Human Behavior In Bonobos

May 7, 2014

Frans de Waal is a distinguished biologist, university professor, and author who specializes in primate social behavior. For years, he’s been bucking prevailing ideas about the nature of human morality and ethics. Over decades of research, he’s found evidence of altruistic and empathic behavior in a number of species, concluding that there is a biological foundation for human morality that emerged from our animal origins. For a long time, de Waal’s findings were ignored or dismissed by those who believe that ethics and altruism are cultural inventions that must be imposed on our brutish natures. The tide has turned, however, and the question is no longer whether animals have empathy but how it works. Frans de Waal’s latest book The Bonobo and the Atheist : In Search of Humanism Among the Primates provides evidence that the roots of human social behavior can be observed in other animals, and addresses the persistent question of whether humans are ethical by nature.