Viewing and Discussion of the National Geographic Film Ape Genius (2007)
From the sleeve of the DVD: “… why does human culture move at warp speed while ape culture changes little over generation? Ape Genius presents a lively synthesis of new research that reveals the critical gap between apes minds and our own. Both apes and humans learn from others by observation but only humans show other individuals new skills. We are in a league of our own because our minds have specific cognitive and emotional skills that allow us to teach other”.
These questions are perhaps the most central ones for us in the Centre for Cognitive Semiotics (CCS). The “synthesis”, based on the work of Tomasello, Call, Hare, Whiten and a number of others interviewed in the film is something that many of us are sympathetic with. At the same time – several of the studies described (and shown) in the film can perhaps be interpreted in other ways, and some findings may already be dated.
After the viewing (50 min), we will open the floor to a moderated discussion, asking participants to comment on the claims made in the film, and also to reflect on the question: “How have 5 years of CCS research contributed to furthering/developing/revising the theses expressed in the film on what makes human minds and cultures unique on our planet?”