But why not when we're good? This is the question that has driven Frans de Waal for the past 30 years. From his pioneering research on alliance formation in Chimpanzee Politics , to reconciliation behavior in Peacemaking Among Primates and Good Natured , to the implications for human life and thought in Primates and Philosophers, de Waal has been seeking to understand the roots of moral behavior in the most political of animals. The theme of his newest book, The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society , is the culmination of his work to date and presents a synthesis of the factors that account for cooperative behavior in the natural world.

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But why not when we're good? This is the question that has driven Frans de Waal for the past 30 years. From his pioneering research on alliance formation in Chimpanzee Politics , to reconciliation behavior in Peacemaking Among Primates and Good Natured , to the implications for human life and thought in Primates and Philosophers, de Waal has been seeking to understand the roots of moral behavior in the most political of animals. The theme of his newest book, The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society , is the culmination of his work to date and presents a synthesis of the factors that account for cooperative behavior in the natural world.

Many of the case studies he describes seem to defy the notion that nature is selfish or that humans alone are the only moral animal. In one moving example, an elderly chimpanzee female named Peony is incapacitated with arthritis and is unable to reach water.

She is cared for by other members of her troop as they dip their own mouths into the stream and bring it back for her so she can drink. Unlike most of de Waal's books, however, The Age of Empathy offers suggestions about how we can implement some of these moral lessons into our own society. As the Western world has been shaken by unprecedented corruption and greed in the financial sector during the past few years, it is a message that has found a wide audience.

This is a topic that the soft-spoken year old Dutch-born primatologist -- who became a United States citizen in -- seems to have been primed to undertake from birth. Born in 's-Hertogenbosch, Holland three years after the end of World War II, de Waal grew up in a society still reeling from the German terror bombing that devastated so much of his country. However, unlike that other native son, the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch whose triptychs of human cruelty and vice graphically depict the ugly side of human nature, de Waal chose to study not our Fall but what so often causes us to rise in support of others.

I first met de Waal in when he visited Duke University's department of Evolutionary Anthropology where I was working on a PhD in primate behavioral ecology. Since so much of my scientific work was inspired by de Waal's research I thought there was no better way to introduce the themes to be explored at The Primate Diaries than to introduce readers to the scientist who was instrumental in my own development.

We spoke earlier this summer about his research with chimpanzees, what science communication means to him, and how we can learn from the natural world to prevent our fledgling society from collapsing as so many others have in the human past. Eric Michael Johnson: In the introduction to your first book, Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes , Desmond Morris wrote, "The message of this important book is, in the author's words, 'the roots of politics are older than humanity.

Was there resistance to this message? Frans De Waal: Chimpanzee Politics was published in and, at the time, I think there was indeed resistance. The book offered a cognitive view of chimpanzees, such as planning, intentions, political power striving, and so forth.

It depicted the chimpanzees as deliberate and smart actors and that was not how animals were typically understood at the time. But it turned out that we were more worried than we needed to be. De Waal: The cognitive revolution had just happened and psychologists were ready to move beyond behaviorism and study humans as thinking and feeling beings.

I think the people who studied animals were particularly ready for this. So, for example, Don Griffin had written his book on animal awareness a couple of years before. When Chimpanzee Politics was published, primatologists embraced it because it was describing behaviors that they had witnessed first hand.

Outside of primatology there was some resistance because people who work with fish or insects, for example, were not thinking in terms of planned strategies and the like. But even in those fields there is now increasing attention to cognition. Why do you think Morris' work is so underrated and what have you learned from his approach to communicating science? De Waal: Desmond Morris started out as a very serious ethologist, he was a student of Niko Tinbergen , and he wrote some highly regarded technical papers on birds.

Then later he started working at the London Zoo and learned to popularize because he had to address a more diverse audience. It was similar for me. I learned to popularize at the Arnhem Zoo in Holland where I addressed a lot of popular audiences. Morris wrote many books before he published The Naked Ape , which is what gave him his fame.

His earlier books didn't do very well, but The Naked Ape sold close to ten million copies and was extremely successful. But from that day on he was considered a vulgarizer - not even a popularizer, but a vulgarizer - and people didn't respect him anymore in the sciences.

It is very unfortunate because some of the best theories that have been around, such as Robin Dunbar's grooming-gossip hypothesis , come straight out of The Naked Ape. A lot of people owe a great deal to Desmond Morris because he was a very creative thinker and he summarized his insights extremely well.

Johnson: How does a serious researcher avoid that fate if they want to communicate with a wide audience? De Waal: To avoid that you need to keep writing serious papers. So, instead of switching from science to popularization, you need to do science and popularization. Some people are capable of doing that. A good example is Ed Wilson who did that all his life. He wrote celebrated popular books and influential scientific papers and people respected him for doing both.

You need to be respected in your field and contribute scientifically while you do the popularizations. Johnson: In addition to your many scientific articles and books you also contribute to blogs. Why do you think it's important for prominent scientists to utilize the blogosphere?

De Waal: If you're a passionate scientist it's important to communicate your science to people. I personally don't think that should be left to science writers. I respect a lot of science writers and many of them are very good. But I do feel that the scientists themselves also need to say what they think of their field and what research they find relevant.

I also have fun and do it more for amusement sometimes. During the elections, for example, I wrote a piece about Hilary Clinton and alpha female apes.

I think a lot of human politics mirrors primate politics and I like to make those connections. But, at the same time, there's a serious undertone in communicating to people that what we do is not necessarily so special, it's not so special that you can't compare it to what other animals are doing.

Johnson: I want to get to this connection with politics a little later. But first I want to talk about the science itself. You have been inspired, as you have said many times, by the great Dutch ethologist Niko Tinbergen who, along with Konrad Lorenz and Karl von Frisch , founded the modern science of animal behavior. What was important about their contributions to the field and how do you see their influence today?

De Waal: I think the early ethologists were very different from the behaviorists in the United States. The behaviorists were basically Pavlovians, they wanted to see how animals can learn under controlled conditions in the lab.

They revealed many interesting insights, but it also constrained them because animals were only allowed to show their capacities in a very limited way. Ethologists like Tinbergen and Lorenz were more interested in natural behavior. For example, imprinting was a big topic for Lorenz. This is a learning mechanism but it's a kind of preprogrammed learning where a duckling imprints on the first moving object they see, usually its mother, and learns about its own species by following them.

But it's not a very specific mechanism. There are famous images of Lorenz walking with a line of ducklings behind him that had imprinted on him after hatching.

That's the sort of learning the ethologists were interested in, not the artificial conditions of the behaviorists. I feel that those three founders of ethology, and ethology itself, have been extremely important. If you look at Evolutionary Psychology, or you look at Sociobiology, or you look at many of the techniques that developmental psychologists use such as videotapes of toddlers playing together they're using ethological techniques.

So ethology is still very much with us even though the term is not used much anymore. Johnson: Where does Peter Kropotkin fit into this history of animal behavior? De Waal: Ah, Kropotkin.

That's much earlier, of course. Kropotkin was a naturalist, he was also a prince, and an anarchist. He was many things. Kropotkin believed that the roots of solidarity and cooperation could be found in nature. He argued that survival of the fittest could result, not only by competing with others, but also by cooperating with others.

He was inspired by his research in Siberia where animals experience very harsh conditions and where cooperating was essential to survival. In that sense he was very different from Thomas Henry Huxley. Kropotkin loved Darwin but he opposed Huxley because the latter presented a very narrow view of Darwinism, one that is still with us today. The modern day Huxley is Richard Dawkins who is also a combative atheist, like Huxley was, and who portrays nature as a field of combat where the strongest wins and where everything is regulated by self-interest.

Huxley couldn't imagine how morality could have evolved, even though Darwin himself wrote extensively on the topic. So Huxley was a much more pessimistic and narrow-minded Darwinist. Kropotkin opposed him for that reason because Kropotkin saw a great deal of cooperation in nature just as Darwin had.

Johnson: There have been several famous studies you've written about that led to the flawed assumption of the "killer-ape" view of human origins. For example, what happened at Monkey Hill? De Waal: Solly Zuckerman was an anatomist who, tragically, established a group of hamadryas baboons at the London Zoo in the wrong way and then assumed their murderous behavior was the same in nature.

The hamadryas baboon is a harem holder where one male mates with multiple females. Normally you would want to introduce just a few males and a much larger group of females if you were to set up a stable colony. They did exactly the opposite. They put a whole bunch of males together and then introduced just a few females. The males started fighting like crazy over those females in order to build their own harem. It led to a massacre.

Zuckerman was confronted with all of these dead monkeys and derived the conclusion that this is how nature was, including human nature. Johnson: So the key point to take from this is that there was species-typical behavior that he didn't understand and by throwing them altogether it resulted in chaos. De Waal: Yes, but then he expanded from the chaos to conclude that this was how human and nonhuman primates behaved under natural conditions. Johnson: Are there any lessons we can learn from Monkey Hill about organizing human societies?

De Waal: Yes, I've argued in my most recent book, The Age of Empathy , that if you want to design a successful human society you need to know what kind of animal we are. Are we a social animal or a selfish animal?


Frans de Waal

His research centers on primate social behavior, including conflict resolution , cooperation , inequity aversion , and food-sharing. De Waal was born in 's-Hertogenbosch. In , De Waal received his doctorate in biology from Utrecht University after training as a zoologist and ethologist with Professor Jan van Hooff , a well-known expert of emotional facial expressions in primates. His dissertation research concerned aggressive behavior and alliance formation in macaques. In , De Waal began a six-year project on the world's largest captive colony of chimpanzees at the Arnhem Zoo. The study resulted in many scientific papers, and resulted in publication of his first book, Chimpanzee Politics , in


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Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? The first edition of Frans de Waal's Chimpanzee Politics was acclaimed not only by primatologists for its scientific achievement but also by politicians, business leaders, and social psychologists for its remarkable insights into the most basic human needs and behaviors. Twenty-five years later, this book is considered a classic. Featuring a new preface that includes recent insights from the author, this anniversary edition is a detailed and thoroughly engrossing account of rivalries and coalitions-actions governed by intelligence rather than instinct.


Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes


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