- 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: 195 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,137 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.
Top customer reviews
The fascinating part of this book is the authors personal accounts of his work with primate species, the sanctuaries, zoos and other scientists in similar or other animal behavioral fields. The similarities and differences between the primate social societies and our own are truly amazing. He concentrates mostly on morality, empathy, sympathy, altruism and a few other behaviours that many mistakenly deem as solely human attributes. If you love animals and love to learn about their behaviours. I definitely recommend this.
Fascinating read, true page-turner and so convincing.
Moral philosophers have differed in opinion about the "nature of man". Religion has a high penetration throughout society and it is often claimed by dogmatic people of faith that without religion we would fall into the world of Hobbes in which life is violent and short. For much of our history we considered ourselves unique from other species in a multitude of ways, self-awareness, ability to put ourselves in the shoes of others, etc... That uniqueness is scientifically slowly fading away as evolution and our similarities in genome have shown us that we have varying degrees of overlap to species within the animal kingdom. In particular our closest genetic cousins are the chimpanzee and the bonobo. Until recently the chimpanzee has been far more studied than the bonobo (which is near extinction) and its observed nature can be very brutal in nature. The author, a primatologist, has studied and had close association with bonobos for a long time and includes his experiences with them to add light to "our nature" from an evolutionary standpoint. The bonobos are a species that could easily be considered free loving.
The book doesnt try to make rigorous arguments but is filled with stories of how bonobos (and chimps) display empathy in various forms. How there are concrete examples of altruism in their dynamics and how concepts of fairness and conflict resolution are deeply embedded in the attitudes of these apes. Through the book one gets a true sense of how "human" these apes are- though if one were honest you would probably say how apelike we are in our social norms. The author argues that our ideas on equity and reciprocity are embedded in us from a long evolutionary lineage and to blindly adopt social darwinism to question coordination among people doesnt make sense. The idea that competition is the dominant force in social dynamics and as a result we need a codified social contract to hold our true nature back is clearly disputable by looking at our genetic ancestry and seeing that their behaviour does not follow this over simplifies strategy to maximize survival probability.
The Bonobo and the Athiest is important to read as a realistic account of where human morals come from if one believes in evolution. It is not trying to preach as to what is right or wrong, in fact the author believes that moral codes are contextual on environment and a host of factors hence they are not stationary. Within our race examples of given of differences in values for religious subsects based on geography and time. The author does not believe science can replace religion as they serve different purposes and being dogmatically athiest to is usually not helpful just like being dogmatically religious can lead to the crusades. This book is a reminder that our behaviour might not be divined and its similarity to our simian ancestors can tell us something about ourselves and where our morals came from. It is much more "bottom up" moral philosophy than "top down", though it is always interesting to note how similar they can be- see for example The Idea of Justice.
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