For anyone who knows me, the subject for this review will come as no surprise as I am a huge fan of metal art. Scottish sculptor, born in Midlothian, Helen Denerley has made a name for herself by turning discarded pieces of metal from old motorbikes and automobiles into magnificent pieces of art. Her work can be seen all over Scotland and she even has a piece in Japan. Most of her work includes animals and she brings a special quality to each piece, making for very unique art. Here is a piece she was commissioned to create that sits outside the Omni, in Edinburgh.
Around the base of the “Dreaming Spires” sculpture is the following poetic phrase from a poem by Roy Campbell:
‘Giraffes! People who live between earth and skies. Each in his own religious steeple, keeping a lighthouse with his eyes.’
Her work has also inspired a bit of poetry from a poet of Northern Ireland, Michael Longley (speaking about a particular monkey sculpture that caught his eye) which follows:
It sat on the windowsill
Through a long evolutionary autumn
Until you came across the unimaginable –
The frame of a motorbike (and a side-car’s)
Hidden by snow and heather up a hill near Ullapool.
For more information about Ms. Denerley’s work including more photos of commissioned and public work, visit her website. For the article written by the Scotsman regarding the giraffes follow this link.
In Search of Humanism Among the Primates
Having spent several years studying primates, Nederland-born biologist Frans de Waal hopes to shed some light on humanism and whether religion really does play a part in altruistic behaviour. By studying apes (specifically chimpanzees and bonobos, who are our closest living relatives on the genetic family tree) he was able to see first hand the similarities between humans and our distant cousins.
When it comes to the chimpanzees, they tend to be male dominated and somewhat aggressive. They follow an alpha male and being mostly omnivorous will hunt in addition to foraging. Adult males are known to kill lesser males and even babies to protect their place.
Bonobos are a female dominated species and rarely ever show aggression (they can, it’s usually with a purpose like hunting). They have a matriarch that leads the group and disputes are generally settled with sex, are not restricted to heterosexual partnering. Young apes are protected by everyone in the group, their well-being being placed over everyone else. Bonobos also tend to be more egalitarian than their chimpanzee counterparts.
This information was all fairly well-known already. However, what hasn’t really been discussed much is altruism, and just how much empathy a simian without any knowledge of a deity could possess. Does one need to believe in a god and understand the concept of an afterlife to behave altruistically.
This is the topic of Frans de Waal’s latest book, and he does it without attacking religion or even scorning it. He approaches humanism in a way that both followers of faith and nonbelievers alike can (if they were able to do so) agree on. The video clip shown here is from one of de Waal’s talks and shows a few examples of the early work with altruism in tests with various apes and monkeys. The book somewhat starts from there and builds from that point.
[Video Link: Frans de Waal ~ Moral Behaviour in Animals]
“Atheism will need to be combined with something else, something more constructive than its opposition to religion, to be relevant to our lives. The only possibility is to embrace morality as natural to our species.”