What Our “Lower Cousins” Teach Us About Infanticide

Journalist Jeffrey Kluger recently penned an article titled, “Scientists Discover Mother Monkeys Who Kill Their Babies.” In that piece, he reported on the work done by primatologist Laurence Culot. Culot and his team spent a considerable amount of time studying wild mustached tamarins, a type of monkey that lives in Peru (Kluger, 2011).

Culot’s research uncovered the fact that mother tamarins sometimes allow their babies to fall to their deaths from the tops of trees. In addition, mother tamarins occasionally cause the death of their offspring in a more direct way. The team reported one incident in which the mother bit her own baby’s head off and proceeded to eat its brain and upper body.

Kluger’s article focused on why tamarins would be so brutal. Several factors are thought to be responsible for a mother tamarin’s decision to kill her offspring. The article noted that if there were not enough supporting males to help the mother raise the baby, or if there were too many other babies born at the same time, a mother would often kill her own baby or allow it to die without attempting to protect it. Apparently, if it does not look like the baby has a high probability of survival, the mother will terminate its life and wait for a more opportune time to give birth. As Kluger said: “The explanation for such pitiless behavior is as cold as it is unavoidable: tamarin mothers are simply very good at balancing their genetic ledgers and know when they’re heading for a loss” (2011).

So what does such brutal animal behavior have to do with human behavior and morality? Absolutely nothing if a person understands the truth that God created all humans in His own image, and that every human child has a right to life simple because it is human (Lyons and Thompson, 2002). Unfortunately, however, that fact is not understood by many in our world today. An increasing number of people have chosen rather to believe in the false idea of atheistic evolution. If, according to the atheistic evolutionary belief, humans evolved from animals and are related to primates, then primate behavior can help us understand human behavior. If we can find a naturalistic explanation for why tamarin mothers kill their babies, then we can use that same reasoning to account for why human mothers kill their babies. As James Rachels stated:

Animal behaviour is routinely studied with an eye to acquiring information that can then be applied to humans. Psychologists who want to investigate maternal behaviour, for example…might study the behaviour of rhesus monkey mothers and infants, assuming that whatever is true of them will be true of humans—because, after all, they are so much like us (1990, p. 166, emp. added)

Kluger applied this type of reasoning to the research on tamarins:

Humans recoil at such stark genetic number crunching, but while infanticide among our species is socially and criminally proscribed, it does happen—and far too often. And when mothers are the perps, they are often facing some of the same kinds of pressures as tamarins—uncertain resources (read: money) and an absent or unreliable male (2011).

The sickening, immoral connections Kluger makes between murderous tamarin mothers and humans is all too clear. If tamarins murder their babies because they don’t have the resources to raise them, and humans are related to tamarins, then it is “natural” for human mothers to kill their babies as well. Kluger attempted to soften the implications of his statement by saying that humans have options that “tamarins don’t” and “nothing excuses willful neglect, never mind murder.” His attempt failed, however, in light of his concluding statement: “We may be the highest primates, but we remain members of that sometimes brutish club, and our lower cousins still do have plenty to teach us” (2011, emp. added). What, pray tell, are our alleged “lower cousins,” the mustached tamarins, teaching us? They are teaching us that if you convince humans that they are nothing more than animals, they will act like nothing more than animals.


Kluger, Jeffrey (2011), “Scientists Discover Mother Monkeys Who Kill Their Babies,” Time,

Lyons, Eric and Bert Thompson (2002), “In the Image and Likeness of God: Part 1,” Reason & Revelation, 22[3]:17-23, /apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=149.

Rachels, James (1990), Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism (New York: Oxford University Press).


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