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Part 1 & Prologue: Just Another Species of Big Mammal 
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Post Part 1 & Prologue: Just Another Species of Big Mammal
Part 1 & Prologue

Just Another Species of Big Mammal


Please use this thread for discussing Part One and the Prologue of The Third Chimpanzee, which covers Chapters 1 and 2 and obviously the Prologue - pages 1 through 57. :redpaw




Thu Dec 28, 2006 10:42 am
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Post Re: Part 1 & Prologue: Just Another Species of Big Mamma
In the Prologue, Diamond gives several ways in which humans differ from other apes (pg 7). What do you think are the most important differences? Has he left anything out that you would include?




Mon Jan 01, 2007 6:48 pm
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Post Re: Part 1 & Prologue: Just Another Species of Big Mamma
I'm wondering how significant the statistics are in the Prologue. So we're very similar genetically to the other primates, but what is the difference between lets say a human and a dog? ...or a human and a frog?

I imagine he gets to that later in the book, but right now, without anything to compare these stats to I am not appreciating their significance. I'm excited about this book though and hope we have plenty of participation.




Mon Jan 01, 2007 7:44 pm
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Post significance
While in the prologue Diamond states that the difference between both types of chimps and man is only 1.6%, a little further on (pgs 23 - 24) he compares the differences between monkeys and chimps (7.3%) and orangatans and chimps (3.6%) and between two species of very similar gibbons (2.2%). But like you I would like to know what the difference is between man and say, a mouse.




Tue Jan 02, 2007 10:39 pm
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Post Re: significance
I may have a book that addresses this...I will see if I can find it. But did anyone do a search yet?

Mr. P.

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I'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - Asana

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




Tue Jan 02, 2007 11:25 pm
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Post Re: significance
The best way I've found to check this information is to run a search on comparative genomics.

This from the U.S. National Human Genome Research Center fact sheet...

www.genome.gov/11509542

Has the field of comparative genomics yielded any results?
The rapidly emerging field of comparative genomics has already yielded dramatic results. For example, a March 2000 study comparing the fruit fly genome with the human genome discovered that about 60 percent of genes are conserved between fly and human. Or, to put it simply, the two organisms appear to share a core set of genes.

Researchers have found that two-thirds of human genes known to be involved in cancer have counterparts in the fruit fly. Even more surprisingly, when scientists inserted a human gene associated with early-onset Parkinson's disease into fruit flies, they displayed symptoms similar to those seen in humans with the disorder, raising the possibility the tiny insects could serve as a new model for testing therapies aimed at Parkinson's.

More recently, a comparative genomic analysis of six species of yeast prompted scientists to significantly revise their initial catalog of yeast genes and to predict a new set of functional elements thought to play a role in regulating genome activity.


And from genomics.energy.gov...

www.ornl.gov/sci/techreso...pgen.shtml

The often-quoted statement that we share over 98% of our genes with apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans) actually should be put another way. That is, there is more than 95% to 98% similarity between related genes in humans and apes in general. (Just as in the mouse, quite a few genes probably are not common to humans and apes, and these may influence uniquely human or ape traits.) Similarities between mouse and human genes range from about 70% to 90%, with an average of 85% similarity but a lot of variation from gene to gene (e.g., some mouse and human gene products are almost identical, while others are nearly unrecognizable as close relatives). Some nucleotide changes are "neutral" and do not yield a significantly altered protein. Others, but probably only a relatively small percentage, would introduce changes that could substantially alter what the protein does.




Wed Jan 03, 2007 4:49 pm
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Post Re: significance
Good...because I cound not find this info in my book!

Mr. P.

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I'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - Asana

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




Wed Jan 03, 2007 5:10 pm
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Post difference
I have read a similar comparison between man and mouse, but it makes little sense. If there is a graduation between monkeys, chimps, and man, as Diamond writes, then there should be some greater difference between mice and men. The 85% average would mean that there is virtually no difference between monkeys and mice compared to men!


I suspect that the more traits that are shared, the closer the DNA is likely to be. As mammals we share many more traits with apes that with mice. If the 85% similarity with mice were true, then it would mean that talking about DNA differences between any two species has no meaning.


Diamond gives several examples of like species having similar DNA. Also, an article in Scientific American holds that there is less DNA difference between men and chimps than there is between dogs and foxes.




Wed Jan 03, 2007 11:52 pm
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Post Re: difference
minority mandate: I have read a similar comparison between man and mouse, but it makes little sense. If there is a graduation between monkeys, chimps, and man, as Diamond writes, then there should be some greater difference between mice and men. The 85% average would mean that there is virtually no difference between monkeys and mice compared to men!

Obviously, I'm no expert on comparative genomics, but given my limited understanding of the field, I'd say that there are two explanations. One is that a substantial portion of our DNA is probably devoted to very basic traits that are shared with just about all mammals, and laterally, by just about all known, complex life forms. So, yeah, it probably looks as though there's a huge amount of difference between a mouse and a man, but when you start adding up the things that they have in common -- skin, hearts, basic mammalian bone structure, heterosexual reproductive systems -- those are very complex elements and the very fact that they show up in both organisms probably accounts for a very large portion of their traits. Things like relative size and differences in shape may be much easier to code on a strand of DNA, which would explain why what we regard as major differences seem to make up only a very small percentage of the differences between the two species' DNA.

In some part, that's a matter of perception. Do mice really have all that much in common with humans? It may seem like they don't, at least until you compare a human with a yeast.

The other response is that, based on the articles I've linked to (specifically the second quote I provided), it looks as though the normative practice in comparative genomics has been to compare the DNA of shared genes -- eg. only comparing the genes that appear in both mice and humans, like the gene for, say, eyes -- and not making comparisons between the whole strand which would involve comparing genes that aren't shared by both -- say, for instance, genes for language acquisition. If that's the case, then it's easy to get a false impression of what's entailed by the posited similarities. What Diamond would actually be saying (if the text I quoted is applicable to The Third Chimpanzee) is that, for the traits we have in common, the genes of a human are more congruous to that of a human than to that of a mouse. In other words, the eye genes of a human are more similar to that of a chimp than that of a mouse -- which doesn't really imply much about how similar either the mouse or chimp genome is to that of the human, since humans may have genes that neither the mouse nor chimp have, and which are not being included in the comparison.

Does that seem about right, based on everyone else's reading of the quoted text? Does anyone have any more information that might illuminate the subject?




Thu Jan 04, 2007 4:03 pm
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Post Re: difference
Speaking to the point of mice as compared to humans...there are reasons that mice are used so much in research!!

I believe the immune system in mice is very compatible with humans. I am saying this based on some nugget of info that is in my head and I cannot point to a source right now. But I do know that mice are good subjects for testing because of similarities.

Mr. P.

Mr. P's place. I warned you!!!

Mr. P's Bookshelf.

I'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - Asana

The one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart...Scorsese's "Mean Streets"

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper




Thu Jan 04, 2007 5:07 pm
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Post Re: difference
Along those lines (though not exactly pertinent), Michael Pollan mentioned that rats are useful in laboratory testing precisely because they're omnivorous, and thus have a lot of the same neurological and gastrointestinal dispositions as humans.




Thu Jan 04, 2007 5:28 pm
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Post Re: Grandparenting
Mr. P: Regarding the Neanderthal lack of innovation, can it be, as Diamond suggests (pg 44), due to their short lifespan, or was it lack of innovation that did not help to increase their life-span?

Both, I would say. I think the point he's making is that we ended up with long lives because we needed to live longer, to improve. Basic social structures -- care of each other, burial, basic control over fire -- would be ongoing needs. Why weren't they 'improved upon' over the generations? Maybe if you only knew what your mother could teach you, if she could only teach you what her mother taught her...maybe even the thought of innovation would be foreign. "This is the what we do" is a different thought than "This is the way we do it" -- leaving open the possibility of other ways... (I'm just playing with the idea here -- any thoughts?)

Plus, if an enormous challenge came along every second generation that had to be overcome, having the knowledge of a previous generation would enable the energy to be put into making a tool or procedure better, instead of just 'reinventing the wheel' each time. So, maybe the women found themselves attracted to the men who had had parents who lived just that little bit longer, who had just that little bit extra knowledge, who'd been able to pass something on from their parents...

Maybe that's why I find intelligence sexier than smoldering dark eyes and a broad chest. (Or as Ernie Cline puts it in his hilarious spoken word rant Nerd Porn Auteur, "Guys who know that the sexiest thing in the world is a woman who is smarter than you are!" Seriously, if you haven't checked this guy's stuff out, go and listen.)

"All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds."

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Sun Jan 28, 2007 5:21 pm
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Post Re: comments and responses
Hi everyone
I am new here but hope to be as curious and full of opinions as the rest of you.
:-)
Let me toss my few cents into the thinking well:

On Grandparents:
How would that have actually worked, especially if, as I understand it, Diamond feels that language has not been invented yet?
Do the grandparents free up resources?
Or are they able to tend to children or to make tools while the rest of the band is out and about?
Perhaps grandparents are a sign of success, an attainment of a life style that does not push the human body to the limit.
Or that the band has the Resources to care for them.
Or that the bands have achieved resistance to certain diseases?

On DNA matching:
I think all of this is in a scientific area undergoing rapid change.
The genome of the sea urchin was recently published, and it too shares a remarkable number of certain genes with the higher mammals, in spite of a huge difference in appearance.
I am not sure that percentage of genes shared by humans is by itself a good criteria.
An atmosphere poisoned by radiation might share 99.9% of the composition of a healthy atmosphere, but it is significantly different.

And, as Diamond himself points out (55), there are few facts on the ground.
We are in a world of fantasy and speculation.
Even a trained archaeologist does not have enough facts to determine the issue conclusively.
The facts provide the current fences for playground of our imagination.

But why do we even care?
We would not be as involved if this book were about the evolution of the sea urchin.
We think our evolution may provide us with insight into ourselves.
Given our spotty and completely irrational record on war and overpopulation, we need some understanding of our own irrationalities.
It is plausible to think there is a chimpanzee within.





Tue Jan 30, 2007 10:55 pm
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Post Re: comments and responses
Ah...our 'inner chimp' -- an idea that can excuse a lot of bad behaviour. :\

It's an interesting equation you brought up, enjoyabled. How much value does an older person have to provide to a group to allow for them to consume resources, and not be a drain?

I was just watching the BBC mini-series, Children of Dune, and among the desert people in Herbert's books, it's my understanding that those who become blind, or seriously infirm, are expected to go out into the desert to die. It's a common SF story line -- those who can no longer contribute are 'given the knife'...I wonder how/if it was played out with early hominids. Would we ever know?

"All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds."

Loricat's Book Nook
Celebrating the Absurd




Wed Jan 31, 2007 8:45 pm
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Post Neanderthal innovation
Apparently not only the Neanderthal, but none of the predicessors of modern man, including his immediate ancestors, were very innovative. There were few technological advances for millions of years. About 50,000 years ago some kind of mutation seems to have led to the use of language and hence to interchange of knowledge in sophisticated ways that had not previously been available.




Mon Feb 05, 2007 12:12 am
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