A young bonobo, a species capable of altruism. Source: Photo Courtesy of Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary Humans are complicated. Sometimes we hurt each other and sometimes we help each other. In the ongoing effort to understand where those competing instincts come from, anthropologists often turn to our closest living relatives — chimpanzees and bonobos. Yet these two species of ape are very different. The stereotypes hold that chimpanzee society is rife with hierarchy and aggression , and bonobos, by comparison, are peaceful proponents of free love. That's oversimplified. Within a group, chimpanzees can be peaceful. And bonobos might be capable of aggression. Humans are a "mosaic" of both. The challenge for scientists is to figure out what elements of human behavior exist in either ape, thereby teasing out which traits are purely cultural and which have biological roots. New evidence published this week in Scientific Reports builds on earlier work and suggests that the … [Read more...] about Why Be Tolerant? Lessons From Bonobos
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Source: Vera Kratochvil, Public Domain Chimpanzees are one of our closest relatives and their lives are in peril because of human intrusions into their homes and lives. A new book edited by chimpanzee experts Drs. Lydia Hopper , Assistant Director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes , and Stephen Ross , Director of the Center, called Chimpanzees in Context: A Comparative Perspective on Chimpanzee Behavior, Cognition, Conservation, and Welfare is a comprehensive summary of what we know about these remarkable animals and provides information that is essential in developing conservation protocols. It's my pleasure to offer an interview with the editors of this forward-looking collection of essays by people who know the subject well. 1,2,3 Why did you compile the essays for Chimpanzees in Context ? Chimpanzees in Context is actually the latest in a series that has resulted from a set of conferences held in Chicago. In 1986, … [Read more...] about Chimpanzees in Context: Behavior, Cognition, and Welfare
Even at 10 years old, I knew what integrity meant. Maybe I couldn’t articulate it; however, I knew when I was doing something wrong. I remember a time I had a fight with my 8-year-old brother and wanted to get back at him. This usually meant hitting him in his arm since my ability to talk things out had not quite fully developed yet. He was a smart kid and he knew I was going to hit him, so he stayed away from me. I remember being frustrated that I couldn’t catch him and eventually I said, “Hey, if you come back over here I won’t hit you.” He trusted me and returned within striking distance. As soon as he was close enough I hit him in the arm. While I was only 10, I knew what I did was dishonest and compromised my integrity. Certainly, the fact that 8- and 10-year-old boys fight in families is nothing revelatory. The part of this story that bothered me was that I gave my word and broke it. I basically compromised my integrity to get back at him at that moment. My desire for … [Read more...] about Do We Live By the Ethics We Teach Our Children?
The American Flag Source: free stock photo Last week I asked my students to write a short essay on the following writing prompt: Do you believe that hate speech should be protected under free speech laws in the U.S.? The responses were close to a 50-50 split with a slight preference for censoring or at least not protecting hate speech as "free speech." The most common pro-censorship argument offered was that hate speech can lead to violence, which is a good point. And the most common anti-censorship argument offered was that censorship is a slippery slope and that once we censor "hate speech" (which is hard to pin down) it could lead to censoring ideas we simply don’t like, which is also a good point. In the next Zoom class meeting, I told students I'd enjoyed learning from their essays and reading about their sometimes very personal experiences with hate speech and opened the floor for discussion. To my surprise, one brave student shared what he'd written about: that if … [Read more...] about Camp Auschwitz Meets Camp College Classroom
Source: Wikimedia Commons In the riveting 2016 film Denial , which re-enacts the libel trial of Irving v Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt and the events leading up to that trial, the Holocaust denier David Irving (played by Timothy Spall) is seen in the opening scene declaring: “More women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy’s car in Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.” Irving, who once had a serious reputation as a historian, did not deny that many Jews died at Auschwitz but claimed this was mostly from disease. He was convinced that no one was gassed at Auschwitz. In her 1993 book Denying the Holocaust , historian Deborah Lipstadt had called Irving a Holocaust denier, falsifier, and a bigot, and wrote that he manipulated and distorted documents. In 1996, Irving filed libel charges in England against Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, claiming that her accusations were false and had defamed his reputation as a historian. Irving … [Read more...] about Hate Speech: Would You Give the Devil His Due?