Situational Joke

An anthropologist was telling me about a legend – that once upon a time, there was a successful chimp-human hybrid. Back in the 1920s, at the Yerkes National Primate Center at Emory University. This might sound impossible, since the chromosomes don’t match, while the two species have been diverging for six million years or more. But then horses and donkeys don’t have the same number of chromosomes, yet mules exist. And some crazy Saudis have managed (after many tries) to produce a couple of hybrids between llamas and camels, which split about 11 million years ago.

So I’m telling you there’s a chance.

More important, I found out that the anthropologist in question had never heard a particularly relevant joke, the one about the Irishman and the gorilla. Seems that a zoo in Chicago had a rare albino gorilla, the last of its subspecies. A lady gorilla. So they decided to breed it with a human: they put an add in the Trib:”Man to breed with rare gorilla, ten thousand dollars.” Thee next day Paddy shows up and talks to them. “I’ll do it, but with three conditions. I don’t have to kiss the gorilla on the lips, the children will be raised in the Church, and you give me a week to come up with the ten thousand dollars.”

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31 Responses to Situational Joke

  1. Luke Lea says:

    True story: an anthropologist at the University of Tennessee, Lynn Miles, adopted a new-born Orangutan as part of an experiment on language learning. One day she took it in swaddling clothes to the local grocery story to do her regular shopping. As she was pushing it around in the shopping cart another young adoring mother walked over to admire Lynn’s newborn, not realizing what it was. She took one look and said, “Oh, I’m so sorry!”

  2. vuurklip says:

    May the Leprechauns be with you …

  3. David Pinsen says:

    Wasn’t there a Russian attempt to create ape-human hybrid soldiers?

    • MawBTS says:

      Yep! Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov tried and failed to make a “humanzee” from human sperm and chimp eggs. He was gearing up for a second experiment (this one featuring a male orangutan and human females) but he annoyed someone enough to get exiled to Kazakhstan. So ends his story.

      Proof that this doesn’t work? Maybe not. Artificial insemination has a success rate of only about 10-20% in humans. Maybe he didn’t bat for the cycle.

      What I’m getting at is that someone should try this again.

      • what for? For trolling lawyers and SJWs?

        • jasonbayz says:

          I could imagine someone attempting it for the instant notoriety which would result. Yet another reason to restrict the use of chimps as pets:

        • MawBTS says:

          The most important reason is that monkeys are sexy. But a humanzee might clarify murky boundaries regarding humanity, sentience, bioethics, and more. Where’s the line? What’s a monkey and what’s a person?

          You might have heard of the Great Ape Project, which attempts to confer legal rights to apes such as gorillas and chimpanzees. This is already being challenged in court. In 2011 a macaque called Naruto snatched a camera from a tourist and took a photo of itself. As the photo became famous, PETA sued, claiming that the macaque was the copyright holder of the photo and that all declared profits should be used for its benefit.

          Suppose the humanzee learns to talk and reason? Suppose it wants to go to Catholic mass? Would the Pope consider such a creature ensouled? Would it go to a doctor or a vet? Would it legally be allowed to compete at a powerlifting meet (since chimps have massive upper body strength?) Where would it stand with regards to bestiality laws?

          • Cato says:

            “the humanzee learns to… reason”
            Not likely. A friend of a friend runs focus groups. She claims, base on her many years of experience, that deductive reasoning simply doesn’t occur in persons with an IQ lower than 120 (the upper 10% of the population). What are the chances that a humanzee would have an IQ over that threshold?

          • athEIst says:

            Would the Pope consider such a creature ensouled?
            Would such a creature put money in the collection basket?

  4. AppSocRes says:

    Given the location of the Yerkes National Primate Center, another racial/ethnic joke might be the ultimate source of this chimp-human legend.

  5. says:

    There is more money in cross breeding / genetically engineered pig with human for organ transplant.

    Those offending genes might be replaced with the human version. Interestingly one of the obsticles is,

    “””The first, Egenesis chief scientific officer Luhan Yang told Business Insider, is the virology, or the fact that pigs carry genes encoded with viruses that could transmit disease to humans.”””

    Since chimp is closer to human the above risk could be higher for chimp.

  6. alcibiades96 says:

    professor, big fan of your blog. Could you go on more podcasts? I’ve listened to all of the radio interviews/podcasts of you that I could find (and they were hard to find). I’m confident you could find a larger readership by going on popular podcasts like Joe Rogan’s or Sam Harris’

    If you’re uninterested consider doing it for bored undergraduates like me that are eager to hear more of you.

    The Ten Thousand Year Explosion partially inspired me into going into the sciences

  7. Jan Banan says:

    Someone forward this to Karl Pilkington.

  8. Ian says:

    OT: Lewontin reloaded.
    Tsimanes: 10.000 years of reproductive isolation, plus probably another handful of years trapped in the Behring refuge, and these folks still think they can use their genes in a comparative study and ban cheeseburgers from our lives.

    • Chuck says:

      Hilliard Kaplan’s no slouch. Good evo anthropology guy. Looks like a big team of NIH funded people. I have to say though that after reading anthro for 25 years, I am more often than not looking at articles and thinking, “who gives a flying f¥<€?”

  9. I am reading Jaynes’ Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind</>. I’m up to page 51 (of 469) and it is an interesting read. I’ve learned one thing: that consciousness, the most interesting aspect of mentation is intermittent. Never thought about it before. I note a number
    of phony etymologies in his remarks about the metaphorical origin of a term whose current use is non-metaphorical. The etymology of Greek plural
    Nomoi meaning the customary laws is not,
    as he says, a word for a building’s foundations. It is derived from the verb nemein which means “to distribute” as in distributing grazing rights for lifestock evidently to the citizens. He wants the reader to believe that that a metaphor for things growing or burgeoning underlies “to be.” These seem minor errors but they might be cumulative. I’m not up to that part yet, but I suspect that the bicamerality of pre-unitary self-consciousness will turn out to be the argument that Homer hadn’t yet consolidated the parts of his body into the unity of consciousness that modern man enjoys, that that step can be historically dated. I fear that he copped this from Adkins’ The Beginnings of Greek Thought. I have always wondered how the silliness of this is not given the lie by asking the professor “How come Homer is able to say “I intend” (ego boulomai) or “you (singular) desire” (su theleis)? Does not the use of first, second and third persons, singular, plural and dual in IE grammar (and in other or all languages) disprove the thesis? But I’m not up to that part yet.

    • Garr says:

      It’s pretty weird how a lot of the Homeric heroes’ decisions are triggered by gods. On the other hand, I think that Nestor comes up with his good ideas — the sea-wall, the night-raid, a thing about battle-tactics I believe, maybe something else that I forget — all by himself. But the Iliad’s probably a combination of old narrative stuff with interesting new stories (especially the comical domestic intra-god stuff — and now that I think of it, the gods make their own decisions without the intervention of higher-level gods, don’t they) so maybe it’s just the older narrative stuff (e.g. Athena tells Diomedes to go stab Aphrodite) that reflects the bicamerality-business.
      Jaynes is interested in Biblical prophecy too. The Biblical prophets look like op-ed writers or political bloggers to me. Maybe they were thinking, “Wow, I just had a thought! Where did it come from? God must have sent it to me.” Maybe having thoughts was a new thing. Lots of people today don’t seem to have them.

      • ursiform says:

        The Greek concept of a hero was someone chosen by the gods. Thus Odysseus was a hero because the gods allowed him to return home even though he lost all his men.

        Our modern concept of a hero is someone like Shackleton, who saved every one of his men in the face of disaster. Completely different concept of the term “hero”.

        I also find the Epic of Gilgamesh to be much more in line with modern thinking than the Homeric epics, despite being older. The Greeks of Homer’s time, at least as described by Homer, had a very a worldview that everything was dictated by gods. All of Homer is infused with that mindset.

        • Garr says:

          What about the comical domestic stories about the gods, though — Zeus getting angry at Hera at the dinner table, Hera tricking Zeus with Aphrodite’s sexiness-enhancing belt, that kind of thing? That stuff isn’t dictated by the gods! I think that the poet who composed this material must have had a more familiar-to-us mindset than the poets who composed the stuff in which gods tell heroes, “Okay, now go kill those guys over there ….” (Also, the section in which Hector goes back into Troy and converses with three different women — his mom, Andromache, and Helen — and gets annoyed at Paris. This is “modern”-feeling stuff.) (It seems to me as though a smart woman must have composed these domestic scenes — they have that inter-personal sorting-things-out feel to them that I associate with smart-woman-thinking.)

          • Ursiform says:

            How can the actions of the gods not be dictated by the gods?

            Not all of the myths, nor tellings of the myths, date from the dame period.

            • Garr says:

              My point is that since the decisions of the gods aren’t dictated by higher-level gods (Hera is a person making up her own mind) the composer of the domestic-god-comedy stories in the Iliad must be able to conceive of people as making up their own minds.
              I know that the stories are from different times – I say so in the comment to which you’re responding. My suggestion is that in the older material gods tell humans what to do, while in the later domestic-god-comedy material it’s clear that people are making up in their own minds.

              • Limper Grim says:

                Consider Aias (I may have misspelled his name). While he was gifted with huge size, everything else he accomplished, he accomplished on his own, without assistance from any god or goddess. He seems to me to be one of the best heroes of the Iliad, but Homer does not reckon him as one.

    • pyromancer76 says:

      Have enjoyed this blog for quite a while as a silent reader. My reading suggests that “Consciousness” originated a lot earlier than humans. Try Jaak Panskepp and even, for psychoanalysis, Mark Solms. Basic emotional-goal driven programs are suggested as conscious and part of our individual (ontogenetic) origins from phylogenetic background. We store the experiences (good enough if competent coverage by parents) in memory, both unconscious and that available to consciousness. Human infants are much more active and “alive” than most people have given them credit for. Also interesting, because it helps humans to attain a little humility as to our place in the species of life as we view our magnificent achievements.

      • Garr says:

        Yes, since squirrels and cats are obviously conscious! But maybe when we first started having verbal thoughts it would have felt to us as though someone else were speaking to us — a god, maybe. The same with meaningful mental images — we might have felt as though as a god were showing us something.

    • My father was a kind of polymath and knew enough about several of these areas (greek literature, mind/body problem, etc) to think that the bicameral mind stuff, even that the greek’s “thought” was an different than ours, was baloney. But the last conversation i had with him about this would have been in the late 90’s. There may be more evidence now.

      But, is there anything very well known in the field of “evolutionary consciousness” or is it all just-so-storyism? Is it even fundamentally knowable to (its) posterity?

    • Can’t finish the book because it would be aggravating and boring. He has Homer wrong and if Homer’s lack of consciousness is the linchpin of the rest of the book, why go on if he’s wrong? The word nous occurs nine times in Homer. Read in context, the word clearly refers to one’s mind. For example, the companions of Odysseus changed into swine by Circe are described as still having the nous that they had before the change, i.e. that they knew who they were, and were sorely distressed to be in the body of a pig. In Plato, Socrates sometimes says “I directed my nous at something happening, using the word as Homer uses it, the unitary consciousenss. Are we to say that Plato did not have a consciousness. Everyone has had the experience of flying into a rage and had the sensation that one’s anger was “surging” in one’s breast. That’s the sort of thing Home says all the time. Jaynes wants to make references of that sort to prove that Homer was not conscious as we are today. Bloss unsinn!

      I am not a philosopher but wouldn’t just the existence of pronouns like “I” “you” “he” “she” “they”, and verbs in the same person in all languages imply that everybody going back to an unknown prehistoric date possesses and has possessed a unitary consciousness?
      In other words, consciousness of self and consciousness of the consciousnesses of the others is not an historical discovery. Book goes back to library pronto.

  10. Jason says:

    Dr. Cochran, it’d be interesting to hear your response to this critique of your views on Edward O. Wilson and his views on eusociality:

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