The Missing Link?

After reading a few of the articles about chimpanzees being used as research specimens I have a number of thoughts. Firstly, Project Nim Stands out significantly in mind.  The fact that researchers tried to prove that a chimpanzee could obtain a language is quite an astounding venture.  Many people had already denied this premise, stating that only human beings had the ability to develop a language. The fact that Nim did in his own way, using American Sign Language, speak, is evidence that primates are truly the closet living things to humans.  Maybe it is impossible for a primate to develop impeccable syntax, but the fact that Nim knew how to sign over 100 words and make some sort of sentence is proof of their capacity and ability.

If a human is immersed in a particular environment from birth or an early age, they become assimilated into this environment.  There are stories of children who, due to certain circumstances, were abandoned and raised by animals. (see link below) They lived like the animals and had developed no sort of language. Where do these ‘feral’ children fit in the bigger picture. It is said that language is the defining characteristic, that sets humans apart from animals. If this is so, then shouldn’t the feral child just be considered an animal? Shouldn’t a chimpanzee who can actually form a sentence and speak its needs be regarded as a human? As more research is done, it merely blurs the line between the human world and the animal kingdom and this is unsettling to many, even scientists. I guess this just epitomizes the saying “ignorance is bliss.”

http://listverse.com/2008/03/07/10-modern-cases-of-feral-children/

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A Fantastic Reality?

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/fantastic-creatures.html

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/anatomy-coelacanth.html

http://www.csicop.org/si/show/bigfoot_at_50_evaluating_a_half-century_of_bigfoot_evidence

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/oct/10/siberia-home-to-yeti-bigfoot

After reading the following articles certain questions popped into my head.

Why are people really so obsessed with such frivolous ventures?

It seems clear that the Big foot or yeti is just a figment of the imagination that has become ingrained in society due to the innate quality of raw curiosity we posses as humans. It makes a great story, all these sightings, all the evidence but like both articles say, there is no real concrete evidence and even the most “golden evidence” was proven to be a hoax. On the other hand there are many times in history when no one believed what we consider to be fact today, such the earth is round and revolved around the sun. It may be quite unjust to classify these people as delusional for devoting their time to this hobby, for it is some of these “delusional” people (Galileo comes to mind) that in the past have made discoveries that shaped the world as we know it today. When the I read the link about fantastic creatures, I was fascinated. Fantastic though commonly used to describe a great experience also means remote form reality or imaginative. Most of the creatures within the article are well-known and recognized today although it took many years to obtain scientific proof. Maybe more time is needed to truly obtain evidence of Big foot. I mean the coelacanth was thought to have died out 66 million years ago, but now since 1938 clear evidence was found which proves that it still survives today!

Maybe in the years to come we will be presented with real evidence of the existence of big foot but for now to most people, including  me, big foot seems like a myth someone started to describe something that he could not discern. From the National geographic show brain games I can say for sure that one’s eyes can be very deceiving as the brain can only focus on one spot, in detail, at a time. The brain may believe it saw big foot, but it may just as well be a huge rock!

A scientist and a human

Within the first ten chapters of ” The Lost World” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle we are presented with various descriptions of  scientists. When the main protagonist, Edward Malone, enters Professor Challenger’s house he describes the professor as having an abnormally large head.  “His head was enormous, the largest I have ever seen upon a human being.”

I thought this line was very stereotypical of the time period. It refers to the high-brow, low-brow spectrum. By making reference to the size of the head, the author wished to convey a sense of superiority. A big head, or ‘high-brow’ indicated a larger brain and hence a more knowledgeable important person of class. He goes on to mention that the professor’s hat “would have slipped over me entirely and rested on my shoulders.” This in contrast showed the reporter to be in the low-brow category. This emphasizes the difference between these two men signifying the professor’s high scholarly status.

Malone is a regular man with a regular job. He does not work in a lab nor does he discover new species.  The book ,like the typical stereotype which lives on today, places the scientific man in a higher stature than the laymen. They are a higher grouping in society and hence there is a distinction, it seems, between the scientist and a human or regular man. Later in book, when the two scientists’ are in disagreement it  shows how similar they are to the layman, no matter how intellectually superior they may be made out to be. “They are children, yet each with a brain which has put him in the front rank of his scientific age.”

Among other stereotypes, the books refers to the other scientist, Professor Summerlee’s traits. “Among his minor peculiarities are that he is careless to his attire, unclean in person, exceedingly absent-minded in his habits, and addicted to smoking a short briar pipe, which is seldom out of his mouth.” These are the various stereotypes associated with scientists. They are so engrossed in their own research that they neglect themselves and the outside world. Even Professor Challenger, had a very thick beard which which was compared with an “assyrian bull.”

Besides all the stereotypes, it appears that deep down the basal traits of man is the same. Anger and jealously engulf the scientist just as much as a normal human.  It puts the question forward as to why people still accept these stereotypes when at the core, they are no different?