Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Primate Man

A tip o the blog to Larry Gambone for
pointing out this interesting article from Foreign Affairs.

Robert M. SapolskyFrom Foreign Affairs, January/February 2006

More discomfiting is the continuum that has been demonstrated in the realm of cognition. We now know, for example, that other species invent tools and use them with dexterity and local cultural variation. Other primates display "semanticity" (the use of symbols to refer to objects and actions) in their communication in ways that would impress any linguist. And experiments have shown other primates to possess a "theory of mind," that is, the ability to recognize that different individuals can have different thoughts and knowledge.

Since tool making is part of the evolution of man as Engels correctly observed, then tool making in other species shows a movement towards social evolution as well. Unfortunately this knowledge that other species make toosl will also give the right wing another excuse to blame someone else for climate change.

Our purported uniqueness has been challenged most, however, with regard to our social life. Like the occasional human hermit, there are a few primates that are typically asocial (such as the orangutan).

So I guess that makes the orangutang an Objectivist. See my Ayn Rand 100

Apart from those, however, it turns out that one cannot understand a primate in isolation from its social group. Across the 150 or so species of primates, the larger the average social group, the larger the cortex relative to the rest of the brain. The fanciest part of the primate brain, in other words, seems to have been sculpted by evolution to enable us to gossip and groom, cooperate and cheat, and obsess about who is mating with whom. Humans, in short, are yet another primate with an intense and rich social life -- a fact that raises the question of whether primatology can teach us something about a rather important part of human sociality, war and peace.

And genetically we are closer to chimps than chumps contrary to the Creationist who believe swe were lumps of clay until god breathed life into us, 4,400 years ago. We are social beings as, anarchists have attested to all along, Kropotkin observed our societies thrive when they are based on mutual aid rather than mutually assured destruction.

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