The Future of Chimpanzees

My answer on Quora to “Will today’s chimps evolve in the same way as ancient man once did if the natural process is not interfered with?“. There are variations of this question out there on Quora. But let me have a go in any case.

Thing is, we can never ensure that the “natural process is not interfered with”. It is a bit like asking if a person speaking on TV might have behaved the same way if there was no camera pointed at her. The camera is an integral part of the situation — not something that can be done away with after being labelled an interference.

By merely being present in the world with chimps, we are “interfering” (willingly or unwillingly) with their evolution. Evolution by natural selection can be seen as a process that admits more than one form of interference. Human involvement cannot be seen as an interference. In this particular context, it is perhaps as natural as climate change or a catastrophic asteroid strike.

The point I am making is, there is no way to define “interference” in this case. Having said that, the question can be rephrased to ask if chimp evolution would run the same course as human evolution did.

The first thing to point out is that we humans did not evolve from chimpanzees. Instead, chimpanzees and human beings evolved from a common ancestor. Chimpanzees are not past-humans. Humans are not past-chimps. We are cousins who came into being because the evolutionary path of our distant ancestor split into two paths.

The evolutionary path of present-day chimpanzees will most probably take a route that has nothing in common with anything previously seen. This is because the conditions working on them are vastly different from anything humans or chimpanzees have faced so far.

#chimpanzees, #evolution, #humankind, #the-future