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 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
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 ...more
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 ...more
Some thinkers, in reaction to this, try to have it the othe ...more
However... I am shocked by how naive he is and how much information and insight he lacks about atheism debates. He is so unfamil ...more
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 ...more
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 ( ...more
The main attraction for me is not the ideas, which I’ve come across plenty of times before, but the anecdotes about the be ...more
This is a liberating thought, which teaches us to never hold the history of something against its possible applications. Even if computers started out as calculators, that doesn’t prevent us from playing games on them. (47) (quoting Nietzsche, the Genealogy of Morals)”