What’s in a name? The Pensive Primate, or Primate’s Progress? Tell me what you think

Orangutans are capable of having mental maps and calendars of the forest

Orangutans are capable of having mental maps of the forest

Update: Primate’s Progress it is.

And now for something a great deal less serious.

I originally planned to concentrate on scientific topics, especially the quirks of evolution, so I called this blog “Eat Your Brains Out”. I was referring in particular to the sea squirt. A sea squirt is a tunicate, a member of the group most closely related to vertebrates (that’s you and me and frogs and fishes), but you wouldn’t think so to look at it. As I wrote the story, it starts out as a free-swimming larva, clearly related to our tadpole ancestors, but when it grows up it just sticks its head on a rock and turns into a couple of slimy tubes and reabsorbs its juvenile nervous system because it doesn’t need it any more. Nice story but, as a well-informed reader pointed out, it’s more a matter of rearranging than reabsorbing. Besides, I suspect that more people know about Zombie Apocalypse than about the metamorphosis of sea squirts. And in any case, I’ve found myself writing about all kinds of things, such as politics, education, and freedom of speech, not just about science. Time for a new title.

So, after watching the final episode of BBC’s Monkey Planet (“how primates are individuals with a sense of self and why brainpower is essential to primate survival”), I decided to assert my sense of self and advertise my brainpower by renaming my blog The Pensive Primate. But then I discovered a company selling what it calls Pensive Primate gifts, such as mugs and T-shirts with pictures of orangutans on them, so I settled for Primate’s Progress instead. However, I have mixed feelings about the word “progress”. It makes me sound little bit like (perhaps I am a little bit like) a naive optimist left over from an earlier century. More seriously, it suggests a common misconception about evolution, which is that it is somehow always Onwards and Upwards.

Further searching showed that the label “Pensive Primate” has actually been used many times by photographers and artists, and as far as I can see it is not a trademark. It follows that I can use it too if I want to. After all, there’s no real risk that this blog will be mistaken for a multi-million marketing enterprise.

So now I have to decide. Which is it going to be, The Pensive Primate or Primate’s Progress?

Comments welcome

Image: BBC web site

About Paul Braterman

Science writer, former chemistry professor; committee member British Centre for Science Education; board member and science adviser Scottish Secular Society; former member editorial board, Origins of Life, and associate, NASA Astrobiology Insitute; first popsci book, From Stars to Stalagmites 2012

Posted on July 8, 2015, in Science and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I like Primate’s Progress, if you want my vote.


  2. Andrew Purcell

    Primate’s Progress.
    I’m a softie for literary puns.
    Homonyms are fun too. Are you referring to a monkey or a bishop?
    You could use a monkey wearing a mitre as your logo.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like primates progress? With the question mark as I think looking at the
    Present world situation we are not making much in way of advancements


  4. Paul, as an aside, I guy I’m helping here with his major dissertation told me last week he had to pull his son from a private school here because they were teaching creationism. His son is about 7. He said other parents had to do the same. Not good.


  5. …and my vote is for Progress


  6. I would prefer “Pensive Primate.” I think it is more to the point.


  7. Primates’ progress is my vote. Since we obviously have some questions about WTH progress actually is, or what we mean by it maybe the name will help us clarify.


  8. Paul Bruggink

    Pensive carries connotations of sadness. How about Meditative Monkey? Or just go with Primate’s Progress.


  9. Gordon Drummond

    Pensive is fine: it doesn’t mean sad, it means thinking: which is laudable and desirable.
    Progress on the other had has far too close a relationship to the Pilgrim’s progress which is all about the Slough of Despond and onwards and upwards in spades. I’d go for A pensive primate and then you leave the way open for several species.


  10. I vote for Primate’s Progress too.
    I agree that ‘progress’ has negative connotations for some, but apparently that can be said of ‘pensive’ too (e.g. “Pensive carries connotations of sadness”, Paul B, above). It is all about how it strikes folk.


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