Here’s a curious claim from BBC Nature: Michelle Warwicker tells us that “Chimps’ personalities are like people’s, study says” (23 May 2012):
For years experts have debated whether great apes truly display human-like personalities – or if such behaviour is simply the anthropomorphic projections of human observers.
The research team used a statistical technique to “remove” any biases apparent in human observers of the apes’ behaviour, and they say their findings suggest man and ape really do share “personality dimensions”.
But so what? Does anyone doubt that dogs, cats, and horses have personalities? That they are not “simply the anthropomorphic projections of human observers”?
For one thing, the information can be used objectively to predict the animal’s behaviour. Not every “Beware of the dog” sign is a joke.
Researchers categorise human personality into five “dimensions”, sometimes known as “the big five”, he explains.
“Those dimensions are neuroticism, extroversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness.”
Some of us could rate our dogs and cats quite easily on those qualities.
Apart from Darwinism, no one would consider it news that we can rate chimpanzees that way too. An interesting feature of our culture is the effort that goes into trying to pretend that chimpanzees are people too. But, unlike the “cats are people too” theme, it is not just a reminder that animals have feelings. Many of these people literally believe it.
Unfortunately, chimpanzees have typically been the losers when that happens, as the sad story of the later years of Nim Chimpsky, Travis the Chimp, and the hundreds of discontinued US government research chimps (who may or may not adjust well to new circumstances) demonstrates.
Nothing would benefit chimpanzees more than a healthy dose of creationism in science. They’d be so much better off if these chimps r’ us people devoted their energies to understanding them well enough to protect their habitats and otherwise just left them alone. Free to just be chimps. Imagine.
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