Project Nim- Can We alter Nature?

It is the work of human optimism and hubris to try to believe that other organisms will think, feel, and act precisely as we will them to if only we modify the environment in which they were raised and spent many impactful years. This point is illustrated thoroughly in the film Project Nim where a group of researchers tear an infant chimpanzee from its mother at a young age and seek to raise it a new environment in the hope that it will grow and learn to both act and communicate in a manner closely resembling that of a human. At first, the project seemed to be relatively successful as Nim, the chimpanzee, began to grow and metabolize his new environment, allowing him to learn new forms of communication, mainly sign language, as a method of expressing of communication.

Nim’s subsequent growth, however, shed light onto the mental and physiological deprivation that the chimp was forced to undergo as a lack of his ability to express the innate nature of his species led to outbursts of violence as he attacked researchers, often drawing blood to cope with the anguish of the lifestyle that was forced onto him. The final revelation of the experiment, also, helped to prove the point concerning man’s inability to alter the innate nature of other species as it was found that all of the signs that Nim was able to learn were not meant for the purpose of communication but, rather, as a means of obtaining different objects which he desired. In other words, teaching Nim sign language enabled him to beg but not so much to communicate. The overall experiment, though insightful and enlightening, saw Nim treated more as a casualty or an expendable object of experimentation as his true nature, desires, and needs were sacrificed for the idea of being able to have chimps that could communicate and entertain the general human populace.


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