- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (March 10, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393347796
- ISBN-13: 978-0393347791
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (194 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates 1st Edition
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“A tour de force.” (Christopher Boehm - Nature)
“A writer marshaling the evidence of his life, particularly his life as a scientist, to express a passionately held belief in the possibility of a more compassionate society.” (Meehan Crist - New Republic)
“A primatologist who has spent his career studying chimpanzees and bonobos, two of humanity’s closest living relatives, Mr. de Waal draws on a lifetime of empirical research. His data provides plenty of evidence that religion is not necessary in order for animals to display something that looks strikingly like human morality.” (The Economist)
“The perpetual challenge to atheists is that moral behavior requires religion―all that prevents tsunamis of depravity is a deity or two, some nice hymns, and the threat of hellfire and damnation. De Waal shows that human morality is deeply rooted in our primate legacy, long predating the invention of that cultural gizmo called religion. This is an immensely important book by one of our most distinguished thinkers.” (Robert Sapolsky, author of Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers and Monkeyluv)
“Frans de Waal’s new book carries the important message that human kindness is a biological feature of our species and not something that has to be imposed on us by religious teaching.” (Desmond Morris, author of The Naked Ape)
About the Author
Frans de Waal has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. The author of Our Inner Ape, among many other works, he is the C. H. Candler Professor in Emory University’s Psychology Department and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Top Customer Reviews
I disagree with the few who said that Dr. de Waal engaged in personal attacks against his fellow atheists. In this book, he expressed an unbiased and open-minded view of the importance of BOTH science and religion: “In many areas, it is hard to tell where our worldview ends and science begins, and vice versa. We need to step beyond a simple dichotomy between the two and consider the whole of human knowledge.”
~“The enemy of science is not religion . . . The true enemy is the substitution of thought, reflection, and curiosity with dogma.”
~"Dogmatism closes the mind, whether it is the blindness of biblical literalists for science or the self-righteousness of some atheists.”
De Waal says we don’t need God to explain how we got to where we are today. We like to think morality being a human innovation. But, it isn’t. We became moralistic because survivals depends on good relations as well as a cooperative society. We need to acknowledge of our background as social animals in the hunter gathering world, which predisposes us to treat each other. Apes have similar tendency with us. Community concern by apes, as a sign that building blocks of morality, are older than humanity. Recognizing the need of others, and reacting appropriately, is really not the same as a programmed tendency to sacrifice oneself for the genetic good. Religion may play an important roll in endorsing and promoting certain natural tendencies. However, knowledge of the natural world helps us understand how and why we came to care about each other and seek moral outcomes.
In case we were to excise religion from society, how could science and the naturalistic world view fill this vacuum. De Waal warns us we need to step beyond the simple dichotomy between religion and science and think about the whole of human knowledge. We simply believe because we want to. Science is also often, like religion, based on what we want to believe. In primate societies, even unfit can thrive and reproduce. Apes frequently show empathy which requires awareness of the other and sensitivity to the other’s needs. Our background of group animals, like other primates, makes us value social connection. We humans don’t decide to be empathic, only just we are. Empathy arises from unconscious bodily connections of faces, voices, and emotions. Whether human and other primates have instincts in the strict sense is not clear, however their having emotions is no doubt. De Vaal concludes the moral law arises from ingrained values that have been there since the beginning of time, and our evolutionary background lends a massive helping hand without which we would never have gotten this far. This is a profound book on evolutionary morality.
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