The Ethics Blog

A blog from the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics (CRB)

Tag: apes (Page 1 of 2)

We cannot control everything: the philosophical dimensions of life

Life always surpasses us. We thought we were in control, but then something unexpected happens that seems to upset the order. A storm, a forest fire, a pandemic. Life appears as a drawing in sand, the contours of which suddenly dissolve. Of course, it is not that definitive. Even a storm, a forest fire, a […]

Herb Terrace about the chimpanzee Nim – do you see the contradiction?

Have you seen small children make repeated attempts to squeeze a square object through a round hole (plastic toy for the little ones)? You get puzzled: Do they not see that it is impossible? The object and the hole have different shapes! Sometimes adults are just as puzzling. Our intellect does not always fit reality. […]

Who belongs to us?

Bioethics has a problem with human beings, the philosopher Roland Kipke writes. It must ask who belongs to our moral community. Who has rights? Who has human dignity? Who has the moral status usually attributed to healthy adult humans? Who has the right to life? The question is: Who belongs to us? Are human embryos […]

Are you a person or an animal?

The question in the title may sound like an insult. That is, not as a question, but as something one might say in anger to reprimand someone who misbehaves. In philosophy, the question is asked seriously, without intention of insulting. A philosopher who misbehaves at a party and is reprimanded by another guest – “Are […]

Being humans when we are animals

Most people know that humans are animals, a primate species. Still, it is difficult to apply that knowledge directly to oneself: “I’m an animal”; “My parents are apes.” – Can you say it without feeling embarrassed and slightly dizzy? In a recent paper I explore this difficulty of “bringing home” an easily cited scientific fact: […]

An ape genius, or just an ordinary talking ape?

In 2001 I travelled to Atlanta, where Sue Savage-Rumbaugh then worked with the language-competent bonobos Kanzi and Panbanisha. A question I travelled with concerned the linguistic tests that I had seen in a TV-documentary, Kanzi, an ape of genius. In these tests, the ape responds to requests in spoken English, uttered by an experimenter who […]

Fruitful uncertainty

We tend to imagine the minds of great thinkers and scientists as fountains of knowledge, intelligence and certainty. That is what their brilliant works make us believe. The products are perfect; therefore, the minds that produced them must have been perfect. Well, the opposite may also be true. Brilliant works can stem from an ability to endure […]

Human and animal: where is the frontline?

Yesterday I read Lars Hertzberg’s thoughtful blog, Language is things we do. His latest post drew my attention to a militant humanist, Raymond Tallis (who resembles another militant humanist, Roger Scruton). Tallis published Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity. He summarizes his book in this presentation on YouTube. Tallis gesticulates violently. As […]

Panbanisha, 1986-2012

It saddens me to have to report that Panbanisha, the bonobo who understood more about humans than any other nonhuman – and more than most humans – died November 6, 2012, from respiratory illness. Meeting her made it obvious to me that the world is more-than-human and that we have to rethink the inherited cosmology. Pär […]

Project Nim: a tragedy that was interpreted as science?

Last week I wrote about the significance of negative results in science. This week I saw one of the saddest documentaries I’ve ever seen, featuring the tragic context of an often cited negative result in science. The documentary, Project Nim (2011), was about the psychologist Herb Terrace’s attempt in the 1970:s to teach American sign […]

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