Saturday, November 05, 2005

Inner ape discovery: some counter thoughts!

Did I tell you about a review for the book Discovering the Inner Ape, some time back?
An Update
In case any of you missed, my 'fellow primate' Fred Bortz has put the following comment on my 'extended family' post:
Thanks for recommending my review of Our Inner Ape. Your readers might also enjoy my broader collection of related book reviews or even my whole Science Shelf website.

I also have a personal blog at and another website that focuses on science for young readers.

Here is another review for the book from spiked-science - link via PTDR. Here are some samples from the review:
Our Inner Ape describes the behaviour of our two closest living relatives - the bonobo and the chimpanzee - exploring what they can tell us about ourselves. De Waal argues for human and ape equivalence, and, according to the world-renowned zoologist, Desmond Morris, 'he provides us with a revealing picture of the inner ape inside each and every one of us'.
However, the reviewer is not in agreement with these sentiments, as is clear from the following:
Primatology may be able to give us some insight into our evolutionary past, and help us start answering the difficult question of how human consciousness emerged. But ape studies cannot tell us much about why we behave the way we do today and how we got as far as we have.
A thought-provoking review; might be worth taking a look at. By the way, the review also touches upon another topic of interest to us, viz, the cultural transmission of behaviour:
A review by Andrew Whiten and his colleagues of a number of field studies reveals evidence of at least 39 local variations in chimp behavioural patterns, including tool-use, communication and grooming rituals - behaviours that are common in some communities and absent in others. So it seems that these animals are capable of learning new skills and of passing them on to their fellows.
Reviewing the literature on primate behaviour, it emerges that there is no consensus among scientists as to whether apes are capable of the simplest form of social learning - imitation.


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