Thursday, June 17, 2010

Two Recent Stories from the New York Times on Humans and Other Primates

It is interesting and I have not finished thinking about it enough to venture an opinion, but I found these images in Tuesday's New York Times. The print article on June 15, 2010 carried the headline "Paternity Leave Law Helps to Redefine Masculinity in Sweden" with the subtitle "Legislating to give men equal rights at home in the land of Viking lore." The on-line version appeared on June 9, 2010 with the title "The Female FactorIn Sweden, Men Can Have It All"The Times describes the series "The Female Factor" as a series for the International Herald Tribune "The Female Factor Twenty-First Century Fathers In a series of articles, columns and multimedia reports, The International Herald Tribune examines where women stand in the early 21st century." This is the image that appears in the electronic version

In the print version, these two photos appear. Online they were included in a slideshow presentation accompanying the story.

The caption reads: "'When he is in the forest with his rifle over his shoulder and the baby on his back.' Sofia Karlsson A police officier who says she finds her husband, Mikael Larlsson, most attractive this way".

In the same issue of the Times, there appeared this story: "Parental Bonds, Special and Strange" amongst Barbary macaques. It carried this photo:

It carried this pull-out quote: "Among animals, some fathers use infants as 'battle symbols' or to raise social standing." It is worth comparing the subtle ideologies and assumptions of fixity that underlie some portions of these articles.
It might be interesting, in terms of our anthropomorphizing the behavior of other species, this article which appeared the next week in the New York Times:

Chimps, Too, Wage War and Annex Rival Territory

There followed two letters
, the first is more important for understanding the assumptions in the report than is the second letter:
"To the Editor
Re “Chimps That Wage War and Annex Rival Territory” (June 22): It seems clear that chimps, humans and other highly social animals engage in organized warfare when increasing population densities or climate change threaten food resources. When you’re constantly hungry, you will kill or drive away competition for the foods in your species’ diet.

Highly social animals will create ad hoc or longer lasting groups that will cooperate to minimize individual risk and maximize terror in the competing animals. Well-fed researchers should understand that the constant threat of starvation, and to a lesser extent all other desires, radically shape animal intelligence in ways we cannot easily fathom. Tom Fitzgibbon

New York"