This had me uncontrollably crying in my kitchen trying to make sure my wife didn't see. I want to shoot the researcher who did this to that chimp.
Funny. I just left a comment on the Radio Lab blog because I was so unhappy with the show. Let me say, the story about Lucy was really disturbing and sad. No argument there. This is what I posted:
I'm really disappointed! The assertions that Kanzi was able to use human language were accepted without question. I've listened to every episode of Radio Lab and never felt that the show did such a poor job on the background science as it did in the case of this story. Chimps/bonobos are incredible animals with incredible talents. But they don't use language as humans do. It's not that they don't communicate with us in some limited ways - I think they do. The problem with the claim is that it creates a huge misunderstanding about what language is. And some of the claims are probably just false. These kinds of experiments don't have a good track record for producing data that can be examined scientifically for truthfulness. When it has been looked at, it comes up short in comparison to the claims of the animal researchers.
A sampling of viewpoints from scientists who study language and biology can be found in this NYT article.
The section on Lucy was heartbreaking, I'll grant you. I'm looking forward to the next show and keeping my fingers crossed that it'll be less credulous.
Just wanted to add that Radio Lab is one of my favorite things ever. I love the stories, the hosts, and the production. Jad has a degree in composition and the sounds and effects he adds to the show in post-production are often brilliant.
I went back to the previous full episode called "Animal Minds". What a difference. There are great stories by people who have amazing encounters with animals and they follow this up with the observations of a scientist on what we can deduce from these stories. It's just brilliant. This time they took the whole non-human primate language thing hook, line, and sinker. I guess because the people making these claims are ostensibly scientists. But they are practicing a kind of science that has been mostly discredited. I wouldn't call it pseudo-science but it's very controversial.