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Pigs, apes and humans -- we're not so different

January 19, 2013
  • In a 2010 speech, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi called Zionists the "descendants of apes and pigs."
In a 2010 speech, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi called Zionists the… (Maya Alleruzzo / Associated…)

Responding to The Times' editorial on Wednesday, "Morsi's hateful speech," which condemned Egypt's president for a 2010 speech in which he attacked Zionists, UC Irvine historian Jon Wiener wrote in a letter published Friday:

"Your editorial calling on Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to apologize for describing Zionists as 'descendants of apes and pigs' is only half right. We are all descendants of apes, more or less.

"Morsi is to be congratulated for embracing the theory of evolution at a time when so many of our own Christian leaders reject it. No apology is necessary there; it's the pigs that are the problem."

Wiener wasn't the only reader to defuse Morsi's hateful rhetoric with a little science-based humor. Reader Roger Bütow of Laguna Beach said Morsi was actually on to something with his pigs analogy. He wrote:

"Actually, Morsi is correct about one aspect of the pig comment: Israelis share numerous genetic and physiological similarities with them.

"While attending Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, we were given fetal pigs to dissect in our physiology class. We were grossed out and confused, but what did we know? The pig's internal organs were practically identical to ours, basically in the same position and even in similar proportion to humans'.

"Historically, pigs haven't been eaten due to their sanitary conditions and hygienic failures, yet we aren't so different from them.

"What's funny is that Morsi is either extremely ignorant or in denial. It appears that we all have much in common with pigs — even him."

Reader Kate Newcomer of Escondido says that even if Morsi had intended to make a truthful statement about humans and evolution, he'd still have been wrong:

"To say that we are descended from apes is a misconception. We share a common ancestor with apes.

"More than 7 million years ago, this species, our common ancestor, broke into two isolated groups, and through natural selection, one evolved into what we know today as humans and the other apes.

"If Morsi truly wanted to express his viewpoint on evolution, he would not have said that Zionists are the decedents of apes and pigs. He was just plain rude."

Making a more serious point about the editorial, Michael Waterman of Encino sent in this letter after the paper's deadline:

"Thank you for admonishing Morsi for his remarks. However, I am disappointed that you also referred to 'wrongheaded Israeli policies,' specifically, allowing Jews to build housing in the West Bank. While I believe in a peaceful two-state solution, it must be between two honorable, trustworthy governments. (Tough to do with apes and pigs on one side and jihadists on the other.)

"Historically, Jews have lived in the area from before King David until 1948, when they were driven out by Jordanian forces. Jews lived there for thousands of years and then were driven out for only 19. They began moving back after 1967, and now the United Nations thinks they should not be able to live there. Is that not hypocritical?"

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