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See Inside Scientific American Volume 308, Issue 3

Recommended: The Bonobo and the Atheist




W.W. Norton

The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism among the Primates
by Frans de Waal
W. W. Norton, 2013 (($27.95))

Building on his 2009 book The Age of Empathy, primatologist de Waal argues that human morality comes not from religion but from our animal ancestors—that it is not “top-down” but “bottom-up.” For evidence, he looks to chimpanzees, which adopt others' children, amend broken relationships and comfort one another in times of stress. He makes the case that humans, like other social primates, are essentially good (though capable of evil) and motivated by the survival benefits of living within a group.

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