In case you have not been paying attention to the world at large because you are trapped in the world of video games, Jill Pruetz and Paco Bertaloni, two scientists in Senegal recently reported finding a band of chimpanzees that have fashionable rudimentary spears for hunting. This discovery is being hailed as a fundamental leap forward for evolutionary science. While it is a well known and established fact that chimps have been documented using rudimentary tools, but even this is limited to the use of a simple stick to fish out termites or ants out of their mounds. The leap from a leaf-free stick to a sharpened spear is cause for significant scientific inquiry. However, substantive problems remain with this discovery.
For the moment, let us forget all the evolutionary issues surrounding this story. Let's focus on just the problems with the scientist's reports. There are a few serious problems. First, I find it strange that with the near universal accessibility to even the cheapest recording equipment that these two scientists do not have video of this spear wielding behavior. Why no photos? I doubted they did not have some kind of camera. Even my cellphone has a camera, and it is the cheap one I got for free for signing a contract. So, do they have any videos or photos of the rest of their stay in Senegal? Maybe their recording equipment was stolen by another band of chimps that love electronics?
Now, let us examine Professor Jill Pruetz. I have learned of a fascinating online resource called RateMyProfessors.Com. Simply stated, it is a site where students can comment on their profs. Here is a sample of Professor Pruetz's comments: "Another example of how sometimes a super intelligent researcher makes a horribly incompetent professor. See below for a web link to all other comments on Professor Pruetz.
While this is not really evidence of anything, it is pretty clear that Professor Pruetz either does not like teaching or she just sucks at it. In either case it is also pretty clear from all the other comments on the aforementioned website that she has a motive to get herself out of the classroom teaching environment. Would a find of this magnitude get her out of the classroom?
And what about this other guy, Paco Bertolani? Turns out he's working to get his PhD from Cambridge. God knows there has never been a case of a PhD candidate who lied about research to get his degree. I know for a fact it would never happen. Not never. Especially not at Cambridge.
Now that I have satisfied that nasty part of my mind that always wants to believe the worst in others, let me say that I have nothing factual (just speculation and hate) to serve as evidence against these two. Granted, there are so many questions I would want answered, starting with "who do you think stop your recording equipment?"
I'm just not sure about their findings. A part of me very much wants this to be true. If true, then we are watching this chimp take a massive step forward in an evolutionary process. Maybe in the remote reaches of Senegal this band of chimps has discovered the next step in getting food. The spear is a logical advance of the "termite stick" tool that chimps around the world are known for using. It could very well be a message of hope and a vindication of science.
For a long time, humans have prided them at being the ultimate tool builders on our third rock from the Sun. We have developed some amazing tools, from steam engines to money. Hell, even "time" (as in your wrist watch) is a tool we have invented that serves multiple uses. Why is it so hard to believe that other primates can also build complex tools? We have long thought of the chimp as our close relative. It is only natural that he should eventually start figuring out things on his own. God knows all we are teaching them is rudimentary sign language, how to be bad movie actors and how to ride little bicycles at the circus. They just got tired of waiting for us to teach them anything useful (like making guns) so they got started on their own.
Historically speaking, the next step in their tool progress should be those cool Stone Age spear throwers! Then suddenly the bow and arrow. Pretty soon after that they will start napping flint and making rudimentary cutting tools. Then the wheel. But if those chimp's start banging rocks together to make fire we will have to eliminate them from the face of the earth. Why, you ask? Because if we do not kill the bastards off, within a few centuries, poor old Chuck Heston will be banging his fist into a beach screaming at the collapsed remains of the Statue of Liberty. And that is just wrong.
So before we close the case on spear wielding chimps, I want to see some video footage of this behavior. Maybe we can get Madonna to provide the soundtrack?
If you would like additional information on the spear wielding chimps, read the full story at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6387611.stm
Read all comments about Professor Jill Pruetz's at: http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=427821
Source by Louis Rosas-Guyon