Thursday, June 24

Another side of the chimp war

Christopher Ryan, an evolutionary psychologist, writes a blog for Psychology Today which I tend to enjoy. However, I found a new post today addressing the breaking news I discussed yesterday. After reading his take,  which emphasized how these findings do not excuse human warfare, and the media runs away with this kind of shit, a few thoughts notes arose in my mind.

I do agree that findings such as these should not be used as explanations for all violent human behavior, much less excuses for such actions. Calling what these male chimps are doing "warfare," may not be accurate; unfortunately I do not know of a better word we could use. Battles, perhaps? That too is misleading, as these conflicts are prolonged struggles, not single confrontations. They are wars in the "tribal war" sense of contemporary hunter-gatherer's unsurprisingly. Those are small scale conflicts, but they are certainly described as wars. The total war of technologically advanced nations, the type of war which now dominated the connotation of the word, is unlike the basic conflicts of the chimpanzees. In fact, there's quite a bit of ethological evidence in humans to say that can people can only be made to participate in total war through cunning and unnatural means.

Additionally, over the course of reading all these reports, rebuttals, and replies, it occurred to me that I may be missing some perspective, since I don't see as much of the mainstream media take (on these particular issues). I read the papers, abstracts, listen to academic speakers on the issues, and if I have a choice between reading the NYTimes article on a story and the equivalent ScienceDaily article, I'll choose the ScienceDaily option. I hear media-focused academics (such as Ryan) decry the relevance of chimpanzee behavior and expound on the wonders of Bonobo behavior. As I also learned today from Vanessa Woods, more than 40 books on chimps have been published in the past ten years, but only one about Bonobos: her book. This explains a great deal; while I knew Bonobos were certainly less known, such extreme lack of awareness by the general public was unexpected. Personally, I ought to work out ways to become more tuned in with what broader audiences know and perceive.

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