Archive for the ‘primates’ Category

Good News for Chimps

December 15, 2011 Leave a comment

I just saw a story that the NIH is getting rid of almost all animal testing on our closest cousins chimpanzees. I’ve got a soft spot for chimps and grant them a certain level of personhood. Its not complete but its pretty close. Now we need to protect their habitat and keep extant their natural culture and genetic diversity and start building from that. I was all fire for chimps back in the day and wrote this song that kind of speaks for itself

Chimp Poem

Out in the jungle were some chimpanzees

Eating some fruit, swinging through the trees

Minding their own business, not hurting anyone

Raising their babies, and having fun

Until that fateful day when they were nabbed

And shipped to the States for a research lab

They were poked and prodded, separated from their mates

Ninety five percent of chimps shared the same fate

But our superior intellect the scientists say

Gives us the right to do what we may

Torture the dumb chimps in our quest for knowledge

Because that’s what the ethicist taught us in college.

Driving through the suburbs in their SUV

Was an upper middle class American family

They were driving to Junior’s first soccer game

On that fateful day when the aliens came

Sucked up to a saucer by a tractor beam

They were sent to another world by a teleport machine

They were poked and prodded, separated from their mates

Ninety five percent of humans shared the same fate

But our superior intellect the aliens say

Gives us the right to do what we may

Torture the dumb humans in our quest for knowledge

Because that’s what our ethicist taught us in college.

Believe it or not half of this tale is true

And you know you wouldn’t want it to happen to you

So keep in mind the Golden Rule

And don’t use chimps as your research tool

The wild chimps should be left alone

They need habitat to call their own

The research chimps should all be set free

To be the wild things God wants them to be

To be the wild things God wants them to be.


Categories: nature, poetry, politics, primates

100th monkey

i recently heard reference to the 100th monkey and since the person is of some influence after the meeting i casually mentioned it was a cool story but its not true. perhaps you know the story; macaques washing sweet potatoes in the sea, a new thing taught by baby monkeys after they figured out the trick and taught their parents, proving even monkeys have culture. that’s the true part. the next thing is that this phenomenon suddenly passed to all macaques after 100 or so monkeys learned it. it was foundational for an anti-nuke book of the same name. cool story. not true. it took me 8 seconds to find the evidence. i just googled 100th monkey false and found the scholarly article debunking the story using the same sources as keyes uses in his famous book published in 1985 and probably the root of why i stopped using the reference (without the addendum its not really true). in case you want to check it out: i put it on my list of things i wish were true but are not. even keyes admits its not really factual. there is power in belief but probably not that power. i am still intrigued by the idea. morphic resonance captured my fancy and i’ve not seen the facts supporting that (rat swimming tests, crystallization of new substances) and i haven’t seen counter evidence. its the responsibility of thoughtful intelligent people to look at the facts and share their conclusions thoughtfully. lets continue to place the Truth as more important than our ideology and watch out for our own observational bias. i know i at least am a sucker for a good story, but not this time.

Categories: philosophy, primates

yawning dogs

August 31, 2008 2 comments

Within the last month or so i heard  a story on NPR about dogs. It covered a study proving what i had already observed that yawning, which is known to be contagious, is so between dogs and our own naked primates. It also pointed out that yawning is not contagious with folks with autism, theorized to be a lack of empathy. Therefore dogs have empathy. I already knew all of the facts of the story but had not put those things together, though i am not surprised. Dogs are very emotion based. We know from other studies that dogs are more able to identify human emotions than even our close cousins the chimpanzee. To the extent that dogs have consciousness, not being able to pass the Mirror Test they presumably lack self-consciousness, i believe it is built emergently out of emotional processes unlike our forebrain centered consciousness that is presumably built out of administrative functions. Consciousness is an information process and is not to be confused with the biological processes that support it. “When the finger points to the stars the dog looks at the finger”. Self consciousness is more heavily clustered in mammals with fore brains, us, the great apes and elephants(?). But dolphins, and presumably whales though yet to be tested, pass the mirror test and demonstrate other traits of personhood (tool use for ex.- wild-dolphins put sponges on the tips of their noses to root for food in corral). A self-consciouss built out of the mammalian brain is possible. And what of bird self-consiousness? some can pass the mirror test. Consciousness built out of reptilian  survival drive.  Our consciousnesses,  information processes, than probably carry  theses subustructures of emotion and drive information systems that have the potential to  achieve self consciousness. I welcome any correction on my musings on neruo-science, socio-biology, and philosophy.

Categories: dogs, philosophy, primates

talking about primates

While writing that last post I got a work call. A client was passed out drunk and there was some homeless guy with more beer locked my co-worker out of the house and wouldn’t let her check on the client. I told her she’d had a long day and to go home and i would get in and check on client and try to talk him into going to detox. Random Dude wouldn’t answer the door and a neighbor filled me in on the scene and got Random Dude to come to the door. I put my business card in the door and told him to let me in and check on client’s safety or i would call the po-pos to do it for me. He let me in my client was safe for the moment, not ready to evict the homeless and go to detox, so i scheduled an appt. for the morning. I could have strong armed him into detox and put smug little random dude on the street but i respect peoples right to choose, even badly. Frankly between you and me most people’s choices seem ill considered to me. Look at the planet and you’ll see what i mean. We broke the weather for god’s sake. I could have justified my ape dominance behavior. Drag the crippled monkey where i wanted him to go. Make the little chimp go sleep in the streets because i could and he defied me. But being aware that most human interaction is chimp politics. Dominance and submissive behavior. I sat on the floor when i talked to the drunk and apologized for intruding to both with my only castigation a fact based account of how they were destroying my client’s life. I called my co-worker to update her on the situation and i said we assertive community treatment not aggressive. I feel like it is easy for me to rationalize almost anything i do to give it at least the appearance of being reasonable. Who said The cost of freedom is eternal vigilance?

Categories: primates, work

what i did on my summer vacation

September 15, 2007 1 comment

I am back from my vacation and ready to get back into my regular routine. If anyone is interested i picked up my friend from Toledo Dave Smith in St Louis. We had a beer at a faux Irish Pub across from Union Station where the bar tender was able to leave a four leaf clover on the top of the foam of the guiness draft we both enjoyed. We then drove across the river and got dinner and a room in Fairmont IL and hiked around the Cahokia Mounds the next day. For anyone not familiar with the mounds they are an incredible site with a definite vibe of intense history. I spent a lot of time visualizing what it was like when 20,000 Missisipians lived there and it was the largest city in North America, before they simply just disappeared. We then drove back to Columbia and caught a little of the Sierra Leone All Stars at the Columbia Blues Fest. After that we kept it pretty mellow with barbecues and a lot of frisbee golf. We made a last visit to the St Louis Zoo, best free zoo in the country, and enjoyed all the animals. One of the last times I was at that zoo was in maybe 1995 with my brother John and Joe Mold who had come down for a student environmental conference. As we walked through the great apes section there was an Orangatang behind a glass wall. Joe Mold put his hand up on the glass and the orangatang did likewise. Joe began to ohm in a low and sustained way and both Joe and the Orangatang began to rock gently and it was obvious to all the crowd of bystanders which it drew that they were in some type of psychic communion. We were doing a lot of head humming back in those days and i had certainly felt the unity of the self break down in some kind of group communion, so i was not too surprised to see an orangatang join the fold. All of the great apes are such close cousins and so obviously intelligent and self aware it breaks my heart to see how we treat them. We are down to hundreds of Mountain Gorillas, a shame we will bear threw all eternity should we allow them to pass from this beautiful and threatened land. We definitely saw the interspecies barrier broken down that day, and if you don’t believe me ask John, as an incorrigible skeptic, atheist, and materialist he will corraborate my story in its totality. Dave and I didn’t have any mystical experiences, the organgatangs seemed tired of people looking at them and children shouting and kept pulling sacks over their head to catch a little shut eye. Finally i got to drop Dave back off at Union Station and return to my regularly scheduled life. We did write several very good poems together, one of which i retained a copy of and will try to post in the near future. I plan to write an intro to the blog today and will resume my Amsterdam narrative early next week. Thanks for reading and please post a comment. I have only had one and that was a spam-bot from a hypnosis site.

Categories: primates, travel