June 14, 2005

How to do politically correct research about innate sex difference.

The rule is: always portray whatever you find in the female as superior.

Here's today's example:
Chimpanzees like to snack on termites, and youngsters learn to fish for them by poking long leaf spines and other such tools into the mounds that colonies build.

In a paper to be published in the journal Animal Behavior, researchers found that female chimps in the Gombe National Park in Tanzania picked up termite fishing at a mean age of 31 months, more than two years earlier than the males.

The females seem to learn by watching their mothers, said the paper's author, Dr. Elizabeth V. Lonsdorf, director of field conservation at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

Dr. Lonsdorf said that typically, when a young male and female are near a mound, "she's really intently termite fishing, and he's spinning himself in circles."...

[Under experimental conditions], adult females were [using the leaf tool] and a young female watched carefully and began to pick up the skills, she said. Two young males did not fare as well - one simply sat next to his mother and tried to steal some mustard from her, Dr. Lonsdorf said.

The behavior of both sexes may seem familiar to many parents, she said, adding, "The sex differences we found in the chimps mimic some of the findings from the human child development literature."

She pointed out, however, that at least in the case of chimps, each is doing something important, since the males' play is practice for later dominance behavior.

"They're doing stuff that's really appropriate," she said.

14 comments:

Mark said...

When he gets a little more sexually mature, he'll stop spinning in circles and start masturbating.

Pancho said...

she's really intently termite fishing, and he's spinning himself in circles."...

Not surprising, she's probably talking about herself the whole stinkin' time driving him to Chimpanzee insanity.

Kurt said...

The most interesting thing to me is the idea of putting mustard on termites. I might try that for dinner.

Greg Brown said...

I don't remember if it was in Science or Nature that I read that one of the big differences between people and chimps is that a human mother teaches her children, while a chimp mother doesn't, forcing young chimps to learn by observation and individual experimentation. This report seems to back that up. It is why, the original report I read said, that it takes a chimp a year or two to master termite fishing, but doesn't take a human child anywhere near as long to learn simple concepts, because Mom corrects the munchkin's mistakes.

Slac said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bruce Hayden said...

Maybe there is a difference there. Chimps clearly learn from each other. For example, researchers have documented one tribe knowing how to use one particular tool for generations, while another, not far away, doesn't.

So, maybe the difference is that we are more likely to actively teach, instead of merely teaching by example.

But, I would suggest that this is probably more of a distinction and a difference. Rather, chimps are far, far, better at learning from each other, esp. a mother, than other species - but then, why shouldn't they?

I read a book a couple of years ago called "the Third Chimp" or something thereabouts. Its point is that genetically, we are close enough to them to be considered the same genus, but different species.

In the end though, the author pointed out that under standard methodology, they should probably become part of genus "homo" instead, as we were scientifically named before they were.

In other words, isn't it really species arrogance that lets us separate the other two species of our genus into a different one?

Scott said...

I saw a program on television about this and there is somehting that isn't mentioned here. Females tend to do this because they are less aggressive than males. Termite hunting is a more passive activity. Males dont do it as much because they are more likely to hunt and kill things (such as other monkeys) and go foraging for food than females. It is similar to human children on a playground. Girls tend to talk while boys tend to play. It isn't to say one is BETTER than the other, simply different.

Eric said...

Kinda _reaching_ there to be offended, aren't you?

anonymous said...

"In other words, isn't it really species arrogance that lets us separate the other two species of our genus into a different one?"

Nothing wrong with a little bit of species arrogance. Prevents insanity like what's happening with the humans on display in the London Zoo right now.

Auto Report World Editors said...

Like Dennis Prager said, we live in a feminized society where what boys and men do naturally is considered unfortunate at best.

Ann hits on an important point. Perhaps had Larry Summers pointed out the numerous drawbacks and deficits faced by men who excel in math and science he might have escaped the wrath of the Sisterhood.

Calico Cat said...

It's well known that girls mature faster than boys.

OBloodyHell said...

In regards to this, explicitly:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1749346,00.html

Thanks to Doctor Sanity...

> It isn't to say one is BETTER than the other, simply different.

No, Women are goddesses put here on earth to correct the awful fallacies of males!

Heretic!

Blasphemer!

Die Die Die!!!


(8-9

> It's well known that girls mature faster than boys.

Yet, somehow, a 20 yo man with a 16yo girl MUST be a predatory relationship, while a 35yo woman with a 15yo is "tadpoling" and subject for movies without any critical consideration.

Note: I don't consider teenagers "children" but proto-adults, so I don't necessarily have issues with either of these relationships, but think they must be examined on a case-by-case basis. Historically, they are much more commonly the norm for our species. It is only our topsy-turvy society in which they have become "abnormal" and which has reduced formerly semi-responsible teenagers into helpless, hopeless, all-around incompetent children.

Remember, Romeo was 13-14, and Juliet 12-13. They were both bordering on marriable age and he carried a sword and fought in duels. He was an armed man with the expectation of competent self-defense when attacked. In this context, their over-the-top romantic behavior makes far more sense than if they were full adults.

In Frontier times, 10 and 12 year olds carried rifles and hunted -- by themselves, not merely with their fathers.

Perhaps one reason teens chafe so much against their homelife has to do with the denial of responsibilities which they are bred to deal with. Resentment ensues as a matter of obviousness.

OBloodyHell said...

Let's try that first half again, shall we?

In regards to this, explicitly:

Yeesh -- worthless blog editors

Thanks to Doctor Sanity...

> It isn't to say one is BETTER than the other, simply different.

No!

Women are goddesses put here on earth to correct the awful fallacies of males!

Heretic!

Blasphemer!

Die Die Die!!!


(8-9

OBloodyHell said...

Can anyone explain to my why is is that half the blogger sites properly handle the italic tag, and the other half totally F*** it up? If the behavior was consistent, I'd just stop trying to use it, but it's not, it's just a random smattering of blogger sites that just go bonkers when it appears in comments text.