Editor and ESS Secretariate: Johan M.G. van der Dennen, Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Groningen, Oude Kijk in 't Jatstraat 5/9, 9712 EA Groningen, The Netherlands, Fax: +31 50 3635635, E-mail:

Book Review Editor: Marcel Roele, Meeuwenlaan 111a, 1021 HX Amsterdam, The Netherlands, E-mail:

ISSN: 0929-0206. Published by Origin Press, Groningen, The Netherlands

Calendar of Forthcoming Meetings

* August 31-3 September: 11th Congress of the European Anthropological Association in Jena, Germany. Main theme of the conference will be "Humans and Environment". For more information please contact Prof. U. Jaeger at the e-mail addres: Congress website:
* September 1-5, 1998: 9th Conference of the International Society for Comparative Psychology, Cape Town, South Africa. For more information please contact Dr. L.C. Simbayi, fax: 0404-31643, e-mail:
* September 2-4, 1998: Summer Conference of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour, University of Urbino, Italy. For more information please contact Giorgio Malacarne, e-mail: Website:
* September 3-6, 1998: The Association for Politics and the Life Sciences (APLS) will hold its first independent meeting in Boston, U.S.A.; the same dates and location as the American Political Science Association (APSA). The coincidence of the meetings will allow political scientists to attend sessions of both. E-mail:; URL:
* September 6-11, 1998: 16th Convention of the Ethologische Gesellschaft, Halle (Saale), Germany. For more information please contact Rolf Gattermann, e-mail: Website:
* October 25-29, 1998: The Life Sciences Department of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (C.N.R.S.) in France organizes its Jacques Monod Conference on "The Evolutionary Theory at the Dawn of the Millennium" at Roscoff, France. For more information please contact Mme Dominique Lidoreau, C.N.R.S., Conferences Jacques Monod, Institut de Biotechnologie des Plantes. Université Paris XI, Bâtiment 630, F-91405 Orsay Cedex, France. Fax: +33 169419614, e-mail: Website:
* December 3-4, 1998: Winter Conference of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour, Zoological Society of London, UK. Major theme: genetic analysis of behavior. For more information please contact Dr. M.G. Ritchie, Fax: +44-1334-463600, e-mail:, Website:
* 1999: SSHB Conference on "History and Biology" in Durham, UK. For more information please contact Dr. Malcolm Smith, University of Durham, Dept. of Anthropology, Old Elvet 43, DH1 3HN Durham, UK. E-mail:
* February 10-13, 1999: Conference on "Welfare, ethnicity and altruism: Bringing in evolutionary theory", Bad Homburg (near Frankfurt a.M.), Germany. For more information please contact the organizer Dr. Frank Salter at the e-mail address:
* August 24-28, 1999: The VIIth Congress of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology will be held in Barcelona, Spain. The location is the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. Contact person for submission of symposium proposals is: Dr. Lluis Serra, Departament de Genetica, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 645, 08071 Barcelona, Spain. Fax: +34-3-4110969, E-mail:
* September 1-4, 1999: 20th Congress of the Czech Anthropological Society & 4th International Congress of Dr. Ales Hrdlicka at Prague & Humpolec, Czech Republic). For more information please contact: Dr. M. Dobisikova, Department of Anthropology, The National Museum, Vaclavske namesti 68, 115 79 Praha 1, Czech Republic. Fax: +420 2 24226488; e-mail:
* September 20-24, 1999:): XI Congress of the Spanish Society of Biological Anthropology at Santiago de Compostela, Spain. For more information please contact: Dr. T.A. Varela, Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, Laboratorio de Antropologia Biologica, 15706 Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Fax: +34 98 159.69.04; e-mail:
* 2000: ESS Conference in Utrecht, the Netherlands. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of sociobiology, the main theme of the meeting will be: The reception of sociobiology in various countries and by various disciplines.
* 2000: SSHB Conference on Hominid evolution in Cambridge, UK. For more information please contact: Dr. Robert Foley, University of Cambridge, Department of Biological Anthropology, Downing street, Cambridge CB2 3DZ, UK. E-mail:
* 2000: 12th Congress of the European Anthropological Association (EAA). For more information please contact: Prof. N. Mascie-Taylor. E-mail:

The ESS Moscow Conference

An impression by STEPHEN K. SANDERSON, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA 15705, USA

The annual meeting of the European Sociobiological Society was held between May 31 and June 4, 1998, at the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow, Russia. The special theme of the meeting was "The Sociobiology of Ritual and Group Identity." The meeting was actually part of a joint conference, being organized in conjunction with an anthropological conference entitled "Concepts of Humans and Behavior Patterns in the Cultures of the East and the West." Each conference had its own sessions, but some sessions were joint sessions drawing speakers and participants from both conferences.
The conference organizers, Dr. Marina Butovskaya, Dr. Andrey Korotayev, and Dr. Olga Khristoforova showed us great hospitality. On Sunday, May 31, a bus tour of Moscow was organized, taking us in particular to the Kremlin and Red Square area of central Moscow. The Russians were extremely generous in accompanying small groups of us to various locations in central Moscow and translating and interpreting for us. On our last evening, several Russians took us on a long walking tour that ended with dinner at an outdoor cafe.
The conference itself started on Monday morning, June 1, with welcoming remarks by our hosts. ESS Chairman Peter Meyer of the University of Augsburg gave a brief talk that introduced the subject of human rituals, the special theme of the conference. The first session of paper presentations began after lunch. This session featured talks by M.G. Sadovsky and A.A. Gliskov of Krasnoyarsk State University on the biology of law, by Johan M.G. van der Dennen of the University of Groningen on rituals in animal and human behavior, with emphasis on human 'primitive' warfare, by Bergljot Borresen of the Norwegian College of Veterinary Medicine on the role of the hypothalamus in rituals, and by Robin Allott of the UK on group identity and nation identity.
After a break there was a late afternoon session that was a joint session for both conferences. Stephen Sanderson of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, who was actually a participant in both conferences, began this session by discussing theories of social evolution from the mid-nineteenth century to the present and outlining his own general theory of social evolution. This was followed by a talk on social evolution by Andrey Korotayev of The Russian State University for the Humanities. Korotayev's talk was a critical analysis of Marshall Sahlins's well-known concepts of specific and general evolution. Tatu Vanhanen of Helsinki University talked about his continuing work on the biological roots of ethnicity. He showed that there is an extremely close relationship between the degree of ethnic heterogeneity of societies and their degree of ethnic conflict. Next, Akop Nazaretyan, Deputy Editor of the journal Social Sciences Today, gave a talk on anthropogenic crises as consequences of uneven cultural development. The last speaker was Frank Salter of the University of Munich. His talk, which was accompanied by slides, outlined work he is doing on the ethology of begging.
The first session on Tuesday, June 2, was led off by Stephen Sanderson. He presented a paper on the new theoretical approach that he has developed, synthetic materialism. This is a synthesis of sociobiology with several sociological perspectives, and his talk was an extension of the theoretical approach he discussed in his previous talk, evolutionary materialism. Sanderson's paper was followed by one by A.V. Oleskin of Moscow State University. Oleskin's paper looked at primitive and modern societies from an ethological perspective. Marina Butovskaya discussed gender identity and same-sex group opposition in children. Alexander Kazankov of the Russian State University for the Humanities presented a paper on intercommunity conflicts among hunter-gatherer societies in arid regions. O.Y. Artemova of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Moscow, gave a paper on the biological roots of social inequality and its development. The final paper, by J. David McKnight of the London School of Economics, focused on the politics of death in northern Queensland, Australia.
The first afternoon session on Tuesday featured papers by A.A. Glisov and M.G. Sadovsky, Krasnoyarsk State University, on the existence and duration of social norms; by Alexander Kozintsev, Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, St. Petersburg, on the adaptive value of laughter; by William Kitchin, Loyola College of Baltimore, on law as anti-ritual; and by Zhanna Reznikova, Novosibirsk State University, on how ants identify symbionts and competitors. The late afternoon session contained papers by Natalia Haldeeva, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Moscow, on the concept of anthropological autoidentification; by Sabine Hoier, Kassel University, on alternative explanations of accelerated menarche among women from nonregular family environments; by Harald Euler, Kassel University, on kin investment of aunts and uncles; by V.N. Shinkaryov, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Moscow, on procreation ideas among the Khasi; and by Oleg Yegorunin, Moscow, on ethnonyms of Tai-speaking peoples.
On Wednesday, June 3 there were only two sessions. The morning session was given over to papers by Vladimir Friedmann, Moscow State University, on territorial defense in great spotted woodpeckers; by Osamu Sakura, Yokohama National University, on the reception of sociobiology in Japan; by K. Bannikov, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Moscow, on ritual and social structure in "extreme groups"; by Y.M. Plyusnin, Russian Academy of Sciences, on the sociobiology of friendship, and by Zhanna Reznikova, Novosibirsk State University on analogies of ant and human languages.
The afternoon session was reserved for a number of Russian and Czech primatologists: Margarita Dediagina on social behavior of neotropical monkeys; Natela Meishvili on parental behavior in macaques; Valery Chalyan on intergroup behavior in hamadryas baboons; and Marina Vanchatova, Leonid Firsov and Nina Savina on changes in behavior in a group of hamadryas baboons. For reasons unknown to us, none of these scholars showed up, so we unfortunately missed some fascinating presentations.
All in all, it was a very interesting meeting. Participants from outside Russia, most of whom had not been in Moscow before, were very pleased to be able to see it. Some participants had fun trying to learn some of the Cyrillic alphabet. And, again, our Russian hosts were most gracious and helpful.
During our last evening in Moscow we were treated to a generous banquet, and after that some of us drank vodka (what else!) and chatted in Marina Butovskaya's office until the early morning hours.

Sociobiological Exegesis

by BEN HOFFSCHULTE, Leuven, Belgium.

So far sociobiology has only been applied in a very general and rough way to some aspects of biblical notions. An exoteric view merely reveals the struggle for life of a people which has somehow managed to spread its 'memes' far beyond its own kin. A rather more esoteric reading is relegated to the simple minds of outdated believers who have not yet arrived at the higher notions of modern darwinism. This is, I think, a pity, since the bible can teach sociobiologists some lessons about history.
I am not going to comment here on the controversies between fundamentalist creationists and iconoclastic evolutionists, though I think that the bible gives a much more adequate account of the emergence of virginity (and the sabbath) than darwinists could ever achieve without the idea of a God who works miracles. My focus will be on Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as well as on Rebecca, the mother of Israel. It seems to me that there is much sociobiology in the vicissitudes of these at least half-historical persons.
Man and woman both want to profit from their reproductive investments. That is, I think, a safe sociobiological assumption. But in its practical application it is a source of serious conflicts. If a father wants to get hold of a son he must kill the latter's wish to stay with his mother. It is the drama of sacrificial initiation, explicit in the sacrifice which Abraham was induced to bring by the same force which later on prevented its execution. It was, I think, the mystical hand of Sarah which forced Abraham to share the fruit of his investments with the woman who had invested in its birth and early upbringing. In other words, he had to partially give up his male selfishness which was henceforth circumcised in his flesh if not primarily in his heart. This is, obviously, a very crucial step in the evolution from dominant ape to Homo sapiens. It is also, praise be to Darwin, a manifestation of the power of female choice: Sarah is very explicitly called a free, and beautiful, woman.
Isaac, thus rescued from the strategies of male dominance, had two sons with Rebecca: Jacob and Esau. In harmony with reasonable sociobiological predictions Isaac preferred the most masculine of the twin-brothers and gave him his paternal blessing, thus leaving Rebecca with the more effeminate Jacob. A paternal blessing is an asset in the struggle for life, but father's will is law and Rebecca had to suffer a disadvantage for her beloved son. What was to be done?
As long as Isaac was strong and quick to defend his interests there was no chance of forcing hem to a change of mind in favour of Jacob. But female choice is full of cunning and has the patience of a cat. Once Isaac was old, blind and dependent, Rebecca finally saw her momentum and pushed her beloved son to the famous trick for which only strict puritans could blame her. The selfish calculations of Isaac were at a loss. He could not afford to estrange his wife on whom he had become dependent. He may be supposed to have remembered his own rescue as a youth and he was forced to bow his head for the incomprehensible power of female choice. He gave his blessing to Jacob: so let it be done, so let it be written. And Jacob became Israel, thanks to the cunning of female choice.
Isaac was clearly forced to give in to the preference of Rebecca, but by way of comfort he daid to Esau that he would some day shake off this yoke and be free again. In the Talmud and other exegetical texts the conflict between Jacob and Esau is raised to the level of world history and made emblematic of such things as the struggle between Rome and Israel up to this day.
It is true that this great and fundamental victory of female choice has often been obscured in the later history of Israel, but then it always aroused the protest of prophets who tried to restore the laws of the land to their proper meaning. Regression to the old ways of male dominance was blocked by the obligation to always observe the sabbath in remembrance of the beginning and the exodus. Female choice is the very core of judaism which was brought to an apocalyctic climax in the christian belief that the virgin Mary conceived without the seed of a man.
This belief is, obviously, repugnant to the laws of stern sociobiological dogmatists and I am not going to defend it here. But the biblical shift from male to female choice is, albeit not quite recognisable in the external facts of Abrahamitic history, central to the message, and sociobiologists would clip the wings of their esoteric discipline by stopping short of allowing for the possibility that female choice could really transcend male imaginations.
Here we arrive at the reproach that sociobiology is mere macho-sexism or a kind of spermatozoic totalitarianism which leaves no room for the cunning of cute females. I am afraid is partly to the point as far as the words of many sociobiologists are concerned. But it is a great comfort to know that most adult sociobiologists honestly try to be good husbands while caring for children, reading books and tending the plants as well as the cat in their house. They may bark at their rivals, but generally they do not bite!


Richard Wrangham & Dale Peterson (1996) Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (New York: Houghton Mifflin & London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 0-395-69001-3 (Hdbk) US$24.95 ISBN 0-7475-3301-6 (Pbk) UK7.99, Pp. 350).

by ALYN R. BRERETON, 913 Carrigan Ave., Modesto, CA 95350, U.S.A.

"The patterns of rape in the five ape species suggest this strong idea: Safety is found in numbers. This could be a clue with wider significance. If vulnerability breeds sexual coercion, grouping and alliance may help explain other patterns of aggression" (p. 143). This worthy and insightful paragraph begins the section on chimpanzee battering in a chapter on relationship violence included in a timely and significant book written by Richard Wrangham (a noted Harvard primatologist) and Dale Peterson (a writer) entitled Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence. The idea that human violence and aggression, particularly that of males, has deep evolutionary roots is a concept that is long overdue. Violence and aggression are multicultural in expression and cross-species in appearance, especially among chimpanzees, our closest living relatives. In the realm and context of the arms race between the sexes, the thought that safety is found in numbers (notably for females) is a notion equally in need of theoretical and scientific attention. Wrangham and Peterson address both (and much more) with eloquence and style in their book that reads like a gripping murder mystery, but one packed with hard-earned data and well-established facts.
In seeking the origins of human violence, which is all too prevalent amongst males and expressed to some extent in all cultures, Wrangham and Peterson draw parallels between humans and common chimpanzees. Raiding behavior has been observed at Gombe and elsewhere where chimpanzee males from one community systematically attack and kill adjacent community members focusing on rival males. Based on these observations, the authors reasonably and convincingly conclude that similar behavior in humans may be linked by common ancestry. Male chimpanzees are also notorious for the brutality to which they subject females. This behavior pattern appears to be expressed purely for dominance and control.
But chimpanzees are not our only primate relatives that exhibit dominance and control over females, as the authors note. Male gorillas, for instance, are well known for penetrating the confines of a rival male's enclave of females and committing infanticide, grabbing and fatally wounding an infant right before the eyes of the victim's mother and all other onlookers, including the defending silverback resident. The purpose seems to be to entice and persuade the victim's mother to rendezvous and consort with the aggressor, the best defender of the female's future offspring.
Another example of male apes that commonly use brute force to win the 'favor' of females is found in orangutans. In this slightly more distant relative, the adult males seem to come in two quite distinct forms: the large, slow-moving, primarily ground-dwelling kind and the (as the authors state) "...freak of the ape world: an adult male frozen in an adolescent's body" (p. 132). It is the latter variety that performs what has come to be known amongst behavioral biologists as 'rape', unfortunately involving many of the signs of force and manipulation expressed in its human counterpart. The function of this extreme behavior by small males appears to be either a tactic for fertilization or sexual coercion. Rape by small males may impregnate females outright, or it may serve to control and intimidate females into being more sexually cooperative in the future.
Still, what about pygmy chimpanzees, or bonobos, as they are better known? Are they just as aggressive, brutal, and forceful as the human species and their fellow apes? Bonobos, like common chimpanzees, form non-female-bonded groups where females are genetically unrelated and emigrate from their natal groups upon reaching maturity. Unlike humans and other apes, there are no reports among bonobos of males forcing copulations, battering adult females, or killing infants. Rather, bonobos have, according to Wrangham and Peterson, "...reduced the level of violence in relations between the sexes, in relations among males, and in relations between communities" (p. 205). In relations between the sexes, for example, "...the sexes are codominant" (p. 205). Female bonobos seem to have turned the tables on males by befriending each other and allying together against males, even though they are genetically unrelated.
What could have possibly made bonobo society so different from human and other ape societies? The authors suggest that the rainforest environment in which bonobos find themselves may provide the answer. They reside just south of the Zaire River in Central Africa. Unlike the jungle north of the Zaire River where common chimpanzees reside, the forest south of the river is uninhabited by gorillas which eat fibrous foods consisting of "...young leaves and stems of herbs on the forest floor" (p. 223). This, as the theory proposes, makes these food items readily available for bonobo consumption, thereby releasing females to remain together while foraging to form alliances against potentially aggressive males. The hypothesis may prove to be correct, or it may not. I suggest an alternative premise as follows: Within the arms race between the sexes, females may have gained the upper hand by sexual selection favoring alliances among themselves because of the reproductive benefits gained from female choice. They refused to accept male sexual coercion and manipulation without a challenge, therefore gained the upper hand over males. This may have occurred regardless of the availability of gorilla-like foods. Despite its cause, though, when it comes to male violence and aggression, bonobo society reflects a genuine aberration in comparison with the societies of humans and other apes. Bonobo society appears to be much kinder and gentler. We would do well to take note.
Wrangham and Peterson cover far more ground than what I have just outlined. But does all this data presentation and theorizing support the notion that human violence and aggression has its roots in our ape ancestry? I believe it does. I also believe that you will be hard pressed to deny this ancestral connection once you have read the book for yourself. You will not view human behavior, particularly violent and aggressive behavior, without thinking long and hard about its likely primate origins. And as safety is found in numbers, as mentioned earlier, you may further wish to ponder the ultimate reasons for humans and other primates being social in the first place. Could sociality have evolved (in part, at least) to protect females from suffering at the hands of demonic males? Once again, I suspect it did.1
I commend the authors for an insightful and tantalizing book. It should be read by all who wish to find another way.

Acknowledgments: I thank Kris Ketcham Chappell for her insightful comments on this review.

1. Brereton, A.R. (1995) "Coercion-defence hypothesis: The evolution of primate sociality." Folia Primatol. 64: 207-214.


Duane Quiatt & Junichiro Itani (Eds.) (1994) Hominid Culture in Primate Perspective. Niwot, CO: University Press of Colorado. ISBN 0-87081-313-7 (Hdbk) US$32.50 Pp. xvii + 391.

by RICHARD W. BYRNE, Scottish Primate Research Group, University of St. Andrews, School of Psychology, St. Andrews KY16 9JU, Scotland.

There can be few terms so far from agreed definition as "culture". Commendably, the editors of this volume are determined to avoid prejudging the question of whether we can learn about culture from comparison with non-humans, and their remedy is to define culture as "socially processed information", which could apply widely to mammals and birds. (Nevertheless, this volume is restricted to primates, chiefly great apes, and some chapters only deal with extinct hominids and modern humans.) The ten chapters are grouped into four sections, but since two are single-chapter sections, the main split is between the problems of comparison and the cognition itself; I did not find this division particularly sharp, or helpful. The chapters vary from under 20 to nearly 60 pages, and the general impression is that the invited authors were allowed a rather free rein. The results are interesting, but do not cohere into any clear 'story'. This is probably a fair reflection of the field.
The whole first section, Hominid Origins, is a chapter by Savage-Rumbaugh which - rather than reviewing hominid origins - uses the abilities of living apes to argue for an interesting idea. This is that the human ability to monitor several channels of information simultaneously may have arisen from the need to keep track of a non-clinging but dependent infant, in addition to oneself, and the fact that this need increased in human ancestry with the amount of bipedal locomotion. She suggests that this new requirement led to the development of joint attention ability - and to the ability to carry and monitor other items, such as tools, as a side-benefit. Her review of what modern apes can and cannot do in these spheres is used to support her hypothesis, which is perhaps going to be hard to differentiate from the more traditional one, that bipedalism led to increased mental and manual skills because of the greater benefits that accrue to efficient tool-makers who can carry their products.
One of the most fascinating chapters for me was that of Hewes, who makes a highly detailed comparison of the Mrabi, Tasaday (a group which he strongly considers genuine), extinct Tasmanians, and modern chimpanzees, not just in tool manufacture but over a wide range of aspects. His conclusions, that the Mrabi and Tasaday are better "baseline" cultures with which to compare animal achievements than the relatively advanced Tasmanians, and that the most significant differences are closely related to language, may seem unsurprising, but the value of the study is in showing how close human culture can be to modern great apes when viewed objectively, and in the wealth of detail in his massive comparative table. Myers-Thompson takes the unusual approach of examining an element of behaviour shown only in captivity, clapping in bonobos, and argues that this meets some definitions of culture - it survives over generations and from group to group, for instance. Morbeck shows how variation in manipulation and locomotion of individually known Gombe chimpanzees can be related to their skeletal modifications, a useful technique for interpreting fossil material. Reynolds completes the section devoted to "problems of comparison", with a discussion of great ape mate choice and human marriage systems, arguing that one is merely the logical extension of the other; interestingly, he does not do this by reducing human behaviour to mate choice, but interprets ape behaviour more as it would be described by a social anthropologist.
In recent years, numerous authors have tried to make sense of a puzzling array of clever-seeming traits of primates, vaguely belonging together since they might benefit from mental representation: deception, pretence, mirror self-recognition, imitation, and communication. Mitchell has been prominent in these debates, and his chapter here is an ambitious attempt to classify all of these things in a single scheme, under the rubric of "simulation" - where something is designed to resemble something else. He develops four levels of increasing cognitive sophistication. At the bottom is simply the use of an action in a novel context to achieve a result, which he suggests all mammals and birds should be able to do - as in tactical deception, developing scepticism to deception, or the use of a mirror to locate objects. (In fact, almost all evidence of them comes from simian primates.) Next comes simulation based on kinaesthetic-visual matching, which allows imitation of actions, simple planning, and mirror self-recognition, abilities attributed to all simians and cetaceans. (Again, this is generous, when there is little convincing evidence from monkeys.) The third level he restricts to great apes, including conventionalization of novel signs, use of eye-gaze and pointing, teaching and requesting with objects; and finally comes the creation and use of external props, such as art, body decoration and disguise, which he considers only found in humans. Whether this classification will turn out to aid future research is too early to say, but it is well worth a second read, in conjunction with Miles & Harper's useful review of the achievements of "ape language" projects, since some of the most interesting evidence comes from these individuals. This chapter argues that the achievements of enculturated apes are a good model for the abilities of early hominids, and Liska suggests that ritualization laid the foundation for the evolution of symbols and syntax, both ideas I found hard to evaluate. As usual, Ingold's contribution is a thoughtful one - he examines six possible ways in which language and technology might be related in evolution - and his conclusion is somewhat bleak: that progress is impeded as much by our inability to agree proper definitions of either term, as by inability to see into the past.
In the final section, a single chapter by Milo & Quiatt, the archaeological evidence for language origins is reviewed. The authors conclude that, while fully vocal language is a recent development, there is good reason to think that a relatively efficient gestural language existed much longer in human evolution. This is a fitting ending to a book dedicated to Gordon Hewes, who died in November last year. All those fascinated by the evolutionary origins of language and human culture should read this book, although they will not find any easy answers. Nevertheless, it would be hard for anyone doing so to continue to deny the power of viewing human culture against a proper background of comparison, the social and cognitive lives of the great apes.


Albert Somit & Joseph Losco (Eds.) (1995) Research in Biopolitics. Vol. 3. Human Nature and Politics. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press. ISBN 1-55938-866-8. Pp. vii + 305. UK47.00.

Reviewed by JOHAN M.G. van der DENNEN, Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Groningen, the Netherlands.

In some social and political science circles, sociobiology is still associated with "innate killer instincts" and such like (if this sounds incredible, see page 12 of Wolpin, 1992. Wolpin was/is Prof. of Political Science at SUNY). It needs some (moral) courage to profess to adhere to a bio-discipline such as biopolitics. Biopolitics - to my mind - was associated with rather inoffensive (and rather dull), very proximate-level theory and research, a kind of traditional `floating voter' investigation, but now with some genetics, endocrinology (hormones), and biochemistry (serotonin and other neurotransmitters) thrown in as extras. The present volume, however, endeavors to address ultimate-level questions, in particular (the nature of) human nature.
After an introduction by the editors Joseph Losco and Albert Somit (who give a very accurate description of how this elusive human nature might look like: "[T]he human organism may be predisposed to confront environmental exigencies with a predictable and patterned array of behavioral strategies"), the volume is opened by Albert Somit and Steven Peterson ("Darwinism, Dominance, and Democracy"). They explore the extent of compatibility between democracy and human nature. Throughout human history, the overwhelming majority of political societies has been authoritarian. Democracies remain very much a minority in the contemporary family of nations. Why have authoritarian societies been so pervasive and enduring, and democracies so infrequent and fragile? Somit & Peterson give the `politically incorrect' answer that evolution has produced a highly social species, Homo sapiens, with an inherent preference for hierarchical social and political systems, with a strong tendency toward obedience, dominance and subordination, rather than equality of status and power. Supporting their viewpoint with evidence from a variety of life sciences (primatology, child ethology, small group psychology) and from the human historical record, in which democracies seem to enjoy relatively brief life spans, Somit & Peterson conclude that, although the manifestation of democracy is not impossible, it is a rare and endangered species.
This conclusion contrasts with other studies (e.g., Vanhanen, 1992) which show that democracy is a feasible, viable, and rather successful form of political society in the contemporary world. The authors do not, however, seize the opportunity to discuss this controversial evidence, nor the growing body of evidence that democracies are relatively peaceful, at least among one another (In their recent book Darwinism, Dominance and Democracy [1998] this omission is, however, somewhat rectified).
The next chapter ("Human Nature and Aggression: And Where Do We Go from Here?") addresses human aggression. James Davies contends that aggression is not spontaneous but is created by conditions of need ("a response to the frustration of innate desires"). He holds that: "Regarding violence as a response makes it possible not only to explain why it occurs - when innate desires are frustrated - but also to explain why it ends - when innate desires are satisfied". While we may understand how many of these conditions contribute to the arousal of aggressive acts, political scientists have spent far too little time studying ways to correct these conditions. This chapter has a high déja-vu-content (Davies has been communicating the same message for some 25 years now) and seems strangely out-of-place, and sometimes even contradicting the general tenor of the book.
The next two chapters address more specialized and venerable themes within political philosophy and illustrate the ways in which the life sciences may provide fresh insights. In this posthumously published paper ("Natural Law, Nature, and Biology: A Modern Synthesis"), Richard Hartigan - to whom the volume is dedicated - proposes that the life sciences could breathe new life into the traditions held in the philosophy of natural law, of which he gives a broad overview from its Platonic and Aristotelian inception to Edward O. Wilson and Richard Alexander. Biology can provide a blueprint for a naturalistic ethic, one which is both universal and flexible. He asserts, for example, that the Judeo-Christian Decalogue makes sound sense from an evolutionary perspective. The Ten Commandments provide directives that helped insure survival and procreation during our evolutionary history as a species. Particularly noteworthy is Hartigan's distinction between `absolute' and `universal' moral code:

Though often used interchangeably, they should not be so understood. If the term `absolute' conveys anything, it is the characteristic of immutability; `universal' on the other hand simply conveys the condition of generality, but allows for the possibility of exception. Thus, from a scientific vantage, the core of human morality can be described as universal, as flowing from human nature, without implying some sort of absolute determinism of either a metaphysical or material kind.
With this distinction in mind the seeming contradiction between principles of a universal nature and enormously varied cultural/ customary applications of these principles disappears. The core principles of life, property and lineage protection and enhancement are universal; the secondary tier, the concrete application of specification of these principles, in various human societies at different times will admit of variation. This is a verity as old as the Greeks, accepted by the Medievals and apparent to us today. It is really nothing more than the distinction between primary and secondary principles of the natural law, if one still chooses to use these terms. The only modern innovation that is required is to maintain the perspective of human evolution as the generating source of human morality (p. 100-101).

Joseph Losco ("Liberalism and the Bifurcated Self: A Life Sciences Critique of Liberal Political Psychology") addresses a fundamental principle concerning liberal political psychology and considers it incomplete in the light of contemporary life science findings. The distinction between (or the antinomy of) passion and reason in human behavior has been noted by all major Western thinkers ever since Plato recognized the tripartite division of the human soul. Losco finds such a distinction untenable. Rather, biological findings are mustered to show that reason and passion are interactive and inseparably linked. He presents theories of the emotions by Scott, Gibbard, and Plutchik, and concludes that emotional arousal and display rarely occur in a `cognitive vacuum'. Cognitions indeed play a major role in the triggering and expression of emotions. For example, in the emotional experience of fear, a stimulus must be `interpreted' as threatening before the sequence of physiological and motor responses that we associate with the subjective feeling of fear can be executed. He goes on to explore the consequences of these findings for the creation of a more accurate political psychology and for the study of politics in general. The consequent typos, `thalmus' instead of `thalamus' and `amagdala' instead of `amygdala', are a little bit annoying in this chapter.
Darwin offered, in the Descent of Man (1871), an evolutionary theory of the natural differences between men and women, here he concluded that as far as `mental power' is concerned "man has ultimately become superior to woman". A few years later, in 1875, Antoinette Brown Blackwell responded with the first feminist criticism of Darwin in her book The Sexes Throughout Nature. She argued that Darwin's evidence did not support his conclusion. Although males and females tend to differ in their natural propensities, these differences do not justify any male claim to moral or intellectual superiority. Blackwell's feminist argument rested on a modern biological version of ethical naturalism. Larry Arnhart ("Human Nature - One, Two, or None?: Feminism and Primatology") argues that feminist primatology supports ethical naturalism that is rooted in evolutionary biology. Patriarchal exploitation can be condemned as being contrary to women's natural needs and capacities, although prudence is required in recognizing how ecological circumstances limit the range of practicable reform. Some feminists, however, reject naturalistic realism in favor of nihilistic relativism. Arnhart attempts to illustrate how such relativism is disastrous for the feminist position because it deprives the feminist of any ground in nature for criticizing patriarchal claims: "if there are no human universals that define `man' and `woman', but only radically diverse cultural constructions of gender, then `man' and `woman' as categories have no general meaning and feminist theory is impossible". Arnhart illustrates the power of feminist naturalism by examining the practice of female circumcision.
A mini-roundtable discussion follows on a recently proposed and influential biological model for the study of human political behavior. The roundtable is initiated by Roger Masters' book The Nature of Politics which sketches a blueprint for biopolitical study stressing the interaction of genes and learning according to a hierarchical pattern. Masters' model demonstrates how individual behavior is nested within the context of physical and social systems involving interaction among all levels and is not to be reduced to explanations at any one level alone: "Human behavior is the product of an integration, within the brain and central nervous system of each individual, of phylogenetically selected information transmitted by the genes, historically selected information systems transmitted by language and cultural symbols, and individually learned information acquired during the life cycle". The model, briefly reconstructed here by Losco, suggests that, as Aristotle posited, Homo sapiens are political animals (`zoon politikon') `par excellence' and that politics can be defined as a biological phenomenon that consists of elements which we share with our primate ancestors and certain unique elements, like law and customary regulation, that are found in human groups alone. Masters suggests that this model can go a long way in helping us understand political phenomena like bureaucracy and nepotism. Heinz Eulau and Susan Zlomke ("Biological Phenomena, Levels of Analysis, and Reductionism: Masters' Model of Human Behavior as a Case Study") criticize Masters' model and find it insufficient for the coherent study of politics. They claim that Masters confounds units and properties and conflates levels of analysis employed in his model by slipping between terminology and concepts employed at different levels. They further assert that, in Masters' attempt to avoid what he appears to take as the negative consequences of reductionism, he fails to demonstrate the utility of a biological model over and against alternative approaches which concentrate on more traditional definitions of politics. This critique is followed by a rejoinder by Masters ("The Paradigm Shift in the Social Science: A Reply to Eulau and Zlomke"), in which he supports his arguments using all his hobbyhorses up to quantum mechanics and chaos theory. Apart from the question whether such acrimonious (under the skin) verbal feuds should be fought out in a book of this caliber, this debate between Eulau & Zlomke, on the one hand, and Masters, on the other, is a fine example of communication at cross-purposes. If the formers' chapter is a masterpiece of misunderstanding, the latter's chapter is a masterpiece of evasion.
Robert Blank ("The Changing Nature of Human Nature") shows that advances in biological knowledge, especially genetic technology, may make any understanding of human nature short-lived. Biological knowledge has given us not only the means to understand the biological foundations of human action, but also the means to alter it: "If there is a genetic basis to human nature, and through genetic engineering we are able to break the code, there is nothing to stop us from controlling or changing the nature of what it means to be human". With the anticipated conclusion of the human genome program early in the next century and the development of gene splicing technology, humans may be able to alter human nature in ways that were considered fantastic only a generation ago. Blank analyzes the implications of these technologies for the whole enterprise of human nature and for the study of politics as it has been traditionally undertaken. He sketches some frightening scenarios if technologies for prenatal diagnosis, genetic screening and genetic engineering would become generally available, of which the anticipation of substantial parental demand to maximize their progeny's chances is the least scary.
Finally, Garry Johnson's chapter ("The Evolutionary Origins of Government and Politics") attacks the question: `How does a life science approach to human nature help us understand the phenomenon of government and politics?' Johnson's response is based on an unconventional definition of government: the hierarchical, organizing principle inherent in all life forms from the eukaryotic cell to the human nation state. Though this open-ended and functionalist definition is likely to draw fire, Johnson nevertheless makes the plausible argument that human governments arose as a means of inducing cooperation and inhibit conflict among aggregations of nonrelated individuals for whom kinship once served to insure a modicum of social harmony. Politics is defined as "competitive efforts to influence a government", a complex game involving rampant manipulation, rationalisation, and (self)deception. "Regardless of how the benefits are distributed... it is clear that associations of individual units, from genes to nation-states, are often more effective competitors than solitary individual units". All instances of such collaboration appear to be built on one or more of the three foundations: nepotism, reciprocity (perhaps a better name would be what Peter Corning called `selfish cooperation'), and exploitation. Politics thus defined also exists among primates, bee colonies, and, indeed, in all sexually-reproducing social species, and even multicellular organisms and cells themselves. Johnson concludes that (a) government and politics are probably a universal human phenomena; and (b) government and politics are not confined to humans, but originated early in the history of life on earth and may be found at every level of life's hierarchy. His biocentric approach serves to instruct political scientists in the potential utility of paying attention to the organization of the physical universe and to nonhuman animal societies when making conclusions about human political arrangements.
This last chapter is a fine and thought-provoking finale to a symphonic work which has a few disharmonies and discords. The strangest discordant sound is produced, as noted above, by Davies. His chapter seems out-of-place and included for the wrong reasons. It has little to do with biopolitics in general and human nature in particular; it has a very narrow proximate focus; as most American behaviorists he conflates the existence of the agonistic behavioral system (in organisms of at least the phyla Arthropoda and Chordata) with (manifestations of) aggression and (acts of) violence; and his concept of aggression (a variant of the outdated frustration-aggression theory applied here to groups) is untenable in an ultimate and comparative context.
The editors have done an excellent job to encourage and stimulate the necessary study of (the nature of) human nature in the light of evolutionary theory (to paraphrase the famous Dobzhansky adage: "Nothing makes sense in politics, except in the light of evolution"), and the book should be obligatory reading for students of biopolitics as well as other bio-disciplines.


Corning, P. (1983) The Synergism Hypothesis: A Theory of Progressive Evolution. New York: McGraw- Hill.
Fox, R. (1991) "Aggression: Then and Now". In: M.H. Robinson & L. Tiger (Eds.) Man and Beast Revisited. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Somit, A.O. & S.A. Peterson (1998) Darwinism, Dominance and Democracty: The Evolutionary Bases of Authoritarianism. New York: Praeger.
Vanhanen, T. (1992) On the Evolutionary Roots of Politics. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers.
Wolpin, M.D. (1992) "State Terrorism and Death Squads in the New World Order". Peace Research Reviews, 12, 3, whole issue.

This is an abridged and revised version of a review which also appeared in Journal of Social & Evolutionary Systems, 19, 3, 1996, pp. 287-92.


Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and Roger Lewin (1994) Kanzi: The Ape at the Brink of the Human Mind. London & New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-40332-1 (Hdbk) UK 16.99 US$ 24.95 Dl 55.05 (Dutch importer: Van Ditmar). Pp. xvii + 299.

by JAMES H. FETZER, Department of Philosophy, University of Minnesota, 10 University Drive, DULUTH, MN 55812, U.S.A.

This lucid and fascinating book reports the results of years of research at the Yerkes Regional Primate Center located near Atlanta, GA, where Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and others have conducted painstaking and systematic studies of higher primates, especially chimpanzees and bonobos, in an attempt to uncover what are properly envisioned as the mental abilities of other species. Her work not only provides insights about the modes of operation of the minds of other animals but also explores reasons why scientific research in this area has been plagued and inhibited by mistaken paradigms and inadequate methodologies.
These mistaken paradigms have revolved about various doctrines that have been widely accepted in the past, especially theses about the nature of language as a distinctive attribute of Homo sapiens, a view that derives principally from the work of Noam Chomsky, who has dominated theoretical linguistics for most of the second-half of the 20th C. Chomsky's emphasis on syntactical structures has encouraged the conceit that the study of these structure has the ability to lay bare the nature of the human mind and its corollary that all languages can be unified by properly understanding some innate universal grammar (p. 156).
From this point of view, the phrase, 'human mind', assumes a certain kind of redundancy, insofar as Chomsky has cultivated the notion that languages are unique properties of humans, which implies that minds, as language-dependent information-processing mechanisms, are likewise uniquely human - where any 'mind' must be human. As Savage-Rumbaugh observes, however, this attitude appears to be incompatible with evolution, where the emergence of adaptations crucially depends upon multiple sources of genetic variation and mechanisms of selection, where higher-level properties typically have lower-level antecedents.
Chomsky's approach would be plausible, therefore, only if it were reasonable to suppose that Homo sapiens should be expected to have abilities and capacities of fundamental importance to its successful adaption that differ from those of its evolutionary ancestors not merely in degree but in kind. This conception calls to mind the image of Athena, full-grown and armed, springing from the head of Zeus without the benefit of gestation. Strictly speaking, outcomes of both kinds might not be logically impossible (inconsistent with the laws of logic) but they appear to be highly improbable if not physically impossible (inconsistent with natural laws).
Indeed, Savage-Rumbaugh's studies provide extensive evidence for capacities and abilities that, superficially, at least, look like modes of mentality exercised by bonobos and chimps. Sherman and Austin, for example, young male chimpanzees, proved quite adept at the use of lexigrams as arbitrary combinations of geometric forms arranged in a sequence on a keyboard, each of which stands for one word, including verbs, nouns, and adjectives (p. 182). The chimps were then exposed to samples or examples of things of the kind for which specific lexigrams stood in an effort to teach them the names of objects through a process of association (p. 63).
Savage-Rumbaugh soon discovered that Sherman and Austin were not learning the meaning of the banana-lexigram, for example, when she showed them bananas. On the contrary, they were preoccupied with the reward they would received when they pressed the symbol key. Instead of the physical banana serving as 'stimulus' for a banana-lexigram press response', the chimps were pressing the lexigram as a 'stimulus' for their investigators to give them food. Once the researchers began to reward them after they displayed appropriate responses, however, the process of mastering lexigrams proceeded smoothly and led to rapid learning (pp. 63-66).
The difference involved here appears to be that between classical conditioning and operant conditioning, which makes a great deal of sense, especially since the process of association was not followed by reinforcing rewards. When examples were no longer displayed, the chimps experienced frustration, until they grasped (what Savage-Rumbaugh calls) the referential use of lexigrams, namely: their use to refer to objects and events even when they are not physically present (p. 243). This ability was manifest, for example, in the form of requests, where one chimp might request a banana, another juice, even when they were inaccessible to view.
Savage-Rumbaugh was thus motivated to distinguish at least four aspects of lexigram learning: (1) that 'words' are more than simple associations between symbols and objects; (2) that even complex utterances can be produced without implying comprehension; (3) that developing comprehension entails violations of stimulus-response chains; and (4) that comprehensions are manifest, in part, by requests and other indications of future behavior (p. 127). Subsequent studies with Kanzi, a male bonobo, who proved quite adept at learning English words as well as lexigrams, often without explicit instruction, were even more impressive.
One of the most remarkable of these studies involved comparisons between Kanzi and Alia, the daughter of a colleague, when Kanzi was 7 1/2 and Alia was 2:

Over a nine-month test period, both Kanzi and Alia had demonstrated a well-developed ability to comprehend all types (and subtypes) of sentences [including conditionals], with Kanzi scoring just a little ahead. Overall, Kanzi correctly answered 74 percent of the sentences, while Alia's figure was 65. (p. 171)

Other results were extremely interesting in different ways. Sherman and Austin, for example, were able to use food labels (package wrappers) for Doritos, M&Ms, and Velveeta cheese when lexigrams were unavailable, even though this was not something they had been taught (pp. 87-90). And bonobos turned out be highly skilled in using hand gestures to indicate the motions desired of others, including telling sex partners the positions that they wanted them to assume (pp. 112-113).
Ultimately, Savage-Rumbaugh concludes that comprehension is more essential or fundamental to language than is production, while offering the hypothesis that comprehension drives language learning as an alternative to Chomsky's innatist account (pp. 167-168). She observes that Chomsky's position has been widely regarded as the 'default' option in the absence of reasonable alternatives, even though no anatomic evidence for innate language modules has been discovered. Envisioning languages as forms of symbolic communication appears to provide a more adequate conception (pp. 187-188). A broader framework is required.
The theory of signs (or 'semiotic') advanced by the philosopher Charles S. Peirce (1839-1914), for example, distinguishes between three different ways in which something can stand for something else (in some respect or other) for somebody, namely: when that something resembles that something else; when that something is a cause-or-effect of that something else; and when that something is habitually associated with that something else. Signs as things that can stand for other things thus fall into three types as icons (including photographs and statues), indices (smoke, fire and ashes), and symbols (words and sentences).
Peirce's theory of signs affords an avenue to the nature of mentality, where minds are semiotic (or 'sign-using') systems (Fetzer 1988, 1989, 1990, 1996a). There thus appear to be at least three kinds of minds, specifically: iconic, which have the ability to use icons; indexical, which have the ability to use indices; and symbolic, which have the ability to use symbols, which are successively stronger kinds of mentality (since symbolic entails indexical and indexical entails iconic). Ordinary languages involve the use of symbols, which are only one among three kinds of signs, and thus involves the highest but not the only kind of mentality.
All symbols are signs, but not all signs are symbols. All symbol users have minds, but not all minds are symbol users. Anything that has the ability to use signs by taking something to stand for something else in some respect or other qualifies as having a mind, whether iconic, indexical, or symbolic in kind. It is therefore essential in the study of the mind not to presuppose whether human beings, other animals, or inanimate machines can or cannot possess minds. That explains why, in defining 'minds' as sign-using systems, it is indispensable to say "for something", and not "for somebody", to avoid precluding possibilities.
It is fascinating to observe that the chimpanzees and bonobos that Savage-Rumbaugh studies exemplify the use of signs of all three kinds: lexigrams, for example, are arbitrary signs that are merely habitually associated with that for which they stand (and therefore qualify as symbols); package wrappers may be viewed as (admittedly artificial) causes of the contents for which they stand (and therefore qualify as indices); and hand gestures to indicate the motions desired of others (in specific ways) resemble them (and therefore qualify as icons). Savage-Rumbaugh thus adduces evidence that these are sign-using (or semiotic) systems.
Indeed, some of her descriptions are exactly what ought to be expected from the perspective of the conception of minds as semiotic systems. If the use of symbols presupposes the use of indices, then we should expect outcomes such as this:

When apes produce symbols, they are attempting to affect the behavior of others - for example, to ask for a banana. When apes comprehend symbols directed toward them, they are expected to bring about the effect intended by the user of the symbols. (p. 126)

This passage, after all, illustrates that symbolic mentality presupposes indexical, where the use of symbols can function as causes-or-effects in social interaction. This relationship is more subtle than that indexical mentality presupposes iconic, because the use of signs as causes-or-effects presupposes the ability to recognize different instances of uses of signs as instances of uses of signs of the same kind.
An even stronger indication that the theory of minds as semiotic systems fits the empirical data that Savage-Rumbaugh has obtained with chimps and bonobos emerges from her finding that the language of apes was unlike human language:

It wasn't a complex language, not a language with syntax. It was more a culture language, a complex set of behaviors that was the way the chimps' lives were lived in the laboratory. It made one think of Homo sapiens without sophisticated spoken language - intelligent, sensitive creatures, able to communicate and coordinate their behavior in a collective subsistence effort. (p. 85)

And this is exactly what ought to be expected, because understanding the meaning of a sign is a process of acquiring habits of action and habits of mind relating signs to behavior, where the meaning of a sign should be viewed dispositionally.
Consider a simple case, such as a red light at an intersection. What this sign means for those who have mastered the rules of the road and understand road signs is to apply the breaks and come to a complete halt. When a driver comes up to a stop sign, of course, his behavior may not conform to those expectations, precisely because he is affected by other internal states, such as other beliefs, motives, and ethics. Felons with the police in hot pursuit would be expected to run the light and risk a collision, even though they understand its meaning, just as a husband whose wife has gone into labor might cautiously continue without stopping, because he is eager to get her to a nearby hospital for a safe delivery.
Thus, these internal states constitute a context in relation to which the meaning of signs must be understood, where the same sign means the same thing to other sign-users just in case they would have dispositions of the same or similar strength to display all and only the same behavior under the same conditions if they were in the same context, which includes their abilities and capabilities as well (Fetzer 1989, 1991, 1994). Savage-Rumbaugh is therefore entirely correct to maintain, as she does, that "Unlike chemicals, [animal] behaviors cannot be reasonably separated from the entire context in which they occur" (p. 254).
Savage-Rumbaugh concludes that comprehending and producing language turn out to be very different things, which is precisely what we should expect from the semiotic point of view, because comprehension is roughly analogous to the totality of uses to which signs might be put, while production is the use of specific signs on specific occasions for specific purposes. Thus, focusing on production rather than on comprehension (understanding or meaning) appears to be a misconception as serious as taking the use of signs of one kind - namely, the use of human language - as essential to mentality. Mentality is far broader.
During the course of her closing chapter, Savage-Rumbaugh also makes several astute observations about inadequacies of methodology. She rightly rejects the Cartesian conception of other animals as mindless automata and challenges the applicability of experimental methods employed by the physical sciences. Descartes' influence on the study of behavior has been uniformly detrimental; it is therefore refreshing to find that she, like other students of animal mind, is not bound by a tradition of misconceptions (Fetzer 1993a, 1993b, 1996b). But it does not follow from her work that similar methods do not apply when regarded as species of inference to the best explanation (Fetzer 1981, 1993c).
Indeed, when considerations of context receive appropriate consideration within the framework of a dispositional account of meaning, it becomes clear that there are laws of behavior for semiotic systems, which parallel those for less complex inanimate systems (Fetzer 1988, 1990, 1996a). Her own work, properly understood, convincingly displays that the same methods of inquiry that apply within the physical sciences also apply within the behavioral ones. In the final analysis, Savage-Rumbaugh has provided a brilliant tour de force supporting her conception of Kanzi as an ape at the brink of the human mind.


Fetzer, J. H. (1981), Scientific Knowledge. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: D. Reidel.
Fetzer, J. H. (1988), "Signs and Minds: An Introduction to the Theory of Semiotic Systems", in J. H. Fetzer, ed., Aspects of Artificial Intelligence. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 133-161.
Fetzer, J. H. (1989), "Language and Mentality: Computational, Representational, and Dispositional Conceptions", Behaviorism 17, pp. 21-39.
Fetzer, J. H. (1990), Artificial Intelligence: Its Scope and Limits. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Fetzer, J. H. (1991), "Primitive Concepts: Habits, Conventions, and Laws", in J. H. Fetzer et al., eds., Definitions and Definability. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 51-68.
Fetzer, J. H. (1993a), "Review of Merlin Donald's Origins of the Modern Mind", Philosophical Psychology 6, pp. 339-341.
Fetzer, J. H. (1993b), "Evolution Needs a Modern Theory of the Mind", Behavioral and Brain Sciences 16, pp. 759-760.
Fetzer, J. H. (1993c), Philosophy of Science. Minneapolis, MN: Paragon.
Fetzer, J. H. (1994), "Review of Maxine Sheets-Johnstone's The Roots of Thinking", Philosophical Psychology 7, pp. 397-399.
Fetzer, J. H. (1996a), Philosophy and Cognitive Science, 2nd ed. Minneapolis, MN: Paragon House.
Fetzer, J. H. (1996b), "Do Animals Have Minds? Discussion Review of Marian Stamp Dawkins, Through Our Eyes Only? The Search for Animal Consciousness", Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems 19, pp. 187-192.


Colin Tudge (1995) The Day Before Yesterday: Five Million Years of Human History. London: Jonathan Cape (Pimlico edition 1996) ISBN 0 7126 6173 5 (Pbk) UK 9.99. Pp. 390.

by GUY RICHARDS, 327 666 Leg in Boot Square, VANCOUVER, B.C. V5Z 4B3, Canada.

Tudge is a philosophical zoologist. His title reminds us how brief has been human existence compared with the 5 000 000 000 years of Earth's existence. Hominids, starting with Australopithecus, essentially an upright ape, have been here for 5 000 000 years, but Homo sapiens for only about 120 000 years. These ideas will be familiar to readers of this review, but what attracts us to a scientific book? We like some new knowledge and ideas, and it is reassuring to find some old knowledge elegantly confirmed. For instance Tudge presents much geology and zoology I was glad to learn about.

In the beginning
He could have started with the agglutination of star dust to form our planet, but that would make a very long book. Nevertheless knowing the Earth's age helps to understand the evolution of present forms.
Mark Twain complained of a young teacher: "It was not so much all the things he didn't know, as all the things he did know that weren't so." Likewise science is not only the finding of new knowledge where there was none, often it must replace firm old beliefs. The Bible stories of creation and Noah's flood influenced geology into the 19th century.
Scottish geologist James Hutton in his A Theory of the Earth in 1795 proclaimed that it is many thousand times older than Genesis implies. But not until the mid 19th century did three Swiss scientists - Charpentier, Schimper and Agassiz - show that mountains of ice, rather than a flood, had carved much of the world's surface.
Indeed so much water has been locked up in ice during ice ages, that ocean level must have fallen by as much as 150 metres at times, exposing 40% more dry land than there is today. The great thaw following the last age 8 000 years ago, could well have been the origin of flood legends in many cultures.

Drifting continents and carbon dioxide
In the 19th century the Austrian Geologist Edward Suess suggested that Africa, Madagascar and India must once have been part of a single continent 'Gondwana' (means land') in order to explain their containing similar fossils. Improbable theories of connecting land corridors followed, until a German geophysicist, Alfred Wegener, in 1912 produced his theory of continental drift at a lecture (in 1915 as a book). He was vigorously opposed until long after his death in 1930. But in 1960 a Canadian geophysicist, Tuzo Wilson and others, proposed drifting continental plates floating on the underlying mantle, rehabilitating Wegener's theory.
40 million years ago India drifted into the southern edge of Asia; their colliding plates created the greatest of all 'buckling', the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau. This vast mass of uplifted rock is an important part of Earth's homeostatic system. Rain 'scrubs' carbon dioxide from the air. Winds blowing northwards precipitate rain as they flow up over the Himalayas. The carbonic acid in the rain water reacts with calcium and other rock metals to produce bicarbonates and carbonates which are born by 8 mighty rivers to the ocean and the ocean floor. The Rockies and the Andes must to some degree augment this effect. Eventually some of the carbonates are subduced under the advancing American and Australian continental plates, thus removing carbon from circulation for a long time. The whole constitutes a vast chemical buffering system, since it prevents the atmosphere and ocean from becoming acidified by carbon dioxide.
The discovery of different fossils in strata of different depths has meant that advances in geology and evolutionary biology have gone hand-in-hand. The credible explanation of mass extinctions by asteroid impact reinforces this relationship. Even within recorded history violent Earth events have changed life, cultures and climate. In 1470 BC the volcanic eruption on Santorini Island north of Crete destroyed Minoan civilization, and the even greater eruption on Sumbawa Island off Java in 1815 spread ash over the whole world, causing crop failures and bad weather world-wide for 2 years. Tudge might have added that had the Tunguska Bolide of 1908 hit western Europe instead of Siberia, history of the 20th century would have been very different.
An asteroid impact on the Yucatan peninsular 65 million years ago must have produced a long lasting climate change and probably the down-fall of dinosaurs. Mammal-like reptiles, mammals and even primates co-existed with dinosaurs, but without that change in climate we would still be cowering in the trees.

An ecomorph is a shape imposed on an animal by its ecological niche, so that animals of diverse lineage may come to share traits because of their shared way of life. It is the end result of convergent evolution. For instance animals that swim a lot tend to be roughly fish-shaped, even if they are mammals.
Being big confers advantage in making one less likely to be preyed upon, or a more successful predator. But it carries costs: longer dependence and vulnerability during growth, a need for more food, a way to dissipate more heat - elephants' ears for instance. Being big also enables one to browse, that is to eat the better quality leaves of bushes and trees. Giraffes are an extreme example. Grazing of grass is rough on the gut - grass blades are well named - and takes up a lot of time.
Most of the energy in leaves and plants is in the form of cellulose, so that herbivores face a problem, since no animal has enzymes able to digest it - not even beavers, nor termites. They are therefore dependent on bacteria or fungi to digest cellulose for them. To a small extent this occurs in the human gut, but efficient digestion of cellulose requires some slowing of the passage of food to give bacteria time to do their work. Mammals have evolved two principle ways of modifying the gut to facilitate this. Hindgut digesters have slowed their food passage in a large caecum and colon. Elephants, rabbits, koalas, rhinos, horses are hindgut digesters. But it is more efficient, although phylogenetically more difficult, to modify the foregut, whose acidity does not favour cellulose digesting microbes. It carries the advantage of running the digested food through the efficiently absorbing small intestines. Ruminants have achieved this by a modification of the stomach. Thus bovids, camels, kangaroos are foregut digesters.
Cooling and drying of the Earth has thinned the edges of the forest and there has favoured parkland and grass, and therefore sociable herds of grazers, rather than the more solitary browsers. This change has also favoured those primates who can come down from the trees and live on the ground.
Humans have invented for themselves a new ecology and thus have become a new ecomorph. Phylogenetically we are primates, in fact an ape, but we are a new ecomorph. Chimp and human protein and DNA are so similar that we must have had a common ancestor less than 6 million years ago. Our arboreal past has been useful in preserving an unspecialized body form and separate digits on our fore limbs; adaptive for holding branches, broken off branches, sticks, ant-and-termite-catching probes, and more recently, spears, swords and pens. But our hind limbs have become specialized for walking. And the complex physical and social environment we have made for ourselves, has selected and shaped a complex brain to cope with it.
Shaping the world to suit ourselves has created a world less and less favourable to other animals - except for the few who can adapt to cities. While much damage has been done with industrialization, urbanization and the fast growth of human population in the last 200 years, this destructive process has been going on for a long time, when and wherever humans have spread. Large marsupials - a giant kangaroo, a marsupial 'lion', and a marsupial 'rhino' - previously successful, disappeared from Australia with the arrival of humans and their dogs about 40 000 years ago. Elephants use to roam North America until humans arrived. The Maori's ancestors arrival in New Zealand about AD 900 was soon followed by the extinction of many large bird species, the giant Moas and a giant eagle. Homo sapiens has been too good a hunter.
Existing mammal species are but a small fraction of those there have been. It is in our interest to carry as many of them as we can with us into the future. The survival of our own species is involved. But the project calls for a radical change in our use of land, allowing, for instance, north-south migrations of animals and people. And our own population growth must be slowed, and eventually run down some to a more easily sustainable level.

Mendelism and genetics
In a good summary of genetics Tudge does not mention his Cambridge forerunner, William Bateson, first Cambridge Professor of Genetics (1908) who coined the word. His Danish friend, W L Johannsen, coined gene, phenotype and genotype. Bateson was a vigorous proponent of Mendelism or genetics as he called it. He read Mendel's paper in 1900 while on a train from Cambridge to London to present a paper to the Royal Society, and realized that it was more important than what he had planned to say. Straightaway he changed his presentation. He named his third son Gregory, after Gregor Mendel.
Gregory Bateson became a well-known anthropologist, but despite that he retained his father's respect for biology and he was an early friend of biology for the social sciences. His last two books attest to this, Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1973) and Mind and Nature (1978). In 1960s and 1970s he studied the social life of dolphins.

Apes who stood up
The common ancestor of chimps and humans must have lived in dense African forest. Cooling and drying of the Earth thinned the forest edges to produce woodland, less dense forest, suiting 5 million years ago an ape which stood and walked erect on the ground. Australopithecus (southern ape), as it is called, had a brain of 400-600 ml only slightly larger than a chimp's. Standing upright frees the hands for throwing and carrying. It also exposes less area to the sun and cools the head and brain.
Homo habilis (the handy man) with a somewhat bigger brain of 600-750 ml, was able to make chipped flint tools. They date about 2.5 million years ago.
Homo erectus with a brain of about 900 ml arose about 1.8 million years ago. Hearths found in China and France, dated as 480 000 years old, indicate that Homo erectus used fire.
Homo neanderthalensis with a fully modern sized brain (1400-1500 ml) dates from 400 000 years ago. They reached their climatic form 75 000 years BC and died out about 35 000 years ago.
Fully modern Homo sapiens with a brain of 1400-1500 ml dates from 120 000 years ago, so they coexisted with Neanderthals for 85 000 years. Neanderthals averaged a slightly bigger brain than Homo sapiens, so why did they die out? Were they more intelligent but less aggressive? Were their larger heads just a shade to much for their mothers' pelves as compared with Homo sapiens, leading to a slightly higher maternal mortality? Tudge thinks Neanderthals and sapiens were probably interfertile. Were this so, some would say, they should have seen as variants of the same species. But if we use this criterion we might have to say the same of all hominids; a few would even include chimps!

What's so special about us?
Humans are designed for speech, anatomically and neurally, and therefore genetically. Tudge could have said "We are made for one another". We are designed to voice the sound frequencies our listening ears are best equipped to receive. We are good at communicating with symbols most of which are words. Iconic symbols are partial pictures of their referent.
Words help thought, but they are not essential for it. Children playing with construction toys will assemble complex models long before they have names for the parts. But I remember that if I played with another child we had to struggle hard to name the parts. These toys were well suited to the lone children and small families of 1920s and 1930s. Computers are the new substitute for siblings.
Speech and writing bring many brains to bear on each problem, even if they be separated in space and time, and on the design of new tools and weapons, increasingly so as time goes by. Sadly they have also made humans the most destructive predators, extinguishing species after species of large animals.
The life of hunting and gathering must have been in many ways more interesting and suited to human aspirations, than the hard work of herding and farming which followed. This transition surely is that which is represented by the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.
Tudge could have added that agriculture spread rapidly because communities using it could grow a bigger 'crop' of young warriors, for whom hunter-gatherers were no match. Group competition and population pressure locked humans into an arduous way of life. Mechanization of weaponry, industry and agriculture have enabled developed nations to till and defend large areas with comparatively few workers and warriors, but our swollen urban populations have locked us into an even more unnatural way of life.
Hunting-and-gathering in the era of evolutionary adaptation (EEA) lasted 100 000 years. No doubt it had its down side and cruelties, hunger in bad years, and being powerless to help one's mate in obstructed labour and some other perils of birthing come to mind. But it probably shaped us more than a mere 10 000 years of civilization.
The first and last quarters of this book are the most interesting. The middle two quarters, in which Tudge describes the many species of large mammal which have become extinct, often almost certainly, with the help of human hunters, make sad and heavy reading.

Missing members

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