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Tags N'Kisi , parrots , rupert sheldrake , telepathy

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Old 27th December 2006, 06:30 PM   #1
tkingdoll
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Psychic parrot? What are the BBC thinking?

Anyone over 25 and from the UK will probably remember the naff TV show That's Life, a sort of magazine style consumer show in which the hosts would go off and do battle with cowboy plumbers and such.

The show would also feature people and their zany pets, for examples dogs saying "sausages" or cats who could flush the toilet.

Well, I've been complaining about the demise in journalistic standards on the BBC news website for some time now, but today they have not only hit an all-time low for shoddy reporting, they have managed to turn themselves into a corking version of That's Life.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3430481.stm

There is so much wrong with the way this story is presented, it's staggering. From the headline and opening paragraph:

Quote:
Parrot's oratory stuns scientists

The finding of a parrot with an almost unparalleled power to communicate with people has brought scientists up short.
One would assume that the rest of the story would somehow back up this claim. But no. There is mention of one scientist, Dr Jane Goodall, who I believe is the woman responsible for the big con that is gorilla sign language, but that's all. No hordes of stunned scientists to be seen.

But the sentence which really alarmed me was this one:

Quote:
N'kisi's remarkable abilities, which are said to include telepathy
Erm...said by whom? Following on from the opening para, doesn't that somewhat imply that scientists are stunned by the parrots telepathic abilities? And yet, reading on, that appears not to be the case.

The journalist has clearly decided to push the paranormal agenda. Quite why, I don't know, but I have fired off an angry email to the Beeb demanding some critical thinking and balance to the article. We shall see.
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Old 27th December 2006, 06:36 PM   #2
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It was bollocks three years ago as well.
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Old 27th December 2006, 06:40 PM   #3
tkingdoll
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Originally Posted by mummymonkey View Post
It was bollocks three years ago as well.
Old story? Damn, I wish I'd know that before I sent my email, I could have berated them even further. It's on the front page in today's most emailed stories.

ETA: upon re-reading, the story is dated Jan 04. Why is it front page news today??

Last edited by tkingdoll; 27th December 2006 at 06:44 PM.
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Old 27th December 2006, 06:44 PM   #4
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http://www.sheldrake.org/nkisi/

ETA: It was also the subject of a TV programme about which Sheldrake complained that:
Quote:
the programme presented his work in a false and misleading way; the programme makers did not honour their assurances that the programme would be presented in a fair and unbiased way; and, neither he nor any other qualified scientist had been offered an opportunity to respond to the sceptic’s criticism.
Ofcom found that:
Quote:
The programme did not make false claims about Dr Sheldrake’s research, rather a critique of his analytical approach was offered. This critical point of view was acceptable given both the expectation that scientific research would and should be subjected to examination and that Dr Sheldrake’s scientific referees had raised various queries about the way he analysed his research data.
But they upheld the second and third parts of his complaint:
Quote:
The lack of a balancing view in the programme as broadcast led to the breaking of the guarantee given to Dr Sheldrake regarding the content of the programme. This resulted in unfairness to Dr Sheldrake.

The programme makers’ failure to give Dr Sheldrake an opportunity to respond to what would amount to a damaging critique of his research resulted in unfairness to Dr Sheldrake.
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Old 27th December 2006, 06:45 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
I might have known...
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Old 27th December 2006, 06:49 PM   #6
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Quote:
Erm...said by whom
Well, the whole sentence reads, "N'kisi's remarkable abilities, which are said to include telepathy, feature in the latest BBC Wildlife Magazine", so I presume that the "whom" is whomever wrote the article in question, or whomever he/she interviewed for it.

The previous thread, but that's okay, there's no reason why we shouldn't discuss paranormal parrots again. It's quite fascinating actually, what people can persuade themselves to believe.

As to why the Beeb re-ran it, probably because they needed a "soft" human interest story with animal tie-in, and some editor somewhere was in a hurry during a dismal Christmas week with everyone else on vacation somewhere glamorous, so he just grabbed whatever was on top.
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Old 27th December 2006, 06:56 PM   #7
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Cool thread, thanks Goshawk. To be honest, it looks like everything that needs debating about paranormal parrots has been done in that thread, although I am interested in the BBC's lousy reporting.

I thought it was a recent decline but that must be my own bias, as this article is an old one. I guess I'm just noticing sloppy science writing more of late.

It appears that the article is at the top of the 'most emailed today' list, which means that either someone came upon it by accident and it's doing the email rounds because people (like me) didn't bother to check the date, or because someone bumped it for a reason.

Now, I am going to stick my neck out and speculate that there is going to be a new Sheldrake/animal telepathy press release very soon and that this article has been bumped for pre-publicity.
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Old 28th December 2006, 01:56 AM   #8
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?

I don't see this on the BBC front page(s). Curiously, Louie Savva briefly covered it recently in his blog.

The pdf covering this experiment is downloadable from this page:
http://www.scientificexploration.org...ts/v17n4a1.php

Even then, there's seems to have been some judicious trimming involved. The paper described 131 trials, some of which were removed for various reasons. For example, if he remained silent or if the parrot didn't say any of the key words on the list it was not scored. Surely that counts as a miss. Also "Non-scorable comments consisted of N'kisi's attempts to contact Aimee, or unrelated chatter about events of the day."

This all seems curious to me, but I've not had a closer look.

ETA: I see that a similar criticism was raised in the old thread.
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Last edited by Ersby; 28th December 2006 at 01:59 AM.
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Old 28th December 2006, 02:37 AM   #9
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Teek wrote:

Quote:
One would assume that the rest of the story would somehow back up this claim. But no. There is mention of one scientist, Dr Jane Goodall, who I believe is the woman responsible for the big con that is gorilla sign language, but that's all. No hordes of stunned scientists to be seen.
Er.... Jane Goodall's kinda one of the good guys. She's the chimp lady, never worked with gorillas, and I don't thinkg she's tried to humanize chimps in her studies, to the best of my knowledge. Here's her description of Chimpanzee communications.

Quote:
Calls
Chimpanzees communicate with a wide range of calls, postures and gestures. The food calls -- a mixture of food grunts, barks, and pant hoots -- alert other chimpanzees to the whereabouts of food sources. A special intensity of excited calls of this type indicates that there has been a successful kill after a hunt. Each individual has his or her own distinctive pant-hoot, so that the caller can be identified with precision. A loud, long, savage-sounding wraaaa call is made when a chimpanzee comes across something unusual or dangerous. When young chimpanzees play, they emit breathy laughter. And soft grunts uttered by foraging or resting chimpanzees probably serve to maintain communication within the group.

Posture and Gestures
Posture, gesture, and facial expression communicate many messages and emotions within a group. When greeting a dominant individual after an absence or in response to an aggressive gesture, nervous subordinates may approach with submissive signals - crouching, presenting the rump, hold the hand out - accompanied by pant-grunts or squeaks. In response, the dominant individual is likely to make gestures of reassurance, such as touching, kissing, or embracing the subordinate.
The Goodall Institute has a pretty decent website. http://www.janegoodall.org/default.asp
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Old 28th December 2006, 04:04 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by tkingdoll View Post
....
One would assume that the rest of the story would somehow back up this claim. But no. There is mention of one scientist, Dr Jane Goodall, who I believe is the woman responsible for the big con that is gorilla sign language, but that's all. No hordes of stunned scientists to be seen.....
You might want to get your facts straight before dissing one of the great scientists of our time, Jane Goodall. This is the woman who dedicated decades of her life meticulously observing chimpanzees in the wild.

Re gorilla sign language, you are referring to Dr. Francine "Penny" Patterson [who] has a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Stanford. She is President and Research Director of The Gorilla Foundation,

And then there is The Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute, Central WA U. where sign language has been taught to chimpanzees as well they've been observed teaching it to their offspring if I remember correctly.

This is not woo science by any means. Why wouldn't great apes be capable of learning sign language even if it doesn't meet the level of human communication? Even parrots have been taught how to identify and communicate the names of objects by their material, color and number. Heck, even my dogs learned how to bark a certain way when they want out and scratch the door to get back in. From your statement, you are disregarding a large body of evidence in the field of communication among the great apes. Perhaps you haven't kept up on the progress of the research over the years? Maybe you should look again.
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Old 28th December 2006, 04:54 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by skeptigirl View Post
Re gorilla sign language, you are referring to Dr. Francine "Penny" Patterson [who] has a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Stanford. She is President and Research Director of The Gorilla Foundation,

And then there is The Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute, Central WA U. where sign language has been taught to chimpanzees as well they've been observed teaching it to their offspring if I remember correctly.

This is not woo science by any means. Why wouldn't great apes be capable of learning sign language even if it doesn't meet the level of human communication? Even parrots have been taught how to identify and communicate the names of objects by their material, color and number. Heck, even my dogs learned how to bark a certain way when they want out and scratch the door to get back in. From your statement, you are disregarding a large body of evidence in the field of communication among the great apes. Perhaps you haven't kept up on the progress of the research over the years? Maybe you should look again.
Human users of sign language use it for abstract, symbolic, and grammatical communication. Using nouns and verbs, subjects and objects, in novel combinations to communicate ideas and desires. That is what I think people are skeptical of regarding nonhuman primate sign language, and even parrot communication. I don't think anyone doubts that a primate can learn to wave his/her hand a certain way to indicate s/he wants a banana.

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Old 28th December 2006, 05:00 AM   #12
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Maybe the parrot knows what the BBC are thinking.
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Old 28th December 2006, 05:11 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by skeptigirl View Post
This is not woo science by any means. Why wouldn't great apes be capable of learning sign language even if it doesn't meet the level of human communication? Even parrots have been taught how to identify and communicate the names of objects by their material, color and number. Heck, even my dogs learned how to bark a certain way when they want out and scratch the door to get back in. From your statement, you are disregarding a large body of evidence in the field of communication among the great apes. Perhaps you haven't kept up on the progress of the research over the years? Maybe you should look again.
Can the apes communicate correctly through sign language with humans they have just met?
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Old 28th December 2006, 06:52 AM   #14
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I stand corrected on Jane Goodall (shame her name is attached to such an appalling story), but I stand by my assertion about gorilla 'sign language', and am fully up to speed with current research on it, thanks. It's a bag of hooey, sorry. It's facilitated communication, at best.

Actually, I recall there was a good thread here on this a while back, I'll have a look for it.

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Old 28th December 2006, 07:12 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by tkingdoll View Post
Anyone over 25 and from the UK will probably remember the naff TV show That's Life, a sort of magazine style consumer show in which the hosts would go off and do battle with cowboy plumbers and such.

The show would also feature people and their zany pets, for examples dogs saying "sausages" or cats who could flush the toilet.
My favourite was the dog who could count. The owner would ask the dog a question with a numerical answer, and the dog would bark out the number.

The owner leaned forwards to address the dog and to listen to it (it was small and yappy), and would then lean back again once it had barked the required number of times.
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Old 28th December 2006, 07:28 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Ersby View Post
?

I don't see this on the BBC front page(s). Curiously, Louie Savva briefly covered it recently in his blog.
It isn't on the front page of the BBC.

But it is on the front page of DIGG......
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Old 28th December 2006, 07:31 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by ohp View Post
It isn't on the front page of the BBC.

But it is on the front page of DIGG......
It was at the top of the BBC 'most emailed' list for yesterday (and therefore on the front page) but today is merely number 6. Someone is bumping this around t'internet for some reason, I stand by my 'impending press release' theory.
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Old 28th December 2006, 07:40 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by tkingdoll View Post
It was at the top of the BBC 'most emailed' list for yesterday (and therefore on the front page) but today is merely number 6. Someone is bumping this around t'internet for some reason, I stand by my 'impending press release' theory.
Ahh. Well, all that's happened is that with the aid of Digg, this story has been brought back from the grave. It often happens on digg, and they really should look at filtering out old stories. The BBC are showing it on their most emailed list simply because it's getting a lot of traffic.

Just spoke to a friend at the BBC, and they confirm it's quite common for old stories to bubble to the top for no apparent reason.

Last edited by ohp; 28th December 2006 at 07:43 AM. Reason: additional info
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Old 28th December 2006, 07:42 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by ohp View Post
Ahh. Well, all that's happened is that with the aid of Digg, this story has been brought back from the grave. It often happens on digg, and they really should look at filtering out old stories. The BBC are showing it on their most emailed list simply because it's getting a lot of traffic.
Yes, but who brought it back from the grave, and why, eh? *strokes beard and looks sideways*
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Old 28th December 2006, 07:52 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by tkingdoll View Post
Yes, but who brought it back from the grave, and why, eh? *strokes beard and looks sideways*
I don't think there was any reason behind it. One day someone was googling for something, a person who has an interest in parrots who has access to a parrot mailing list, they came across the story (didn't pay much attention to the date) and mailed the link to the list. one of those people puts it on Digg..
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Old 28th December 2006, 07:53 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by ohp View Post
I don't think there was any reason behind it. One day someone was googling for something, a person who has an interest in parrots who has access to a parrot mailing list, they came across the story (didn't pay much attention to the date) and mailed the link to the list. one of those people puts it on Digg..
That's boring. My theory is much more exciting, let's go with that. *strokes beard again and puts pipe in mouth*

ETA: I'm not sure that accounts for the BBC ranking because that is calculated by people going to the article and clicking the "email to a friend" link, I believe.
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Old 28th December 2006, 09:01 AM   #22
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Teek, please leave my beard alone.
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Old 28th December 2006, 09:10 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by tkingdoll View Post
That's boring. My theory is much more exciting, let's go with that. *strokes beard again and puts pipe in mouth*

ETA: I'm not sure that accounts for the BBC ranking because that is calculated by people going to the article and clicking the "email to a friend" link, I believe.
Ahh. Well, I would imagine that an article with high traffic, and with the particular appeal of this story (I mean, I clicked on the digg link, and I was all ready to post it here when I found the thread) would also have a high incidence of people wanting to tell their friends about it - the ranking is still highly coupled to the traffic.

Or... perhaps the parrot also has limited psychotemporal abilities... *strokes beard, and realises a shave is in order*
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Old 28th December 2006, 09:26 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by tkingdoll View Post
Yes, but who brought it back from the grave, and why, eh? *strokes beard and looks sideways*
You don't shave?

Tsk.
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Old 28th December 2006, 06:55 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by tkingdoll View Post
That's boring. My theory is much more exciting, let's go with that. *strokes beard again and puts pipe in mouth*
I'm thinking that's some sort of euphemism.

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Old 29th December 2006, 03:10 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Dave1001 View Post
Human users of sign language use it for abstract, symbolic, and grammatical communication. Using nouns and verbs, subjects and objects, in novel combinations to communicate ideas and desires. That is what I think people are skeptical of regarding nonhuman primate sign language, and even parrot communication. I don't think anyone doubts that a primate can learn to wave his/her hand a certain way to indicate s/he wants a banana.
My son's first sentence was, "go home get it" when his blanket wasn't in the car with us. Before that he knew lots of words and how to communicate a number of things.

Why would a primate closely related to human beings not be able to form such a sentence?

Why would humans have developed language in its entirety as a single genetic step? Doesn't it make more sense that the brain of a higher primate can think abstractly? And if so, when given the tools for interspecies communication be able to use those tools?

We know a chimpanzee can follow human speech commands. Chimps and other primates can make and use tools, teach their young how to wash sandy potatoes, move a box to climb on to reach a banana and so on.

Frankly, I'm skeptical of claims animals with higher intelligence don't have thought processes similar to humans. That seems to me to be the, "God made us different", woo rather than the, "animals can sense disaster", woo line of thinking, if you know what I mean.

I think it's simply foolish to think when you teach your dog simple commands you are not communicating a sentence, only some triggered behavior. I literally have to spell the word walk and not say exactly what I plan to do if I'm talking to someone about taking my dogs out. If I say anything like, "I'm going to take the dogs on a walk" they know exactly what I mean and go nuts until I take them out. They know what, "Go get your toy" means. It doesn't mean to look for where I'm throwing something. It doesn't mean we're going on a walk. It means get your toy and bring it to me and I'll throw it.

I use simple commands but they involve verbs and nouns. "Out of the street", "get your toy", "there's a squirrel", "there's a bunny" they know what all those mean and they know squirrels are usually on the fence and bunnies are on the ground. These are dogs. Why wouldn't a primate be able to put a noun and a verb together?
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Old 29th December 2006, 03:18 AM   #27
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skeptigirl,

Can the apes communicate correctly through sign language with humans they have just met?
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Old 29th December 2006, 03:21 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by tkingdoll View Post
I stand corrected on Jane Goodall (shame her name is attached to such an appalling story), but I stand by my assertion about gorilla 'sign language', and am fully up to speed with current research on it, thanks. It's a bag of hooey, sorry. It's facilitated communication, at best.

Actually, I recall there was a good thread here on this a while back, I'll have a look for it.
http://www.internationalskeptics.com...ad.php?t=65071
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Old 29th December 2006, 03:29 AM   #29
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They've now edited the story and removed the reference to telepathy (although it still says "Last Updated: Monday, 26 January 2004, 15:27 GMT). There's another recent thread about this here.

They don't seem to take any notice when I contact them about stories. How exactly did you contact them?
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Old 29th December 2006, 03:33 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
They've now edited the story and removed the reference to telepathy
Blimey!
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Old 29th December 2006, 03:38 AM   #31
Dave1001
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This should be verifiable. If verified, it would be one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time.

Quote:
In an experiment, the bird and his owner were put in separate rooms and filmed as the artist opened random envelopes containing picture cards.

Analysis showed the parrot had used appropriate keywords three times more often than would be likely by chance.

Captives' frustrations

This was despite the researchers discounting responses like "What ya doing on the phone?" when N'kisi saw a card of a man with a telephone, and "Can I give you a hug?" with one of a couple embracing.
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Old 29th December 2006, 03:43 AM   #32
Elaedith
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Originally Posted by CFLarsen View Post
skeptigirl,

Can the apes communicate correctly through sign language with humans they have just met?
Most of the ape language studies I am familiar with do not allow the ape to see the person they are communicating with at all. They either hear requests through headphones or intercom and are videotaped responding to them or use
visual symbols via an interface.

It would be a bit pointless allowing them to 'communicate' face to face as it could obviously be a 'clever Hans' effect.
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Old 29th December 2006, 03:47 AM   #33
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The Koko web site and work is not as useful for a scientific review of the evidence but the Central WA University site is. Here are a couple excerpts:

Research
Quote:
If a chimpanzee stays out at night, a caregiver must spend the night at CHCI. On one such occasion, Dar repeatedly asked the caregiver for BLANKETS on a night that they received paper and pillows, to which the caregiver replied SORRY. CAN’T. Dar responded with GOOD DAR/GOOD BOY. The apprentices and caregiving staff worried that by denying Dar blankets they were giving him the impression that he had done something wrong. As a result, the apprentices increased the amount of clothing given to the chimpanzees for nesting. Nevertheless the chimpanzees persisted in their requests for blankets and covers. This time it was Washoe. At this point, the apprentices realized that the study was impacting the chimpanzees’ well-being. Therefore the study was not in the chimpanzees’ best interest and was concluded.
Chimpanzees at CHCI
Quote:

The Chimpanzee & Human Communication Institute (CHCI) at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington is home to chimpanzees who use the signs of American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with humans and each other. Four of the chimpanzees, Washoe, Moja, Tatu, and Dar were cross-fostered by humans and immersed in an ASL environment much like a child is immersed in a spoken language environment (Gardner & Gardner, 1989). The youngest chimpanzee, Loulis, was adopted and raised by Washoe. Loulis acquired his signs from Washoe and other signing chimpanzees (Fouts, Fouts, & Van Cantfort, 1989)....

... Bodamer, M.D. & Gardner, R.A. (2002). How cross-fostered chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) initiate and maintain conversations. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 116, 12-26.

Fouts, R.S., Fouts, D.H., & Van Cantfort, T.E. (1989). The infant Loulis learns signs from cross-fostered chimpanzees. In R.A. Gardner, B.T. Gardner, & T.E. Van Cantfort (Eds.), Teaching Sign Language to Chimpanzees (pp. 280-292).

Jensvold, M. L. A., & Gardner, R. A. (2000). Interactive use of sign language by cross-fostered chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 114, 335-346.
There is a body of legitimate research out there. Older chimps teaching the younger chimps to sign is certainly strong evidence.

Chimpanzee Communication: Insight Into the Origin of Language, has a good summary with links to further information.

I'd be interested to see what was discussed in the past thread on this issue. I wonder if the unscientific nature of the work with Koko led people to overlook the very scientific work with Washoe and related chimps at Central WA University.
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Old 29th December 2006, 03:49 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Elaedith View Post
Most of the ape language studies I am familiar with do not allow the ape to see the person they are communicating with at all. They either hear requests through headphones or intercom and are videotaped responding to them or use
visual symbols via an interface.

It would be a bit pointless allowing them to 'communicate' face to face as it could obviously be a 'clever Hans' effect.
Is there a double blind element? Do the people interpreting the ape's actions not know what the requests were by the people making the requests? Also, links to any such studies please?
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Old 29th December 2006, 03:54 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by skeptigirl View Post
The Koko web site and work is not as useful for a scientific review of the evidence but the Central WA University site is. Here are a couple excerpts:

Research

Chimpanzees at CHCIThere is a body of legitimate research out there. Older chimps teaching the younger chimps to sign is certainly strong evidence.

Chimpanzee Communication: Insight Into the Origin of Language, has a good summary with links to further information.

I'd be interested to see what was discussed in the past thread on this issue. I wonder if the unscientific nature of the work with Koko led people to overlook the very scientific work with Washoe and related chimps at Central WA University.
I'm curious what the strongest (legitimate) skeptics of the work with Washoe and other chimps at Central WA University have to say.

From these descriptions, I don't have a clear picture of how clever hans effect was able to be controlled for/eliminated.

I'd think that some type of double blind study would need to be done, for example, researchers not knowing which chimps had been taught sign and which hadn't being able to independently assess it, researchers who hadn't been taught sign independently assessing it, researchers independently assessing which young chimps had been taught sign and which hadn't and seeing how strongly the assessments correlate, that type thing.
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Old 29th December 2006, 03:54 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by Dave1001 View Post
Is there a double blind element? Do the people interpreting the ape's actions not know what the requests were by the people making the requests? Also, links to any such studies please?
You can look at the links I provided. There are some very carefully done studies out there.

I see we are posting close to the same time here. I don't have time to hunt down a lot of links but I have seen enough of the Washoe work to know there is more than sufficient evidence the chimps use sign language and aren't responding to other cues. I really think you need to investigate it yourself. Your doubts echo those of years ago and this work has been done now long enough to have overcome all those criticisms. Seriously, your skepticism is unwarranted in this case.
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Old 29th December 2006, 03:57 AM   #37
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On December 29, 2006. I am looking at the article and the reference to telepathy has been edited out. The article now reads: "N'kisi's remarkable abilities feature in the latest BBC Wildlife Magazine."

But the telepathy experiment is still in there. It looks like someone's angry email as had somewhat of an effect.


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Old 29th December 2006, 04:07 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by skeptigirl View Post
I'd be interested to see what was discussed in the past thread on this issue.
Just in case you missed it:

http://www.internationalskeptics.com...ad.php?t=65071
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Old 29th December 2006, 04:15 AM   #39
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Quote:
Also in the early 1970's, a chimpanzee named Washoe was taught to communicate in American Sign Language (ASL) by Beatrix and Allen Gardner at the University of Nevada in Reno. She was immersed in an environment where she learned to use ASL in daily interactions with her human companions. Washoe learned 132 different words in her time with the Gardners. In time since, four other chimps have also been taught to sign and they, along with Washoe, are the subject of study by Roger and Deborah Fouts. These five chimps, who consider themselves a family, now use many more signs than they were ever expected to learn (Washoe herself can use up to 240 reliable signs) ,and sign not only to the humans, but also to each other to communicate. Washoe even taught her own adopted son to sign without human intervention (Fouts).

Many linguists still believe that apes have no real grasp of human language, but are merely imitating their human companions. They insist that while apes may understand individual symbols or words, they do not understand the concepts of syntax, or how words are put together to form a complete idea. However, evidence is continually proving that the nonhuman primate mind is capable of advanced thought (Rayl 89).

Chimpanzees have shown the ability to communicate using ASL to human observers and other chimpanzees about the normal course of surrounding events. They use signs to create natural language categories; for example, they will sign "dog" when shown many different species of dogs and "shoe" whether it be a slipper or a cowboy boot. They can invent new signs and combine signs to metaphorically express something different, for example: calling a radish "cry hurt food" or referring to a watermelon as a "drink fruit" (Fouts). They can comprehend and produce novel prepositional phrases, understand vocal English, translate words into ASL and even transmit their signing skills to the next generation without human intervention.
From Skeptigirl's 3rd link. Either this is true, or it's clever hans effect or something the researchers are falsely reading into the chimp's behavior. I wonder how they control for researchers? It doesn't seem impossible to me for them to set up double blind-type protections, but I don't see evidence yet that the researchers are doing anything like that.

Last edited by Dave1001; 29th December 2006 at 04:18 AM.
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Old 29th December 2006, 04:17 AM   #40
Dave1001
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Originally Posted by skeptigirl View Post
You can look at the links I provided. There are some very carefully done studies out there.

I see we are posting close to the same time here. I don't have time to hunt down a lot of links but I have seen enough of the Washoe work to know there is more than sufficient evidence the chimps use sign language and aren't responding to other cues. I really think you need to investigate it yourself. Your doubts echo those of years ago and this work has been done now long enough to have overcome all those criticisms. Seriously, your skepticism is unwarranted in this case.
I'm looking at the links you provided and I haven't found anything yet. "Carefully done studies" isn't the same as controlling for clever hans, double blind, anything like that. It is starting to look suspicious to me that they're not highlighting front and center how they control for clever hans, given that that's the chief criticism of this work.
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