Short List for June 2015
On June 3,1895, Auguste Rodin’s The Burghers of Calais, on a high pedestal and enclosed by an iron fence, was unveiled in the Richelieu Garden in Calais.
Auguste Rodin’s sculptures are noted for his realism, especially with his focus on emotion and character. The sculpture The Burghers of Calais is a memorial to the heroism and costs of sacrifice by ordinary people and the often forgotten costs of war.
June, 1966: Project Washoe Begins at the University of Reno, in Reno, Nevada
Allen and Beatrix Gardner begin raising the chimp Washoe as they would a human child and communicate with Washoe using American Sign Language. Washoe successfully learned to communicate and express herself with humans. Work with Washoe lead to the bioethical position that the great apes are the moral equivalent to humans.
June BAH Details
|Name & Event||Reason important to Secular Humanism||Calendar Month|
|Washoe and Allen and Beatrix Gardner||Self-awareness and emotion One of Washoe’s caretakers was pregnant and missed work for many weeks after she miscarried. Roger Fouts recounts the following situation: “People who should be there for her and aren’t are often given the cold shoulder–her way of informing them that she’s miffed at them. Washoe greeted Kat [the caretaker] in just this way when she finally returned to work with the chimps. Kat made her apologies to Washoe, then decided to tell her the truth, signing “MY BABY DIED.” Washoe stared at her, then looked down. She finally peered into Kat’s eyes again and carefully signed “CRY”, touching her cheek and drawing her finger down the path a tear would make on a human (Chimpanzees don’t shed tears). Kat later remarked that one sign told her more about Washoe and her mental capabilities than all her longer, grammatically perfect sentences.”  Washoe herself lost two children; one baby died shortly after birth of a heart defect, the other baby, Sequoyah, died of a staph infection at two months of age. When Washoe was shown an image of herself in the mirror, and asked what she was seeing, she replied: “Me, Washoe.” Primate expert Jane Goodall, who has studied and lived with chimpanzees for decades, believes that this might indicate some level of self awareness. Washoe appeared to experience an identity crisis when she was first introduced to other chimpanzees, seeming shocked to learn that she was not human. She gradually came to enjoy associating with other chimps. Washoe also enjoyed playing pretend with her dolls, which she would bathe and talk to and would act out imaginary scenarios. When new students came to work with Washoe, she would slow down her rate of signing for novice speakers of sign language, which had a humbling effect on many of them. Impact on bioethics Some believe that the fact that Washoe not only communicated, but also formed close and personal relationships with humans indicates that she is emotionally sensitive and is deserving of moral status. Work with Washoe and other signing primates motivated the foundation of the Great Ape Project, which hopes to “include the non-human great apes [chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas] within the community of equals by granting them the basic moral and legal protections that only humans currently enjoy”, in order to place them in the moral category of “persons” rather than private property. ||June, 1966: Project Washoe Begins at the University of Reno, in Reno, Nevada |
|Aguste Rodin & The Burghers of Calais||England’s Edward III, after a victory in the Battle of Crécy, laid siege to Calais, while Philip VI of France ordered the city to hold out at all costs. Philip failed to lift the siege, and starvation eventually forced the city to parley for surrender. Edward offered to spare the people of the city if any six of its top leaders would surrender themselves to him, presumably to be executed. Edward demanded that they walk out wearing nooses around their necks, and carrying the keys to the city and castle. One of the wealthiest of the town leaders, Eustache de Saint Pierre, volunteered first, and five other burghers joined with him. Saint Pierre led this envoy of volunteers to the city gates. It was this moment, and this poignant mix of defeat, heroic self-sacrifice, and willingness to face imminent death that Rodin captured in his sculpture, scaled somewhat larger than life. Although the burghers expected to be executed, their lives were spared by the intervention of England’s queen, Philippa of Hainault, who persuaded her husband to exercise mercy by claiming that their deaths would be a bad omen for her unborn child. http://bit.ly/RPNFhX ||On June 3,1895, Rodin’s The Burghers of Calais, on a high pedestal and enclosed by an iron fence, was unveiled in the Richelieu Garden in Calais|