Donald Piniach asked:
Apparently a gorilla was taught sign language. Could selective breeding over 50000 years produce a sophisticated language in gorillas, and perhaps accentuated abstract and artistic intelligence?
Kate Storrs pondered the possibilities of this question...
Kate - I love this question. If Donald would like to get in touch I think we should start writing the grant application!
Certainly people have taught great apes how to use sign language and how to use pictographic keyboards. They communicate can quite well in simple sentences but donít seem to have ever grasped grammar and syntax, or had that kind of vocabulary explosion that human children do. So thereís clearly something missing in the non-human primate brain at the moment.
Donald said in his question: if you gave 50,000 years to do the selectively breeding programme, which is a very, very long timeÖ
Chris - Longer than the grant youíd probably get funded for, thatís true.
Kate - Thatís about 5,000 gorilla generations. If you go back 5,000 human generations, you go back about 100,000 years. Weíre mostly in Africa, weíre still interbreeding with neanderthals, itís before the great kind of cultural explosion. A lot can happen in 50,000 years. With selective breeding, Iím going to go with yes!
Or we could breed humans intelligent enough to understand gorilla language as it is?