Re: Animal Culture?

Allen Gardner (gardner@UNR.EDU)
Mon, 5 Aug 1996 20:52:48 -0700

Ronald Kephart flattered me by asking for comments on his post of 5
Aug to Jessie S. Cook III. I am embarrassed as I often am with
commentary on this list because so much appears in the form of an
opinion. In the case of Kephart replying to Cook even the comment on
Chomsky seems to be in the form of an opinion or surmise about Chomsky
without benefit of citation or any direct quote.

I was raised to feel that we must all respect the opinions of others
in hopes that they would return the courtesy. Alas, whatever the good
points of Anthro-L, it discourages one from expecting opinions to be
automatically greeted with courtesy.

Evidence is another matter. It is profitable to inspect evidence and
argue about it. On the subject of the biological beginnings of
culture, I cited a book that contains evidence and this seems to be
what attracted Ronald Kephart's question to me. The cited book
contains an article:

Gardner, B.T., & Gardner, R.A. (1994). Development of phrases in the
utterances of children and cross-fostered chimpanzees. In R.A.
Gardner, B.T. Gardner, A.B. Chiarelli, & F.X. Plooij (Eds) _The
ethological roots of culture_, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
[reprints available on request]

that goes into some detail about the development of multiple-sign
utterances in children and chimpanzees. It contains evidence, and I
would rather stand on that evidence than comment at the level of
opinion here.

For more evidence, I might also recommend:

R.A. Gardner, B.T. Gardner, & T.E. Van Cantfort (Eds.), _Teaching sign
language to chimpanzees_, Albany: SUNY Press.

In comparing chimpanzee development to human development we must
always keep in mind that the longest time that chimpanzees have been
cross-fostered by human beings in a household that approximates a
human household is about five years. At that age the most advanced of
our cross-fosterlings had lost only two milk teeth and gained only one
adult tooth. This is certainly far short of maturity and we would
hardly hold up a similarly immature human child as a standard for the
limits of human intellectual development. The only defensible thing
to do under these circumstances is to compare similarly aged human and
chimpanzee infants who were reared under comparable conditions as in
the cited 1994 article.

Since we only found signs of continued acceleration at five years, the
best guess would be that chimpanzee development, like human development,
should continue through adolescence with comparable rearing conditions.

Allen Gardner
University of Nevada Reno/296