CHURCH OF THE APES: Scientists think chimps may have religious beliefs

London – VIJAY SHAH via ANDREW GRIFFIN and The Independent

Scientists are studying footage shot by the Chimbo Foundation and PanAf of strange behaviour by a group of African chimpanzees, which they may think indicate the chimps are performing rituals, which may indicate belief in a religion, according to Britain’s The Independent newspaper, and first reported last year (2016).

The footage shows chimps in a forest clearing in an unnamed part of West Africa, carrying stones and arranging them in little ‘cairns’. Mainly though, the chimps, including a mother carrying her baby, are seen hurling rocks against the bases of certain wide-bottomed trees, while screeching loudly. Other apes have been seen throwing smaller rocks into holes in the trees, creating deposits of material. It is surmised that this unusual behaviour, which has only so far been among this West African band of chimps, could be the beginnings of ritual behaviour. The participation of the mother and younger apes means the stone-throwing is highly unlikely to be mating behaviour, and the throwing does not also point to territorial marking.

 

Scientists studying the apes say their strange activities can give an insight into early human rituals and religious beliefs. Ancient humans constructed cairns and other rock formations as part of nature worship, one of the most famous and advanced examples being the UK’s Stonehenge monument. Chimps and other great apes have already shown the kind of intelligence associated with humans, for example in using sticks as tools to extract grubs and ants. Yet the stone-throwing in West Africa does not fulfill a functional purpose, such as finding food.

The researchers, whose institution was not mentioned in the Independent report, but described in the video above as being from Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Biology, wrote in their report abstracts on the chimp rituals: “This represents the first record of repeated observations of individual chimpanzees exhibiting stone tool use for a purpose other than extractive foraging at what appear to be targeted trees,”

“The ritualized (sic) behavioural display and collection of artefacts at particular locations observed in chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing may have implications for the inferences that can be drawn from archaeological stone assemblages and the origins of ritual sites”

Interestingly, the scientists also found in their research that people in West Africa who follow traditional religions also enact similar rituals involving the construction of cairns at sacred trees.

In a piece written around the findings, researcher Laura Kehoe described the experience of watching the chimp look around and then fling a rock at the tree trunk.

Nothing like this had been seen before and it gave me goose bumps,” she wrote.

Marking pathways and territories with signposts such as piles of rocks is an important step in human history,” wrote Kehoe. “Figuring out where chimps’ territories are in relation to rock throwing sites could give us insights into whether this is the case here.”

SOURCES:

The Independent, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/TheIndependentOnline/

“Mysterious chimpanzee behaviour could be ‘sacred rituals’ and show that chimps believe in god” – Andrew Griffin, The Independent (4 March 2016) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/mysterious-chimpanzee-behaviour-could-be-sacred-rituals-and-show-that-chimps-believe-in-god-a6911301.html

VIDEO CREDIT:

“This Could Be First-Ever Observed Ritual Practice Among Chimpanzees” – Hjalmar Kuehl and team/Scientific Reports/MPI-EVA/PanAf/Chimbo Foundation/GeoBeats News, YouTube (1 March 2016) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEQOThqq2pk

 

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ADVANCED ONLINE RESEARCH TECHNIQUES: New short course by Journalism.co.uk

London, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH via journalism.co.uk

Journalists and students looking to maximise their newsgathering potential from online sources can now get involved in a special short course on advanced online research techniques organised and promoted by U.K. journalism news and skills website journalism.co.uk, the Half-Eaten Mind exclusively reports today.

Online research is now an essential part of reporting in the technological age, whether it is to gather information on the history of a local pub, archives of older news articles or political speeches, or for factual research for a breaking news story. By widening their own knowledge on a given subject via the treasure trove that is online research, journalists can help pass on the benefits to their readers, stimulating minds, disseminating facts for public discourse and remaining true to the journalistic ethic of informing.

Tutored by expert journalism lecturer Alex Wood and being held at the London offices of MSN, a news and internet services giant, the special bootcamp, which runs for one day, is designed to teach students how to quickly find the information they need, as well as acquire sources online for interviews and quotes. The course will also teach the skillful navigation of social media, which while being an excellent source of breaking stories and technical knowledge, can also be a minefield in sorting the facts from the fiction, spin and lies. This course will help media people sift though the online chatter to find the informational nuggets that to craft that influential front page story.

Wood, the editor-in-chief of The Memo, a newly-launched publication on technology, finance and culture news, who is also a visiting lecturer in journalism at London’s City University, will teach attendees how to get more out of the world’s most popular search engine, Google, how to sift through social media smartly, and show how to organise a ‘toolbox’ of useful technological aids to enable media workers to become better and more effective researchers. He has several years’ experience in training and advising journalists and was previously a founding editor of Tech City News, and is a renowned go-to expert on British technology and innovation.

You will learn how to:

  • Use advanced operators on search engines to source information;
  • Turn the idea of research on its head by making the most of influencers on social;
  • Identify where your community is talking online;
  • Set up alerts to monitor your research areas;
  • Organise and file your search results;
  • Set up a toolbox with the services and platforms you need for the future;

…and more handy search tips! (via Journalism.co.uk)

The bootcamp will take place on the 2nd December 2015, beginning at 10 am and finishing at 5 pm at the MSN UK offices in Victoria, London. It is of particular interest to journalists, public relations staff, communications specialists, fact-checkers and anyone else who wants to unlock the best and most accurate researching potential that the internet has to offer. The training at the course will also focus on the tools and techniques that writers can use to meet their research goals, while emphasising practical hands-on journalism knowledge.

Course attendees will be provided with a buffet lunch and refreshments (tea and coffee). The course fee is £240 (inc. VAT). The location address is: MSN UK, 100 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 5JX United Kingdom.

SOURCES: 
HEM Journalism Portal, The Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind/lists/hem-journalism-portal
Journalism.co.uk, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/journalismnews
“Advanced online research techniques” – journalism.co.uk – Courses/Mousetrap Media Ltd https://www.journalism.co.uk/vocational-skills-study/advanced-online-research-techniques/s43/a577969/
IMAGE CREDIT:
Getty Images via Zemanta.