There was a really interesting interview with Frans de Waal this morning on “the Life Scientific’.
de Waal has spent his life reporting on animal behaviour – particularly Chimpanzees and Bonobos. At every stage in his researches – from his first book, Chimpanzee Politics where explored the diplomacy needed and strategies chimps used – he’s explored animal life writing about sex, peace and reconciliation and morality in primate societies. His conclusion, at the end of the interview, is that there is no human capacity that is not present in animals except language.
It reminded me of Rochester’s great poem ‘A Satyr against Reason and Mankind’
Were I (who to my cost already am
One of those strange, prodigious creatures, man)
A spirit free to choose, for my own share
What case of flesh and blood I pleased to wear,
I’d be a dog, a monkey, or a bear,
Or anything but that vain animal,
Who is so proud of being rational.
The senses are too gross, and he’ll contrive
A sixth, to contradict the other five,
And before certain instinct, will prefer
Reason, which fifty times for one does err;
Reason, an ignis fatuus of the mind,
Which, leaving light of nature, sense, behind,
Pathless and dangerous wand’ring ways it takes
Through error’s fenny bogs and thorny brakes;
Whilst the misguided follower climbs with pain
Mountains of whimseys, heaped in his own brain;
Stumbling from thought to thought, falls headlong down
Into doubt’s boundless sea where, like to drown,
Books bear him up awhile, and make him try
To swim with bladders of philosophy;
In hopes still to o’ertake th’ escaping light;
The vapour dances in his dazzling sight
Till, spent, it leaves him to eternal night.
Then old age and experience, hand in hand,
Lead him to death, and make him understand,
After a search so painful and so long,
That all his life he has been in the wrong.
Huddled in dirt the reasoning engine lies,
Who was so proud, so witty, and so wise.
Read the full poem here.
The interview is here:
Source: BBC Radio 4 – The Life Scientific – Available now
And then there’s the Kinks: