The GGSC is pleased to present this talk by Greater Good editorial board member Frans de Waal--world-renowned primatologist, one of Discover magazine's "47 Great Minds of Science," and a pioneer in the study of the evolutionary basis of empathy and kindness. Dr. de Waal's research is not only foundational to the GGSC's work but is always highly entertaining and eye-opening.
In this talk, he will explore the evolutionary roots of empathy and sympathy in animals.
The possibility that animals have empathy and sympathy has received little attention due to two factors. One is that evolutionary biology, until recently, preferred a "nature red in tooth and claw" view that had no place for kindness. The second has been an excessive fear of anthropomorphism and a taboo on the term "emotion" in relation to animals.
Both of these influences take little account of actual animal behavior, which would lead one to agree with Darwin that "many animals certainly sympathize with each other's distress or danger." In Dr. de Waal’s work with monkeys, apes, and elephants, he has found many cases of one individual coming to another's aid in a fight, putting an arm around a previous victim of attack, or other emotional responses to the distress of others. In fact, he posits that the entire communication system of nonhuman primates is emotionally mediated.
This event is free and open to the public.