Monday 1 April 2019
Our Inner Ape by Frans de Waal
Subtitled The Best and Worst of Human Nature this is a modern classic not only of human psychology and behaviour but of natural history. De Waal, one of the world's leading primatologists explores what our two closest relatives - the chimpanzee and the bonobo - can tell us abut human nature.
Chapters headed Power, Sex, Violence and Kindness look at the behaviour of these two species, the chimpanzee traditionally considered to be a violent and competitive animal and the bonobo, a much more recently discovered species (sometimes referred to as the pygmy chimpanzee) which is considered to be a gentle and peaceful animal that lives in a strongly matriarchal society. The book shows that, although these reputations are largely correct, it isn't quite that clearcut, with chimpanzees in particular being more prone to gentleness than some people would think.
De Waal uses lots of examples of behaviour from both of our close relatives to not only shine a light on their lives but on the way that we behave as humans with the conclusion being that we share some of our behaviours and emotional reactions with chimpanzees and others with bonobos.
Our Inner Ape by Frans de Waal published by Granta (2005)
De Waal recently wrote an interesting article on What Animals Can Teach Us about Politics for the Guardian newspaper here.