Morgan Tears 1

Elaine Morgan (
Fri, 27 Oct 1995 11:02:37 GMT

Right. let's get systematic about this. Formulate half a dozen
or more relevant questions and discuss, with references, in
detail. Forgive me if I take them one at a time.

Question one. Do apes weep?

Darwin said no. "A habit like weeping must have been acquired
since the period when man branched off from the common
progenitor of the genus Homo and of the non-weeping
anthropomorphic apes." ( Expression of the emotions in Man and
Animals, University of Chicago Press, 1965. p. 153)

Robert M Yerkes, America's most illustrious primatologist,
said no. "That depression, grief, and sorrow, are
occasionally manifested by the chimpnzee is beyond dispute,
Definitely established laso is the fact that weeping in the
human sense does not occur. The typical approach to it is
whining, moaning, or crying in the manner of a person in
distress. Tears we have never observed, and in this we are
confirmed by statements of Garner, Rothmann and Teuber, and
Kohler." ( From his book "The Great Apes", quoted in "The
Physiology of Weeping, by E. Treacher Collins, Brit. Journ.
Ophthalm Jan 1932 p8)

Also ; "Young anthropoid apes frequently cry under certain
circumstances which would induce the like response in the
human infant or child, but never in such instances even
when the response is extreme have I seen tears." (Yerkes,
pers. comm., ibid. p8)

The only reference by a scientist to weeping in apes that
I know of was an account by Dian Fossey in her book "Gorillas
in the Mist" of a young mountain gorilla, Coco, who on a
single occasion began "to sob and shed actual tears". I do not
have the book to hand. Reference to it is given, without page
number, in "When Elephants Weep", by Jeffrey Mason and Susan
McCarthy, Jonathan Cape 1994, p135.

I do not doubt that Fossey saw tears. However Coco was very
ill at the time as well as sad. Even a cat's eyes will exude
fluid if it is suffering from a viral infection, just as ours
do if we have hay fever or flu. Fossey says she never saw
weeping in an ape on any other occasion.

Nevertheless, let's lean over backward to accommodate Coco,
and say merely this. At the very lowest estimate, the
difference in *degree* of the propensity to shed psychic tears
between us and the apes is vast. It is as great as the
difference in degree of hairiness between their hairy bodies
and our naked ones, and equally demands an explanation. One of
the key questions about our species remains: "Jeepers
creepers! Where'd you get those weepers?" I note that the SMH
folk are not falling over themselves to supply an answer.
(more follows)