24 April 2013

Monkeys with money and guns


Chapter 10 Japanese macaque

page 154: female assisted by a male to whom she grants privileges. In The Serpent's Promise, Steve Jones writes:
A male macaque was once observed to mate forty times in a day, which was more than the champion stud among thousands of men interviewed by Alfred Kinsey for his book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male managed in a week.
page 162: More on The Descent of Man at Five Books. Frans de Waal develops the point. As a recent review puts it
Mr de Waal’s central concern is to attack the idea that what humans call morality stands apart from, and above, anything found in the “lower” animals. Most people, he notes, accept that their bodies evolved from those of man’s predecessors, but the conceits of religion and philosophy make it much harder to accept that the same is true of human minds and behaviour, no matter how good the evidence.
page 166: Machiavelli's own beliefs [may be] better reflected in his Discources on Livy. Would Isaiah Berlin agree
Machiavelli calls the bluff not just of official morality—the hypocrisies of ordinary life—but of one of the foundations of the central Western philosophical tradition, the belief in the ultimate compatibility of all genuine values...Yet he is, in spite of himself, one of the makers of pluralism, and of its—to him—perilous acceptance of toleration.
page 168: [a] book less amenable to sectarian interpretation. Sectarian violence and ethnic cleansing are central to the Hebrew bible, notes Stephen Pinker in chapter 1 of The Better Angels of Our Nature. [1] For example:
In Deuteronomy 20 and 21, God gives the Israelites a blanket policy for dealing with cities that don't accept them as overlords: smite the males with edge of the sword and abduct the cattle, women and children. Of course, a man with a beautiful new captive faces a problem: since he has just murdered her parents and brothers, she may not be in the mood for love. God anticipates this nuisance and offers the following solution: the captor should shave her head, pare her nails and imprison her in his house for a month while she cries her eyes out. Then he may go in and rape her.
page 164: a high value on...fairness. See monkeys stay away from mean people.

page 168: endangered species. A recent UNEP reports notes that nearly 3,000 chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans are illegally killed or stolen from the wild each year. A story today on the plus side: there may be more habitat for an endangered cao vit gibbon on the border of China and Vietnam than feared.

Footnote [1]. A reported fall in violent crime in Britain looks like data that supports Pinker's central thesis.

This is the eleventh in a new series of notes and comments on chapters in The Book of Barely Imagined Beings. It appears around the time of the US publication, and adds to an earlier series that appeared around UK publication.

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