do as science and facts continue to pile up?

And what will mankind do if they find that humans were manipulated at some point rather than having a slow progressive evolution? Then the argument would be God vs. Alien intervention.

This could be fun! :-) But in actuality it will probably all be pretty mundane :-/

Re:Yeah RIGHT (1)

misleb (129952) | about 7 years ago | (#18723371)

I realize you're probably joking, but I'd like to make it clear that "related to" != "evolved from." Saying that we evolved from some species just because we are related to it would be like suggesting that your aunt gave birth to you.

-matthew

Re:Yeah RIGHT (1)

ArcherB (796902) | about 7 years ago | (#18723433)

I realize you're probably joking, but I'd like to make it clear that "related to" != "evolved from." Saying that we evolved from some species just because we are related to it would be like suggesting that your aunt gave birth to you.


Excellent analogy. I hope you don't mind if I extend it one step further by saying it would be more like cousin gave birth to you, since both we and modern monkeys are of the same evolutionary generation.

Re:Yeah RIGHT (4, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 7 years ago | (#18723483)

Saying that we evolved from some species just because we are related to it would be like suggesting that your aunt gave birth to you.
I'm a hillbilly, you insensitive clod!

Re:Yeah RIGHT (1)

misleb (129952) | about 7 years ago | (#18724053)

Damn, you're right! It is possible for your aunt to have given birth to you if your father slept with his sister. She'd be your mother AND your aunt. I hadn't thought of that.

-matthew

Re:Yeah RIGHT (1)

maxume (22995) | about 7 years ago | (#18725369)

It doesn't even have to be incestuous, the father could just be a bit of a cad(or even had legitimate relationships with a pair of sisters).

Re:Yeah RIGHT (1)

misleb (129952) | about 7 years ago | (#18726635)

Just because your father has a child with your aunt, that doesn't make your aunt your mum. She's still only your aunt. She just happens to be the mother of your half-sibling.

-matthew

Re:Yeah RIGHT (1)

maxume (22995) | about 7 years ago | (#18726669)

I don't think we really need to explain the obvious to each other, but given the correct sequence of relationships, she could very easily be your step mom.

Re:Yeah RIGHT (1)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | about 7 years ago | (#18730837)

One day I'm going to draw a diagram and work out if this song makes sense:

Oh, many, many years ago
When I was twenty-three
I was married to a widow
Who was pretty as can be
This widow had a grown-up daughter
Who had hair of red
My father fell in love with her
And soon the two were wed

This made my dad my son-in-law
And changed my very life
For my daughter was my mother
'Cause she was my father's wife
To complicate the matter
Though it really brought me joy
I soon became the father
Of a bouncing baby boy

This little baby then became
A brother-in-law to Dad
And so became my uncle
Though it made me very sad
For if he was my uncle
Then that also made him brother
Of the widow's grown-up daughter
WHo of course is my step-mother

Chorus
I'm my own grandpa
I'm my own grandpa
It sounds funny I know
But it really is so
Oh, I'm my own grandpa

My father's wife then had a son
Who kept them on the run
And he became my grandchild
For he was my daughter's son
My wife is now my mother's mother
And it makes me blue
Because although she is my wife
She's my grandmother too

Now if my wife is my grandmother
Then I'm her grandchild
And every time I think of it
It nearly drives me wild
For now I have become
The strangest case you ever saw
As husband of my grandma
I am my own grandpa

Re:Yeah RIGHT (1)

shaitand (626655) | about 7 years ago | (#18726383)

'I realize you're probably joking, but I'd like to make it clear that "related to" != "evolved from." Saying that we evolved from some species just because we are related to it would be like suggesting that your aunt gave birth to you.'

Technically you are right. It only means you shared a common ancestor. Just as you shared a common ancestor with your aunt.

Re:Yeah RIGHT (1)

CrimsonScythe (876496) | about 7 years ago | (#18723889)

Clearly, we're the work of His Noodlyness. Do you think it's coincidental that our DNA looks like this [google.com]? Don't ever question our Durum Deity again, or you will surely boil in the eternal Pot o' Haggis! Ramen.

Re:Yeah RIGHT (1)

Rhesusmonkey (1028378) | about 7 years ago | (#18727567)

What do you mean evolved FROM monkeys? Some of us are quite happy to stay up here on the tree.

Re:Yeah RIGHT (1)

Evilest Doer (969227) | about 7 years ago | (#18728485)

What do you mean evolved FROM monkeys? Some of us are quite happy to stay up here on the tree.
Fa! Even the trees were a bad move. Noone should have left the oceans.

Re:Yeah RIGHT (1)

foniksonik (573572) | about 7 years ago | (#18733035)

hmmm good thing we didn't then eh... not any modern version of a monkey in any case... our ancestors split from the modern monkey 10s of millions of years ago, so no we did not evolve from monkeys, though we do have a common ancestor with the great apes way way back 7 million years: Sahelanthropus tchadensis [wikipedia.org]. Here's the timeline [wikipedia.org] if you want to see where we split from monkeys... circa 35 MYA.

OT rant:
OH and birth control, preferably through properly timed intercourse, is a much better version of abortion if you don't want children... and marriage is a religious sacrament between a man and a woman for the creation of a familial bond in anticipation of having children... so gay couples who aren't going to adopt or have children via surrogates don't need it, neither do straight couples who don't plan to stay together for more than 5 years. You want a tax break, buy a house. You want non-tax related marriage rights... sign a contract that gives you those rights without the religious ceremony.

but first. (1)

HolyCrapSCOsux (700114) | about 7 years ago | (#18723075)

have we already mapped the differentiation between individuals in our own species?

say, 10 male, 10 female, those with a preponderance of posts on slashdot vs those who do not?

I would imagine that this would be necessary to prevent false impressions.

Re:but first. (4, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 7 years ago | (#18723399)

say, 10 male, 10 female, those with a preponderance of posts on slashdot vs those who do not?
But sir, you repeat yourself. ;)

Besides, what good is it to map the DNA of those who aren't contributing to the gene pool? ;P

Seriously, though, if we wanted to map variation in human DNA, we'd need far more than 20 samples. Here [wikipedia.org]'s some info that might interest you -- it's an effort headquartered at Stanford to map the 1% of the human genome that differentiates human populations from eachother.

Re:but first. (1)

HolyCrapSCOsux (700114) | about 7 years ago | (#18723613)

Thank you for the link. That article saddened me though. People squawk about supporting diversity and racial pride, but I guess they don't want it qantified. Racially targeted bio-weapons? Are these people for real?
Where's that big asteroid when you need one?

Re:but first. (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | about 7 years ago | (#18723539)

"say, 10 male, 10 female, those with a preponderance of posts on slashdot vs those who do not?"

Ha. Trick question. There aren't 10 females who post on Slashdot.

Now what about Maggie?? (1)

YouOverThere (50298) | about 7 years ago | (#18723095)

Unfortunately this is about the Rhesus Macaque. Not the Crab-eating Macaque. Or we'd finally understand how Maggie makes her picks! [wikipedia.org]

Re:Now what about Maggie?? (1)

guruevi (827432) | about 7 years ago | (#18724001)

Maggie makes her picks by spinning the wheel. As you will see from the results, she has an average of 50% correctness (8-7,7-8,...), which would make it a statistically correct random spin. It's not like she's correct 90% of the times, because that would indeed be weird.

Our relatives? (-1, Troll)

din (106578) | about 7 years ago | (#18723157)

"Scientists have unraveled the DNA of another of our primate relatives..."

Yeah, right, macro-evolution is a sham. You are a child of God.

But, it appears, a very foolish child indeed.

Re:Our relatives? (1)

misleb (129952) | about 7 years ago | (#18723273)

Wait, we're children of God? I thought Jesus was the only son of God. Does that make Jesus my brother?

-matthew

Jesus == our brother (1)

tepples (727027) | about 7 years ago | (#18723415)

Wait, we're children of God? I thought Jesus was the only son of God. Does that make Jesus my brother?
Yes. As head of the Christian church, Christ is a brother to all who believe. John 20:17 [usccb.org]

Re:Our relatives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18723665)

You mean I have holy DNA?

Re:Our relatives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18725477)

Of course, and deoxyribonucleic acid doesn't really exist. It's clearly a figment of our overactive imagination when observing samples. Even if it did exist, any similarities between its structure in humans and other primates is strictly to be ignored - lest we anger an invisible, omnipotent parental figure whose existence is impossible to prove. How very, very foolish we must be.

At last! Science has made valuable progress... (1)

Channard (693317) | about 7 years ago | (#18723159)

... towards discovering and isolating the 'poop flinging' and 'knob fiddling' gene in monkey. At last we'll be able to breed special monkeys for use in family friendly zoos.

What about pigs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18723171)

I'm always hearing how they are the best human analog. Anyone sequencing porky?

Re:What about pigs? (1)

confusednoise (596236) | about 7 years ago | (#18727029)

Oh you betcha! Well, not Porky the individual (sample being hard to come by), but the swine genome project is well underway:

http://www.marc.usda.gov/genome/swine/swine.html [usda.gov]

(just the first link I could find)

Interestingly enough, there's a ton of genetic work and application being done in the agricultural community (and I don't just mean RoundUp Ready Maize). The breeders are completely tuned in on things like biomarkers and what that means for their work.

There's no wrong way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18723183)

... to eat a Rhesus.

Re:There's no wrong way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18723265)

All my rhesus are belong to parent post.

Please, show some respect.... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18723291)

they prefer to be called Africans

Rhesus monkeys, lol (-1, Troll)

stratjakt (596332) | about 7 years ago | (#18723333)

Those rhesus monkeys are some nappy-headed hos, let me tell ya.

Re:Rhesus monkeys, lol (1)

heinousjay (683506) | about 7 years ago | (#18723503)

Looks like Jesse Jackson got mod points today.

Re:Rhesus monkeys, lol (1)

DocSavage64109 (799754) | about 7 years ago | (#18723877)

It depends on how you read the joke.

It could have been innocently based on monkeys, which would just make it a poor joke, or... it could have been purposely calling those women basketball players monkeys, which is a very hurtful racist comment.

Re:Rhesus monkeys, lol (1)

heinousjay (683506) | about 7 years ago | (#18724177)

That sort of thinking is what makes these retarded publicity stunts of Jackson's work in the first place. I wonder if people will ever stop being so sensitive to words that don't mean much?

Re:Rhesus monkeys, lol (1)

DocSavage64109 (799754) | about 7 years ago | (#18724491)

If they don't mean anything, then stop using them.

Re:Rhesus monkeys, lol (1)

heinousjay (683506) | about 7 years ago | (#18725785)

There's a fairly visible line between "not much" and "nothing" that you seem to have missed. In any case, no. I'll say whatever the hell I like. Welcome to freedom of speech. When we've encoded your freedom to not be offended, that's when I'll toe your line.

Re:Rhesus monkeys, lol (1)

DocSavage64109 (799754) | about 7 years ago | (#18726205)

I suppose you find nothing wrong with calling black people ni**ers either. Just because it isn't illegal, doesn't mean you should be doing it. Have a little consideration for other people. Do you really want every little part of life to be based on laws?

Re:Rhesus monkeys, lol (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18724193)

Yes but I (the OP) am BLACK. And a RAPPER.

I have carte blanche to say whatever I want, about whomever I want, and nothing I say can be construed as racist, or hurtful.

I have the authority, invested in my by the Dee Oh Dubba Gizzle to decide who is, and who is not a nappy headed ho.

You fucking Klan member media whore nigger loving nappy headed cocksucking fagg0t beaner kike bitch.

Go ahead, mod me down, I'll have the NAACP jump on you like a fucking trampoline.

I agree, a huge double standard in todays society (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18725755)

see topic

Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18723345)

There's hope for anti-chair drugs at last! ::ducks::

Onto reading TFA after this initial post .... (1)

icepick72 (834363) | about 7 years ago | (#18723383)

I had always wondered what's inside those little chocolaty candies, but always hated to ask.

Rhesus Monkeys? (0, Redundant)

pizzach (1011925) | about 7 years ago | (#18723525)

Aren't Rhesus Monkeys the kind with peanut butter in the middle? (You know, instead of chocolate.)

So, now that we know T. Rex tastes like chicken... (1)

R2.0 (532027) | about 7 years ago | (#18723529)

do monkeys taste like men?

Gay zoophiles, please chime in.

Re:So, now that we know T. Rex tastes like chicken (1)

Afecks (899057) | about 7 years ago | (#18725129)

Wait, that's what zoophile means?! I just thought it meant you like Zoos a lot! Oh shit, I need to cancel some magazine subscriptions before they arrive!

Wow, so topical! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18723839)

George Allen would be proud [wikipedia.org].

I heard.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18723987)

..that the project was called Rhesus Pieces.

The research papers on which the story is based (3, Informative)

alisonchilla (1025560) | about 7 years ago | (#18724067)

If you're interested in the nitty-gritty details, go to http://www.sciencemag.org/sciext/macaque/ [sciencemag.org] . The entire special issue, including the research articles, is free for all.

And if you're not into reading scientific papers, there is an "interactive poster" with videos for the common man.

From the website
"In the 13 April 2007 issue, Science unveils the genome sequence of one of biology's most important model organisms -- the rhesus macaque monkey (Macaca mulatta). In Science, a Research Article and four Reports, as well as two News stories, detail the biomedical and evolutionary insights gained from the macaque genome, only the third primate genome to be completed after human and chimpanzee. Online, an interactive poster enhanced with images, discussions, and videos explores the significance of the rhesus macaque and its draft genome sequence to studies of primate biology and evolution. Accompanying the online feature is an educational resource for high school biology teachers, which includes teacher background information, a lesson plan, and student worksheet."

(sorry if this has already been mentioned. I checked but didn't see it)

You saw this comming! (0, Redundant)

nofxrok (1088085) | about 7 years ago | (#18724221)

What do you call a trash bag full of mutilated laboratory monkeys? Rhesus Pieces.

No, it won't. (2, Insightful)

Empiric (675968) | about 7 years ago | (#18724259)

"This brings us much closer to understanding what makes us human," said Richard Gibbs, the project leader and director of Baylor's Human Genome Sequencing Center.

No scientific effort will ever differentiate the basic category of "human", much less tell us "what it means". From the perspective of DNA, we're simply a biological continuum with animals, and no further objective conclusions will be forthcoming on this question.

The basic ability to formulate this necessary distinction is based purely in metaphysics.

Re:No, it won't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18724639)

Afraid that biology will reach the correct answer to the questions that you have wasted years of philosophical thought on?

Re:No, it won't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18725817)

If I show you a mixed group of animals, you will be able to pick out the human every single time. If I show you every human on the planet and one chimpanzee, you will be able to pick out the chimpanzee every single time (I have faith in you).

There is "something" that makes us human that is inherently obvious to all of us - and that "something" is a constellation of biological traits encoded in our DNA.

Scientists will find an answer to this question while the philosophers are still busy rubbing their little academic pleasure organs in the safety of their pot-reeking basement offices over at the campus annex.

Re:No, it won't. (1)

Empiric (675968) | about 7 years ago | (#18726427)

If I show you a mixed group of animals, you will be able to pick out the human every single time. If I show you every human on the planet and one chimpanzee, you will be able to pick out the chimpanzee every single time (I have faith in you).

Not an interesting test-case. If the distinction between "human" and "animal" is differentiable solely by DNA, objectively, you should be able to isolate the -precise generation- at which the transition took place. I doubt you can even broadly conceptualize how you would determine the point of "cutover".

As for the rest, in terms of philosophy, there's no issue making this differentiation, and justifying it, within a theistic framework. There's no scratching of my head at all--but, if you prefer, and lack such a rationale yourself, I'm willing to agree to your definition of -yourself- as an animal, with all the attendant implications for you in terms of such things as "rights".

Asserting something like "everybody knows" is, formally, wholly insufficient without an objective definition.

Re:No, it won't. (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 7 years ago | (#18730951)

If I show you every human on the planet and one chimpanzee, you will be able to pick out the chimpanzee every single time
Not so sure. Have you ever been to France?

Re:No, it won't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18727131)

You are wrong, you know.

As a distinct species, millions of years removed from our nearest related species, homo sapiens have a large number of distinct and unique genetic differences. I think you must be misunderstanding the concept of "human" in this case, and attaching some sort of emotional or philosophical baggage that was not intended by the project leader quoted.

Re:No, it won't. (1)

Empiric (675968) | about 7 years ago | (#18734139)

That's pretty tautological in terms of attempting serious definition. There are a "large number" of unique genetic differences between every single person we categorize as "human"--other than identical twins. Same with animals. What is needed -definitionally- is a defining, or differentiating characteristic that cleanly splits all instances of "human" from "animal".

Re:No, it won't. (1)

Empiric (675968) | about 7 years ago | (#18734207)

That's pretty tautological in terms of attempting a definition. There are a "large number of distinct and unique genetic differences" between every human on earth, other than identical twins. Same with animals. What would be needed is a -defining- characteristic, that cleanly differentiates all instances of "human" from "animal". As I noted previously, this would also require the ability to state a specific generation of cutover in evolution from "animal" to "human", and why that particular mutation should objectively be categorized as the latter.

Re:No, it won't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18734639)

Given how many big words you use, I'd say you're smart enough to go read some genetics. Human DNA is clearly differentiated from animal DNA, not by virtue of any single mutation, but by virtue of being globally more similar to other human DNA, than to the DNA of any animal.

If you collected DNA from every organism on earth and constructed a phylogenetic tree based on their pair-wise similarities, you would find that your own DNA falls within an objectively and naturally differentiable group. This group happens to correspond exactly to what we call "human". What scientists are interested in, is which of the million of mutations that separates all humans from all other animals contributed to the biological traits we consider special to us as a species, such as the ability to communicate in complex languages.

Now, if we were to create a chimera by replacing a human chromosome with a chimpanzee chromosome, you'd find that the DNA of this organism would be inconsistent with the natural groupings discovered above. Whether that organism should still be granted the same rights as you and I is indeed a purely legal/philosophical/theistic question - But that is simply not the same question the scientists are asking.

Re:No, it won't. (1)

Empiric (675968) | about 7 years ago | (#18735107)

"globally more similar"

Sounds pretty vague, to me. Okay, let's have a specification, then. Just give me the DNA signature, -specifically-, that differentiates "human", including a test case consisting of a given point in human evolution, at which everything previous to it genetically is "animal", and everything after is properly called "human". Lacking that, a -specific- methodology that you think could possibly, even theoretically, result in such a specification, would assist your point. Bear in mind that a -definition- has nothing to do with what we observe in what we casually call "human" now, in terms of DNA, now that the genetics have diverged significantly to the point of obviousness--a DNA based -definition- should be able handle difficult cases and function as a -clearly defining- set of attributes. That includes the "first human". That includes chimeras, and no you -don't- get to assume the bipedal, clothed organism originating "part" of the chimera is "human" BEFORE YOU DEFINE VIA DNA ALONE WHAT HUMAN IS.

I'm hearing a lot of generalities and bare assertion in these replies, and very few quantifiable specifics.

Re:No, it won't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18736733)

Because of the way genetic inheritance works, there can be no "point" of transition. Requiring it to exist is therefore formally (since you like that word so much) equivalent to stating that you simply will not accept any DNA-based definition based on your prior beliefs. If you want to argue "formally" against a DNA-based definition you better propose a test that can be formally satisfied. In any case, it's not actually relevant to the question being asked.

Scientists are not looking for a dictionary definition of "human" by looking at DNA. They're looking for the specific mutations that causally explain the constellation of traits that co-occur in only a specific segment of the organisms on this earth - those which we "causally" call human now, use of complex language, bipedalism, strong religious feelings, you name it.... This is what they mean when they say they're looking for what makes us human. It is an interesting, empirical and tractable effort if you understand what it is and isn't about - but it's also challenging, because our preconceptions or a priori ideas of what makes us human do not always hold up to scrutiny.

If you're scared of what they might find, you can always keep numbing your head with pedantry and cosy formalisms...

Re:No, it won't. (1)

Empiric (675968) | about 7 years ago | (#18738847)

One other thing I should note here, so as to not introduce confusion... I am perfectly willing to accept your position that for you, no such point of transition has ever taken place.

but it bears looking at (1)

misanthrope101 (253915) | about 7 years ago | (#18729087)

There is a point here, though. If we accept that we are descended from the same stock as the monkeys and apes (well, technically all life is from the same stock, but anyway...) and we look at their behavior, "what makes us human" is the wish to rise above our biological nature.

If you look at chimps and monkeys, you'll see rape, murder, infantcide, war, and so on. Evolution-haters would tell you that you see the same things in humanity because we teach evolution, but I think it's because we don't think enough about evolution. We have to realize the inherently savage nature of our lineage and face that, and only then can we recognize that we have to be alert to the same impulses in ourselves.

Look at the Zimbardo prison experiments, the Milgram experiments, and even Abu Ghraib--people show the darkest side of their nature precisely because we deny that it is there. If you look at apes/monkeys and concede that we're related then it's obvious that the nature component is there, and only by acknowledging the link and facing up to it can we overcome it. And overcoming it isn't a one-step process--it's a state of alertness to the darker side of our nature, the side we see the other primates living out. They have our opposable thumbs, but not our cerebral cortices. We have at least the capacity to overcome it, if we can just develop the honesty to admit our lineage and weaknesses.

"What it means to be human" may be an insoluble question, but only by asking who we are can we begin to ask who we want to be.

A new low for slashdot. (1)

Generic Player (1014797) | about 7 years ago | (#18732597)

Who the hell modded this up? Yes, we most certainly will be able to scientifically differentiate "human" from "other animals". There are many unique specific traits to humans, and those are all encoded in our DNA. We can already do DNA tests to find out of a sample is human or not using features unique to human DNA.

Re:A new low for slashdot. (1)

Empiric (675968) | about 7 years ago | (#18734255)

No, you can test for what you informally call "human" (largely, probably via cultural assimilation). You do not have a basic differentiating definition of "human" as rendered in a particular DNA pattern.

If the notion of genetic "chimeras" doesn't make this clear to you, I'm not sure what will.

Re:A new low for slashdot. (1)

Generic Player (1014797) | about 7 years ago | (#18737021)

Yes, we informally call it human, and formally call it homo sapiens. We can test for that already, its not a future thing. Trying to pretend there is some spiritual question here isn't going to change that. And chimeras requires no quotes, and doesn't have anything to do with it. A chimera is both species. If you test its DNA, you will get either species it contains, depending on which cell you got the DNA from. This is very clear and not in any way confusing.

Re:A new low for slashdot. (1)

Empiric (675968) | about 7 years ago | (#18738667)

You realize you're utterly evading the question at hand, with a purely tautological pseudo-definition, right?

You can test for species X, demonstrating correspondence with your arbitrary declaration of what is included in a species. That is, demonstrating nothing relevant to my point.

Anyway, this has gone on too long. The issue is of rather particular practical application, and that application won't be soon, personally.

You just wait... (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about 7 years ago | (#18724901)

Once scientists code the DNA of Arachis hypogaea and Theobroma cacao then we can begin our genetic experiments and give birth to the Reeses Monkey!

Yum!

What im really waiting for is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18725137)

...a DNA map of the Rhesus peanut butter cup (Tell me im not the only one thinking this)

Freaky monkeys (3, Insightful)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | about 7 years ago | (#18726215)

The Rhesus monkey is close enough to our genetic makeup to help us research many diseases. But of course, the closer its DNA, the more helpful it would be. I wonder how much temptation there is to start modifying Rhesus monkey DNA to be closer to our own. How much human DNA can you splice in there before you have something that is in effect human? What do you have if it's only half human?

This could become rather weird.

Mapped Um, huh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18727101)

And when they mapped these monkeys, they discovered it was Africa. Right?

I wish I was stupid too.
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