Thursday, August 19, 2010

Difference Between Humans and Animals, Part IX

Here's what chimpanzee researchers in Uganda have been observing:
A band of males, up to 20 or so, will assemble in single file and move to the edge of their territory. They fall into unusual silence as they penetrate deep into the area controlled by the neighboring group. They tensely scan the treetops and startle at every noise. “It’s quite clear that they are looking for individuals of the other community,”
Here's why:
The objective of the 10-year campaign was clearly to capture territory, the researchers concluded. The Ngogo males could control more fruit trees, their females would have more to eat and so would reproduce faster, and the group would grow larger, stronger and more likely to survive.
For a series on the differences between humans and animals, this certainly sounds eerily like human behavior. The article linked above even discusses the similarities between the chimpanzee conflict and warfare among human groups that still live by hunting and gathering. But that similarity actually reveals a huge difference. Most humans don't hunt and gather anymore. Almost all people today live within the collaborative international community. This is not  a result of biological evolution, but cultural evolution. We have established clear property rights enforced by a social contract between billions of people. The last several decades have seen relatively unprecedented peace between groups. Something the animal kingdom cannot imagine.

Here's part one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight of this continuing series.


  1. "The last several decades have seen relatively unprecedented peace between groups"

    That's what they said right before World War I.

  2. Good point, but I think mine is still valid. Historically there were huge numbers of people killed by war. There are significantly less today.


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