Expert primatologist Frans de Waal has been working with chimpanzees and bonobos, our closest evolutionary and genetic relatives, for about 40 years.
Now he studies empathy and fairness in these primates, but his early work focused on their politics: how they resolve their arguments. These animals are social, just like humans, but they aren’t able to talk it out.
The two primate species have very different ways of working out their anger: the chimpanzees are relatively aggressive and start wars, while the bonobos approach each other and start orgies.
When we asked, de Waal noted that humans lie somewhere between our two genetic relatives and how they act can inform us about ourselves. See what he has to say here:
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We also talked to de Waal about the basis of his new book, “The Bonobo And The Atheist” (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2013).
In the book he argues that human morality is a product of evolution, since chimpanzees and bonobos also show fairness and empathy — which make up morality. See what he says about that here >
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