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The Primate Diaries

The Primate Diaries

Notes on science, politics, and history from a primate in the human zoo.
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    Eric Michael Johnson Eric Michael Johnson has a Master's degree in Evolutionary Anthropology focusing on great ape behavioral ecology. He is currently a doctoral student in the history of science at University of British Columbia looking at the interplay between evolutionary biology and politics.

    Follow his work on Facebook and Google+. Follow on Twitter @primatediaries.
  • Helen’s Choice: Female Multiple Mating in the Natural World

    “Helen would never have yielded herself to a man from a foreign country, if she had known that the sons of Achaeans would come after her and bring her back. Heaven put it in her heart to do wrong, and she gave no thought to that sin, which has been the source of all our [...]

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    Human Nature and the Moral Economy

    "Giving" by Nathaniel Gold

    Economics is inextricably tied to moral behavior, though few economists will say that. It’s time someone did. In every financial transaction–whether you’re selling a car, paying employees, or repackaging commodity futures as financial derivatives–there are ethical calculations that influence economic activity beyond the price. Sure, you can cheat a potential buyer and not mention that [...]

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    We Contain Multitudes: Walt Whitman, Charles Darwin, and the Song of Empathy

    "Speech" by Nathaniel Gold

    In the struggle for existence how do we herald the better angels of our nature? Author’s Note: On Tuesday I will be traveling to Manchester, England for the International Conference for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine where I’ll be giving my talk entitled “A Historical Epistemology of Empathy from Darwin to De Waal.” [...]

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    Truth of the Matter

    "Tibetan Monkey" by Nathaniel Gold

    Science is not a path towards truth; therein lies its greatest strength. In his latest book, The Bonobo and the Atheist, primatologist Frans de Waal describes a forum held at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia where he spoke alongside the Dalai Lama. De Waal reflected on the great interest that Tibet’s spiritual leader had in [...]

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    Equality and Individuality: A Collaboration Between Primates

    Timmy square

    Longtime readers of The Primate Diaries will certainly know the artwork of Nathaniel Gold. Ever since we encountered one another’s work in the spring of 2011 we have been collaborating on a fusion of art and science. But now Nathaniel has taken part in a collaboration that goes beyond species boundaries. By working with sanctuary [...]

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    The Mosaic of Human Origins

    Memento mori by Nathaniel Gold

    New research challenges the story of human evolution, revealing a more complex picture than anyone imagined. Studying the bones of our ancestors does more than connect past with present. When Hamlet held aloft the skull of poor Yorick or when the Boston Puritan Thomas Smith sat for America’s first self-portrait posed with two crania, they [...]

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    Macaque and Dagger in the Simian Space Race

    Iranian Space Monkey Square

    Why does the U.S. suspect Iran of faking their monkey space flight? Because we did it first. It was a blistering hot summer, as it usually is in that part of the world. The monkey’s arms and legs were tightly strapped to a metal chair as the forlorn creature was pushed into the narrow confines [...]

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    The Gospel of Wealth Fails the Inequity Test in Primates

    "Andrew Carnegie" by Nathaniel Gold

    Author’s Note: The following originally appeared at and was subsequently a finalist in the 3 Quarks Daily Science Prize judged by Richard Dawkins. Fairness is the basis of the social contract. As citizens we expect that when we contribute our fair share we should receive our just reward. When social benefits are handed out [...]

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    Ayn Rand on Human Nature

    "Rand" by Nathaniel Gold

    “Every political philosophy has to begin with a theory of human nature,” wrote Harvard evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin in his book Biology as Ideology. Thomas Hobbes, for example, believed that humans in a “state of nature,” or what today we would call hunter-gatherer societies, lived a life that was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” [...]

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    A Grimm Tale of Reproductive Conflict

    "Evil Queen" by Nathaniel Gold

    A new study argues that in-law competition drove the evolution of menopause. But is the story too good to be true? In the classic Scandinavian folktale “The Twelve Wild Ducks,” also known as “The Twelve Brothers” in Grimms’ Fairy Tales, a wicked old Queen is jealous of her daughter-in-law’s beauty. In a rage of envy [...]

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