Owen Matthews Recommends Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are
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Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are

We have more primal motivations than you might expect. Looking at our nearest relatives and their societal ties is fascinating. A brilliant read for understanding many of the underlying factors that drive us.

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In Our Inner Ape, Frans de Waal presents the provocative idea that our noblest qualities – generosity, kindness, altruism – are as much a part of our nature as are our baser instincts. After all, we share them with another primate: the lesser-known bonobo. As genetically similar to man as the chimpanzee, the bonobo has a temperament and a lifestyle vastly different from those of its genetic cousin. Where chimps are aggressive, territorial, and hierarchical, bonobos are gentle, loving, and erotic.

While the parallels between chimp brutality and human brutality are easy to see, de Waal suggests that the conciliatory bonobo is just as legitimate a model to study when we explore our primate heritage. He even connects humanity’s desire for fairness and its morality with primate behavior, offering a view of society that contrasts markedly with the caricature people have of Darwinian evolution. It’s plain that our finest qualities run deeper in our DNA than experts have previously thought.

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