The Infanticide Controversy: Primatology and the Art of by Amanda Rees

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By Amanda Rees

Infanticide within the flora and fauna should be a comparatively infrequent occasion, yet as Amanda Rees exhibits, it has tremendously major effects. pointed out within the Nineteen Sixties as a phenomenon precious of research, infanticide had, via the Nineteen Seventies, develop into the focal point of great controversy. The recommendation, via Sarah Hrdy, that it'd be the result of an advanced procedure meant to maximise an individual’s reproductive good fortune sparked livid disputes among scientists, disagreements that experience persevered right down to the current day.

Meticulously tracing the background of the infanticide debates, and drawing on vast interviews with box scientists, Rees investigates key theoretical and methodological issues that experience characterised box reports of apes and monkeys within the 20th century. As a close examine of the clinical procedure and its software to box examine, The Infanticide Controversy sheds new gentle on our realizing of clinical perform, focusing particularly at the demanding situations of operating in “natural” environments, the connection among objectivity and interpretation in an observational technological know-how, and the effect of the general public profile of primatology at the improvement of primatological study. most significantly, it additionally considers the broader importance that the research of box technology has in a interval while the ecological result of out of control human interventions in average platforms have gotten ever extra obtrusive.

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For example, DeVore found that when their observations of the baboons around their car were compared with “observations made at a distance (through binoculars) both at Amboseli and in Nairobi Park, it was clear that the presence of human observers in an automobile made very little difference in the social behavior of these semitame troops” (1963, 307). 35 Habituation was accepted as a means of familiarizing the two sets of participants in the field study with each other without undue disturbance, but this technique had profound implications for what was to count as a representative population of primates.

In studies of social behaviour, our attitudes toward the nature, origin and relationships of competition, cooperation and natural selection processes exert subtle influences not readily controlled in the planning and prosecution of investigations” (1950, 1028). The question, in these accounts, then became how to exert control in the field environment. Fundamentally, as the next section will show, doing science in the field became a matter of managing not just space, but also self. Not only must one ensure that the population was not disturbed unnecessarily, but one must constantly monitor both one’s perceptions and 36 / Chapter One the use of equipment to extend the range and depth of sense perceptions (binoculars, cameras, tape recorders).

Rather than moving the field forward, they were heading for a dead end. The opponents of the sexual selection hypothesis not only challenged the particular interpretations of how one should think about and study evolution provided by the sexual selection camp, but also questioned the significance of their minority status. Again not surprisingly, they denied that they had allowed their politics to color their science or that they had fallen into the cardinal behavioral sin of an- 20 / Introduction thropomorphism.

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