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Post No.: 0763chimpanzees


Fluffystealthkitten says:


Although humans like to position their own species as the most highly moral in the animal kingdom, it arguably appears to be the case that humans and chimpanzees are the only species that have been identified so far that demonstrate ‘unspeakable cruelty’ on an intergroup and routine level – namely conducting lethal coalitional aggression by venturing into another group’s territory and ganging up against an individual in that group with deadly consequences.


It’s cooperating to kill another member of one’s own species! Other social carnivores like wolves and lions do such things too but not in a way that seems like early human warfare. Other animals kill members of their own species, and some demonstrate infanticide, but not, routinely, adult-versus-adult lethal violence. Out of all the primates, it seems to be only humans and chimpanzees that do it. Bonobos, like chimpanzees, are closely related to humans yet they don’t demonstrate this kind of behaviour – they seem to have chosen sex above war.


The thing about humans compared to chimpanzees though is how advanced human weapons have become in such a short time – they’ve advanced way faster than the specie’s genetic evolution has had time to know how to best use them… or really restrain from using them. So although bull elks, for instance, very rarely actually ever use their huge antlers in anger – human beings can commit acts of ‘unspeakable cruelty’ to each other in combination with using far deadlier weapons.


It also appears to be invariably male chimpanzees, and it’s mainly male humans, who commit these acts of ‘unspeakable cruelty’, hence some people argue that more women should hold the power. Or at least we should be more inclusive in our groups to blur the lines between all groups so that we view each other as all belonging to essentially one ingroup (our superordinate identity).


Research continues in this area of anthropology so these conclusions may update, but it’s clear that human-style warfare is not universal in the animal kingdom if we are to attempt to use wider nature as a justifying explanation for the human specie’s own relationship with weapons and violence. Humans are humans anyway, while other animals are other animals with different sets of survival strategies and behaviours – not that humans shouldn’t keep seeking civilisational progress.


Of course humans express many good traits and abilities that we should mention, like altruism and large-scale cooperation; although the idea of ‘good or bad morality’ appears to be solely a human concept. Chimpanzees express lower levels of social tolerance with strangers than humans do with strangers. They’re less likely to share, never mind equally share, the spoils of a team task – they’re instead more likely to compete to monopolise resources. Even human children as young as 3 years old will naturally understand sharing the spoils of a collaborative task, and it’s not merely about ‘following the leader’. Compared to chimpanzees, humans also understand active sharing (as in actively offering things) rather than just passively sharing (as in merely tolerating another individual taking something). Between two tasks where the spoils are the same but one can choose to complete the task alone or with someone else, human children are also more likely to want to work together than alone. This lower social tolerance would also likely affect how much social learning chimpanzees can do because if they don’t find it comfortable being around non-kin then their chances of learning new things reduces.


In Post No.: 0433, Furrywisepuppy compared the intelligences of humans with other animals.


Collaborating more than competing may be one of the key reasons why Homo sapiens dominate the planet as a species compared to chimpanzees; although bonobos are quite socially tolerant too so it probably needs a few more traits than just that.


Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins suggested that altruism is an over-firing or over-generalised application of kin selection. And humans probably take this further than any other known species because people are ‘humane’ enough to routinely care to help strangers even from other species, like dogs and cats (meow). There is however a bias to mainly favour creatures that resemble the human conception of ‘cute’, and it’s often technically a mutual symbiotic relationship because people desire something from the creature too, like companionship.


Whatever the case, no other species in the world at present has been able to build cities and civilisations where strangers live harmoniously amongst each other, cooperating, on the whole, in peace. And I personally feel that this is largely down to lots of small acts of altruism, along with culturally evolved institutions that foster cooperation, accumulating to result in something far greater than the sum of its individual parts.


In experiments, chimpanzees will only appear to help others if it’s in their direct self-interests. Not a single chimpanzee will help another altruistically. With young human children (preschoolers, who you’d normally expect to be quite selfish!) in similar experiments – if two children (strangers who had never met before and may never meet again) work on a task together but one of them is given more of the reward than the other, they’ll more often than not opt to split the reward equally without being prompted.


This is surely an advantage for the human race; unless you think that chimpanzees live the better lives overall(!) So if you think that the way chimpanzees behave should be a guide for the way people ought to behave because they represent ‘the unfettered, laissez-faire expression of instincts that wild nature honed to perfection’ and that we should always be rationally (short-term and small-picture) self-interested and never ever irrationally altruistic by being kind with no anticipation of return, then you can abandon your more advanced civilisation if you wish!


Chimpanzees, pound for pound, are about 1.35-1.5x stronger than humans. Humans are built relatively more for endurance than power. Most animals in the animal kingdom, pound for pound, are stronger and/or have more endurance than human beings. (Life under the deep seas can withstand immense pressures – these creatures must make human beings look like total erm, ‘shrimps’.) So it’s brains, not brawn, that explains how humans can put other animals in zoos instead of humans ending up in their captivity (not that this is necessarily right, and not that things like tiny microbes cannot hold humans basically hostage).


‘Nerds’ rule the world now, so don’t act hard even if you are a ‘meathead’ with big muscles. Educated person is deadlier than caveperson. Brawling is definitely at the bottom of the fighting food chain nowadays due to modern means and methods. Even honed martial arts techniques beat raw brawling, never mind intelligence-gathering, stealth and strategy. Hunter-gatherer societies still exist across the world, but they would benefit from modern tools, techniques and knowledge too. Having said that, their lifestyles are considered sustainable so maybe nothing comes for free. Also, nuclear weapons, autonomous weapons systems and other high-tech weapons show no sign of ever ceasing development. When machine guns were first developed, some people thought they’d be far too unconscionable to ever use – but they’ve since become the most basic tools of any armed conflict. Advanced weapons may make targeting more clinical so that collateral damage can be minimised, but force multipliers allow just one person with an extreme political ideology to be menacing and deadly towards a million. Concentrated power is dangerous in anyone’s hands. Even stuff invented initially with a good purpose will frequently end up being used for nefarious purposes (but of course their inventors and investors will keep pointing out the former while underplaying the latter potential uses).


Many argue that the world would be better without nuclear weapons at all, but others argue that possessing them deters wars between those who have them due to the risk of mutual assured destruction (MAD). But an endless ‘cold war’ environment isn’t a nice one to live in, and we only have to lose big once hence lots of relatively small wars would arguably be preferable to a global nuclear holocaust. It’s a delicate gamble.


The ability for human brains to anticipate the far future is a drawback if one anticipates a perceived threat and so violently eliminates that threat in ‘pre-emptive self-defence’. The ability to morally rationalise will mean that an invasion could be reframed and sold as a ‘special military operation’ or similar.


Violence uses a lot of energy and is risky because of the retaliation. Hence very few animals intend violence upon others unless to defend themselves or gain food, necessary resources or mating rights. It’s primarily Homo sapiens who intend violence for other reasons, like grudges, scorn, greed, sadism or religion.


Ants, mongooses and chimpanzees may fight what could be called wars over territory and other resources; lions can commit infanticide; foxes can kill chickens without eating them; and chimpanzees sometimes do go some way in order to murder other chimpanzees in premeditation – but humans often kill for the most arbitrary of reasons like religious differences or transgenerational grudges. There’s no evidence that elephants will go quite as far as this with their grudges.


People can hold deep prejudices against others and go right out of their own way to attack others. Most other creatures will only really attack, or defend against, other animals who enter their territories or personal spaces. If they attack you without you meaning harm on them, it’s only because of them mistaking your intentions rather than premeditated malice. But people will cross waters and mountains to attack others – for capitalistic wants rather than needs too, or to stroke a state leader’s own ego. I can’t presently think of another complex animal that hoards wealth and power like humans do and desire to do when they technically already have enough space and food to survive and thrive. It’s probably reflected via the seven deadly sins of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.


Rutting animals in season can cause injuries but often don’t even do that to each other, and they incredibly rarely ever cause deaths or terminal injuries. (We must also note that nature documentaries not only tend to cherry-pick the ‘interesting moments’ (which would be akin to an extraterrestrial species learning about humans just by watching documentaries about their wars) but also predominantly the ‘interesting species’ to show, which don’t represent all of the fluffy flora, fauna and fungi kingdom in total. There are few nature documentaries on common house spiders, houseflies or house moths it seems for instance. It’s like the news then – more attention is placed on the extraordinary over the ordinary. Shots are also selected and edited together to look as if animals are making humanlike expressions to the events that are happening i.e. they get anthropomorphised. Foley for generating artificial sound effects is common practice. Events are also condensed in time to amplify the drama. Sometimes it’s our own bias of attention and memory though because plenty of nature documentaries do show ample moments of animals relaxing in peace – whether amongst beasts of the same or different species.) Even if there’s intragroup competition, it makes little sense to habitually murder one’s own kind whom one shares close to 100% of one’s genes with, in a ‘selfish gene’ sense.


So competition doesn’t need to mean decimating your opponent. We see plenty of successful sporting siblings and we may infer that their shared genetics are the key to their success but there’s also the healthy competition – they’re often closely matched so they push each other hard, plus they each want to win over the other but not to the extent of ruining the other to do so. They, in most cases, share tips, help each other out and ultimately would like a one-two finish – they are brothers and/or sisters first and foremost. So instead of trying to drag others down in order to beat them – healthy competition brings out the best and raises the standards from all involved.




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