Home Forums The Science Scientific American article on Bonobos

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    • MartyR

      It would be interesting to hear your take on this article I found:

    • nomad

      Yes it is an interesting article with some honesty about how extraordinary bonobos are (Jeremy actually quotes from it in par 415 of FREEDOM). In analysing it, the first thing to remember is that, as Jeremy explains in Freedom Essay 2, before we could honestly defend our destructive behaviour, we had to use the false ‘savage instincts’ excuse to explain why we are so competitive and selfish. This is significant because people just loved pointing at chimpanzees and their ruthless competitive behaviour and saying that’s why we are ruthless and competitive as well (see par 514). While De Waal doesn’t get anywhere near the bottom of just what is so special about the bonobos, he does recognise that they might represent a model for what our ancestors were like, and even suggests that is the source of our morality, so that is significant. Despite this though, he still maintains that our destructive behaviour comes from a chimpanzee like aspect of our past. So while he is acknowledging the presence of cooperative insincts in us, he still essentially adheres to the old ‘savage instincts’ explanation for our destructive behaviour.
      As Jeremy explains in chapter 5:6 of FREEDOM, what is really so amazing about the bonobos is that they demonstrate the nurturing based love-indoctrination process that we humans went through. So if we go through his article, you can see De Waal recognises some of the unique aspects of the bonobos that have developed out the love-indoctrination process, such as their peacefulness, their use of sexual appeasement behaviour to overcome aggression, that they are a female led or matriachal society, and other aspects such as females migrating to other groups, but nowhere does he recognize that it is their extraordinary nurturing that lies behind the development of all these traits. (See chapter 5:10 for just how nurturing bonobos are.) In an attempt to explain why bonobos are so unusual De Waal suggests, “The answer may lie in the different ecological environments of bonobos and chimpanzees–such as the abundance and quality of food in the forest. But it is uncertain if such explanations will suffice.” This is known as the ‘Social Ecological Model’ and in Chapter 6:8 Jeremy explains just how inadequate it is in explaining bonobos loving cooperative society and behaviour.
      So yes Marty, De Waal does highlight some of the amazing aspects of bonobos, but in the end he is evading the importance of nurturing (which we had to do until we Jeremy’s real defence for the human condition!), and in De Waal’s essential adherence to the ‘savage instincts’ excuse, he is also evading the truth that our destructive behaviour is psychological in origin.
      Basically I recommend all of chapter 5 of FREEDOM about love indoctrination and how we humans developed our loving moral instincts. The stuff about bonobos, starting at chapter 5:6 is absolutely fascinating.

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