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Not much to learn from monkeys for human heart health, serious study finds

From “Puzzling Over Links Between Monkey Research and Human Health” (ScienceDaily, Mar. 21, 2012), we learn,

Studies in monkeys are unlikely to provide reliable evidence for links between social status and heart disease in humans, according to the first ever systematic review of the relevant research.

The study, published in PLoS ONE, concludes that although such studies are cited frequently in human health research the evidence is often “cherry picked” and generalisation of the findings from monkeys to human societies does not appear to be warranted.

He says: “Before we can apply results from primates into our society, we need to make sure that the evidence coming from these studies is reliable. Systematic reviews of animal studies are still uncommon but they are essential for assessing the consistency and strength of their findings. It is unscientific to selectively refer a same small handful of positive findings and discard all the others that do not fit the hypothesis.”

If science had had anything to do with it, this would not have been “the first ever systematic review.”

The researchers also warn against generalising results from primate data to human societies and point out that many primatologists themselves have drawn attention to the limitations in reaching such conclusions, as their findings are not necessarily comparable between similar species of monkey, and sometimes not even within the same species.

Now that is, as it happens, plain old BS. Primatologists have been telling us for years that there are no important differences between humans and other primates. In fact, on the very same page, we are offerred stories like “Monkeys Enjoy Giving To Others, Study Finds” (good thing, too, because United Way is short of money, so we can shake them down now as a promising new donor base), and “Monkeys’ Grooming Habits Provide New Clues To How We Socialize” – wonderful news, now let’s just fire all the sociologists and psychologists on the government payroll, given that we have so much to learn from monkeys.

Oh wait.

Maybe the nonsense component isn’t that important in the long run but primatologists do bear some responsibility for misleading the public about issues that matter, like heart health.

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