Conveying Ideas or Chattering Idly?

In his latest article (February 1892), Prof. Garner says that the chatter of monkeys is not meaningless, but that they are conveying ideas to one another. This seems to me hazardous. The monkeys might with equal justice conclude that in our magazine articles ... we are not chattering idly but are conveying ideas to one another.- Samuel Butler, 1835–1902Butler hit the nail on the head, at least as far as these editorials are concerned: It is happily admitted that they are idle chatter. Whic

SAMUEL BUTLER
Aug 1, 2004

In his latest article (February 1892), Prof. Garner says that the chatter of monkeys is not meaningless, but that they are conveying ideas to one another. This seems to me hazardous. The monkeys might with equal justice conclude that in our magazine articles ... we are not chattering idly but are conveying ideas to one another.

- Samuel Butler, 1835–1902

Butler hit the nail on the head, at least as far as these editorials are concerned: It is happily admitted that they are idle chatter. Which has its place.

Now, is a large proportion of the data presented in biological sciences literature likewise mere burbling? Probably not. In recent times it has become neither the conveyance of ideas nor idle chatter, but the communication of information.

It wasn't always like this. Until recently, say the last 20 years, the limited tools at the disposal of biologists have afforded only a...