Bonobos are in the news again. A while back there was a an article about bonobos in the New Yorker. And in the current issue of The Believer, an interview with primatologist Frans de Waal, who is gently criticized in the New Yorker article. It’s a good read, aside from lousy economics in the third section. The best part of the interview touches on moral emotions, and what we misconceive about morality & Darwinism. De Waal makes the distinction:
WeÄôve been fed a bogus ÄúDarwinianÄù position for thirty years, one that confuses the way evolution works with the things that evolution produces. Because the way evolution works, yesÄîitÄôs a nasty process. Evolution works by eliminating those who are not successful. Natural selection is a process that cares only about your own reproduction, or gene replication, and everything else is irrelevant. But then what natural selection produces is extremely variable. Natural selection can produce the social indifference you find in many solitary animals. But it can also produce extremely cooperative, friendly, and empathic characteristics.