Monday, October 19, 2009

Was "Ardi" a Liberal?

Interjecting politics by using bonobos and chimpanzees, or ancient predecessors such as Ardi, as symbols of ideological preference (bonobos being generally peaceful and chimpanzees demonstrating capacity for brutal violence against each other--read liberal and neocon respectively) seems to be a an exercise in reductionistic thinking. Humans are not bonobos or chimpanzees. Humans have the capacity for peace and for violence, with a tendency for violence to be a default mode under the right conditions. While ethology, the study of animal behavior, is important and useful research, drawing conclusions one way or the other from animal behavior about human nature is inexact at best and delusional at worst. Somehow, we apparently have not learned the lessons from the Konrad Lorenz (On Aggression)--Ashley Montagu (Man and Aggression) debate 45 years ago--that using animals as symbols for explaining peace, war, love, and violence in human culture and history, is not illuminating or culture changing. What is more useful is a deeper understanding of human behaviors in peaceful and in conflict situations through interdisciplinary studies of anthropology, sociology, social psychology, and neuroscience. As we slowly untangle the mysteries of the human brain, we are finding insights that refute long-held beliefs and challenge the fundamental philosophies upon which western law and culture are built. This is where the discussion should be centered as it will likely bear fruit in better informed education, law, public policy, and foreign relations policies.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost


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