Frans de Waal Quotes

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Frans de Waal

Frans de Waal
Born Franciscus Bernardus Maria de Waal
(1948-10-29) October 29, 1948 (age 68)
‘s-Hertogenbosch, North Brabant, Netherlands
Fields Primatologist, Ethologist
Influences Nikolaas Tinbergen, Jan van Hooff

I think we need to start thinking about grounding our moral systems in our biology.
Frans de Waal
Scientists are supposed to study animals in a totally objective fashion, similar to the way we inspect a rock or measure the circumference of a tree trunk. Emotions are not to interfere with the assessment. The animal-rights movement capitalizes on this perception, depicting scientists as devoid of compassion.
Frans de Waal
I was born in Den Bosch, where the painter Hieronymus Bosch named himself after. And so I've always been very fond of this painter who lived and worked in the 15th century.
Frans de Waal
I was too restless as a boy to sit through an entire mass. It was akin to aversion training. I looked at it like a puppet show with a totally predictable story line. The only aspect I really liked was the music.
Frans de Waal
The more self-aware an animal is, the more empathetic it tends to be.
Sometimes I read about someone saying with great authority that animals have no intentions and no feelings, and I wonder, 'Doesn't this guy have a dog?'
Frans de Waal
I was raised Catholic. Not just a little bit Catholic, like my wife, Catherine. When she was young, many Catholics in France already barely went to church, except for the big three: baptism, marriage, and funeral. And only the middle one was by choice.
Frans de Waal
It is well known that apes in the wild offer spontaneous assistance to each other, defending against leopards, say, or consoling distressed companions with tender embraces.
Frans de Waal
If one bird foraging in a flock on the ground suddenly takes off, all other birds will take off immediately after, before they even know what's going on. The one who stays behind may be prey.
Frans de Waal
Personally, I think it is possible to build a society that is moral on a nonreligious basis, but the jury is still out on that.
Frans de Waal
Very long ago our ancestors had moral systems. Our current institutions are only a couple of thousand years old, which is really not old in the eyes of a biologist.
Frans de Waal
Chimpanzees, typically, kiss and embrace after fights. They first make eye contact from a distance to see the mood of the others. Then they approach and kiss and embrace.
Frans de Waal
If there is any form of contagion that is adaptive, it is the immediate response to the fear of others. If others are fearful, there may be good reason for you to be fearful too.
Frans de Waal
Experiments with animals have long been handicapped by our anthropocentric attitude: We often test them in ways that work fine with humans but not so well with other species.
Frans de Waal
We need to separate the process of evolution – which is, indeed, a self-serving process – and the actual motivations of animals.
Frans de Waal
Darwin wasn't just provocative in saying that we descend from the apes – he didn't go far enough. We are apes in every way, from our long arms and tailless bodies to our habits and temperament.
Frans de Waal
A chimpanzee who is really gearing up for a fight doesn't waste time with gestures but just goes ahead and attacks.
Frans de Waal
The whole reason people fill their homes with furry carnivores and not with, say, iguanas and turtles, is because mammals offer something no reptile ever will. They give affection, they want affection, and respond to our emotions the way we do to theirs.
Frans de Waal
Octopuses have hundreds of suckers, each one equipped with its own ganglion with thousands of neurons. These 'mini-brains' are interconnected, making for a widely distributed nervous system. That is why a severed octopus arm may crawl on its own and even pick up food.
Frans de Waal
Although elephants are far more distantly related to us than the great apes, they seem to have evolved similar social and cognitive capacities.
Frans de Waal
Religions have a strong binding function and a cohesive element. They emphasize the primacy of the community as opposed to the individual, and they also help set one community apart from another that doesn't share their beliefs.
Frans de Waal
You should know as much as you can about the human species if you have a hand in designing human society.
Frans de Waal
Understanding the need for religion is a far superior goal to bashing it.
Religion may have become a codification of morality, and it may fortify it, but it's not the origin of it.
Frans de Waal

Human morality is unthinkable without empathy.
There has been so much underestimating of animal cognition that to perhaps overestimate it, as I probably do, is probably a healthy reaction.
Frans de Waal
I describe in 'Chimpanzee Politics' how the alpha male needs broad support to reach the top spot. He needs some close allies and he needs many group members to be on his side.
Frans de Waal
The intuitive connection children feel with animals can be a tremendous source of joy. The unconditional love received from pets, and the lack of artifice in the relationship, contrast sharply with the much trickier dealings with members of their own species.
Frans de Waal
Humans have a lot of pro-social tendencies.
Religion looms as large as an elephant in the United States, to the point that being nonreligious is about the biggest handicap a politician running for office can have, bigger than being gay, unmarried, thrice married, or black.
Frans de Waal
Many economists are great believers in the idea that everything in nature is competitive and that we should set up a society which is competitive to reflect that. Anyone who cannot keep up, well, too bad.
Frans de Waal
The primate laugh is given in playful contexts, and as such has a strong similarity to the human laugh.
Frans de Waal
One thing bothered me as a student. In the 1960s, human behavior was totally off limits for the biologist. There was animal behavior, then there was a long time nothing, after which came human behavior as a totally separate category best left to a different group of scientists.
Frans de Waal
People want to work with somebody who feels shame, who worries about the perceptions of others. Dishonesty is something we don't like in others.
Frans de Waal
In Africa, we have the bush meat trade, which means that, on a very large scale, animals are being killed in the forests and sold in the cities as a luxury food.
Frans de Waal
There are beautiful examples of art done by chimpanzees in human care.
Dogmatists have one advantage: they are poor listeners.
Most exotic animals are not particularly interested in people, which makes it hard to provoke them. Human-rearing gets them used to and sometimes imprinted on humans, which makes them potentially dangerous.
Frans de Waal
Empathy probably started out as a mechanism to improve maternal care. Mammalian mothers who were attentive to their young's needs were more likely to rear successful offspring.
Frans de Waal
Male bonobos really don't fit the human male ideal.
Science is not inherently good.
Chimps don't have language. Humans actively instruct others about how things should be done. Chimpanzees probably pick up cultural traditions by observation.
Frans de Waal
Female bonobos form a strong sisterhood. They rule through female solidarity.
Frans de Waal
Popular culture bombards us with examples of animals being humanized for all sorts of purposes, ranging from education to entertainment to satire to propaganda. Walt Disney, for example, made us forget that Mickey is a mouse, and Donald a duck. George Orwell laid a cover of human societal ills over a population of livestock.
Frans de Waal
The enemy of science is not religion. Religion comes in endless shapes and forms… The true enemy is the substitution of thought, reflection, and curiosity with dogma.
Frans de Waal
I have often noticed how primate groups in their entirety enter a similar mood. All of a sudden, all of them are playful, hopping around. Or all of them are grumpy. Or all of them are sleepy and settle down. In such cases, the mood contagion serves the function of synchronizing activities.
Frans de Waal
I am personally not against keeping animals at zoos, as they serve a huge educational purpose, but treating them well and with respect seems the least we could do, and with 'we' I mean not just zoo staff, but most certainly also the public.
Frans de Waal
I think the sense of fairness in humans is very strongly developed, and that's why we react so strongly to all the bonuses received by Wall Street executives. We want to know why they deserve these benefits.
Frans de Waal
Unlike the primate hand, the elephant's grasping organ is also its nose. Elephants use their trunks not only to reach food but also to sniff and touch it. With their unparalleled sense of smell, the animals know exactly what they are going for. Vision is secondary.
Frans de Waal
The term 'alpha female' originated in my field of animal behavior, but has acquired new meaning. It refers to women who are in charge, for example, by flirting and dating on their own terms. It is also used maliciously for a loud-mouthed, controlling woman who has no patience with deviating opinions.
Frans de Waal
What is the evolutionary value of blushing? It seems not to be to our advantage to do it, to involuntarily reveal our inner emotions. If we're trying to manipulate or lie, actions in furtherance of individual goals as opposed to the goals of others, blushing would not seem to be helpful. And yet everyone blushes, except the psychopath.
Frans de Waal
The fact that the apes exist and that we can study them is extremely important and makes us reflect on ourselves and our human nature. In that sense alone, you need to protect the apes.
Frans de Waal
Very ancient parts of the brain are involved in moral decision making.
I'm personally a nonbeliever, so I'm struggling with if we really need religion.
Frans de Waal
Our brains have been designed to blur the line between self and other. It is an ancient neural circuitry that marks every mammal, from mouse to elephant.
Frans de Waal
After World War II it was decided that, in order to prevent the Germans and the French from having another war, it would be better to tie them together into one economic pact so they would invest in each other and have mutual stakes. Until now, that has worked to prevent warfare between the two.
Frans de Waal
The sturdiest pillars of human morality are compassion and a sense of justice.
Frans de Waal
Chimps cannot tell us anything about peaceful relations, because chimps have only different degrees of hostility between communities. Whereas bonobos do tell us something; they tell us about the possibility of having peaceful relationships.
Frans de Waal
Chimpanzees have very strong preferences and aversions that are completely personality-linked. The people who are unsuccessful in working with chimpanzees are those who take this personally.
Frans de Waal
Following rules is, of course, the reason the dog is man's best friend is because the dog follows rules, and they actually do experiments on that, is that how well certain breeds of dogs follow rules, and how much they internalize them. And so many hierarchical animals, obviously they follow rules.
Frans de Waal
Future benefits rarely figure in the minds of animals.
The thinking is that we started evolving language not by speaking but by gesturing.
Frans de Waal
It is hard to get animals which normally pay little attention to each other to do things together. One can teach dolphins to jump simultaneously out of the water precisely because they show similar behavior spontaneously, but try to make two domestic cats jump together and you will fail.
Frans de Waal
If you look at national economies today, for example, the American economy, the European economy, the Indians, the Chinese, we're all tied together. If one of them sinks, the rest are going to sink with them and if one floats, the rest are lifted up. I find that very interesting.
Frans de Waal
The role of inequity in society is grossly underestimated. Inequity is not good for your health, basically.
Frans de Waal
Human morality is unthinkable without empathy.
Male chimpanzees have an extraordinarily strong drive for dominance. They're constantly jockeying for position.
Frans de Waal
War is evitable if conditions are such that the costs of making war are higher than the benefits.
Frans de Waal
Deep down, creationists realize they will never win factual arguments with science. This is why they have construed their own science-like universe, known as Intelligent Design, and eagerly jump on every tidbit of information that seems to go their way.
Frans de Waal
Exclusive homosexuality is not very common in nature.
There are many reasons for kindness, and religion is just one of them.
Closeness to animals creates the desire to understand them, and not just a little piece of them, but the whole animal. It makes us wonder what goes on in their heads even though we fully realize that the answer can only be approximated.
Frans de Waal
Bonobo studies started in the '70s and came to fruition in the '80s. Then in the '90s, all of a sudden, boom, they ended because of the warfare in the Congo. It was really bad for the bonobo and ironic that people with their warfare were preventing us from studying the hippies of the primate world.
Frans de Waal
When humans behave murderously, such as inflicting senseless slaughter of innocents in warfare, we like to blame it on some dark, 'animalistic' instinct.
Frans de Waal
If you look at human society, it is very easy, of course, to compare our warfare and territoriality with the chimpanzee. But that's only one side of what we do. We also trade, we intermarry, we allow each other to travel through our territory. There's an enormous amount of cooperation.
Frans de Waal
There's a long tradition in Western thought that humans are not shackled by biology, whereas animals are pure instinct machines.
Frans de Waal
There is little evidence that other animals judge the appropriateness of actions that do not directly affect themselves.
Frans de Waal