27 February 2008

Monkeys fling poo, just like us!

There’s this bargain bookstore that I go to frequently in Toronto where I’ve found such wonderful things as Carl Zimmer’s Parasite Rex and Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, which you just can’t find anywhere else these days (on sale, that is). The past couple of times I’ve been in this bookstore, I’ve covetously passed by a largish coffee table book on apes, very tempted to buy it, but each time passing it up because of the $25 price tag and the fact that it is light on fact, heavy on photos. I like info, so that's a bit of a problem. That said, many of the photos are hilarious and just prove that you don’t need to put a chimp in a tuxedo to make it funny.

However, I’m thinking that I should be picking it up, and not just to laugh at the ape antics. Part of the reason religious fundies don’t like evolution is the “I don’t come from no monkey” mindset (complete with bad grammar). They, and sadly this “they” includes my wife, think it’s a horrible, demeaning idea that we’re related to grimy, stupid, poo-flinging animals. Perhaps if they just stretched their brains more they’d see how similar we actually are to our ape cousins: that they’re highly social, that they’re intelligent problem-solvers, and that they have well-developed personalities. There is nothing wrong with being related to an orangutan1.

On the other hand, most of these people probably have already seen nature shows on tv and just filter the ape stuff through God coloured glasses. In which case my whole argument here is just rationalizing the fact that, if it’s still on the shelf, I’m buying that ape book the next time I’m there.

1 FYI, I have an uncle who strongly resembles an orangutan. He was actually conceived in Borneo, where orangutans live. We don’t want to think about what this potentially means for cross-species fertility.

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At February 27, 2008 8:41 p.m., Anonymous Karen said...

If you do buy the book, you may not want to show it to your wife. Still photos are fine for capturing funny shots; still photos can be demeaning and emphasize the "otherness" of the subject. it wasn't until I saw videos of Koko the gorilla and Goodall's chimpanzees that I really *got* the closeness of the relationship between humans and other great apes.

At March 02, 2008 7:59 p.m., Blogger monado said...

Where's the bookstore? Is it one of those temporary ones that moves around?

At March 03, 2008 8:48 a.m., Blogger King Aardvark said...

It might be. It's downtown a few blocks east of Union Station. It's been there for at least a year, but it's just your typical discount book retailer. They just happen to have a more interesting science section than most places. However, it looks like I won't be downtown for a while, so I'm not holding out hope on getting my ape book. There must be someone else out there who's willing to put down the cash for chimps.

At March 10, 2008 9:33 a.m., Blogger King Aardvark said...

I bought it!


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