Primate Made Me Do It


Christopher Ryan finds it amazing how the media spins reports of chimp warfare:

From a psychological perspective, it's tempting to conclude that the media frenzy that predictably breaks out every time scientists report evidence of chimpanzee warfare is due to an unconscious desire to deflect shame felt over human warfare. "It's not our fault," the thinking seems to go, "It's human nature. Look at chimps! They're our closest primate cousins!"

...First off, chimps aren't "our closest primate cousin," though you'll need a sharp eye to find any mention of our other, equally intimately related cousin, the bonobo in most of these "news" stories. Like a crazy relative who lives in a shed out back, bonobos tend to get mentioned in passing-if at all-in these sweeping declarations about the ancient primate roots of war. There are plenty of reasons self-respecting journalists might want to avoid talking about bonobos (their penchant for mutual masturbation, their unapologetic homosexuality and incest, a general sense of hippie-like shamelessness pervading bonobo social life), but the biggest inconvenience is the utter absence of any Viking-like behavior ever observed among bonobos. Bonobos never rape or pillage. No war. No murder. No infanticide.

(Image: Three-months old baby bonobo Nakarla is held by its mother Ukela on March 19, 2008 at the zoo in Frankfurt. By Thomas Lohnes/AFP/Getty Images)