What makes us civilized?

It is common knowledge that our closest species is the chimpanzee. But most people don’t know just how similar we really are. In 2001, a gene was found called FOXP2 that had a transcription factor that controls the extent to which other genes are expressed as proteins. The human version of the FOXP2 gene contains only two different amino acids from that of the chimp. These two amino acids actually account for the ability of humans to speak but not chimps.

I find it incredible that if those two amino acids were not there, humans would not have the ability to speak. I was thinking about what this would do to our species as a whole. I do not think that we would be the most dominant of creatures without this ability to express our opinions. Sure, other animals make sounds and have communication systems (dolphins are a perfect example), but none that are so complicated and sophisticated as the human dialect. Talking is one of the most important qualities of being a human, and I think it is what makes us such a civilized species. We have other ways of solving problems than simply fighting each other.

Another aspect to think about is what would happen if chimps did have those two amino acids and had the ability to talk. This was seen partly in “George of the Jungle” that we watched today. Although in the movie it was an ape and not a chimp (but for this purpose, I think the two are similar enough), he was one of the most civilized creatures of the entire movie as he played the housewife role for George. This makes me wonder about if other animals had the ability to talk, would they be more civilized than humans? Or are there other aspects of humans and our brains that make us civilized but have nothing to do with speech?

 

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