September 26, 2007

Are Clothes The Only Thing That Separates Union Workers From Monkeys?

From BBC News Science:
Monkeys have a sense of justice. They will protest if they see another monkey get paid more for the same task.

Monkeys display sense of justice Researchers taught brown capuchin monkeys to swap tokens for food. Usually they were happy to exchange this "money" for cucumber.

But if they saw another monkey getting a grape - a more-liked food - they took offense. Some refused to work, others took the food and refused to eat it.

Scientists say this work suggests that human's sense of justice is inherited and not a social construct......."We put pairs of capuchins side by side and one of them would get the cucumber as a reward for a task."

The partner sometimes got the same food reward but on other occasions got a grape, sometimes without even having to work for it."

'A highly unusual behaviour'

The response was dramatic, the researchers said.

"We were looking for a very objective reaction and we got one. They typically refused the task they were set," Sarah Brosnan said.

"The other half of the time they would complete the task but wouldn't take the reward. That is a highly unusual behaviour.

"Sometimes they ignored the reward, sometimes they took it and threw it down," she added.

Nature/Emory University The researchers were not surprised that the monkeys showed a sense of fairness, but they were taken aback that they would turn down an otherwise acceptable reward.

"They never showed a reaction against their partner, they never blamed them," Sarah Brosnan said.

Commenting on the results, experts in the subject told BBC News Online that the idea of a long evolutionary history for a sense of fairness was an exciting one.

By the results of this experiment, is sure does seem that union mentality is indeed innate in primates. Monkeys can't possibly understand the concept of striking, but they really don't behave much differently than unionized workers when it comes right down to it.

Aside from the correlation between monkeys and union workers, there is further evidence that morality, fairness, ethics, etc. is innate as well. These monkeys were not taught the "morality" found in the bible, or the "ethics" or "fairness" that comes from reading the bible and going to a house of worship regularly, yet one could easily write down a few commandments or bible verses based on how to right this wrong when it comes to special treatment for certain monkeys:

1. Thou shalt not be envious of thy neighbour even if thy neighbour seems to be a lot more luckier than thou.

2. The Lord giveth some monkeys more than others. Remember, the Lord works in mysterious ways, there is always a reason for this, so thou shalt accept whatever the Lord giveth without thinking about it further.

3. Though shalt not covet thy neighbour's grape.

4. Those who eat cucumbers shall inherit the earth.

OK, enough of that.

Hey, how about a Ontario election political spin?:

John Tory: "It is only fair that if one monkey gets a grape that every monkey that wants a grape should get one too. Even though it will be costly and probably 75% of all monkeys will want grapes in the near future, and I haven't really thought about the overall cost of this, fair is fair. I realize that this violates separation of produce and state too. And I can't worry that these grape eating monkeys won't hang out with the cucumber eating monkeys or that the cucumber eating monkeys will be getting lower quality cucumbers. And I especially can't worry about certain grape eating monkeys from using their grapes for terrorist purposes."

DAlton McGuinty: "We have improved the quality of cucumbers the last four years and will continue to focus on improving them. The fact that certain monkeys get grapes is not something I can do anything about right now. The cucumber eating monkeys health and welfare is my main concern, and it is great to see black, brown and white monkeys all getting along while eating cucumbers."

Howard Hampton: "I agree with McGuinty that we should focus on improving the quality of cucumbers, though he is lying about improving the quality of them in the last 4 years. I too choose to ignore the grape eating monkeys, because I want to get as many seats as possible. Though, if the cucumber eating monkeys get really upset that certain monkeys get grapes, I will support as many strikes as it takes to at least get the cucumber monkeys something better than cucumbers."

Frank de Jong: "I think that if monkeys want to eat grapes, they should all pay extra for them. This is the only fair solution that is acceptable. As far as I'm concerned the government should only fund monkeys who eat will accept cucumbers. I strongly believe in the separation of produce and state. But heck, I can tell the truth because I have no chance of getting elected anyway."


  1. Okay, so maybe your fundie analogy doesn't really work... but I still like this. It sort of makes me wonder why things like unions took so long to start to develop.

    People were treated unfairly in thousands of cultures for thousands of years and those that didn't object were either afraid of the people who were treated best, or of divine retribution...

  2. There is a lot to learn from monkeys. Personally I think monkeys are higher up in the evolutionary scale because they don't subscribe to organized religion.

  3. Basiorana, people were treated unfairly but equally unfairly by someone who would kill them for not completing tasks.
    Those who were treated better were had more social stature in general, so they were allowed to be treated more fairly.....again the fear of getting killed or punished severely will take away any open anger.
    If the monkeys actually got punished physically for not doing the tasks, the results would most likely have been different.
    Oh, and I don't think my analogy is a failed one.

    Lex, if monkeys could read, they would all have bibles.

  4. I really love these anti-union arguments on the conservative side. These people are sitting in the comfort of their home, enjoying the freedoms a liberal democracy has to offer, freedoms the social movements (of various stripes) have had to fight for for centuries. Part of the struggle was won by the use of strikes, direct action and such like. Unionism was a very important part of that. Without the social movements we'd still have "one Lord, one vote". Perhaps that's what the conservatives the world over are still bemoaning: the loss of power?

    And conservative non-thinkers ("the little people") now get really upset if because of some air traffic controller strike they might miss their 20 quid flight to Penidorm... I wonder sometimes whether the little brats really deserve democratic freedoms as they seem increasingly wasted on them...

  5. Unions used to be important. Strikes were more for human rights and survivable wages. Now unions have a negative impact on the West. Their days of usefulness are over.

  6. "Their days of usefulness are over."

    Nonsense. Strikes shouldn't be the first choice of action of course but there remain employer/employee conflicts in which striking is possibly the only recourse a union has.

    Wishing unions out of existence is wishing upon a star anyway.

  7. Unions are like most things, a mixed bag.

    I'm hardly a "conservative" by any stretch of the imagination and I even belonged to a union once upon a time (no choice, you had to if you wanted to work).

    What the union meant for me was: I got to do 3x the work and assume 3x the responsibility if I expected anything to get done and get done right because at least half of the staff were usually useless, incompetent lamers who would have been fired years earlier in any non-union setting.

    Keep in mind this was in a health care setting so "incompetent" means someone like the guy told me it didn't matter if he gave a patient the wrong medication because "no one cares about these people anyway".

    Unions have done a great deal of good in the past but they also do a great deal of harm.

    BTW, the above mentioned nurse is still working the same job 10 years later, I gave the mess up as a bad investment and now sit on my fanny making much more money than I ever did working...something to keep in mind next time you or a loved one needs medical care.

  8. That is a most interesting study.

  9. O/T - You've just been tagged with an evolution meme blog-tag

  10. Now unions have a negative impact on the West. Their days of usefulness are over.

    My father found this out the hard way when he was forced into retirement from LTV Steel back in the late 80s at only age 58. He only received partial pension, later lost all of his pension and then lost his health care coverage and all of his retirement benefits after paying union dues for more than 35 years.

    My husband has worked for companies that were unionized, and companies that are not unionized over his three decades in the working world...the difference is that he has more money in his pocket not having to pay union dues and not having to worry about not being able to pay the mortgage because of going on strike. He has not had a problem being treated unfairly by companies with no union.

  11. Excellent article! I also appreciated your response to Basio. I think the whole concept is fascinating.

  12. Stardust, I'll do the meme next post, I had to post about my church experience today.

    Good add on to my union commentary.

    Vivacia, science is great and fascinating unless you are a Fundy.