"Monkeys and the Ladder" - An Inspirational Story for Sunday, May 3rd

"Monkeys and the Ladder" - An Inspirational Story for Sunday, May 3rd


A group of scientists placed five monkeys in a cage. In the middle of the cage, they placed a ladder with bananas on the topmost stair.

Every time a monkey climbed up the ladder, the scientists poured cold water over the other monkeys. After a while, every time a monkey made an attempt to climb, the others would pull it down and beat it up.

As a consequence, in disregard of the temptation to do so, no monkey dared to climb the ladder.

The scientists then replaced one of the monkeys. The first thing this new monkey did was climb the ladder. Immediately, the others pulled him down and beat him up.

After several beatings, the new monkey learned that he wasn’t supposed to climb the ladder, even though there was no evident rational reason not to do so.

The second monkey was substituted with another new one and the same result was observed. The first monkey participated in the beating of the second monkey. A third monkey was changed and the same thing repeated. One by one all the monkeys were replaced.

The cage then had a group of five entirely new monkeys without ever having received a cold shower. The group continued to beat up any monkey who attempted to climb the ladder.

If it was possible to ask the monkeys why they did so, their most likely answer would be “I don’t know. It’s just how things are done around here.”

Does that statement sound familiar to you?

Source: This story is a modern day fable and was inspired in part by the experiments in “Cultural acquisition of a specific learned response among rhesus monkeys“ by G.R. Stephenson and experiments with chimpanzees conducted by Wolfgang Kohler in the 1920s. Over the years, the story was pieced together to form the urban legend as it now stands.

The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. Those who walk alone are likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before.

And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:

‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.

‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’

Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” Mark 7:6-8

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