Of apes and men (and ape/men)

The other day I read an insrtuctive article about the attempts to create a perfect warrior by mating a human and a chimpanzee. The attempts failed, although looking at Vlad Putin one is tempted to think it must have been a partial success.

The idea was first mooted at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, which by the end of the 19th century had been taken over by Russians. After its founder died, Ilya Mechnikov, future Nobel laureate, got to head the Institute, and he had several other Russian scientists working there.

One of them, Ilya Ivanov, was fascinated with creating chimeras, animal hybrids. In fact, he succeeded in breeding a zeedonk (zebra/donkey) and a zubron (bison/cow). Allowing his creative juices to pump at a high rate, Ivanov then deduced that, if it was possible to mate a bison and a cow, it also had to be possible to mate a human with his evolutionary simian cousin.

He had no moral or, God forbid, religious obstacles in the way of trying to prove that hypothesis experimentally. By that time, Darwin’s slapdash theory had acquired the status of orthodoxy, and it was widely seen as a debunking of religion. The simian origin of man, for example, was no longer in doubt.

However, some residual scruples still survived, and Ivanov couldn’t find any backing for his pioneering efforts. He had to wait until Stalin succeeded Lenin in Ivanov’s native country.

In 1925 Ivanov touched the innermost chords of Stalin’s soul by seducing him with the idea of breeding an ape-man, a fierce warrior who can’t be side-tracked by compassion. The idea appealed, even though, as Stalin’s descendant Putin is proving, the same result can be achieved with purely human material.

Ivanov was granted $10,000, a princely sum in those days, to travel to French Guinea, find some apes and pay local women to take part in his experiments. The assumption was that Africans were somehow more simian than Europeans, which view has since then been rather discredited.

To his surprise, Ivanov failed to find any African women willing to take part in that little project. They rejected the traditional method of procreation outright, and even balked at the somewhat less offensive idea of artificial insemination.

However, on his return Ivanov had more luck in the Soviet Union, where five women agreed to the less distasteful method for the sake of scientific progress. The experiment didn’t work, and Ivanov eventually died in prison (I’m not suggesting a causal relationship there).

However, the idea didn’t die with him, and I can understand why. Should a human ape be bred, that apparition could be held up as proof that man was created not by God but by Darwin. And our contemporaries see nothing wrong with achieving such coupling the old-fashioned way.

One great champion of interspecies relations is Peter Singer, Princeton professor of bioethics, whatever that is. In 2001 he allowed that humans and animals can have “mutually satisfying” sexual relations because “we are animals, indeed more specifically, we are great apes.” Therefore such sex “ceases to be an offence to our status and dignity as human beings.”

As far as I know, Prof. Singer doesn’t insist that such liaisons can produce progeny, but others do, and many experiments have been conducted along those lines. In the West, the objective has been not to create a killing machine but to find Darwin’s ‘missing link’.

That the link continues to be missing is quite embarrassing for that lot. Fossil records stubbornly refuse to yield evidence of any intermediate species, a Pithecanthropus or some such. Early humans, yes, take your pick. Apes, galore. But, alas, nothing in between.

Now, if finding or breeding a Pithecanthropus was supposed to prove Darwin’s point, then surely an inability to do so must disprove it? Dream on. Darwinism has left the domain of science to enter one of ideology, and there no defeat is ever admitted.

A pseudoscientific ideology is never wrong. It just hasn’t been proved yet. The Origin of Species was published in 1859, getting on for two centuries ago, but so what? What’s your hurry? Give it another few centuries and that elusive proof will be found.

Just look, say the Singers and Dawkinses of this world. Humans and chimps share 99 percent of their active genetic material, and the genetic distance between them is a mere 0.386. What further proof do you need?

Yet the smug expressions on their faces are premature. For physical likeness between apes and humans creates problems for their ilk.

Biology can’t explain why, given such close proximity, apes still look rather different from humans, even those as flawed as, say, Peter Singer. Anything near the same biochemical closeness produces virtual twins in other animals. For example, even though they are 20 to 30 times further apart, some species of squirrels or frogs are practically indistinguishable.

Moreover, and here we get to the heart of the matter, in other species such genetic and biochemical proximity presupposes the possibility of mating so dear to Singer’s heart. After all, we know of numerous examples of interbreeding not only among different species within one genus, but even among different genera or sub-families within one family, where the biochemical compositions are quite different and the genetic distances are tens of times greater than those between humans and chimpanzees.

And yet these two putative twins can’t produce common progeny, for all the highly publicised scoops in the press some years ago. Another mating experiment is under way, we were told, and soon a ‘Pithecanthropus’ will be produced, proving that Darwin was right all along. The experiment failed – so do they acknowledge Darwin was wrong all along? A rhetorical question.

No other scientific theory has been given such generous latitude. If a hypothesis isn’t proved within 30-40 years, it’s usually consigned to history and only ever remembered as a curious archaism. But the special status of Darwinism is rooted not in science, but in ideology.

Hence it has been amply proved at a metaphysical level, no matter how miserably it has failed in the dull world of facts. Mr Darwin, meet Messrs Marx and Freud. You have a lot in common.

P.S. Speaking of zoology, here’s a title in today’s Times: “Farage is a snake, but if we were being honest on migration, he’d have no fangs.” I got an instant nightmare of imagining myself being torn apart by a snake’s fangs and stung by scowling wolves.

2 thoughts on “Of apes and men (and ape/men)”

  1. Darwin’s theory is widely accepted because there isn’t a viable alternative. The carnage that is nature is surely more indicative of evolution than it is creation. You seem to be suggesting that the space unoccupied by this ‘missing link’ is where God is hiding. A perilous game to play as long as Ruskin’s hammers continue to chink away.

    I do however share your distaste for natural selection, it’s a monstrous thing when all is said and done, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean it’s false.

  2. While sexual mating may have failed, we seem to have succeeded in the ideological mating of an ape mind with a human body. With modern man’s single focus on personal pleasure, he is able to sink to the level of his Neanderthal ancestors and forgo higher pursuits. Why am I here? Why, to change my sex as the mood strikes me, of course. And to exploit those changes to seek carnal pleasure wherever I may find it – man, woman, ape, squirrel, tree.

    Perhaps Ivanov and his brethren have started too far down the chain of life? They should try starting at the very beginning (a very good place to start), with iron and nickel, hydrogen sulfide and helium, and an abundance of methane and carbon dioxide. That should be enough to generate life, as materialists believe. Just the right combination should start them on an evolutionary path that they can then manipulate in the direction of the perfect ape-man soldier. He should be hermaphroditic, of course, to fall in line with current military standards (we wouldn’t want our super-soldier to be denied entrance to the armed forces on ideological grounds!).

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