Re: What makes humans different from other species?

George Church is a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and a professor of health sciences and technology at Harvard and MIT. In 1984, Church, along with Walter Gilbert, developed the first direct genomic sequencing method and helped initiate the Human Genome Project. Church is responsible for inventing the concepts of molecular multiplexing and tags, homologous recombination methods, and DNA array synthesizers. Church initiated the Personal Genome Project in 2005 as well as research into synthetic biology. He is director of the U.S. Department of Energy Center on Bioenergy at Harvard and MIT and director of the National Institutes of Health Center of Excellence in Genomic Science at Harvard, MIT and Washington University. He is a senior editor for Nature EMBO Molecular Systems Biology.

  • Transcript


Well clearly we are a species that is well connected to other species. Whether or not we evolve from them, we are certainly very closely related to them. A series of mutations could chain us into all kinds of intermediate species. Whether or not those intermediate species are provably in the past, they could easily be in our future. We are quantitatively not necessarily qualitatively different in that we have spirituality. We have exotic language. We have mathematics. We have the ability to completely change our environment to go . . . to take on . . . to inherit, in a certain sense, things far beyond our DNA and that’s inheritable. And we can see evolution in action as our ideas evolve and undergo a kind of Darwinian selection not at the DNA level. And we can go off into space. So there are many things that make us at least quantitatively different, if not a new species in a qualitative sense. Recorded on: 7/6/07