The chimpanzee population is now between 100,000 and 200,000, down from more than a million a century ago. It is declining rapidly. Some estimates say they will be extinctwithin five to 10 years.
By sequencing the chimp genome and pinpointing the places where the chimpanzee DNA sequence differs from that of humans, scientists hope to be able to discover which parts of the genetic code give chimps their increased resistance to some diseases. This, they hope, will allow them to develop new and more effective treatments for the human forms of these diseases. Such treatments could include the production of new drugs or even the alteration of the human genetic sequence. The recently completed human genome sequencing project has shown that such an endeavour is now well within our reach.
In addition to disease treatment, the sequencing project could open up new possibilities that verge on science fiction. The argument is that if there is less than 2% difference between chimp and human genes, then that must account for everything that makes us human, from our increased intelligence to our ability to use language. Comparing sequences will allow us to isolate the genes responsible for our "humanness". Once we know what the genes are, we may be able to alter them to give future generations desirable characteristics such as improved intelligence.
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Useless hypotheses, etc.:
consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment, malevolent AI, non-sensory experience, SETI
We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.
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