Primatologist de Waal to discuss emotions among animals

Frans de Waal
Frans de Waal

Primatologist Frans de Waal will share his research findings on socially positive behaviors in animals and humans in his lecture “The Evolution of Connectivity: Empathy, Altruism, and Primate Social Skills.”

De Waal will deliver the 2014-15 Robert D. Clark Lecture at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 10 in Room 182 of Lillis Hall. It is free and open to the public and will be followed by a book sale and signing.

Until recently, it has been assumed that the behaviors that form the basis for human moral systems, such as cooperation, altruism, sympathy and empathy, fairness and reconciliation — generally, those positive traits that foster connectivity — were distinctly human qualities. But de Waal, who has been studying primates and other nonhuman mammals for more than 40 years, asserts that animals share many of these characteristics with humans.

Humans have long assumed that morality comes from religion or civilization or tradition. De Waal asks, “What if it is biological?” 

He notes: “To endow animals with human emotions has long been a scientific taboo. But if we do not, we risk missing something fundamental, about both animals and us.”

De Waal is the C.H. Candler Professor in the psychology department of Emory University and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Center in Atlanta. His popular books have made him one of the world’s most visible primatologists. His latest books are “The Age of Empathy” (2009) and “The Bonobo and the Atheist” (2013). 

The lecture is presented by the Oregon Humanities Center. For information or for disability accommodations, which must be made by Mar. 3, contact ohc@uoregon.edu or 541-346-3934.