Thursday, August 30, 2007


The palm up gesture is getting a lot of play these days in the news. The first snippet is from a science article in the New York Times about non-verbal signaling. The second snippet is taken from the interrogation of REPUBLICAN Senator Larry Craig and is also about non-verbal signaling.

ATLANTA—The chimpanzees, after spotting the humans at the corner of their compound, came over to us with their arms outstretched and their palms turned upward. This was the chimps’ way of asking for a banana—and a lot more, as researchers here at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center have discovered.

That simple gesture, the upturned palm, is one of the oldest and most widely understood signals in the world. It’s activated by neural circuits inherited from ancient reptiles that abased themselves before larger animals. Chimps and other apes, notably humans, adapted it to ask not just for food, but also for more abstract forms of help, creating a new kind of signal that some researchers believe was the origin of human language.

If that’s true, if human eloquence can be traced from a primal message signifying “Gimme,” I’m not sure what conclusion to draw about our species. Maybe that we are inherently social creatures who survived and prevailed against mightier animals by learning to enlist the cooperation of others. Or maybe just that, in our heart of hearts, we are all slackers. . . .

Most of these gestures are performed unconsciously, but the palm-up was adapted long ago for conscious gestures by humans and other apes. . . . A chimp would use the palm-up gesture to ask other chimps to share food, for help in a fight, for sex or, most frequently, to request a grooming session. Bonobos used it most often as an invitation to play.

Now that we’ve got a fairly good picture of what the palm up gesture in monkeys and other Christian family value Republican animals means, let’s look at the following snippet from the interrogation of Senator Craig by Officer Karsnia.

KARSNIA: OK. And then with the hand. Um, how many times did you put your hand under the stall?

CRAIG: I don't recall. I remember reaching down once. There was a piece of toilet paper back behind me and picking it up.

KARSNIA: OK. Was your, was your palm down or up when you were doing that?

CRAIG: I don't recall.

KARSNIA: OK. I recall your palm being up. OK.

CRAIG: All right.

KARSNIA: When you pick up a piece of paper off the ground, your palm would be down, when you pick something up.

CRAIG: Yeah, probably would be. I recall picking the paper up.

KARSNIA: And I know it's hard to describe here on tape but actually what I saw was your fingers come underneath the stalls, you're actually ta ... touching the bottom of the stall divider. . . .

Perhaps Christian family values Red State Idaho Senator Craig was only asking officer Karsnia for a grooming session.

By the way, the monkey photo which I think must be of Senator Larry Craig is by Victor Koen

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