‘Our Inner Ape’ lecture to explore biological basis of character

Frans de Waal

When people do evil things, such as when they commit genocide, we call them “animals.” But when they act altruistically, we attribute it to their noble morality and call them “humane.”

Both sides of human nature, however, are tied to our biology. This will be the topic of Dr. Frans de Waal in his Harold McMaster Visiting Scientist lecture “Our Inner Ape: Human Nature as Seen by a Primatologist.” De Waal will explore the duality of human nature by looking at our two closest primate relatives, the chimpanzee and the bonobo. He will also share the latest findings of the Living Links Center on communication, cooperation, the sense of fairness and animal empathy and culture.

Hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences, his talk will be held from 4-5 p.m. on Sept. 23 in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union Theater and is free and open to the public.  A reception will follow in the Ingram-White Castle Foundation Lounge outside the theater


Known for his work on the social intelligence of primates, de Waal is the director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Center in Atlanta and the C.H. Candler Professor in the psychology department at Emory University. His first book, Chimpanzee Politics (1982), 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 scientific work has been published in hundreds of technical articles in journals such as Science, Nature and Scientific American. His popular books—translated into 15 languages—have made him one of the world's most visible primatologists. His latest books are Our Inner Ape (2005, Riverhead) and Primates & Philosophers (2006, Princeton).

He has been elected to the U.S. National Academy of Science and the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. Time magazine recently named him of the world’s 100 most influential people.
September 15, 2008