That's Mr. Humanzee to you, bub! - Ed Brock

There are things I see on TV that make my cerebrum itch.

The "Humanzee" was definitely one of them.

Sounds like a really bad 1970s horror flick, doesn't it? And indeed the Humanzee apparently had his heyday in the 1970s, but he was a very real creature.

Still is a real creature, according to a Discovery Channel special I watched the other night.

Apparently at that time there was a creature that, while it was supposed to be a chimpanzee, it had several very human characteristics.

It walked upright all the time. Its head was small and bald, thus giving its face a somewhat human appearance.

And its name was Oliver.

Oliver belonged to a young couple who trained other chimps for television appearances. According to the Discovery Channel show they had to get rid of him because he, shall we say, showed inappropriate feelings toward the human lady of the house, adding to the idea that maybe Oliver had a little of us in him.

A lawyer who was fascinated by Oliver's humanity bought him and ended up taking him on a tour of Japan. He hoped scientists would be able to determine through genetic testing whether Oliver really was half human.

Those tests were inconclusive, and eventually the lawyer had to get rid of Oliver and he disappeared for many years. Finally some guy in California who had known Oliver's original owners and who had wanted to buy him before but was outbid by the lawyer tracked him down.

They tested him again for the show and it turns out that Oliver is all chimp, albeit a mutant chimp of some kind, thus his weird human-like traits.

Of course, they don't tell you that until the end of the show, but that's beside the point.

The point of the show was that human beings and chimpanzees are genetically very similar. They are our closest relative among the primates.

Theoretically, in other words, it may be possible to cross a human with a chimp using modern cloning techniques.

Now, wouldn't that just be the nail in the coffin of those who can't accept evolution?

But the story of Oliver is evidence in itself, even if he isn't half human. The fact remains that Oliver can walk upright on a regular basis, unlike his fellow chimps that, while they can go on two legs, prefer to use all four limbs for locomotion.

Due to a random mutation, however, Oliver walks like we do. And guess how, by the laws of evolution, we first separated from our chimpanzee brethren? By a random mutation that led our ancestors to walk upright, freeing their hands for more tool use that also encouraged mental development, that's how.

Oliver may be all chimp, but the real question is, what would Oliver's descendants become, if he was allowed to have some?

Ed Brock covers public safety and municipal governments for the Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 254 or at ebrock@news-daily.com .