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Are we any different from monkeys?

Published:Tuesday | August 8, 2017 | 12:00 AM


What is so fascinating or instructive about smartphones and a simple bell, and can this observation support arguments for evolution as the origin of humans?

Did humans actually originate from apes, and what do people have in common with monkeys, besides being terrestrial mammals and primates?

Humans and monkeys are primates (characteristically have large brains), with more than 96 per cent genetic similarities. This suggests that, biologically, we have more similarities than differences.

The ultimate distinguishing feature is that humans developed the ability to think and were transformed into social beings, moving from the jungles and caves into houses and cities.

This ability to think and apply knowledge resulted in amazing technological developments like smartphones.

But psychologists argue that people do not always think, as evidenced by the fact that we naturally have the herd mentality to fit in, follow the crowd, and participate in what is acceptable or fashionable, whether good or bad.

Regarding monkeys, our alleged genetic cousins, there is much to learn from their typical behaviour. Mimicry is one of their most prominent characteristics, and human beings are no different! Indeed, it is imitation in infancy that initiates our earliest learning experiences. And this learning by imitation becomes cemented and hardwired in our psyches, and explains why it requires some effort to overcome this urge and think, and not just imitate and follow the crowd, especially with regards to excitement and entertainment.

A monkey, given a bell, will become uncontrollably excited and ring it incessantly. Similarly for some persons, smartphones provide even more excitement and entertainment. People flash them, frivolously forward false information, and of grave concern is the sheer excitement or satisfaction many derive from snapping and sending gory photos (all over social media), of persons recently killed.

Oftentimes, persons sustain life-threatening injuries from motor vehicle collisions, and the urge of many onlookers at the scene is to snap and send photos of the victims, with possibly no concern whether their fellow human beings are still alive. Ouch!

Is such behaviour with smartphones monkey-like, the herd mentality, or people simply being inconsiderate? It definitely reflects a crude erosion of values and the lack of empathy of many in our society.