New Project and Email List

I have a special announcement for anyone who has been following this blog, specifically people who have been attentive to the work on Less Than Nothing, What Is Sex?, and Phenomenology of Spirit last year.  The first thing to note is that I plan to finish these projects even if it will take time and perhaps take a new … Continue reading New Project and Email List

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A ‘Great’ Crisis

Change is in you

I have been thinking a great deal about happiness and how we can best study the happiness of our species.  That is why a recent study on great ape mood caught my eye.  I found it quite insightful.  The study was led by psychologist Alexander Weiss, who investigated patterns of well-being in two great ape species: chimpanzees and orangutans (Coles, 2012).  In this study, Weiss and his colleagues wanted to understand if our closest relatives share the same general life pattern of well-being that humans seem to possess.  Social scientists have established that humans experience a U-shaped pattern of well-being.  This means that as a species we tend to experience greatest mental health in youth, become far less happy throughout midlife, and then become happier again in old age (Weiss et al., 2012).  This seems to be a general pattern regardless of various socio-cultural and economic factors.  The study by…

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The Advanced Apes Podcast with Dr. Jonathan Marks

The Advanced Apes Podcast with Dr. Jonathan MarksFor the past few years, biological anthropologist Dr. Jonathan Marks has been a tremendous influence to me academically.  I love his books What It Means To Be 98% Chimpanzee, and Why I Am Not A Scientist.  Last week I had a chance to interview him for a The … Continue reading The Advanced Apes Podcast with Dr. Jonathan Marks

Are Chimpanzees Cultural?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhacaxJ240Q For the past two months I, along with my two friends Alicia Herbert and Drew Hewitt, have been working on launching a new YouTube channel. We want this channel to be educational and focus on evolutionary and environmental science. Our first video is on chimpanzee culture. If you have any thoughts or comments, I … Continue reading Are Chimpanzees Cultural?

Change is in you

I recently watched a BBC documentary about the Congo. It was part of a larger documentary series on Africa narrated by David Attenborough that I highly recommend. Whenever I watch BBC nature documentaries I feel like I learn something new each time. But while I was watching Congo, one scene in particular caught my attention. It was a scene on “chimpanzee fire.” Immediately my curiosity piqued. In the scene, a camera panned across a dark forest floor, and within moments it started coming to life with a green glow.

Was it chimpanzee fire? Unfortunately, it was not. It was bioluminescent fungi that the local Congolese call “chimpanzee fire.” Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. Several animal, plant, and fungi species have adapted the ability to produce their own light, and it serves many important functions. I actually had a chance to learn a lot…

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“Chimpanzee Fire”

I recently watched a BBC documentary about the Congo. It was part of a larger documentary series on Africa narrated by David Attenborough that I highly recommend. Whenever I watch BBC nature documentaries I feel like I learn something new each time. But while I was watching Congo, one scene in particular caught my attention. … Continue reading “Chimpanzee Fire”

Change is in you

A few posts ago, I wrote about how genetic testing could help conservationists reintegrate chimpanzees into the wild.  This is because chimpanzees are extremely diverse genetically; making it easy for geneticists to pinpoint what area of Africa an individual chimpanzee originated from.  In fact, chimpanzees (and all other great apes) are more genetically diverse than our species: Homo sapiens.  Recent genetic studies by molecular anthropologists have revealed that there are only 38 million unique genetic variants among the 3 billion base pair sequences within our species genome.  Although 38 million unique variants may seem like a lot, it is actually a very small fraction of our genome.  All the great apes are far more dissimilar than humans.  We appear to be a homogenous group!

But this begs the question: why are we so similar?

On further reflection it becomes very perplexing.  After all, there are seven billion humans on…

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Evolution of Suicide

Evolution of Suicide Researchers have known for two centuries now that male suicide occurs at a much higher rate than female suicide.  Can a cultural explanation alone explain this disparity?  What do evolutionary theorist know about suicide?  And can it help us decrease the male suicide rate? Full Article: Evolution of Suicide on The Advanced … Continue reading Evolution of Suicide

Change is in you

Last year I had a chance to visit the Fauna Foundation, a sanctuary in Montreal for chimpanzees “retired” from research laboratories and entertainment.  The Fauna Foundation received a lot of press after writer Andrew Westoll wrote The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary, which is an account of his time as a volunteer at the sanctuary (I recommend reading it!).  This sanctuary serves an important function because they offer peace and relative freedom to chimpanzees that have only known a caged existence as test subjects in biomedical facilities.  As an outspoken critic of this research, I am enormously grateful for these sanctuaries.  In biomedical facilities, chimpanzees often live in unsanitary conditions without areas for foraging or an ability to interact with other members of their own species.  Many chimpanzees that are eventually transferred to sanctuaries suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

That is why I was very happy to…

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