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Frans B. M. de Waal is the C. H. Candler Professor of Primate Behavior at Emory University, Department of Psychology and the Director of Living Links, Yerkes National Primate Research Centre, at least according to Emory he is. He teaches classes in the Department's Neuroscience & Animal Behavior graduate program as well as (currently) an undergraduate class in Primate Social Psychology.

"Dr. de Waal received his Ph.D. in Biology and Zoology at Utrecht University, the Netherlands in 1977. He completed his postdoctoral study of chimpanzees while associated with Utrecht University, the Netherlands, 1975-1981. He has been a National Academy of Sciences member since 2004, and a Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences member since 1993. He is currently the Director of Living Links, Yerkes National Primate Research Center."

I've always found it rather exciting to remember that there is a difference between what we experience and what we think it means.

Tue May 05, 2009 2:55 am
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Time Magazine named de Waal one the 100 most influential people (2007),28804,1595326_1595329_1616472,00.html

Frans de Waal
By Coco Masters

Humans like to anthropomorphize. We ascribe human traits to what is nonhuman to bridge the gap—our version of emotional spackle. So computers become temperamental; dogs enjoy wearing sweaters. But what can we learn if we reverse the process and look for animal characteristics in ourselves?

Dutch-born primatologist Frans de Waal, 58, has been asking and answering that question for more than 30 years. The C.H. Candler professor of primate behavior at Emory University in Atlanta, De Waal sees humans as bipedal, bipolar apes. Trained in zoology and ethology, he has spent his career as a learned contrarian. Biologists and evolutionary scientists focus on competition, on what drives us apart. De Waal focuses on what brings us together: reciprocity, empathy, conflict resolution. Primates and Philosophers, De Waal's eighth book, released last year, argues that morality is not a high trait we acquired late but is etched into our instincts.

That's not to say we always behave. There are Machiavellian leaders among chimps, for example, and De Waal believes there is a straight line to be drawn from that to human politics. (Newt Gingrich recommended De Waal's Chimpanzee Politics for freshman Representatives in 1994.) A new study by De Waal and others found the roots of human gestures that accompany speech in similar signaling by bonobos. We may accept that we are descended from apes, but it takes the likes of De Waal to remind us that we haven't traveled that far.

I've always found it rather exciting to remember that there is a difference between what we experience and what we think it means.

Tue May 05, 2009 3:13 am
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How Morality Evolves is part of The University Center For Human Values Series, which also includes a book by Antonin Scalia. That made me wonder whether de Waal shares Scalia's conservative views.

However, his blog post Sotomayor's Empathy: Not for the Birds pushes aside such concerns.
That a candidate for the Supreme Court needs empathy, as Obama emphasized, is almost too obvious to pay attention to. Because apart from psychopaths, all humans are endowed with empathy, which is the capacity to be affected by the emotional states of others, and to become part of their situation. I can see how conservatives won't see much need for it, because their ideology tries to operate without empathy, such as when Rush Limbaugh mocked Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's symptoms or when Missouri Representative Cynthia Davis opposed school lunches, opining that "hunger can be a positive motivator." These are great examples of what happens when empathy is in short supply.

Sat Jul 18, 2009 11:20 am
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