Book Talk: Of apes and atheists – is empathy evolution?

May 16, 2013

(Bonobo apes, primates unique to Congo and humankind’s closest relative, groom one another at a sanctuary just outside the capital Kinshasa, October 31, 2006. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly)

For biologist Frans de Waal, a peaceful species of great ape in Africa is a mirror of humanity and a living argument that empathy and cooperation are far from unique to mankind.

“The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism among the Primates”, argues that both traits may be evolved behaviours based on his studies of the bonobo, which is found only in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and other primates.

De Waal, a professor at Emory University in Atlanta, may gain some support from so-called neo-atheists since he sees religion as something made by humans to fit characteristics that our species evolved long ago.

He spoke with Reuters by telephone from his home about his book and take on religion, evolution and monkey business.

Read the full interview here.
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