Hey, anti-Darwinists! Reconcile this!

December 2, 2006 | By | 32 Replies More

In Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes (1982), Frans de Waal discusses reconciliation, but he’s not talking about human beings who are making up after fighting.  Rather, de Waal is describing the reconciliation he has observed in communities of chimpanzees:

Sometimes the maneuver is fairly obvious.  Within a minute of a fight having ended the two former opponents may rush towards each other, kiss, and embrace long and fervently and then proceed to groom each other.  But sometimes this kind of emotional contact takes place hours after a conflict.  When I observed very carefully, I saw that the tension and hesitancy remained as long as the opponents had not reconciled their differences.  Then suddenly the ice would break in one of the chimpanzees would approach the other . . . currently, there is no doubt that primates are capable of reconciling; the question rather is under which circumstances they do so.  (Page 27, 29).


(The above photo and caption are from Chimpanzee Politics)

Most fundamentalists would argue that we should not study “animals” in order to draw any conclusions about human behavior, as though human beings are not animals.  They argue that you can’t draw conclusions about humans based upon an “animal species.”  They then proceed to make their own wild conclusions about human animals based upon zero other animal species.  Their conclusions are mostly ad hoc and a priori, often completely contradicted by scientific observations.  Fundamentalists thus create souls and heavens completely out of their embellished imaginations and their apocryphal old book.  In this way, fundamentalists are blindered and unrelenting armchair anthropologists/primatologists/zoologists.


(This photo of these chimpanzee youngsters and the caption are also from Chimpanzee Politics)

De Waal argues that claims of human uniqueness “are a bit like advertisements for squirrel proof bird feeders,” in that both claims are way overstated.  He argues (in all of his books) that there is an obvious continuity between humans and chimpanzees to anyone who cares to look.

The time has come to define the human species against the backdrop of the vast common ground we share with other life forms.  Instead of being tied to how we are unlike any animal, human identity should be built around how we are animals that have taken certain capacities a significant step farther.  We and other animals are both similar and different, and the former is the only sensible framework within which to flesh out the latter. 

(The Ape and the Sushi Master (2001), page 362).  Why else start with the assumption that there is a strong continuity running from human behavior and behavior of other animals?  See here, here, here, here, here and here


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Category: Evolution, Meaning of Life, Religion, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (32)

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  1. hogiemo says:

    So, if you don't know what a "Rockefeller salute" is, go to http://www.wilsonsalmanac.com/images2/Oct25_rockefeller_...

  2. hogiemo says:

    And I from you, gentle person. Live free, die well!

  3. Scholar says:

    Hogiemo, I offer you some alternative reference websites. Unfortunately they lack all of the opinions, flashing banners, ads, religious jargon, and unsupported "facts" in your Wilson's "almanac". The links I provide will however, prove to be MUCH more reliable, searchable, up-to-date, and *accurate*.


    It's called "Highbeam" encylopedia and is funded by top Universities. It's a modern encyclopedia, a very valuable resource, completely free to use!

    Or try….


    If it's something related to pop culture, you can't beat Wikipedia.

    I like to look at the wikipedia archives for "Stephen Colbert" and the "Daily Show" with John Stewart. It has histories, summaries, video links, and the latest buzz. Also, you (Hogiemo) may be happy to know that Wikipedia has become *quite* well represented by Christians in terms of their input. Anybody can write and edit the stories, but they also have real editors too, so the Christians can't run completely rampant on the science posts. But sadly, the radical Christian influence has become obvious to me, and many of the controversial articles (God vs. Science) seem to be getting swallowed and spoiled by minutiae.

  4. Scholar says:

    Hogiemo, gentle soul, I asked you about whether you would believe in God even if there was no God and you responded…

    "If I lived in an hypothetical world where there were truly no God, I would still believe in God. Perhaps I would be wrong in this belief but, it would not be drugged induced."

    I feel that I may have conveyed my question unclearly, or perhaps it was misunderstood. Please let me re-phrase my question and ask it again…

    If you lived on a hypothetical world where there truly were no God, and no knowledge of God, and no ability to formulate a belief in God, would you still believe in God? Hogiemo?

  5. Ben says:

    Stephen Colbert has a monkey's brain…  Go here for the story.

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    Ben: Thanks for sharing the de Waal clip. He was a good sport on Colbert's show. As you might suspect, reading his books will give you an immensely more detailed picture of the differences (but mostly the similarities) between humans and the other apes.

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