tom moody

tom moody's weblog
(2001 - 2007) (2004 - )

2001-2007 archive

main site


digital media tree (or "home" below)

RSS / validator

BLOG in gallery / AFC / artCal / furtherfield on BLOG

room sized animated GIFs / pics

geeks in the gallery / 2 / 3

fuzzy logic

and/or gallery / pics / 2

rhizome interview / illustrated

ny arts interview / illustrated

visit my cubicle

blogging & the arts panel

my dorkbot talk / notes

infinite fill show




coalition casualties

civilian casualties

iraq today / older

mccain defends bush's iraq strategy

eyebeam reBlog


tyndall report

aron namenwirth

bloggy / artCal

james wagner

what really happened


cory arcangel / at

juan cole

a a attanasio

three rivers online

unknown news



edward b. rackley

travelers diagram at

atomic cinema


cpb::softinfo :: blog


paper rad / info

nastynets now

the memory hole

de palma a la mod

aaron in japan


chris ashley




9/11 timeline

tedg on film

art is for the people


jim woodring

stephen hendee

steve gilliard

mellon writes again


adrien75 / 757


WFMU's Beware of the Blog

travis hallenbeck

paul slocum

guthrie lonergan / at

tom moody

View current page
...more recent posts

We shouldn't do something because it's right but because scientists have learned monkeys do it. That seems to be the gist of Adam Cohen's editorial in the NY Times today (liberated-from-the-archive version here). The essay argues: Capuchin monkeys are apparently "hard wired for fairness" in food distribution, etc. Humans are like capuchin monkeys. Therefore, our legal system should be more fair.
Sarah Brosnan and Frans de Waal, researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University, chose capuchin monkeys because capuchins are among the few primates along with men and chimpanzees that hunt cooperatively. Team hunting has evolutionary advantages, allowing a species to capture prey, like squirrels, it otherwise could not. In many monkey societies the dominant male eats what he wants, and the others fight over the scraps. But in societies like those of capuchins and humans in which hunting is done cooperatively, food is more equitably distributed.
Here's where the logic gets dicey: "The dominant male eats what it wants and the others fight over the scraps" isn't just a paradigm of "many monkey societies" but many human societies as well. Didn't we just depose a dictator who "built palaces while his people starved"? Didn't we just give a huge tax break to the top 1% of income earners in this country? We may all have an instinct for fairness, but whether it's expressed in our behavior--and our laws--is culturally determined. So why the appeal to evolution? Why does Cohen look to the lower primates for role models when there are libraries of legal, religious, and philosophical thought addressing issues of equity and fairness? Answer: because he's a sentimental sap. "Aw, look at the cute monkeys."

- tom moody 9-21-2003 8:16 pm [link] [6 comments]