I was first told of this experiment* by a former work colleague, and later discovered this illustration of it. It’s both illuminating and disturbing.
There is a clunky word that describes this phenomenon: filiopietism, or the reverence of forebears or tradition carried to excess. But I prefer another term for it: the tragic circle. I believe many of these tragic circles exist, mostly unseen, in across all cultures and societites, causing untold harm. When discovered, they should be terminated.
The lesson is as obvious as it is important: question everything. Dare to be skeptical. Think of all the age-old idiocy and insanity waiting to be exposed.
* Stephenson, G. R. (1967). Cultural acquisition of a specific learned response among rhesus monkeys. In: Starek, D., Schneider, R., and Kuhn, H. J. (eds.), Progress in Primatology, Stuttgart: Fischer, pp. 279-288.