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he of the weird al hair and santa claus beard
December 20, 2009 6:14 PM   Subscribe

R.Sapolsky on the uniqueness of humans in relation to the rest of the animal world (via)
posted by kliuless (28 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite

 
"...it is all about looking at the world through the shoes of others and embracing mankind."

Love that.
posted by fixedgear at 6:36 PM on December 20, 2009


Fascinating. Thank you.
posted by Decimask at 6:41 PM on December 20, 2009


That was great!
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:11 PM on December 20, 2009


I haven't finished this, mostly because I keep going out into the other room to tell my wife about cool things chimps can do. That said, this is why I love Metafilter. Also, epic MetaTalk flameouts, but mostly this.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:13 PM on December 20, 2009


Amazing. Thank you for posting this.
posted by schwa at 7:46 PM on December 20, 2009


Wow, that was really interesting. The aggression part is disturbing.
posted by Lobster Garden at 7:53 PM on December 20, 2009


Robert Sapolsky rules. All of his books are great but I think Why Zebra's Don't Get Ulcers is his best, though A Primate's Memoir is a close second. Sapolsky taught a very cool course for The Teaching Company called "Biology and Human Behavior" that I recommend checking out. Also there's other jaw-dropping Sapolsky lectures/interviews available online. Here's a few:

- Sapolsky on the neurobiological origins of religion
- Sapolsky on his lab's current research into the fascinating protozoan toxoplasma gondii (aside: tyrosine hydroxylase? Are you fucking serious?!)
- Sapolsky on depression

Also if you're on Facebook join The Robert Sapolsky Fan Club that I started!
posted by inoculatedcities at 8:03 PM on December 20, 2009 [10 favorites]


This is fantastically interesting. Thanks!
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:50 PM on December 20, 2009


Man, I wish I was smart enough to get away with a beard like that.
posted by The World Famous at 9:02 PM on December 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


And that's why we couldn't have evolved from apes, kids. After all, they're very different animals from Man, and did I mention Darwin was totally racist?

I'll stop posting this video when it stops being funny.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:31 PM on December 20, 2009


Warning: 37 minutes long. Also: worth every second. good to let run while you do, or read, other stuff too</small
posted by msalt at 10:06 PM on December 20, 2009


Fun video, thanks.
posted by MetaMonkey at 10:28 PM on December 20, 2009


Is he going to do another one on the uniqueness of cats in the animal world? And another on the uniqueness of kangaroos?

Every species is unique to some degree or another. Yeah, we're special, because we're the ones deciding what's special.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:44 PM on December 20, 2009


I love when people snark that haven't watched the video/read the article.
posted by empath at 11:08 PM on December 20, 2009


Holy shit this was good. I should've been to bed an hour ago, but I couldn't stop watching this and then had to comment. That such a fascinating lecture could be done so succinctly and with such good humor (and playing to the laymen without talking down to them) was amazing in itself, but then ending it in such a way as to make a call to be irrationally human for the good of all...

I want to show this to everyone I know. Thank you for this.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:19 AM on December 21, 2009


Absolutely awesome. I'm pretty blown away by this. Thanks for sharing!
posted by iamkimiam at 12:21 AM on December 21, 2009


Alan Moore talks about this and the lack of genetic diversity of horses in an interview with Jess Nevins in "A Blazing World". He relates it to the state of the comic industry. He is also smart enough to get away with "a beard like that".
posted by longbaugh at 2:55 AM on December 21, 2009


Thanks for the tip on the TTC lectures. Obtaining those as I type.
posted by DU at 4:25 AM on December 21, 2009


Man is the only animal that snarks.

Crows are more into slapstick
posted by The Whelk at 6:33 AM on December 21, 2009


Thanks muchly.

Especially the stuff in the neurotheology lecture (that inoculatedcities linked to) about temporal lobe epilepsy majorly fascinated me majorly: sometimes-nearly-imperceptible magical seizures every six months with permanent side-effects of humorlessness, loving to write, and deep interest in philosophical-religious questions! I also didn't know about schizotypal personality disorder. Hearing about these mild and more pervasive forms of loony thinking — of course with hey-I've-got-that–type thoughts arising, metamagically — make me love even more the messy evolved complexities of the human mind.

He reminded me of how beautiful The Crying of Lot 49 is when illustrating Oedipa's schizotypal or epileptic feelings of loose connections coming together, her sudden feelings of shimmering immanent meaning, etc. I copied down a quote for your reading pleasure:
“She looked down a slope, needing to squint for the sunlight, onto a vast sprawl of houses which had grown up all together, like a well-tended crop, from the dull brown earth; and she thought of the time she'd opened a transistor radio to replace a battery and seen her first printed circuit. The ordered swirl of houses and streets, from this high angle, sprang at her now with the same unexpected, astonishing clarity as the circuit card had. Though she knew even less about radios than about Southern Californians, there were to both outward patterns a hieroglyphic sense of concealed meaning, of an intent to communicate. There'd seemed no limit to what the printed circuit could have told her (if she had tried to find out); so in her first minute of San Narciso, a revelation also trembled just past the threshold of her understanding. Smog hung all round the horizon, the sun on the bright beige countryside was painful; she and the Chevy seemed parked at the centre of an odd, religious instant. As if, on some other frequency, or out of the eye of some whirlwind rotating too slow for her heated skin even to feel the centrifugal coolness of, words were being spoken.”
Also Deleuze & Guattari, in Anti-Oedipus, writing about schizophrenia as a productive force that becomes paranoid and idiotic by societal repression (my vulgar interpretation I suppose), seems to tie in nicely with what good old Mr Sapolsky says about the shaman being a kind of schizo that's found a productive context.

Any more tips on good books about this kind of stuff would be appreciated!
posted by mbrock at 8:13 AM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is he going to do another one on the uniqueness of cats in the animal world? And another on the uniqueness of kangaroos? Every species is unique to some degree or another. Yeah, we're special, because we're the ones deciding what's special.

If you bothered to listen to the lecture you would have heard Sapolsky make the point that while all species are unique, humans are "unique-ier" and he goes on to explain in some detail why he deems that to be so.

It might be difficult to imagine but the lecture is a half hour long and encompasses more than just the professor repeating the title of the lecture over and over.

Perhaps you could, you know...watch it before snarking about it?
posted by inoculatedcities at 12:15 PM on December 21, 2009


It might be difficult to imagine but the lecture is a half hour long and encompasses more than just the professor repeating the title of the lecture over and over.

... aka the Fox News technique

Thanks for the mental image btw
posted by kcds at 12:34 PM on December 21, 2009


Loved it! Though it's thirty-seven minutes for most of you, on my really slow borrowed laptop it took over an hour and half to listen (the lag doesn't allow the use of the word "watch") to this yet I never considered giving up. I was mesmerized the whole time and it was worth my patience.

I now intend to sit through the stutters for the other Robert Sapolsky video links found in the thread. Thanks!
posted by _paegan_ at 5:46 PM on December 21, 2009


the lecture is a half hour long

AKA ten minutes worth of reading. One of the things that irritates me most about MeFi is that everything is a goddam video.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:09 PM on December 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


AKA ten minutes worth of reading. One of the things that irritates me most about MeFi is that everything is a goddam video.

Seriously. And college, with all the boring lectures! Who needs it?!
posted by The World Famous at 7:21 PM on December 21, 2009


I did find lectures quite boring, and avoided all lecture classes as much as possible. I can nap on my own time.

I do love the double-speed feature for podcasts on my iPod.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:27 PM on December 21, 2009


Sapolsky was featured on a particularly moving episode of Radiolab this past weekend.
posted by halcyon_daze at 8:36 PM on December 21, 2009


Yeah, he's a good speaker...it's still pretty long...I may have met Sapolsky back in the '80s, when he was just back from field work in Africa. Hard to say, though, it was a long time ago. Whoever it was, he told me about accidentally getting between the pack and a juvenile, and being accosted by a couple of young males who were intent on leaving his guts on the ground. You can't take on a single baboon with bare hands, never mind two. So he laid down on the ground and made baboon submission moves. The two males sniffed him over, retrieved the baby, and went back to the pack.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:58 PM on December 22, 2009


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