dinsdag 18 februari 2014

There is more to life than Chimps!

A reflection on different "centrisms"
I get the heebeegeebees (which actually a pop group from the 80s) when I see people attribute human characteristics to animals. This behaviour is known as anthropomorphism. A closely related phenomenon is anthropocentrism, the belief that humans are the central and most significant species on the planet. But we are of course just a small twig on the tree of life.
You could argue for each species on this planet that it is the most important one. Bacteriocentrism would entail that Bacteria are the most important and influential organisms. And because you can find them everywhere (they are watching you right now!), you can defend bacteriocentrism.
Recently, I came across the term chimpocentrism. This might seem as regarding the chimp as the most important species on this planet. But actually it is just a special case of anthropocentrism. Scientists use the chimp, which is our closest relative, to study the evolution of humans. This chimpocentrism can be dangerous to draw big conclusions. Krist Vaesen from Eindhoven University draws attention to this issue in a recent article. By ignoring the rest of the animal kingdom, we might miss important clues about what makes us humans.

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