In DARK INHERITANCE we wanted to take a look just beyond tomorrow's horizon. DARK INHERITANCE deals with physical anthropology, genetics, and primatology. Through the story we can teach people not only about our closest primate relatives - we share 98.8% of our genes with chimpanzees and bonobos - but about just how closely we are related. For the last forty years the perceived gap between humans and apes has been shrinking. The more we learn about them, the more we find that we are alike. In the end, the only difference between a chimpanzee and a human is matter of degree. They do everything that we do, but with less sophistication. They make tools, but don't build space shuttles. They fight genocidal wars with their neighbors, but don't build gas chambers. They use language, but haven't written WAR AND PEACE. You might say that they are human without the extremes.|
We wanted to deal with some of the moral dilemmas using higher primates for medical research. Chimpanzees are remarkably sensitive and intelligent creatures. They are almost us. We do not believe they are disposable as "property." Captive apes aren't the only ones at risk. There may be less than twenty thousand bonobos left in the wild. Chimpanzees, especially in West Africa, are being hunted to extinction for the illegal pet trade and for "bush meat." Hopefully readers of DARK INHERITANCE will come away with a better understanding not only of apes, but of ourselves as human beings.
Pharmaceutical companies have been inserting sections of human DNA into chimpanzees. This is done because we are so closely related, to test drug protocols, to see how disease can be cured, and to monitor side effects. If an ape goes into anaphylactic shock, a human will, too. So we put more segments of human DNA into chimpanzee to make us even closer. Chimpanzees are cheaper than taking chances experimenting on humans. The question is begged: If we are already 98.8% the same, how many human genes can be inserted into these animals before they cross that thin dividing line between our species?
Umber, the protagonist in DARK INHERITANCE answers that question. We create new life forms in laboratories all the time. We insert human genes into mice, frogs, sheep, and cattle. "Chimeras" are built when goat genes and sheep genes are spliced to create a "geep." When we create a strain of ape with Umber's sentience and intelligence, how will we treat it? Will a sentient being be a "Person" or simply property?
Comments provided by the authors.
Ever since he became one of several scientists chosen to raise apes bred by the pharmaceutical giant SAC, Dr. Jim Dutton, his daughter Brett, and the bonobo ape Umber have been a family. Umber types, reads, speaks sign language, and even contemplates the nature of God. Then a colleague forces Jim to confront the reality he's tried to ignore: Umber and the other SAC apes are "augmented" apes, more similar to early hominids than to anthropoids. When SAC abruptly demands Umber's immediate return, it becomes vital for Jim to discover why the corporation created this new species. The quest for answers will take Jim and his family to Africa where the struggle to uncover SAC's secrets becomes a fight for survival.