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The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates Hardcover – 5 Apr 2013


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The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates + The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanism
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (5 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393073777
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393073775
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16.3 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 292,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By M. D. Holley TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 2 May 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There is much to admire here. Frans De Waal has a wonderful written style. He tackles difficult issues in a calm and reassuring way. In short this book is a pleasure to read.

He makes many profoundly wise points too. He is surely correct to point out that the overly abrasive style of some atheist writers can detract from their message. And that the temptation of dogmatism should be resisted on all sides.

I was impressed with the way he accepts without debate or apology the fact that chimpanzees and bonobos are fully conscious, sentient beings just like humans - that there is a continuum between us. The examples he gives of morality, of self control and of restraint in these creatures are really eye opening.

Overall this book is highly recommended - certainly it is much superior to the other recent book about humanism - `the God Argument' by A C Grayling.

And yet, though I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, at the end I was slightly disappointed. Whilst the apes show great empathy, altruism, self restraint and so on, there are other aspects of their behaviour which we would deem immoral in the circumstances of our modern civilised world. These negative moral behaviours are present in humans too, and were adopted (along with the positive things) by the major religions and became fossilised therein. How should we best address the poor morals present in these religions, and the effect they have on society, while preserving the good parts? This is like the `elephant in the room' which De Waal steps around altogether. I wanted to hear De Waal's wisdom on this, but it never came. I would recommend Stephen Pinker's book `Better Angels of our Nature' to anyone interested in a constructive discussion of these issues.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gillian Moss on 24 Sep 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A fascinating insight into the socio-biological origins of emotions of solidarity and generosity and evidence of these emotions in other species. Recommended for any one interested in relations between humans and other animals and in the basic characteristics of human nature.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By kailas@madasafish.com on 10 Mar 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Every page is an insight into who we are and how we react to the world. Ten out of ten.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By GwydionM on 8 Mar 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'd been impressed by Frans De Waal's earlier books about apes as such. In this one he tries to fit this into a wider context. But I don't think he succeeds.
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