Social Cultures Among Nonhuman Primates

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There has been an age long debate to whether or not primates have culture. This is based on the idea that primates may have certain behaviors that our taught rather than already being programmed in their minds biologically. Some would argue that a certain action that a primate does wouldn’t necessarily be something that primate was born knowing; but others would argue that it was something that was something they knew in their subconscious mind. Notable arguments that would be in favor of culture in primates would include their use of tools, how a primate eats, and how they interact; arguments against the theory of culture in primates would proclaim that a primate’s habits are determined biologically and not affected by outside sources. Within the academic journal Current Anthropology Vol. 47 No. 4, there is a section titled “Social Cultures among Nonhuman Primates” by Robert M. Sapolsky. Sapolsky goes into great detail about how primates do exhibit signs of having culture but, in the comment section on page 648, Thor J. Bergman makes a compelling argument. Bergman states, “Missing from this article is an explanation of how to differentiate ‘social culture’ from functional behavior.”(Bergman 648). This is notable in the sense that there is that possibility that the primate’s actions may be more instinctive rather than being something that they learned. He claims that Sapolsky didn’t delve into that aspect as far as he should have. He continues on by stating that a lot of Sapolsky’s claims could be related to more behavioral tendancies and compares this to Baboon mating habits. He stated that how males interacts with females and how they would fight for mates is more of an example of instinct and the natural urge to mate which is ... ... middle of paper ... ...ssing down of traditions of ancestors of humans but this can also apply to primates and their ancestors. There are some habits that can maybe be labeled as instinctive; but as far as carrying out complex tasks, that is something that has to be passed down and taught to incoming generations of primates so that they are able to have an easier time at surviving than what the prior generation had to go through. In conclusion, most evidence seems to show that primates do have culture. Their abilities to do complex tasks have to be taught and could not be something that is simply already known instinctively. This debate is important in the sense that primates are human’s closest link to the past in finding information of how we evolved into what we are today. It helps to give insight to how cultures may have come about for humans and how it progressed throughout history.

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