Saturday, February 13, 2010

The 100th Monkey -

The 100th Monkey: Fact and Fiction - By Dr. Norman Allen

I came across this and found it interesting. Dr. Allen is a noted homeopath as well as practicing a broad range of other modalities. His writing is a joy. He can be found at The following is one of many interesting and well researched pieces he has written. I have edited it for use on

I think it was Lyall Watson who coined the term "the 100th monkey".

Koshimo Island: In the 1950s, in order study the behaviour of macaque monkeys on Koshimo Island, some Japanese ethologist ( footnote "ethology" is the science of behaviour. Konrad Lorenz, he whom the greylag geese followed, was the father of ethology, the study of the natural behaviour of animals, mankind included ), left out food, yams, on an observable beach to draw the monkeys there. So they weren't exactly observing behaviour in the wild, but they thought it would be the next best thing. Certainly it was convenient, and it turned out serendipitous. The monkeys started to frequent the beach where the food was left, and then one day one of the monkeys, a young female the ethologist's named Ito, started to wash the sand off of the yams. Soon other young females and juveniles of both sexes started to imitate her, and gradually the behaviour spread through the colony. The older animals, and adult males in general, did not learn the new behaviour. (footnote:Max Plank, the father of quantum physics said that new theories don't become established by convincing the old academic order, they outlive them.) So we see the same pattern in the spread of innovation in man and in monkeys.

Some time later the ethologists started leaving rice on the beach. Again a young female, a niece of Ito, came up with an innovation. She scooped up a handful of rice and with it, inevitably, some sand. She took this down to the water with which she was familiar from washing yams. She threw the handful of rice and sand onto the water. The sand sank, and she skimmed the rice from the surface. Again the behaviour spread gradually through the troop as young females and juveniles of both genders copied it. (footnote: actually, wasn't she being a bit dense - she was treating the granular rice like a solid yam. Stupidity can be a mother of invention)

The ethologists also saw a behaviour which I call "the Tyrant's Option".

The Tyrant's Option: The dominant males did not copy the new behaviour, but they'd go into the water when the other monkeys were busy separating rice from sand, and they'd exercise the Tyrant's Option: they'd take what they wanted. They’d wait for another monkey to throw the rice onto the water, and skim the pickings.

The Tyrant's Option - force and threat of force - has been a winning strategy till now. Now with the scale expanded to a global locust plague, the option is running out.

Watson’s "100 Monkeys": Some time in the 70s Lyall Watson was travelling through Japan when he heard, or misheard, someone talking about Koshimo Island, and he elaborated from this a beautiful fiction which he named the "100th monkey". His fabrication was this:-

The yam washing "pre-culture" spread gradually through the troop as young animals learned it by watching and imitating their brethren, until... until a certain mass was reached and then the knowledge spread explosively, reaching everyone. One autumn day, Watson says, the critical point was attained. "Let's say 99 monkeys had learned the behaviour," he said. When the 100th monkey learned it a "critical mass" was passed and now, suddenly, all the monkeys started to show the behaviour. It became part of their collective unconscious/conscious, not only on Koshimo Island, but all over Japan! The idea is that when enough individuals repeat a particular thought pattern, that pattern is facilitated for the whole species. We'll come back to the concept, but first let's look at the data.

In fact in the period in question, autumn '69, two new animals learned the behaviour bringing the total of creature displaying the behaviour from 36 to 38, and there was no subsequent acceleration in the acquisition of the pattern. Nor did it spread to the mainland, to other troops. Though it might have, for the ethologists observed one of the Koshimo Island monkeys, an adult males, did move to the mainland where he joined a new troop. He stayed for four years, and then swam back to the island.

The whole 100th monkey story was a fiction, and Watson did not take the trouble to read the data, to get the story straight, though it's published in readily accessible journals. Oh well: never let the truth stand in the way of a good idea.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Understanding the nature of disease.

I work with addictions and eating disorders mostly. It’s a fairly tough area of hypnotherapy, because you can see immediately how effective treatment is. It either works or it doesn’t. There’s not much in the way of a ‘grey area’ if your client is still using cocaine.

I am fortunate enough to have studied homeopathy as well as hypnotherapy. As a result I have the benefit of several different views on the nature of disease. When we look at the cause of conditions in Hypnotherapy, we can learn a lot from our colleagues on the homeopathy side of the fence.

The system of homeopathy which I studied had quite a lot to say about the nature of disease. While orthodox medicine treats disease generally symptomatically, most hypnotherapists know that we should look for the actual causes. Under this regime, treating bulimia is best treated by managing the sources of anxiety, rather than simply force feeding and preventing purging. One system works, the other simply doesn’t.

So, in the case of bulimia – it is best managed by managing the anxiety – the word ‘bulimia’ is almost superfluous. It’s just a label describing the illness, not a diagnosis. It’s a description and does nothing to help us find the cause.

The hereditary nature of some diseases is quite extraordinary. The actual disease (there’s little point giving it a name) can manifest in many forms. I have a client whose grandfather was alcoholic, her father suffered a rare form of arthritis, she is alcoholic, and her children both suffer that same rare form of arthritis. While I know many might find this hard to swallow, my belief is that they all suffer the same disease.

The arthritis is caused by an immune deficiency disorder. The actual disease is manifested in her father and her children by a suppression of this immunity, caused by the way they manage stress. She, and her grandfather, managed stress with the use of alcohol. So the disease is more to do with the actual cause (poor stress management) than simply alcohol or arthritis. Far fetched? I don’t think so.