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Of Monkeys and Men

Crank Call


Published May 28, 2003 at 4:00 p.m.

Sweet fancy Moses! Last year it was mice and this year it's monkeys. What's next -- a nest of vipers or a pack of jackals? According to a report from Discovery News, summing up the work of genetic scientists at Wayne State University's School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan -- are you ready? -- "Chimpanzees share 99.4 percent of functionally important DNA with human beings" and should be reclassified as belonging to "our own genus, Homo."

No jokes, please. In Latin, homo simply means "man," as in Homo habilis, Homo erectus, "Ecce Homo!" and Homo sapiens. To be exact, you and I are now Homo sapiens sapiens -- that's "intelligent" twice over -- based on the theory that humans have evolved even further than they had some 300,000 years ago, when our ancestors stopped being Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis), put down their clubs and got smart.

"Chimps are more like a human than a gorilla," says Dr. Morris Goodman, a professor of anatomy at Wayne State, who with his colleagues recently "analyzed 97 human genes, along with comparable sequences from chimps, gorillas, orangutans and Old World monkeys," and concluded that humans and chimps shared a common ancestor between four and seven million years ago, when they split off from macaques and baboons.

"The traditional classifications need revising," Goodman suggests, "because, as scientists, we've been working under antiquated notions, such as Aristotle's 'Great Chain of Being,' in which animals were arranged in scales according to their degrees of 'perfection' beneath humans."

OK, I'm game, although I think our antiquated notions have more to do with the Christian Bible than the wisdom of Aristotle. Up 'til now, chimps have been classified in the genus Pan -- as in Peter Pan -- but science has come a long way since J.M. Barrie wrote his play about little boys who won't grow up, and Mary Martin told us all to clap our hands and shout, "I do believe in fairies! I do believe in fairies!"

Discovery News credits evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins with the ne plus ultra of ape-to-human remarks. "Imagine taking the hand of your grandmother," he says, "who was holding the hand of her grandmother and so on down the line -- 155 miles out, one of the women would be holding the hand of a chimpanzee."

Really? I doubt you'd have to go that far. My mother's grandmother once said that she'd vote for a monkey before she'd vote for Roosevelt, but if you ask me all this science is an insult to chimps. My guess is that the Wayne State crew took one look at George W. Bush on that aircraft carrier and decided that a joke's a joke. Monkeys don't need to stuff socks in their pants to convince the world that they're men.

You think I'm kidding? The matter of "Bush's Basket" has caused an enormous flap in the Fourth Estate, among pundits both Left and Right, with Chris Matthews and G. Gordon Liddy practically wetting themselves on television over the Fuhrer's bulging manhood.

"Women love Bush," Liddy says, in case you thought something else, while liberal-pinko-commie-faggot Richard Goldstein, writing in The Village Voice, declares that "this was the first time a president literally showed his balls" to the nation. "Check it out," says Goldstein -- "your subconscious already has."

According to Goldstein, Bush's handlers want you to think "that he's not just courageous and competent but hung." That comment prompted gay Tory moralist Andrew Sullivan -- of the online "bare-backing" ads -- to say that Goldstein is an "out-and-loud 'proud sissy.'" All he, An-drew, saw on that ship was "a guy in an airplane suit."

"I'm second to none in respecting certain aspects of the male anatomy," Sullivan writes cutely in Salon. "But I must say, the notion that senior members of the Republican Party had actually contemplated shoving a sock down the Commander-in-Chief's tightie-whities just didn't occur to me."

These are things a monkey never needs to worry about. The creatures are messy, it's true, and horribly promiscuous, but they don't start wars and they don't bomb children and they don't pretend that a runt from Texas, having lost a popular election by 500,000 votes, is ipso facto king of the jungle. My sister, a cell biologist, used to masturbate monkeys for a living -- I'm not making this up -- and she can tell you, if you don't believe me: In the simian world, the leader is chosen for his real size and strength, not for the way he looks on TV. And not for who his Daddy was.

My point? I'm not sure I have one. But if I were a monkey right now, I'd be running fast in the other direction, away from Homo and back to Pan. A recent Time/ CNN poll reveals that 72 percent of all respondents think George W. Bush is doing "a good job" in the War on Terrorism. Osama bin Laden is still in hiding and so is Saddam Hussein. Iraq and Afghanistan are sinking in flames and the chimps who currently run this country now want a war in Iran. "Regime change," don't you know.

"The United States will find the killers," says the Monkey-in-Chief, "and they will learn the meaning of American justice. Just ask the Taliban."

The suspense is killing me. And while I'm on it -- yes, we have no bananas.

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