Man and Ape at Harvard

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One of Harvard's best-known scientists is facing questions over the retraction of a key article on the moral sense of non-human primates. Nicholas Wade reports in the N.Y. Times:

The journal Cognition published an article by Dr. Hauser and others in 2002 saying that tamarin monkeys could learn certain rules much as human infants do. The journal is about to run a retraction saying that an internal examination by Harvard "found that the data do not support the reported findings."

"We therefore are retracting this article," it continues. "MH accepts responsibility for the error." The initials M.H. refer to Dr. Hauser.

Harvard's silence about the nature of the problem in Dr. Hauser's laboratory has stirred concern among other researchers who fear their field will be discredited unless the full facts are made known

If you're a Curious George who can't wait to learn the full story, be patient. Harvard's investigations of faculty members are glacial. For example, Harvard Medical School may have changed its policies on conflicts of interest but still has no comment on a case that is already two years old.

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Edward Tenner is a historian of technology and culture, and an affiliate of the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. He was a founding advisor of Smithsonian's Lemelson Center.

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