Why We Cooperate

PLoS Biology reviews Why We Cooperate:

What makes us human, what sets us apart from other animal species, and which traits do we share with our closest living relatives? Ever since Darwin introduced the notion of continuity in his theory of evolution, humans have been obsessed with the question of how to distinguish themselves from all other species. In the postwar period, our species became known as "Man the Toolmaker," until in the 1960s Jane Goodall watched chimpanzees using sticks to fish for termites, and that was that. We then distinguished ourselves using the term "Man the Hunter," but the discovery that chimpanzees and other social carnivores engage in coordinated hunts refuted this type of collective action as the one decisive feature. More recently, the issue of culture has entered center stage. Trying to distinguish the cultural "haves" from the "have-nots" tends to generate more heat than light, and it seems much more productive to think about the cognitive prerequisites for social learning, attribution of mental states, and symbolic communication.

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The other day I wrote Previously, primate groups were generally seen to be composed of harems, ignoring the active roles of females in mate choice and aggressive sexual behavior with multiple mates. But the entry of women with a feminist perspective into this field opened up the kinds of…
There was a time--in the 1960s and 1970s--when the phrase "Man the Hunter" enjoyed a lot of popularity. Some researchers claimed that the evolution of hunting played a key role in the origin of our lineage. That's what we made tools for, and that's how we got all the extra energy to fuel our big…

I realize that religion has a lot of negative connotations, however, it's about the only activity that I cannot say I've heard of in any other species. It would be interesting to find that behavior, though, if it does happen. For all I know whales do it.

By mylasticus (not verified) on 02 Feb 2010 #permalink