A Natural History of Peace – monkey see, monkey do

As some of you have figured out I have a thing for primates, including us as primates. I am proud to say I am a great ape. (Actually, I’m a really great ape if I do say so myself.) My thing mainly is about how close we are as a species and that sense of recognition I feel when I look into the eyes of a great ape or monkey. It’s also fascinating to me that our closest ape relative is the bonobo – who is a very special ape, indeed. It’s also about our destruction of their habitat. The great apes especially will not be with us much longer without intervention on their behalf.

I am fascintated with the ways evolutionary biology is put in the service of pessimistic views of ‘human’ nature. I never trusted it and now I am happy to report that on many fronts primatology supports a more optimistic view of our potential(s).

Here is the best article yet, I’ve seen on the topic.

Summary: Humans like to think that they are unique, but the study of other primates has called into question the exceptionalism of our species. So what does primatology have to say about war and peace? Contrary to what was believed just a few decades ago, humans are not “killer apes” destined for violent conflict, but can make their own history.

Foreign Affairs: A Natural History of Peace

Robert M. Sapolsky is John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor of Biological Sciences and Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University. His most recent book is “Monkeyluv: And Other Essays on Our Lives as Animals.”

Did anyone else break out in serious tears at the end of King Kong? I know, I know – more than one of you left the theater when the three T-Rex kung-fu fight broke out… someone really needs to tell the army of CGI geeks to lay off the bong.


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