Naked apes

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The Independent Online

Sustained curiosity is one of humankind's most impressive qualities. Who can fail to be moved by the dedication and doggedness with which the species has built up its formidable body of knowledge?

Sustained curiosity is one of humankind's most impressive qualities. Who can fail to be moved by the dedication and doggedness with which the species has built up its formidable body of knowledge?

The tendency to mock all this earnest effort is not quite so impressive. So, down here, we must be careful how we greet the news that the 7 million-year-old skull so recently trumpeted as the oldest human ever discovered may well be, in fact, from a female gorilla. All we can plead is a weakness for banana-skin humour and a hopelessly atavistic attachment to a fitting sense of modesty and mystery over our origins. Besides, there is so much work to be done out there, not all of it narcissistic and backward-looking: we were most taken, for instance, with the news that the Japanese can now translate dog barks; here in Britain, too, they are working on a toaster with feelings. More, please!

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