Originally posted by Rationalist:
Remember that this gene helps people "not" to speak when it is not in its correct form (in a very interesting way I suppose). However, that does not necessarily mean that it will make a chimpanze speak if it was inserted into their genome.
But we shall see, I guess. An urbane and articulate genetically engineered chimp hosting the Tonight Show could be in our future. Perhaps we could even hire a few hundred of them to do some typing work for a Shakespearean play (or perhaps not.. it is a speech gene after all).
It is apparently not just a speech gene. I read the following in the New York Times:
"The affected members of the London family in which the defective version of FOXP2 was discovered do possess a form of language. Their principal defect seems to lie in a lack of fine control over the muscles of the throat and mouth, needed for rapid speech. But in tests they find written answers as hard as verbal ones, suggesting that the defective gene causes conceptual problems as well as ones of muscular control."
I don't think anyone is suggesting that if you place this gene into a chimp it will talk. That would be a shocker for everyone. On the other hand, if there was a group of chimps who all had the gene, they may be able to communicate more effectively. I suppose the tests will be eventually performed, and then we will know for certain.
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