Cover image for What it means to be 98% chimpanzee : apes, people, and their genes
What it means to be 98% chimpanzee : apes, people, and their genes
Marks, Jonathan (Jonathan M.), 1955-
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xiii, 312 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Introduction -- Molecular anthropology -- The ape in you -- How people differ from one another -- The meaning of human variation -- Behavioral genetics -- Folk heredity -- Human nature -- Human rights ... for apes? -- A human gene museum? -- Identity and descent -- Is blood really so damn thick? -- Science, religion, and worldview.
Reading Level:
1250 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GN280.7 .M37 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The overwhelming similarity of human and ape genes is one of the best-known facts of modern genetic science. But what does this similarity mean? Does it, as many have suggested, have profound implications for understanding human nature? Well-known molecular anthropologist Jonathan Marks uses the human-versus-ape controversy as a jumping-off point for a radical reassessment of a range of provocative issues--from the role of science in society to racism, animal rights, and cloning. Full of interesting facts, fascinating personalities, and vivid examples that capture times and places, this work explains and demystifies human genetic science--showing ultimately how it has always been subject to social and political influences and teaching us how to think critically about its modern findings.

Marks presents the field of molecular anthropology--a synthesis of the holistic approach of anthropology with the reductive approach of molecular genetics--as a way of improving our understanding of the science of human evolution. As he explores the intellectual terrain of this field, he lays out its broad areas of interest with issues ranging from the differences between apes and humans to the biological and behavioral variations expressed in humans as a species. Marks confronts head-on the problems of racial classification in science. He describes current theories about race and uses work in primatology, comparative anatomy, and molecular anthropology to debunk them. He also sheds new light on the controversial Great Ape Project, the Human Genome Diversity Project, and much more. This iconoclastic, witty, and extremely readable book illuminates the deep background of human variation and asks us to reconsider the role of science in modern society.

Author Notes

Jonathan Marks is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Humans share about 98 percent of our genetic makeup with chimps, which would be impressive, biological anthropologist Marks says, if we could figure out what it means. We also share about half our genes with fish and about a third with daffodils, but almost no one argues that anything can be learned from fish and flowers about human behavior or that fish and flowers should have human rights. Both are advocated for chimps and the other great apes, from what, Marks demonstrates, are pretty spongy grounds, since we know hardly anything about how genes form bodies. We are also told that genes for homosexuality have been found, but, as Marks shows, the studies said to have found them aren't genetic studies, can't be replicated, are faultily grounded, and characteristically approach homosexuality as if it were a disease. Furthermore, scientists who should know better waste their time, our money, and lots of goodwill on research shaped by racialism and other forms of what Marks calls folk heredity, which may be culturally interesting but is scientifically worthless. Don't think, however, that Marks wants science segregated from culture, as his withering refutations of some of the most highly touted research of recent years might imply. He wants science to be humbler and more sociable, more connected to the rest of society. With plenty of entertaining sarcasm as well as scientific argument and moral indignation, Marks blasts the pretensions of grandiose geneticists pretty thoroughly out of the water. This may bethescience book to read this year. Ray Olson.

Choice Review

Some perennial topics continue to appeal, and our roots and the role of genetics in becoming what we are individually are among them. Marks (Univ. of North Carolina at Charlotte), highly qualified to write about genetics and evolution, rises to the task and explores some of the issues. He writes well, in a manner both authoritative and informative. In spite of his vast knowledge of human variation, in his discussion of race his strong liberal bias sometimes rolls over the fact that various human groups are the equivalents of regional population groups that, in other animals, zoologists designate taxonomically (nothing more or less). Such population or geographic appellations, of course, have no significance for "qualitative" comparison of individuals beyond their role for police blotters or survey statistics. He is absolutely right on target, however, when he debunks the notion that these geographical differences supposedly have something to do with the popular ideas of "higher" or "lower" on a mythical evolutionary ladder. This book is a wonderful antidote for anyone who, out of ignorance or deep-seated emotional prejudice, harbors some hidden racist notions about "other groups." Highly recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through graduate students. F. S. Szalay CUNY Hunter College

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
Preface to the Paperback Editionp. xv
Introductionp. 1
1 Molecular Anthropologyp. 7
2 The Ape in Youp. 32
3 How People Differ from one Anotherp. 51
4 The Meaning of Human Variationp. 72
5 Behavioral Geneticsp. 100
6 Folk Heredityp. 128
7 Human Naturep. 159
8 Human Rights ... For Apes?p. 180
9 A Human Gene Museum?p. 198
10 Identity and Descentp. 219
11 Is Blood Really So Damn Thick?p. 242
12 Science, Religion, and Worldviewp. 266
Notes and Sourcesp. 289
Indexp. 303