Why do we have empathy? Why do we rush to another’s aid? Why do we put our arm around others to support them?
Empathy comes naturally to a great variety of animals, including humans. In his work with monkeys, apes and elephants, anthropologist Dr. Frans de Waal has found many cases of one individual coming to another’s aid in a fight, putting an arm around a previous victim of attack, or other emotional responses to the distress of others. By studying social behavior in animals — such as bonding and alliances, expressions of consolation, conflict resolution, and a sense of fairness — de Waal demonstrates that animals and humans are preprogrammed to reach out, questioning the assumption that humans are inherently selfish.
On October 21, Dr. Frans de Waal will be at the Houston Museum of Natural Science to explore empathy’s survival value in evolution, and how it can help to build a more just society based on a more accurate view of human nature. He will suggest that religion may add to a moral society, but as an addition and way to enforce good behavior rather than as the source of good behavior.
Following the lecture at HMNS, Dr. de Waal will sign copies of his latest book, The Bonobo and the Atheist.
Dr. Frans de Waal is a Dutch/American behavioral biologist known for his work on the social intelligence of primates. His first book, Chimpanzee Politics, compared the schmoozing and scheming of chimpanzees involved in power struggles with that of human politicians. Ever since, de Waal has drawn parallels between primate and human behavior, from peacemaking and morality to culture. His latest book is The Bonobo and the Atheist. De Waal is professor of psychology at Emory University and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a member of the (US) National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. In 2007, he was selected by Time as one of “The Worlds’ 100 Most Influential People Today,” and in 2011 by Discover as one of the “47 All Time Great Minds of Science.”
Ethics without God? The Evolution of Morality and Empathy in the Primates
Frans de Waal, Ph.D.
Tuesday, October 21, 6:30 p.m.
Houston Museum of Natural Science
Co-Sponsored by The Leakey FoundationClick here for tickets.
For more from Dr. Frans da Wall, check out his TED talk: