The 1970s: a time for Reggie Jackson, the first go-round of John Travolta, and adopting a chimpanzee to settle a scientific dispute.
The new film Project Nim by director James Marsh, the documentarian behind the acclaimed Man On Wire, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah this week. Marsh tells the tale of a chimp that was taken from its mother and raised in a human family just like a human baby; the experimenters were attempting to show that language is not unique to our species.
In Project Nim [Marsh] looks at a project dreamed up by Columbia University psychologist Herbert Terrace and carried out on Nim Chimpsky, a chimp named for famed linguist Noam Chomsky, who has argued language is uniquely human. Alternating between previously unpublished footage and interviews with participants in the experiment, the film shows how Nim initially connects with his family before his animal nature gradually takes over. [AFP]
Where a previous study had taught a chimp named Washoe symbols in American Sign Language, Terrace sought to go further with Nim. The chimp lived with the LaFarge family of New York, and for four years Terrace’s team tried to teach Nim to respond using a series of signs to make a sentence. (Nim’s Wikipedia article lists all the “phrases” he put together.)
A UK documentary called the The Great Global Warming Swindle misrepresented the views of several climate scientists and disregarded broadcasting rules on impartiality, according to a review by a regulatory panel. But the ruling on the much-debated global warming film gave both sides something to cheer, as it also said that the film did not mislead audiences “so as to cause harm or offence.”
The film’s key contentions were that the increase in atmospheric temperatures observed since the 1970s was not primarily caused by emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, and that the modern focus on climate change is based in politics rather than science. It is seen in some “climate sceptic” circles as a counter to Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth, and credited with influencing public perception of climate science [BBC News].