emphatic apes

What do primates teach us about ourselves?

Given the common misperception that we stand miles higher on the evolutionary scale, this means that in my book apes move up a few steps whereas humans move down a few. If an extraterrestrial were to visit earth, he would have a hard time seeing most of the differences we treasure between ourselves and the apes. The number of similarities is far greater – from our ears and hands to our sexual behavior and power politics. Within this mass of shared traits a few important differences can be discerned, such as the use of language, but we tend to blow these differences out of proportion. People have a profound need to set themselves apart and feel superior. But in fact, we are not just close to the apes: we ARE apes (To be precise: we belong to the primate order, within which the main distinction is between New World and Old World primates, and between monkeys and the Hominoids. The latter family includes only humans, apes, and gibbons).

Sources for Imanishi Kinji’s views of sociality and evolutionary outcomes.


Prior to the contribution of genetics or the modern evolutionary synthesis (MES)to natural selection theory, social ecologists searched for factors in addition to natural selection that could influence species change. The idea that sociality, not just biology, was important in determining evolutionary outcomes was prevalent in research in social ecology in the 1920s and 1930s. The influence of ‘tradition’ (or the transmission of learned behaviours between generations) and the view that animals are active in selecting their own environments,rather than passive organisms acted upon by chance, were given as much attention as natural selection theory in European ecology,while animal aggregation and cooperation studies were pursued in America. Imanishi Kinji’s personal library and his scientific notes and papers reveal that he was well aware of this literature and had been profoundly influenced by these earlier viewpoints prior to writing his view of nature in his first book, Seibutsu no Sekai (The World of Living Things,1941). Evidence is presented to show that he developed his theories based partly on early western debates in social ecology while finding inspiration and a way to express his views in the writings of philosopher Nishida Kitaro and, perhaps, General J C Smuts. One of Imanishi’s lasting contributions is in the demonstrated results of over 40 years of subsequent ecological and ethological research by Imanishi and those trained by him that maintained the broader viewpoints on evolution that had been dropped from the western corpus of research by the 1950s. The current attempt to again get beyond natural selection theory is reflected in debates surrounding genetic and cultural evolution of cooperation,the biology of ‘traditions’ and the idea of ‘culture’ in animal societies.

[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

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Published on Aug 25, 2012

Empathy, cooperation, fairness and reciprocity — caring about the well-being of others seems a very human trait. But Frans de Waal shows several surprising videos of behavioral tests with primates and other mammals, that show how many of these moral traits all of us share.

Empathie, samenwerking, eerlijkheid en wederkerigheid — geven om het welzijn van anderen lijkt een heel menselijke eigenschap. Maar Frans de Waal toont enkele verrassende video’s van gedragstesten met primaten en andere zoogdieren, die aantonen hoeveel van deze morele eigenschappen we allemaal delen.

Oorspronkelijke/original video: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/fran…
Gefilmd in november 2011 bij TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design).

Published on Sep 22, 2012
Science journalist Lone Frank speaks with professor Frans de Waal, who is doing research into non-human animals and non-human animal behaviour at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, among other places.


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