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The Research Of Animal Behavior And Its Impact On Understanding Human Nature Essay

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Updated: Jan 27th, 2022

The impact of Darwin’s theory of evolution on the modern understanding of nature is immeasurable. However, the magnitude of debate it sparked is equally impressive. Lasting to this day, it ranges from its scientific accuracy to its moral and ethical grounds. One of the debatable questions is whether the theory of evolution can explain human nature. This topic is addressed to in detail by Frans de Waal, the Professor of Psychology at Emory University. De Waal shares his experience of working at Yerkes National Primate Research Center and shares some theoretical insights. He begins his argument by pointing out one of the prominent difficulties with comprehending the theory of evolution – one that could be characterized as overestimating humanity. It appears that humans tend to distance themselves from animals while the theory of evolution states there is not much difference between the two. The amusing part is that the subsequent research shows more and more similarities between humans and animals (not just apes or monkeys, but most animals), which strengthens the rejection of the theory. De Waal then proceeds with providing examples in support of this notion. He starts with his personal findings and observations, outlining in broad strokes the psychological similarities between chimpanzees he interacts with in a laboratory and humans he deals with on a daily basis.

The second part of the article deals with the debate about the origin of the morality. De Waal outlines the main sides of the debate, illustrating the opponents with Francis Collins’ concept of “moral law” (Collins 22), but failing to provide the point of view of the supporting side, like Steven Pinker’s scientific view of the evolutionary basis for human nature (Pinker 7). He then proceeds to drawing parallels between the philosophical concept known as “The Golden Rule” and phenomena known as empathy and reciprocity, which are observed in primates’ behavior. This assumption is then strengthened with extensive examples of primates demonstrating compassion, generosity, and social organization. However, no proper source citing is made.

The author concludes with the statement that perceiving human morality, as well as other traits of human nature, as a result of divine intervention is short-sighted given the overwhelming body of evidence that nature exhibits the same traits abundantly among animals. Commenting on both his earlier assumption of human tendency to overestimate oneself, and the aforementioned examples, De Waal remarks, “We never seem to doubt that there is continuity between humans and other animals with respect to negative behavior — when humans maim and kill each other, we are quick to call them “animals” — but we prefer to claim noble traits exclusively for ourselves” (6-7).

In all, the article Obviously, Says The Monkey is a good example of what is called “the popular science.” The author often fails to cite the source or support its claims with proper research, and part of his findings are of anecdotal nature, which is not within the scientific approach. However, it is a vivid and engaging text, with simple yet precise language, witty comments, and a humorous vibe. Besides, it outlines the general concepts of the debate on human nature and gives insights into promising findings which are worth further insight. The article is not sufficient to educate a reader but is more than capable of engaging one in subsequent research in the field of human nature.

Works Cited

Collins, Francis S. The Language of God: A scientist presents evidence for belief, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006. Print.

De Waal, Frans 2010, Obviously, says the monkey. PDF file. 2016. Web.

Pinker, Steven. The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, New York: Penguin Books, 2003. Print.

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"The Research Of Animal Behavior And Its Impact On Understanding Human Nature." IvyPanda, 27 Jan. 2022, ivypanda.com/essays/the-research-of-animal-behavior-and-its-impact-on-understanding-human-nature/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Research Of Animal Behavior And Its Impact On Understanding Human Nature." January 27, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-research-of-animal-behavior-and-its-impact-on-understanding-human-nature/.


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IvyPanda. "The Research Of Animal Behavior And Its Impact On Understanding Human Nature." January 27, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-research-of-animal-behavior-and-its-impact-on-understanding-human-nature/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "The Research Of Animal Behavior And Its Impact On Understanding Human Nature." January 27, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-research-of-animal-behavior-and-its-impact-on-understanding-human-nature/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'The Research Of Animal Behavior And Its Impact On Understanding Human Nature'. 27 January.

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