Richard Dawkins created a bit of a stir among the theists by claiming that he is an African ape.
Is Richard Dawkins an Ape?.
I don't much care about the opinions of theists like Vasko Kohlmayer because they have an obvious agenda. Scientific arguments are meaningless to them.
But I do care about the opinions of other scientists and philosophers. Jerry Coyne explains why we are apes and why it's not a good idea to say that people living in Oxford or Chicago are African apes [Washington Times denies that Richard Dawkins is an ape]. I agree with Jerry.
Humans aren't monkeys. We aren't apes, either.]. He claims that the term "ape" is not a legitimate phylogenetic term and therefore is doesn't have to refer to a monophyletic group.
Chimpanzees are apes. Gorillas are apes, as are bonobos, orangutans, and gibbons. We routinely differentiate the "great apes" from the "lesser apes", where the latter are gibbons and siamangs. Humans are not apes. Humans are hominoids, and all hominoids are anthropoids. So are Old World monkeys like baboons and New World monkeys like marmosets. All of us anthropoids. But humans aren't monkeys.I don't agree with this distinction. There's nothing to be gained by saying that our closest relatives are apes but we aren't.
Are humans, apes, monkeys, primates, or hominoids?]. John argues like a philosopher but, in this case, he's right.
It is not possible to stem the tide of linguistic change, as the Académie Française has found out repeatedly. If experts can redefine terms influentially, then there is nothing wrong with that so long as it doesn’t confuse the experts. Using paraphyletic terms (that is, group names that denote what is left of the group once a subset has been removed) is a Very Bad Idea that hangs on in science, but it need not hang on in folk usage. And there’s nothing wrong with saying “humans are apes”, because, on the best construal of what those terms denote, they are.
Neil Shubin’s excellent book Your Inner Fish makes a similar point. Where once a “fish” was anything that lived in water (including swans, geese, alligators and crocodiles, whales, and water snakes), it came to mean a vertebrate that had gills and fins and scales. Shubin shows how the Gnathostomes (jawed fishes) includes land vertebrates, including mammals and ultimately us, as well. Language can change…
UPDATE: Brian Switek of Laepaps weighs in with: I’m an Ape, and I’m Also a Fish.