Review – The Bonobo and the Atheist

Posted November 1, 2017 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Bonobo and the Atheist by Frans de WaalThe Bonobo and the Atheist, Frans de Waal

If you’ve ever wondered about the evolution of morality and whether humans are the only moral creatures, this is a good exploration of the idea. Frans de Waal posits that we have an innate sense of morality, and like Jonathan Haidt, suggests that this sense dictates what we do – the emotional tail wags the rational dog, rather than the other way round, in Haidt’s terminology.

The main attraction for me is not the ideas, which I’ve come across plenty of times before, but the anecdotes about the behaviour of wild and captive bonobos and chimpanzees. They’re our closest relatives, on the evolutionary tree, and we can learn a lot about ourselves from observing them. Frans de Waal includes a lot of interesting titbits, and I found his work fascinating, though not surprising.

It probably won’t convince anyone who thinks that morality comes only as handed down from God, but if you wonder about this kind of thing, you’ll probably find this interesting.

Rating: 4/5

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