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Frans de Waal
Frans de Waal is a Dutch/American biologist who has been named among Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People.
He is the Charles Howard Candler professor of Primate Behavior in the Emory University psychology department in Atlanta, Georgia, and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and author of numerous books including Chimpanzee Politics and Our Inner Ape. His research centers on primate social behavior, including conflict resolution, cooperation, inequity aversion, and food-sharing.
His most recent book is THE BONOBO & THE ATHEIST:In Search of Humanism Among the Primates
Here are my very, very rough interview notes, offered to lure you to listen to the podcast. They are mostly my questions.
You've been working with primates for almost 40 years. What is the number one thing you've learned from them?
Your book and recent writings explore a bottom up idea of morality. Can you discuss your ideas of top down vs bottom up view.
You wrote in a 2010 NY Times op-ed, "Reverend Al Sharpton opined "If there is no order to the universe, and therefore some being, some force that ordered it, then who determines what is right or wrong? There is nothing immoral if there's nothing in charge." Similarly, I have heard people echo Dostoevsky's Ivan Karamazov, exclaiming that "If there is no God, I am free to rape my neighbor!"
Perhaps it is just me, but I am wary of anyone whose belief system is the only thing standing between them and repulsive behavior."
You refer to current religions being 2-3000 years old. How far back do religions go
You talk about the roots of morals and the behavioral tendencies that lead to morals go back to animals other than primates, like birds and rats.
mammals go back 200 million years.
You've written, "humanity never runs out of claims of what sets it apart, but it is a rare uniqueness claim that holds up for over a decade. It seems like your work is showing that there is not uniqueness.
Are you familiar with Daniel Quinn's book, Ishmael?
How would you describe ways that primates could teach us to be better people?
What are the biggest misconceptions about the differences between humans and primates-- and other animals that you've come to understand?
What are the human inventions that affect how bottom up tendencies are manifested?
acquisition of language-- was that evolution or an invention?
But primates have more success with hand signing-- hand gestures.
So, moral tendencies-- empathy, fairness, sacrifice-- those evolved before language?
Video of monkeys getting grapes and cucumbers.
When you spoke about the monkeys fairness response, in your Ted talk, you referred to Occupy Wall Street Protesters. Can you talk about that?
Science of inequity Wilkinson: high inequity leads to poor health outcomes. Even the wealthiest people in the US, where there is great inequity, live shorter than the wealthiest in other countries with less inequity.
Billionaires-- hoarding hundreds of times more than the rest-- would be treated as insane or be outcast in tribal culture. How does that apply to primates?
fairness vs billionaires-- how animals would treat hoarders like billionaires
What could you expect to see a primate to in response to another primate that didn't share?
You've found that primates cooperate to help each other, even when one is not needing anything. And this also applies to elephants?
Why do you feel that people take this elitist approach and need to say that humans are unique, or better?
Neuroscience is also a very bottom up science
Religion and atheism-- bottom up vs top down?
Neo-atheists-- religion is all wrong
Why do we have religions? How do they function?
I wonder if an externalized, top-down morality produced more shallow ways than deeper, built in, DNA built in moral tendencies.
varieties of religion
Are there different religions that reverberate more with the bottom up DNA based moral behaviors?
Can you comment on how your work looking at mirror neurons, caring, empathy, etc. reflects on the dimensions of connections within species?
And you've written about how dogs show empathy when people experience pain or suffering.
How did civilization change humans
Ayn Rand, politics of selfishness.
Role of technology-- how the internet is facilitating the transition back to bottom up
Is there any research using technologies to primates?
You talk about Hieronymous Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights
"Bosch seems to have depicted humanity in its natural state, while reserving his moralistic outlook for the right-hand panel of the triptych in which he punishes -- not the frolickers from the middle panel -- but monks, nuns, gluttons, gamblers, warriors, and drunkards."
What is he saying there and how does it tie in with your work with primates?
Acting like Bonobos!
Is there a primate analogue for psychopaths and sociopaths
What are your anecdotal observations of primate psychopaths that you've gleaned so far?
What are the similarities.
youtube-- moral behavior in animals
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