December 12, 2003
"Monkeyboy" No Longer Just a Harmless Insult
In Friday’s New York Times, Nicholas Wade writes of a quest to distinguish man from chimp:
The project received a lift two years ago when a large London family with barely intelligible speech was found to have mutations in a gene called FOXP2. Chimpanzees also have a FOXP2 gene, but it is significantly different. The human version shows signs of accelerated evolutionary change in the last 100,000 years, suggesting that the gene acquired a new function that helped confer the gift of speech.I think we’re still underestimating nature’s hand in the nature vs. nurture tug-of-war. Yes, genetic differences within the human family are miniscule — but not insignificant. I’ll bet it’s a bit of a burden to have a gene that makes it more difficult to speak, ya know?