26 Jan 2011

TEDxSMU Tuesday 1.25.11

Events, Ideas, News 1 Comment

Great Apes and Bonobos

Great Ape Trust is a scientific research facility in Des Moines, Iowa, dedicated to understanding the origins and future of culture, language, tools and intelligence. Announced in 2002 and receiving its first ape residents in 2004, Great Ape Trust is home to a colony of six bonobos involved in noninvasive interdisciplinary studies of their cognitive and communicative capabilities, and two orangutans.

Great Ape Trust is also committed to the preservation of endangered great apes in their natural habitats through a project we direct in Rwanda called the Gishwati Area Conservation Program.

A family of eight bonobos, including the world-famous Kanzi, arrived from the Language Research Center at Georgia State University in April 2005.

Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh

Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh is a scientist with special standing at Great Ape Trust – a world-class research center dedicated to studying the behavior and intelligence of great apes. The first and only scientist to conduct language research with bonobos, Savage-Rumbaugh joined Great Ape Trust in 2005 following a 30-year association with Georgia State University’s Language Research Center (LRC).  In 2008, she retired from the administrative and laboratory duties in the Great Ape Trust bonobo facility to focus exclusively on research, writing and lecturing.

Great Ape Research

A great ape research ban, or severe restrictions on the use of non-human great apes in research, is currently in place in the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany and Austria. These countries have ruled that chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans are cognitively so similar to humans that using them as test subjects is unethical.

Great Ape Research Act (GAPA) – United States

On March 5th, 2009, U.S. Representatives Edolphus Towns (D-NY), David Reichert (R-WA), James Langevin (D-RI), and Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) reintroduced the Great Ape Protection Act, H.R.1326 in the U.S. House to end invasive biomedical research and testing on an estimated 1,000 chimpanzees remaining in U.S. laboratories. On August 3, 2010, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the Great Ape Protection Act, S.3694 in the U.S. Senate, lending bipartisan support to end the use of great apes in invasive research. The bill would retire approximately 500 federally owned chimpanzees currently in U.S. laboratories, many for more than 40 years, to permanent sanctuary.

Animal Rights Perspective

Project R&R works hand in hand with scientists, world renowned chimpanzee experts, founders of chimpanzee sanctuaries, as well as with other leading national and international organizations. Project R&R spearheaded efforts to end the use of chimpanzees in U.S. research and is currently focused on passing the Great Ape Protection Act, H.R.1326/S.3694. The bill will end the use of chimpanzees in invasive biomedical research and retire all federally owned chimpanzees to permanent sanctuary.

Science Perspective

Following Europe’s lead, Congress moves to ban ape research, Nature.

For all the monkey business in Washington, DC, US lawmakers have decided to get serious about protecting chimpanzees. But doing so creates a conundrum: although the apes are intelligent and caring creatures, they are also considered by many to be the best animal model for developing a vaccine for hepatitis C, a human liver disease that leads to nearly 350,000 deaths each year worldwide.

Animals in the Wild

New Bonobo Ape Population Discovered. National Geographic News, March 6, 2007.

“A new population of bonobos, one of humankind’s closest genetic relatives, has been discovered deep in a forest in Africa’s Democratic Republic of the Congo. Perhaps the largest known concentration of bonobos anywhere, the group may number as many as 3,000—a significant addition to a recent estimated total of 10,000.”

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival, John Vaillant

“Even while captive in zoos or tamed in circuses, tigers have the power to frighten us, but for sheer fierceness, none of the majestic creatures can rival the man-eating Amur that roam the Mongolian steppes. In recent decades, that ferocity became terrifyingly manifest when a giant Siberian tiger ravaged and ate a human victim in what was almost certainly a savage act of vengeance. The search for this killer feline serves as the narrative thrust for John Vaillant’s fascinating exploration of the deteriorating relationship between humans and these menacing, now seriously threatened creatures.“

Parenting, Language and Societal Development

Why Rich Parents Don’t Matter, Wall Street Journal, January 22, 2011

“How much do the decisions of parents matter? Most parents believe that even the most mundane acts of parenting—from their choice of day care to their policy on videogames—can profoundly influence the success of their children. Kids are like wet clay, in this view, and we are the sculptors.  Yet in tests measuring many traits, from intelligence to self-control, the power of the home environment pales in comparison to the power of genes and peer groups. We may think we’re sculptors, but the clay is mostly set.”

Tiger Mothers: Raising Children The Chinese Way, NPR, January 11, 2011

“In her new memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Chua recounts her adventures in Chinese parenting, and — nuts though she may be — she’s also mesmerizing. Chua’s voice is that of a jovial, erudite serial killer — think Hannibal Lecter — who’s explaining how he’s going to fillet his next victim, as though it’s the most self-evidently normal behavior. That’s the other gripping aspect of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother:  There’s method to Chua’s madness — enough method to stir up self-doubt in readers who subscribe to more nurturing parenting styles.”

The First Idea, Stanley I. Greenspan, Stuart G. Shanker

“When and how did humans acquire the faculty of symbolic thinking? In this study of the origin of human intelligence, the nature-versus-nurture conundrum is no closer to resolution. However, the nurture side of the debate does get a boost here. Greenspan and Shanker, a child psychiatrist and a philosopher, respectively, explicate their 16-level “functional/emotional” framework to support the evidence about human intelligence that they have gathered from the fields of child development, animal (especially chimpanzee) communication, paleoanthropology, sociology, and the history of philosophy. Apart from building their construct, Greenspan and Shanker challenge the nature champions, such as neuroscientists Joseph LeDoux (The Emotional Brain, 1996) and Steven Pinker (The Blank Slate, 2002).”

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared M. Diamond

“In this Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Jared Diamond argues that both geography and the environment played major roles in determining the shape of the modern world. This argument runs counter to the usual theories that cite biology as the crucial factor. Diamond claims that the cultures that were first able to domesticate plants and animals were then able to develop writing skills, as well as make advances in the creation of government, technology, weaponry, and immunity to disease.”

Language Development

Theoretical frameworks of language development, biological preconditions, environmental Influences, social preconditions.

Similar TEDTalks

Joshua Klein on the intelligence of crows, TED2008

“Hacker and writer Joshua Klein is fascinated by crows. (Notice the gleam of intelligence in their little black eyes?) After a long amateur study of corvid behavior, he’s come up with an elegant machine that may form a new bond between animal and human.”

Jane Goodall helps humans and animals live together, TEDGlobal 2007

The legendary chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall talks about TACARE and her other community projects, which help people in booming African towns live side-by-side with threatened animals.

Beverly + Dereck Joubert: Life lessons from big cats, TEDWomen 2010

Beverly + Dereck Joubert live in the bush, filming and photographing lions and leopards in their natural habitat. With stunning footage (some never before seen), they discuss their personal relationships with these majestic animals — and their quest to save the big cats from human threats.

One Response to “TEDxSMU Tuesday 1.25.11”

Leave a Reply