Biology

The Primate Diaries

Category archives for Biology

Is Bisphenol-A Turning Our Kids Nasty?

Researchers from Simon Fraser University, just a stone’s throw from where I sit in Vancouver, have determined that the side effects from this endocrine disruptor can alter children’s behavior: Researchers have just linked prenatal exposure to bisphenol-A – a near-ubiquitous industrial chemical – with subtle, gender-specific alterations in behavior among two year olds. Girls whose…

Aldous Huxley wrote in his Collected Essays that, “Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know.” In Plants and Empire: Colonial Bioprospecting in the Atlantic World, Stanford historian Londa Schiebinger highlights the role that such intentional ignorance played in the dissemination of knowledge (and the lack thereof). Whether this…

SUNY-Binghampton evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson currently has a response to my review “Survival of the Kindest” up at Seedmagazine.com. In his response he suggests that Dawkinsian critics such as Frans de Waal and Joan Roughgarden have adopted a group selection perspective in all but name: Rejecting group selection was wrong. The rejection of group…

Survival of the Kindest

Seed magazine has just posted my review of Frans de Waal’s The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society. I wanted to use this opportunity to thank Nikki, Evan, Bora and everyone else that helped in developing this piece. For posts on related topics please see Misunderstanding Dawkins, The Sacrifice of Admetus, Bonobos…

Author’s Note: This piece is a continuation of my article “Survival of the Kindest” that appeared in Seed magazine. As an undergraduate in biology and anthropology I read every one of Dawkins’ books voraciously and would get into heated debates with my close friends about the Dawkins-Gould rivalry. He was one of the primary voices…

Heracles battles Death for generosity’s sake / Frederic Lord Leighton (1869-71) Whereas great scientific theories stand the test of time when they accurately predict the natural world through repeated empirical trials, great literature transcends the ages when it speaks to universal qualities of human experience. Such inspirational works can also, without the authors realizing at…

Bonobo (Re)Visions

As part of the series of reposts leading up to my review of Frans de Waal’s newest book The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society I present the first of three pieces that appeared after Ian Parker’s 2007 article “Swingers” appeared in The New Yorker. As expected, the apologists for unreason who…

The Evolution of Morality

Darwin evicts a Social Darwinist and Eugenicist from his house / Northwestern Univ. Primatologist Frans de Waal, author of such classic works as Chimpanzee Politics, Peacemaking Among Primates, Good Natured: The Origin of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals, and Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape is now coming out with his new book The…

My previous post on a potential problem for the selfish gene theory in explaining cooperative behavior resulted in a fair amount of heated discussion. However, there are quite a few misconceptions regarding the controversy surrounding the selfish gene, group selection, multilevel selection, generalized reciprocity, etc. that need to be clarified. When Richard Dawkins published The…

Unicolonial ants, such as these Argentine ants (Linepithema humile), are genetically unrelated but will cooperate to defeat a much larger adversary. Source: Alex Wild / Live Science It has been a mainstay of evolutionary theory since the 1970s. Natural selection acts purely on the level of the individual and any cooperation observed between organisms merely…