Social chimps

[Bruce Nevin (920622) --

I do not claim that Sagan and Drayan have correctly described the
perceptions that chimpanzees are controlling.


I do claim, and I think that you would agree, that projection of this
kind is typical of what people do.


However, instead of attempting to eliminate this process as an unwanted
interference with "objectivity," I would embrace it as being itself a
crucial datum about our perceptions and our control of them


In particular, I make the further claim that the association of
particular manners of behavior (comprising behavioral outputs), >emotional

states, and social roles (participation in mutually >recognized social
relations) is learned and indeed taught as part of >how to be an adult
member of one's society.

All of these things you say are true; I agree, and apologize for having
taken off from your line of argument in a different direction. Perhaps from
my earlier post of this morning you may see what my objection is. I'm not
objecting to the description (in somewhat less wildly projective form);
only to the implication that this is the only way a human society could be
organized. I wouldn't be surprised if many aspects of human society are
there by default, carried over from remote ancestors and accepted simply
because that's the way it's always been done. Also, as you say, these
social interactions may come about through nonverbal processes, through
each organism's trying to control what happens to it. By projecting our own
perceptions into such situations, we learn more about what we perceive and
control in these nonverbal ways.

But if we look at a chimpanzee society as what emerges from interactions
without benefit of symbolic reasoning, principles, or system concepts, and
if we see parallels (however described and interpreted) with human
societies, isn't this a sign that human beings aren't really taking
advantage of their own higher capacities? That's how I see such parallels
-- not as evidence of some inescapable animal heritage, but as evidence of
immaturity, of lack of skill at using brains in the ways they are now
capable of being used. I don't blame a chimp for indulging in all that pomp
and stuff; but when I hear of human beings doing the same thing, I wonder
why they have to act like chimps.

This immaturity always leaps out at me from descriptions like those of
Sagan and Drayan; for me to visualize human beings acting in these ways is
to see a flawed and rather ridiculous mode of interaction based on
illusion, false hopes, and misunderstanding of human nature. I can't
imagine myself in any of the roles described. True, some people do behave
in this way. But I am, I'm afraid, more interested in doing something about
that than in studying it disinterestedly as a phenomenon. I have too much
interest in it just to let it be. I can't just say, "Well, that's how
society works and I guess we're stuck with it." I don't think we're stuck
with society as it is. Or I don't WANT to be stuck with it. I REFUSE to be
stuck with it.

Maybe this is why I never got a PhD. I just can't stick to the point.


Bill P.