Human Nature

The Primate Diaries

Category archives for Human Nature

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…

Bonobos “Red in Tooth and Claw”

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 third of three pieces that appeared after Ian Parker’s 2007 article “Swingers” appeared in The New Yorker. In my earlier pieces “Bonobo (Re)Visions” as…

Bonobos and the Politics of Human Nature

Bonobos often adopt a “missionary” posture during copulation (photograph by Frans de Waal). 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 second of three pieces that appeared after Ian Parker’s 2007 article…

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…

Benjamin Franklin once quipped, “Where there’s marriage without love there will be love without marriage.” His affairs are well known in American history, however this founding father may have been stating a truth extending to evolutionary history as well. Christopher Ryan (author of the forthcoming Sex at Dawn) offers some thoughts on the role of…

Why Chimpanzees Make Bad Suicide Bombers

The Evolution of Spite is the Evil Twin of Altruism Someone walks into a crowded restaurant, looks about the diners calmly, and blows themselves up as well as everyone nearby. Why? This is a scenario that forces us to explain the dark side of human nature. Why do humans have a capacity for such hate…

The Nature of Partisan Politics

Conservatives and liberals conflict over their basic views on human nature. As an evolutionary anthropologist and student of history, I’m always fascinated to learn what politically motivated figures have to say about human nature. It’s one area of life where people require zero expertise but can still claim authority in. A case in point appears…

English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679) is widely held as the “father of political science.” His 1651 book Leviathan makes the case for why monarchy is the only political system that is consistent with human nature. He bases his argument on the following assumption about humans in “the state of nature” (what we…