Do Chimps Possess Culture? (short)

Essay by ahnkadragonUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, March 2003

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Do Chimps Possess Culture?

Culture can be defined in so many different ways. None of them are really wrong but none can be said to be absolutely one-hundred percent correct. The definition of culture is constantly being modified and changed to suit one's needs at that time, so it is always under construction. The definition I like the most is "A system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviors, and artifacts that members of a society use to cope with one another and with there world and that are transmitted from generation to generation" (Bates and Plog 1990:466) from the handout you gave us in class. Using this definition of culture I would have to say that yes, chimpanzees do possess a simple type of culture. I do not think that culture is unique only to humans, our culture is just much more complex in structure. This complexity can be seen in how we communicate our culture across vast distances.

We are able to share and exchange ideas with other humans with different cultures and incorporate them into each other. Groups of chimps cannot do that because they lack the capabilities, abilities, and perhaps even the intelligence to do that. They will probably always remain isolated from each other because of that, but they can still share what they learn and pass it on to members of their group. Chimps are pretty smart animals, it just takes time for them to learn and once they get that down are slow to pass it on, especially if it is of no use to them. For example, scientists have taught some captive chimps sign language. Some of those chimps have passed it down to other chimps that reside in the same area. Which is great if they need to communicate with us...