The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates by Frans de Waal
In this lively and illuminating discussion of his landmark research, esteemed primatologist Frans de Waal argues that human morality is not imposed from above but instead comes from within. Moral behavior does not begin and end with religion but is in fact a product of evolution.
For many years, de Waal has observed chimpanzees soothe distressed neighbors and bonobos share their food. Now he delivers fascinating fresh evidence for the seeds of ethical behavior in primate societies that further cements the case for the biological origins of human fairness. Interweaving vivid tales from the animal kingdom with thoughtful philosophical analysis, de Waal seeks a bottom-up explanation of morality that emphasizes our connection with animals. In doing so, de Waal explores for the first time the implications of his work for our understanding of modern religion. Whatever the role of religious moral imperatives, he sees it as a “Johnny-come-lately” role that emerged only as an addition to our natural instincts for cooperation and empathy.
But unlike the dogmatic neo-atheist of his book’s title, de Waal does not scorn religion per se. Instead, he draws on the long tradition of humanism exemplified by the painter Hieronymus Bosch and asks reflective readers to consider these issues from a positive perspective: What role, if any, does religion play for a well-functioning society today? And where can believers and nonbelievers alike find the inspiration to lead a good life?
Rich with cultural references and anecdotes of primate behavior, The Bonobo and the Atheist engagingly builds a unique argument grounded in evolutionary biology and moral philosophy. Ever a pioneering thinker, de Waal delivers a heartening and inclusive new perspective on human nature and our struggle to find purpose in our lives.
Frans de Waal has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. The author of Our Inner Ape, among many other works, he is the C. H. Candler Professor in Emory University’s Psychology Department and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates 5 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
This book is not a treat about atheism at all, it is brilliant book about evolution and likeness of human being and other beings. I highly recommend it!
More than 1 year ago
The primary focus of this book is to argue that moral choices are natural and predates religion.
The author cogently argues that more than just the homo sapiens exhibit moral behavior. He also
puts forward the case that moral behavior is grounded in empathy, and is exhibited by most
mammalian groups. The book is well-written and is a pleasure to read.
More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Just wonderful. As an atheist, It put words to the feelings I have had for a long time on the subject. I loved that he was equally critical of both religion and science for being biased. A must read for everyone. Frans de Waal and Bonobos rock!!!
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