Common Ground, By Barbara Smuts Essay

Common Ground, By Barbara Smuts Essay

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This article, titled Common Ground, written by Barbara Smuts, points out the main differences between humans and apes, such as our upright stance, large brains, and capacity for spoken language and abstract reasoning. However, the main point of this article is to emphasize the many similarities that apes share with us. Smuts goes into great detail about how human social and emotional tendencies are very reflective in the family of apes.
The idea that humans could possibly have evolved from apes was thought impossible until about 150 years. Charles Darwin, an English naturalist and geologist, best known for his contribution to evolutionary theory, stated “humans evolved from an apelike ancestor” (1). Still after Darwin’s theories, many people still doubted the chances of this being true. Just in the past decade have scientists reached a general agreement about the evolutionary relationships between humans and apes. DNA evidence indicates that chimps and bonobos are more closely related to humans than they are to gorillas! Technically humans are a kind of great ape, and that is why throughout the article Smuts will refer to apes as forest apes.
Apes are sometimes viewed as ignorant and small-minded, but Smuts shows why that is not the case at all. Smuts refers to Henry Sheak’s “Anthropoid Apes I Have Known” for proof as to how emotional and empathetic apes really are. In Sheak’s publication he says, “the chimpanzee understands how to express affection and gratitude…without being taught. This can only mean that these modes of expression are very, very old in the primate group” (1). This discovery shows just how complex the mind and feelings of apes truly are.
Social relationships are very important among apes. The society of man...


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...e contrary, if an ape makes direct eye contact with a stranger and feels a certain level of respect back from them then the ape may show kind affection towards them.
In conclusion, it is very apparent that humans and apes are very similar and as stated by Smuts, “such experiences have brought me face to face with the fact that we share this planet with other beings whose essential nature is the same as ours” (4). So, not only are apes scientifically important to us by providing insights into our own nature, but they are also important because of their own self-worth. However, research sadly shows that if current trends continue the way they are, then all four species of apes will be extinct in the wild before Natural History’s next centennial. Therefore, it is our job as humans to help our evolutionary ancestors thrive in the wild for as long as they possibly can.

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