owl monkeys

by Sofia

I am reading about a study done on the owl monkeys of the Argentine Gran Chaco. A group of primatologist anthropologists spent ten years studying these monkeys, recording the weather, their food, their life cycles. As I read about the collection of data, I imagined all these researchers gingerly stepping around the forest, looking hard, attentively recording their observations, writing down the appearance of a certain dispersed non-reproducing male or female roaming solitarily or reproducing in a new group. I could not help but think of how absurd this struck me as. Once again my Eastern sensibilities stepped in and I found it hard to see this meticulous process as anything other than inane. Our need to dissect, assess, analyze, trap, and interrogate every single innocuous animal in the forest to satiate our curiosity strikes me as capricious and foolish. Instead of preserving these facts for the annals of our evolutionary history, why can’t we, to quote Flight of the Conchords, “leave the monkeys alone/they’ve already got enough problems as it is.”

We’re destroying their environment, encroaching on their territory with machines and pollution of all sorts, but at least they haven’t been subjected to Jesuit evangelism. Perhaps our venturing in to study them in the name of science is but the lastest excuse for and method of trying to tame the inconquerable beast that is Nature. And though I believe that comprehending the natural world and its workings can be critical to finding the best course of action, it’s also of great importance to assess beforehand what negative outcomes may result, how important the research is, and finally to weigh the costs to the benefits prior to barging into the field and fumbling up, wreaking havok left and right, as has been done so frequently in the name of science before (eugenics, anthropology being easy examples).

In conclusion, I am inequinvocally skeptical of so-called progress, and think it merits to be met with a wary eye. But’s that just because I’m a degenerate, fact-hating hippie.