Tag Archives: sapolsky

Welcome world and your quirky searches


Welcome visitors to my blog from the following countries over the last 30 days! {Highest number of visits to lowest.}

  • United States
  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • Australia
  • France
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • India
  • Brazil
  • Spain
  • Indonesia
  • Singapore
  • Sweden
  • Netherlands
  • Sri Lanka
  • Greece
  • Portugal
  • Belgium
  • New Zealand
  • Turkey
  • Mexico
  • Poland
  • Hong Kong
  • Croatia
  • Malaysia
  • Peru
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Taiwan
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Pakistan
  • Lebanon
  • Czech Republic
  • Philippines
  • Malta
  • Chile
  • Austria
  • Thailand
  • South Africa
  • Russian Federation
  • Japan
  • Israel
  • Albania
  • Guatemala
  • Barbados
  • Morocco
  • Colombia
  • Republic of Korea
  • Ecuador
  • Slovenia
  • Cyprus
  • Romania
  • Syrian Arab Republic
  • Ukraine
  • Viet Nam
  • Kenya
  • Bulgaria
  • Bangladesh
  • Nigeria
  • Honduras
  • Venezuela
  • Aruba

Why you really ended up here, I don’t know, although I have a clue from your search terms, the top 20 of which I’ve listed here:

My favorite search term of the last month is this one. Maybe I stopped somebody else from calling the cops on their neighbors just because their step-son had a basketball hoop on the street next to their driveway. 

  • neighbors basketball hoop annoying

Sapolsky, Bonobos, More Sexy Baboon Biologist, Rhyming Events, Light Boxes, and Trader Joes… My blog’s top 20 search terms of all time


I’ve been in a stats mood the last few days. It’s fun to take a look behind the scenes once in a while, even on a low-traffic personal blog. As I mentioned yesterday when I shared the top 20 most visited posts from my site, I’ve been blogging (nearly) daily for about 8 months.

Robert Sapolsky & Baboon Friend

Robert Sapolsky & Baboon Friend

Here are the top 20 search terms that people used to get to my blog, Memory Monster. Who knew that Robert Sapolsky was so popular? I mean, he is kind of a sexy baboon biologist, and he writes well and is really funny, but 75%?! Yes, searches on his name account for about 75% of my blog traffic, if these WordPress stats are to be believed. One of my three posts that mention him is the most visited post on my site, the other two are in the top 20 here, and here.




  • robert sapolsky
  • bonobo
  • sapolsky
  • rhyming events
  • shane jones light boxes
  • trader joes bubble bath
  • trader joe’s next to godliness
  • sapolsky robert
  • warwak
  • rhyming event
  • french lentil chili
  • engine 2 meatloaf
  • trader joe’s mandarin orange dish soap
  • engine 2 diet meatloaf
  • smokey bear ashtray
  • next to godliness soap
  • coconut breaded tofu
  • trader joe’s next to godliness liquid dish soap
  • engine 2 meatloaf recipe
  • how to make friends with birds

Is a world of peacefully coexisting human Forest Troops possible?

Robert Sapolsky & Baboon Friend

Robert Sapolsky & Baboon Friend

Robert Sapolsky, in YES! magazine (Can Animals Save Us?), tells the story I mentioned a few weeks ago about the peaceful baboons. There’s also a video of him you can watch. If you ever have a chance to hear him speak, please do, he’s a funny guy.

Are there any lessons to be learned here that can be applied to human-on-human violence—apart, that is, from the possible desirability of giving fatal cases of tuberculosis to aggressive people?

The first half of the twentieth century was drenched in the blood spilled by German and Japanese aggression, yet only a few decades later it is hard to think of two countries more pacific. Sweden spent the seventeenth century rampaging through Europe, yet it is now an icon of nurturing tranquility. Humans have invented the small, nomadic band and the continental megastate and have demonstrated a flexibility whereby uprooted descendants of the former can function effectively in the latter. We lack the type of physiology or anatomy that in other mammals determine their mating system, and have come up with societies based on monogamy, polygyny, and polyandry. And we have fashioned some religions in which violent acts are the entrée to paradise and other religions in which the same acts consign one to hell. Is a world of peacefully coexisting human Forest Troops possible? Anyone who says, “No it is beyond our nature,” knows too little about primates, including ourselves.

Can Animals Save Us? YES! [the magazine]


Can Animals Save Us? [cover from YES! magazine]

Tonight, after wrapping up yet another interesting phone interview for the radio show, I came across this nicely designed magazine called YES! The theme this quarter happens to be, Can Animals Save Us? It is meant to be a debate of sorts, and I have only read one article so far. Of course I know which side of the debate I’m already on. One side will support “happy, sustainable, and humane” meat, and the other side will advocate veganism and animals as sentient beings that we shouldn’t be eating for their good—or ours.

I don’t know if I’ll learn anything earth shattering, but I appreciate the effort that went into bringing this group of writers together. And I’ll be reading all of the articles to keep tabs on both sides of the debate. Many of my favorite authors have contributed, including Robert Sapolsky, Marc Bekoff, and Jane Goodall. And of course I’m familiar with Joel Salatin and Temple Grandin (of whom Madeline Ostrander writes). There are several names that are new to me as well.

One article I have already read in the “Should We Eat Animals?” section says “No.”

“Going Vegan. My disability gives me a unique view of what’s wrong with eating meat” by Sunaura Taylor is a well thought out argument for not eating animals. A few excerpts:

My perspective as a disabled person and as a disability scholar profoundly influence my views on animals. The field of disability studies raises questions that are equally valid in the animal-rights discussion. What is the best way to protect the rights of those who are not physically autonomous but are vulnerable and interdependent? How can society protect the rights of those who cannot protect their own, or those who can’t understand the concept of a right?

Nature is one of the most common justifications for animal exploitation. The arguments range from romantic declarations about the cycles of nature to the nuanced discussions of sustainable farming. But the assertion that something is “natural” (or “unnatural”) has long been used to rationalize terrible things.

As a disabled person I find arguments based on what’s “natural” highly problematic. Throughout history and all over the world, I would have, at worst, been killed at birth or, at best, culturally marginalized—and nature would have been a leading justification. Disability is often seen as a personal tragedy that naturally leads to marginalization, rather than as a political and civil rights issue. Many people now reject using “nature” to justify things like sexism, white supremacy, and homophobia but still accept is as a rationale for animal exploitation and disability discrimination.

Sunaura Taylor rationally criticizes well publicized opinions of Nicolette Hahn Niman (whom she recently debated), Michael Pollan, and other conscientious omnivores and proponents of sustainable animal farming. This article and magazine is well worth investing your time in.

Nonviolence: Zinn, MLK, The Holocaust, and Great Apes

Bonobo play

Bonobo play: image from http://naturendanger.canalblog.com

Today I sat in on our local college’s, Day of Zinn, a celebration of the life and ideas of Howard Zinn. The theme this year was Nonviolence. I wasn’t able to attend all of the talks, but I did catch some of them. The roughly 15-minute time slots included talks on the violence on our plates (animals, factory farming, etc.), a reading from holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel’s speech regarding the consequences of indifference to what is happening in the world, readings from Martin Luther King’s speeches, personal stories of prejudice, tragedy, and secrets within a family, and a talk by a Bonobo researcher and anthropology instructor.

I was very interested to hear the talk by Michel Waller, the Bonobo researcher. He gave a short presentation on some of his research and did some comparisons of Chimpanzee versus Bonobo culture. (Now, I’m not an anthropologist, so forgive me if I’ve summarized any of this incorrectly, as I failed to take notes and am commenting on this from memory.) The Chimpanzee culture was very male dominant: all of the males were related and all of the females were not. Infanticide, murder, and other forms of violent aggression existed in the Chimpanzee culture and not in the Bonobo culture. The interesting thing about the Bonobo culture (outside of their socio-sexual behaviors, which I understand to mean that they use sex between everybody and anybody as a means of social lubrication and strengthening community) is that their culture is female dominant: all of the females were related and all of the males were not. As a result, the Bonobo males, unlike the Chimpanzee males, were not constantly trying to expand their territories by killing the neighboring males and infants, and then incorporating the females into their circle. Additionally, where the Bonobos live, they have access to readily available and abundant food sources, whereas the Chimpanzees do not. So the Bonobos do not have the drive to expand their territories for that reason either, whereas the Chimpanzees are constantly at risk of not having enough food. And because the Bonobos have plenty of food, they also have the luxury of sharing, which is rarely observed in Chimpanzee culture.

Bonobo family

Bonobo family: image from http://naturendanger.canalblog.com

What does this mean for humans and the chance of creating a nonviolent society? It seems that human cultures reflect a mix of both Chimpanzee and Bonobo cultures. Yes, we tend to act out violently in struggles over resources. But at the same time we are very cooperative. And since violence is not completely determined by biology, and in fact is very culturally determined, then our cultural conditions can have a great influence on our behavior. The key component is resources—and in particular—food. If we put our efforts into feeding everyone, we might very well reduce violence significantly. It sounds good in theory, anyway.

Another study that I was hoping Waller would mention was that of Robert Sapolsky’s peaceful Baboons. He brought this up near the end of the presentation. If you have not heard of Sapolsky or this story, I encourage you to read Sapolsky’s A Primate’s Memoir or read some of his online work. For a fun introduction, listen to this Radio Lab episode. (I had the pleasure of attending a book reading by Sapolsky in California once—he is a very funny man and a great storyteller).

Anyway, the gist of the story is that a Baboon troop that Sapolsky had been studying for years suddenly lost most of the highly aggressive males to bovine tuberculosis, contracted through their continuous raids of a garage pit located adjacent to a tourist lodge. This resulted in a change to the gender composition of the troop, leaving mostly females. Within years, troop behavior had changed dramatically; males became significantly less aggressive. And the change has remained for decades: Males raised with the troop are gentler, and as new males join the troop, they are encouraged to comply with the new social norm, or the are not allowed to stay.

This is another example that raises hope for a nonviolent human society—cultures can change, and they can change rather quickly.

Baboons on rock

Baboon family: picture by Charles J Sharp, from Wikipedia

Another interesting tidbit from Waller’s talk: Somebody asked him if he saw any differences in the diets of Chimpanzees versus Bonobos, for instance, did Bonobos eat a completely plant-based diet? He stated that no, both species ate meat, and both species hunted: In the case of the Bonobos, it was the females who did the hunting. However, he said that meat is a very small part of their diet, from 5-10%. Which is interesting, because I just read in Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat that “Meat makes up only 3 or 4% of a typical chimpanzee’s diet, and even the most voracious chimpanzee meat-eaters only average a couple of ounces a day.” Whichever statistic is correct, it is still a relatively small portion.