Homo homini lupus – “man is wolf to man” – is an old Roman proverb popularized by Thomas Hobbes. Even though it permeates large parts of law, economics, and political science, the proverb fails to do justice to our species’ thoroughly social nature as well as to canids, which are among the most gregarious and cooperative animals. For the past quarter century, this cynical view has also been promoted by an influential school of biology, followers of Thomas Henry Huxley, which holds that we are born nasty as a result of “selfish” genes. Accordingly, it is only with the greatest possible effort that we can hope to become moral beings. Charles Darwin, however, saw things differently: he believed in continuity between animal social instincts and human morality. He wrote an entire book about The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Modern psychology and neuroscience support Darwin’s view about the moral emotions. Human moral decisions often stem from “gut” reactions, some of which we share with other animals. de Waal will elaborate on the connection between morality and primate behavior. Other primates show signs of empathy, prosocial tendencies, reciprocity, and a sense of fairness that promote a mutually satisfactory modus vivendi. de Waal will review evidence for continuity to support the view that the building blocks of morality are older than humanity.
Dr. Frans B. M. de Waal is a Dutch/American behavioral biologist known for his work on the social intelligence of primates. His first book, Chimpanzee Politics (1982) compared the schmoozing and scheming of chimpanzees involved in power struggles with that of human politicians. Ever since, de Waal has drawn parallels between primate and human behavior, from peacemaking and morality to culture. His latest book is The Age of Empathy (2009). De Waal is C. H. Candler Professor in the Psychology Department of Emory University and Director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Center, in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a member of the (US) National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. In 2007, Time selected him as one of the Worlds’ 100 Most Influential People Today.
Thursday, May 5, 2011 @ 7:00 pm Saturday, May 7, 2011 @ 1:00pm Please note date change American Museum on Natural History | New York, NY Free with museum admission.
The year 1958 began as a really horrible one for me. Two events made this so. The first occurred in the early spring when I realized that the Brooklyn Dodgers—our baseball team and the soul of Brooklyn—had abandoned us and fled to some bizarre place where people ate tacos instead of Nathan’s franks and where it never snowed. Even their perennial nemesis—the New York Giants—left town for another unfathomable hamlet that was always having earthquakes. My almost 7-year-old mind could not fathom all this; the heroes I worshipped (Jackie Robinson often patted my little crew-cut head) were gone forever. I even became a Yankees fan.
My second crisis occurred before school ended in late spring. Our class had trip to the great American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. I loved museum trips as I got to see dinosaurs, my second passion after the Dodgers. Tyrannosaurs, triceratops, hadrosaurs, I loved them all, but none more than the brontosaurus. I adored the big beasts with little heads, so much so, that I could not help but go under the ropes to climb on one’s tail to get “up close and personal.” Caught in this act of defilement by a Goliath-sized museum guard, I was hauled off by the scruff of the neck (those were the days before “spare the rod” philosophy was in effect) and ejected from the Museum. My teacher banned me from future trips. Read the rest of this entry »
2010 marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Louis Leakey sending Jane Goodall to Gombe Stream, in Tanzania, to begin her groundbreaking study of chimpanzees in the wild. The chimpanzee behavioral research she pioneered there has produced a wealth of scientific discovery. This significant and vital part of scientific history will be celebrated by The Leakey Foundation, in partnership with the California Academy of Sciences. Anne Pusey, former Director of Jane Goodall Institute’s Center for Primate Studies, will discuss this important project, which spans 50 years and is still running today.
Dr. Pusey will review how the Gombe study has revealed the basic structure of chimpanzee society, the nature of social relationships within and between the sexes, life history patterns, and how these resemble and differ from those of humans. Despite 50 years of study, chimpanzees are slow to give up their secrets and continue to surprise us. Pusey will discuss how long-term data, coupled with new technologies, have facilitated investigations of previously intractable questions and how new observations of unexpected behavior continually generate new questions. The evening will be illustrated with rarely seen archival photographs, video and recent stories of the Gombe chimpanzees.
Dig Deeper into the collective understanding of what science tell us about human origins, evolution, behavior and survival. News on scientific research that shines a light on a past we are still trying to piece together and a future that seems uncertain.