Friday, October 17, 2008

Apes and Humans

The apes are the closest animals to humans. A Gene Study finds that Chimps, Humans 96 Percent the Same.

A video showing a Chimpanzee at Primate Research Institute located in University at Kypoto University in Japan. The Chimpanzee AI beats all the human contestants in short memory task.

Chimpanzee AI from Javed on Vimeo.

Bonobos are another species of Apes. They are known to solve their conflict by having sex.
The species is best characterized as female-centered and egalitarian and as one that substitutes sex for aggression. Whereas in most other species sexual behavior is a fairly distinct category, in the bonobo it is part and parcel of social relations--and not just between males and females. Bonobos engage in sex in virtually every partner combination (although such contact among close family members may be suppressed). And sexual interactions occur more often among bonobos than among other primates. Despite the frequency of sex, the bonobo's rate of reproduction in the wild is about the same as that of the chimpanzee. A female gives birth to a single infant at intervals of between five and six years. So bonobos share at least one very important characteristic with our own species, namely, a partial separation between sex and reproduction.
Source: Bonobo Sex and Society: The behavior of a close relative challenges assumptions about male supremacy in human evolution

Even Bonobos' may not be as peaceful as portrayed in that article. Here is one one of the latest article

Until now bonobos were thought to be very different, living largely peaceful lives and restricting their meat consumption to small forest antelopes, squirrels and rodents.
But the new research has shown that, like the common chimpanzee, bonobos are not above pursuing, killing and eating their primate cousins.
The Susan Savage-Rumbaugh's talk at TED goes further and shows Apes that write, start fires
and play Pac-Man

Also, the work of Primatologists Robert Spalosky among Baboons shows a hierarchical social structure among these monkeys. His publication The Influence of Social Hierarchy on Primate Health" studies the effect of Social Hierarchy on health.
Dominance hierarchies occur in numerous social species, and rank within them can greatly influence the quality of life of an animal. In this review, I consider how rank can also influence physiology and health. I first consider whether it is high- or low-ranking animals that are most stressed in a dominance hierarchy; this turns out to vary as a function of the social organization in different species and populations. I then review how the stressful characteristics of social rank have adverse adrenocortical, cardiovascular, reproductive, immunological, and neurobiological consequences. Finally, I consider how these findings apply to the human realm of health, disease, and socioeconomic status.

What is intereseting is that there are lots of similarities between humans and apes. We have similar genetic make up. We have similar hierarchical social system. We also suffer from similar diseases and have a finite life span.

The major differences between us and them is the use of language that creates a sophisticated cultural environment and extensive use of tools that allows us to create "Engineered Environment" that sets us apart from the nature our source of origin.

The attempt to run away and hide in an "Engineered Environment" supported by inter personal relations mediated through the rules dictated by the prevailing culture, is causing lot of internal conflicts. Where our natural instincts pull us in one direction while the cultural environment pushes us in totally opposite direction.

We are the only species living with an internal conflict on the earth. We can not wish this internal conflict away. No amount of talk about love,peace and compassion will make this conflict go away unless we develop a deeper understanding of this inner conflict and find some creative solution to overcome this inner conflict.

The famous American author Mark Twain, an astute observer of human nature, wrote an essay "What is Man" . He did not publish the essay while he was alive because he thought that that his essay that contained his original insight about the nature of man may not be accepted too well. The essay was published after his death.

O.M. Yes, the half-dozen others are modifications of the extremes. But the law is the same. Where the temperament is two-thirds happy, or two-thirds unhappy, no political or religious beliefs can change the proportions. The vast majority of temperaments are pretty equally balanced; the intensities are absent, and this enables a nation to learn to accommodate itself to its political and religious circumstances and like them, be satisfied with them, at last prefer them. Nations do not THINK, they only FEEL. They get their feelings at second hand through their temperaments, not their brains. A nation can be brought--by force of circumstances, not argument--to reconcile itself to ANY KIND OF GOVERNMENT OR RELIGION THAT CAN BE DEVISED; in time it will fit itself to the required conditions; later, it will prefer them and will fiercely fight for them. As instances, you have all history: the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, the Egyptians, the Russians, the Germans, the French, the English, the Spaniards, the Americans, the South Americans, the Japanese, the Chinese, the Hindus, the Turks--a thousand wild and tame religions, every kind of government that can be thought of, from tiger to house-cat, each nation KNOWING it has the only true religion and the only sane system of government, each despising all the others, each an ass and not suspecting it, each proud of its fancied supremacy, each perfectly sure it is the pet of God, each without undoubting confidence summoning Him to take command in time of war, each surprised when He goes over to the enemy, but by habit able to excuse it and resume compliments--in a word, the whole human race content, always content, persistently content, indestructibly content, happy, thankful, proud, NO MATTER WHAT ITS RELIGION IS, NOR WHETHER ITS MASTER BE TIGER OR HOUSE-CAT. Am I stating facts? You know I am. Is the human race cheerful? You know it is. Considering what it can stand, and be happy, you do me too much honor when you think that can place before it a system of plain cold facts that can take the cheerfulness out of it. Nothing can do that. Everything has been tried. Without success. I beg you not to be troubled.
The long essay was written by Mark Twain around 1900. That shows that even cultural evolution is a slow process. Human nature has remained unchanged despite the changes in the Engineered tools and Environment around them.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Stressful Life

Robert Sapolsky author of the book "Why Zebra's don't Get Ulcers" and a professor at Stanford University studies baboons in Africa. He has researched the stress response within pack of baboons for many years in the natural habitat of baboons.

Another video with more details on how to cope with Stress

Additional Information from Stanford University Web site on Stress


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