Are we desperately seeking to create our own identity? To prove beyond doubt that we are different from the animals around us?
Sixty years ago anthropologists separated us from the apes on the basis of our ability to use tools, but we’ve since seen that chimps are also tool-users. Up until the 1970’s it was language that held us at a clear distance but then our primate friends were found to use symbolic representations for objects – a form of language. As recently as 2007 a study has shown (in Psychological Science) that monkeys have meta-cognitive abilities – that is they have the ability to think about how they think! Long assumed to be a ‘human only’ phenomenon.
So what does separate us from the monkeys? 4% DNA difference is about all it seems. So, we pack up our bruised ego and stop trying to show we are different. Instead we seek separation by way of our Prada handbags, McMansions, iphones and general glut of
consumption. We hopelessly conclude that we may be no different to the monkeys, but at least we look better in skinny jeans.
Well, most of us at least.