The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates

The Bonobo and the Atheist In Search of Humanism Among the Primates In this lively and illuminating discussion of his landmark research esteemed primatologist Frans de Waal argues that human morality is not imposed from above but instead comes from within Moral behav

  • Title: The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates
  • Author: Frans de Waal
  • ISBN: 9780393073775
  • Page: 328
  • Format: Hardcover
  • In this lively and illuminating discussion of his landmark research, esteemed primatologist Frans de Waal argues that human morality is not imposed from above but instead comes from within Moral behavior does not begin and end with religion but is in fact a product of evolution.For many years, de Waal has observed chimpanzees soothe distressed neighbors and bonobos shareIn this lively and illuminating discussion of his landmark research, esteemed primatologist Frans de Waal argues that human morality is not imposed from above but instead comes from within Moral behavior does not begin and end with religion but is in fact a product of evolution.For many years, de Waal has observed chimpanzees soothe distressed neighbors and bonobos share their food Now he delivers fascinating fresh evidence for the seeds of ethical behavior in primate societies that further cements the case for the biological origins of human fairness Interweaving vivid tales from the animal kingdom with thoughtful philosophical analysis, de Waal seeks a bottom up explanation of morality that emphasizes our connection with animals In doing so, de Waal explores for the first time the implications of his work for our understanding of modern religion Whatever the role of religious moral imperatives, he sees it as a Johnny come lately role that emerged only as an addition to our natural instincts for cooperation and empathy.But unlike the dogmatic neo atheist of his book s title, de Waal does not scorn religion per se Instead, he draws on the long tradition of humanism exemplified by the painter Hieronymus Bosch and asks reflective readers to consider these issues from a positive perspective What role, if any, does religion play for a well functioning society today And where can believers and nonbelievers alike find the inspiration to lead a good life Rich with cultural references and anecdotes of primate behavior, The Bonobo and the Atheist engagingly builds a unique argument grounded in evolutionary biology and moral philosophy Ever a pioneering thinker, de Waal delivers a heartening and inclusive new perspective on human nature and our struggle to find purpose in our lives.

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    About "Frans de Waal"

    1. Frans de Waal

      Frans B.M de Waal, PhD born 29 October 1948, s Hertogenbosch , is a Dutch psychologist, primatologist and ethologist He is the Charles Howard Candler professor of Primate Behavior in the Emory University psychology department in Atlanta, Georgia, and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and author of numerous books including Chimpanzee Politics and Our Inner Ape His research centers on primate social behavior, including conflict resolution, cooperation, inequity aversion, and food sharing In 1993, he was elected to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, to the United States National Academy of Sciences in 2004, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in 2008.In 1977, de Waal received his doctorate in biology from Utrecht University after training as a zoologist and ethologist His dissertation research concerned aggressive behavior and alliance formation in macaques.In 1975, de Waal began a six year project on the world s largest captive colony of chimpanzees at the Arnhem Zoo The study resulted in many scientific papers, and resulted in publication of his first book, Chimpanzee Politics, in 1982.In 1981, he moved to the United States for a position at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, and took his current position at Emory and the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in 1991.His research into the innate capacity for empathy among primates has led de Waal to the conclusion that non human great apes and humans are simply different types of apes, and that there is little difference between these species.His book, Our Inner Ape, examines human behavior through the eyes of a primatologist, using the behavior of common chimpanzees and bonobos as metaphors for human psychology.De Waal was named one of Time magazine s most influential 100 people in 2007.De Waal also works in the field of social psychology De Waal is currently on the Editorial Board of Greater Good Magazine, published by the Greater Good Science Center of the University of California, Berkeley His contributions include the interpretation of scientific research into the roots of compassion, altruism, and peaceful human relationships Besides being a contributor, de Waal, also has an article on Empathy in Greater Good magazine He further writes a column for Psychologie, a popular Dutch monthly magazine enpedia wiki Frans_de

    442 thoughts on “The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates”

    1. I am a fan of Frans DeWaal's and have read much of his work. I think he has been instrumental in opening up our view and making us less homocentric. Unfortunately, this book seems like something his editor asked him to write so as to catch the current secular wave. There is so much he could have written but didn't and so much he did write and should not have. His incessant focus on the art of Hieromimous Bosch is inexplicable. Why spend so much time discussing a piece of art (even if it is a mas [...]

    2. A book about religion from one of the foremost primatologists in the world. In this brilliant book, De Waal defends his thesis that morality is not an invention of religion, but that religion is a cultural scaffolding that builds upon and enhances biologically innate moral rules. Even more, De Waal acknowledges that religion is so deeply engrained in human nature that it has become one of the defining characteristics of humanity. Interestingly, De Waal’s conclusions resonate deeply with the fi [...]

    3. Frans De Waal makes a well researched and eloquent argument about the source of human morality. He is not feverishly opposed to organized religion, though he is an atheist. He is opposed to the kind of violence that any kind of fundamentalist mind-set can bring. He describes empathy, and, by extension, morality as a mammalian and certainly a primate thing. He sees its formulation as a'bottom up' rather than 'top down' approach, arguing that morality doesn't come from religion but from the mammal [...]

    4. There are things I liked about this book, and things I can't agree on. I learned a lot about primatology that I didn't know before, I feel he is quite an objective expert in this. It surprised me to learn bonobo had a sense of consequence, or played pranks on each other. This was well written and I learned quite a bit. I couldn't agree with De Waal's perspective on human issues. He opposes a "top down" morality imposed by religion but not religion. He talks about Genital mutilation and circumcis [...]

    5. For centuries, the popular idea has been that the world of animals is savage and ruthless, that man is constitutionally inclined to such "animalistic" behavior, that his morality is a thin veneer and that, but for commandments from above--whether imposed by a church or holy book, in the case of religion, or by the state, in the case of secularists--we would degenerate into savage anarchy, a sort of perpetual "Lord of the Flies" scenario.Some thinkers, in reaction to this, try to have it the othe [...]

    6. It is certainly a great book in terms of animal behavior and about the quest to find the scientific basis of morality. I really enjoyed the first-hand experiences de Waal delivers, as well as the examples from the field about the relationships between the primates and even some elephants, dogs, etc. It is not up to me to criticize his knowledge in the field of ethology.However I am shocked by how naive he is and how much information and insight he lacks about atheism debates. He is so unfamiliar [...]

    7. De Waal begins with a famous Nietzsche quote: "Is man only a blunder of God? Or is God only a blunder of man?" The central question of the book seems to be: "Where does morality come from? Does it come from above or from within us?" As someone who thinks scientifically, I believe it obviously comes from within, but how and why? De Waal speaks of apes holding a door open for another ape to get food even if it means they will eat less. And capuchin monkeys would rather play a card that gets food f [...]

    8. A well written and at times fascinating explanation of the author's views on similarities between humans and mammals, with other primates taking center stage (obviously as De Waal is a primatologist). He also has interesting things to say about the origin of morality in primates, including in humans but the book falters a bit in my opinion when he tries to invent a conflict between his views and atheists' in order to give his book a problem to solve.Not only does he generalise atheists heavily ( [...]

    9. The must frustrating thing about this book was how much of it was quotable. I listened to it as an audiobook, and I use the bookmark feature of Audible regularly, but that means I have to go back after the fact and transcribe all the passages that I liked into Evernote. I probably have literally 30-40 passages I'm going to have to do that for with this book because it was just so tense with stories I want to capture, pithy lines, or surprising scientific findings. (OK, I don't really "have to,"- [...]

    10. If you’ve ever wondered about the evolution of morality and whether humans are the only moral creatures, this is a good exploration of the idea. Frans de Waal posits that we have an innate sense of morality, and like Jonathan Haidt, suggests that this sense dictates what we do – the emotional tail wags the rational dog, rather than the other way round, in Haidt’s terminology.The main attraction for me is not the ideas, which I’ve come across plenty of times before, but the anecdotes abou [...]

    11. Primatologul isi sustine ideea ca instinctele prosociale, altruismul si comportamentul moral preced religiile cunoscute, care mai degraba au particularizat prin naratiuni locale valori general umane, cu exemple anecdotice sau stiintifice din coloniile de cimpanzei sau bonobo. Respinge ateismul militant cum este el promovat de Hitchens, Dawkins sau Sam Harris printr-o analiza mai degraba functionala a religiei (daca a aparut la mai toate popoarele prin ce o poti inlocui, care sa confere orientare [...]

    12. In an area fraught with ill will and name calling, Frans de Waal offers a warm, optimistic and peaceable view of the "conflict" between science and religion. The real conflict is with dogma, which can appear on both sides. This beautifully written book is the product of a lifetime of studying primates, whom he sees as natural moralists -- as are humans, who share an evolutionary past with them. His stories of bonobos gave me a feeling of kinship with other living creatures and a better understan [...]

    13. Frans de Waal is a very accomplished primatologist, and in addition, he also possesses the rare gift for elegant prose. This book reinforces the growing scientific perspective that morality is not the exclusive domain of homo sapiens, and instead is a result of evolution. Indeed, the study of animal behavior has revealed that primates and apes exhibit rudimentary forms of morality such as reciprocal altruism, co-operation, and a sense of fairness/justice. Although the book title features the bon [...]

    14. Hubo una temporada brutal en la que me declaré antirreligioso. Cuando esto sucedió, no solo ya habían pasado años en que había dejado de seguir los preceptos católicos con los que fui educado durante toda mi infancia y parte de mi adolescencia. Aún recuerdo estar explicándome ante uno de los hermanos lasallistas en la secundaria, el porqué ya no quería asistir a las misas que se celebraban cada primer viernes de mes: "no quiero hincarme ante ningún dios" (sí, según yo, lo pronunciab [...]

    15. A strong 4.5A real thinker of a book. Right from the beginning I was challenged by de Waal’s approach to religion and atheism. He is very passive. Dogma on either side does not help. People’s minds are not changed by dogma. And both science and religion have a horrible track record of justifying atrocious acts in the name of the greater good. Both religion and science are imperfect. In chapter 4 the author dives deeper into the ideas of religion and atheism. I went back and reread this chapt [...]

    16. I finished this a few months ago so I can't find the exact passages that stuck with me the most. While I definitely appreciate the defense of humanist morality (and this book really is an important, well-written read, though not necessarily new - see The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology), I can't help but think that the skeptic/humanist world is too saturated with the old white male perspective. Perhaps this is what lies behind de Waal's critici [...]

    17. Frans de Waal brings forth a beautiful display of the intersection between primatology and humanity in "The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates". This book will prove a mind-blowing piece of literature for the modern human being catching flights around the globe, enjoying advancements in technology and perhaps understandably, forgetting that we are just animals-primates-and we have a lot in common with our closest relatives, the bonobos. De Waal seeks out to answer t [...]

    18. The subject of the book is very interesting. Frans de Waal has a very nice style which makes for an easy read.However, he does not convince me of his opinions, even though I share many of them. Mainly he does himself what he accuses other scientists of: cherry picking, confirmation bias and even stating his opinion as fact.For example (I don't say I don't agree with some of the below, the point is the way he presents his ideas and opinions):"Such behaviour is sure to be selected against" (page 7 [...]

    19. For the most part, this book was lovely. A loving and critical exploration of the roots of morality in the whole brain itself, not just the little veneer of cells that characterizes us smug humans. He recounts many well documented stories of chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, whales, rats, and dogs being better than they had to be; showing compassion, empathy and insight. The sour note was his discussion of atheists. He clearly doesn’t like most of us. He keeps accusing us, sometimes in the voice [...]

    20. Despite its title, this book does not trash religion or espouse atheism. The main premise is that morality is not the stepchild of religion - on the contrary, morality predates religion and comes from within (i.e. human nature). de Waal discusses how morality is grounded in emotions and social interaction, citing various "pre-moral" behaviors among primates, bonobos, and even other animals. In small groups, these behaviors can be enforced by shunning and other direct punishment. But as societies [...]

    21. Great book, informative, humorous at times, makes you reflect on humanity and kindness. As an agnosticist myself, I agree with Frans de Waal about how there is no point to disprove religion when the need for it is rooted deeply in humanity. I enjoyed reading about all the experiments but not so much about the paintings, albeit it is largely relevant to prove the point. I also enjoyed learning how anthropologists disregarded the link between bonobos and human because the male bonobos aren't as ma [...]

    22. Disconcerting to think that benobos appear to have better instincts than many of us seem to have. Perhaps advancing the species to the point where a more comfortable life can be led (food stored instead of searched for every day and ipods)leads to materialism and selfishness but as it is unlikely that we will ever go back to a truly simple life, maybe all we can take away from this book is that buried in us there could be an inate drive to care for our fellow creatures.

    23. A refreshing book which discusses morality from a perspective I had bever heard before. It gives a neat alternative which I think is indeed much more plausible and not as polarised as apparently everything is nowadays. It is written in a compelling style and Frans de Waal clearly explains his arguments and conclisions.

    24. Frans De Waal is the sort of guy who, even within an alternative subculture, is fond of espousing alternative viewpoints. For example, he's a scientist (specializing in primates, especially chimpanzee and bonobos), and it's not much of a surprise to discover he's an atheist, but he also seems to think that Dawkins, Harris, and their ilk get too worked up about it. He doesn't like the term "brights" that some atheists wish to use for themselves, and says "what good could possibly come from insult [...]

    25. What is the role of religion in determining our personal moral codes as well as how we treat others? Is religion the source of morality to such an extent that without it we all would just do whatever we want without regard for anyone else (the theory of the entertaining if not always wise Ben Carson)? Or does religion reinforce pre-existing ideas we've always held about fairness and empathy? In "The Athiest and the Bonobo", Frans De Waal comes down on the side of the latter by looking at our nea [...]

    26. Wow, wat een boek, ik kan niet anders zeggen! Ik wist in eerste instantie niet helemaal wat ik ervan moest verwachten. Ik ken Frans de Waal lang genoeg dat ik niet verwachtte dat hij een Dawkins-achtig atheïstisch pamflet zou schrijven. Maar toen ik eenmaal aan het boek begon, werd mij al snel duidelijk dat het van een on-Amerikaanse nuchterheid is, luchtig, relativerend zonder relativistisch te worden – en dat in een tijd dat zelfs in een tolerant land als Nederland de gemoederen hoog oplope [...]

    27. I am totally on the fence when it comes to Frans de Waal. Sometimes I find myself underlining sentences in this book in agreement, and other times I find myself scribbling frustrated notes of disagreement in the side margins. For example, on page 184 de Waal practically ridicules Peter Singer for not taking his view that we should have "special loyalty" to our own species while excluding other species from our moral equations. He basically argues that we should determine our morals (in some case [...]

    28. In her 1985 book Sex and Friendship in Baboons, Barbara Smuts was the first to apply the term “friendship” to animals,ha ha. her name is Smuts. um. Back to some serious reading nowIn all honesty, I chose to read this book to learn about Bonobos and didn't want to fully enter into any religious debate. That part of the book I really enjoyed. However. since this book is titled 'The Bonobo and the Atheist', I will make a few comments.I will say that I enjoyed reading about Veneer theory. Unfort [...]

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