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More Fun Than Fun: An Ode To Grandmothers and Their Grandmotherly Wisdom.

Gadagkar, R (2020) More Fun Than Fun: An Ode To Grandmothers and Their Grandmotherly Wisdom. In: The Wire .

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Official URL: https://science.thewire.in/the-sciences/evolution-...


The American primatologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy came to India in the 1970s in quest of an evolutionary explanation for the tendency of male Hanuman langurs to snatch helpless infants from their mothers and bite them to death. Recalling her observations of these cruel acts in the forests of Mount Abu in Rajasthan, she wrote in her second book The Woman That Never Evolved (1981): “… two older females, Sol and Pawless, charged the male to wrest the infant from him. Before they succeeded the infant was bitten in the skull and received a gash on his thigh and lower abdomen so deep that the intestines could be seen within. This is the only time in my career as a field primatologist that I have ever cried while making observations.” In a more recent book, Mothers and Others (2009), she wrote: “I was a young woman myself, 26 years old and still childless when I watched, astounded, as again and again this worn-toothed old female [Sol] fought with a male twice her weight and armed with dagger-sharp canine teeth… It was her extraordinary selflessness that first inspired my interest in the evolutionary importance of old females.” She went on to add wryly, “Biologists and anthropologists alike—who in the early years were mostly male—had long taken for granted that the function of women was to bear and rear a man’s children. From this perspective, women past childbearing age were deemed irrelevant and of no theoretical interest… [old women] were depicted as objects of ridicule—’old hags’ whose behavior was obviously not worth studying.” As a man, I cannot read any of these passages without some measure of embarrassment (on behalf of males, both langur and human!). It is a common myth that scientists are (or should be) cold and objective truth-seeking machines, never letting their persona and their emotions sway their judgement. Unfortunately, this is and will always be far from reality. Therefore, I agree with the historian of science Naomi Oreskes – that one way to mitigate inevitable personal biases of individual scientists is for scientific communities to become inclusive and encompass geographical, national, racial and gender diversity.

Item Type: Editorials/Short Communications
Publication: The Wire
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2021 05:40
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 16:11
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/68416

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