National Geographic

Bonobo males get sex with help from their mums

Bonobo

Most human men would be appalled at the idea of their mothers helping them to get laid. But then again, we’re hardly as sexually carefree as bonobos. While these apes live in female-led societies, the males also have a strict pecking order. For those at the bottom, mum’s assistance may be the only thing that allows them to father the next generation.

Martin Surbeck from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology found that bonobo mothers will help to usher their sons into the best spots for meeting females, and they’ll sometimes help their sons in conflicts with other males. Thanks to their help, their sons get more shots at sex than they would otherwise. Meanwhile, the dominant male is frequently denied by these supportive mothers, who help to curtail the sexual privileges afforded by his rank.

This type of maternal support is possible in bonobo societies because males tend to stay with the group they were born into. Even after they become adults, they still stay in frequent contact with their mothers. Surbeck found that a mother will only help their own sons; unrelated males get no aid. In helping her own young, who share half of her DNA, a bonobo mother can ensure that her own genes have the best chance of being inherited by another generation. In helping her sons, she indirectly guarantees her own success.

Surbeck spent twelve months observing a group of more than 30 wild bonobos at Salonga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He showed that the males formed a clear hierarchy and the dominant individuals got the most sex. This may seem obvious but bonobo societies are often portrayed as egalitarian affairs. The ties between rank and sex aren’t clear in captive animals, and previous studies have disputed whether this link exists in the wild. Surbeck’s data clearly show that it does.

For males in the middle and bottom rungs of the social ladder, the odds of a successful sexual encounter went up when mum was around. In groups with no mothers, the alpha male accounted for 40% of all the sex; if mothers were present, the big guy was only involved in 25% of matings.

Surbeck found no evidence that bonobo males engage in rape or that females resist mating attempts. Instead, the male get’s the lion’s share of sex by physically monopolising females and by directly competing with other males for mating privileges. It’s possible that mothers help their sons by getting directly involved in fights. Indeed, they sometimes tried to interfere with the sexual encounters of unrelated males, while blocking any attempts to meddle with their sons’ sex lives. But these interventions were relatively rare and Purbeck thinks that they’re relatively unimportant.

Instead, Surbeck thinks that mothers are probably using their status to usher their sons into the right spot within the group, allowing them to interact more closely with females. They’re more matchmakers than bodyguards.

Reference: Proc Roy Soc B http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2010.1572

Image by Kabir Bakie

More on bonobos:

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There are 16 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Razib Khan
    August 31, 2010

    wow. you can sure write a title dude.

  2. Rhacodactylus
    August 31, 2010

    Finally proof that bonobos are Jewish, their moms are constantly trying to fix them up and get grand children. Note, Italian would have also been an acceptable stereotype.

  3. Peter Demain
    August 31, 2010

    Rather puts it into perspective when another primate just gets on with life. The sheer amount of prudish fuss in human society – especially modern soceity – surrounding sex is belittled when we see a species that has quite happily existing that get on fine being open and unembarassed about love-making. Cue the pompous ‘oh but they’re just animals‘ crowd that rank us higher by some tenuous virtue.

    Bonobos were around a million years ago. That’s circa ~965,000 years before the first homo sapien Cro-Magnons existed. In our boundless wisdom we as a species are reponsible for many non-human primates becoming endangered. Often this is done for trivial commodities; whether it be the flesh of the animal, or natural resources like timber or minerals.

    It’s fairly shortsighted, selfish and counter-intuitive. But hey if humans wish to allow others to fatten their arses further with palm oil, or make adornment from ivory or stuffed carcasses, then why not? It’s a free market. Free for certain parts of humanity that is – animals mostly don’t fit into the ‘free’ ideology where commodities are concerned.

    Ed I tweeted you the buzzard pic as I noticed your proclivity of writing articles about animals. An avian article might serve as supplement the insectoid and mammalian. There must be something interesting to cover in the field of research.

    Apparantly vultures can congregate en masse on battlefields. They’re rather a diverse lot; the notion they’re all pinkish/red headed, scrawny birds is false: A Eurasian vulture for instance. – Here’s we’ve plumage but still the characteristic baldness. Fascinating that qualities of its blood let it soar higher than many of its kin.

    Reckon our species won’t be extinct in say…half the Bonobo’s Earthly tenure?

    Pete, editor at Dirty Garnet

  4. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    September 1, 2010

    Peter, better read up on the naturalistic fallacy.

    But the immediate problem suggest itself: our societies are immensely more successful (counted foremost as population numbers and, say, environment interaction). Don’t knock it until you tried it!

  5. Peter Demain
    September 1, 2010

    It’s called ‘rhetoric’ or an ‘appeal to emotion’. Common among those who have a cause or view to persaude others on. Charity wouldn’t be near as expansive or successful without it. Abe Lincoln or Churchill or any other talker wouldn’t be near as renowned etc…

    Gets a bad name from insincere politician types and organizations who produce things like this though.

    Perhaps you should ask yourself not whether or not we are ‘immensely more successful’ , but whether the ends justify the means? You seem to coast past my point that many species are endangered or extinct due to the reaping of luxury or unnecessary resources from the bodies.

    You probably originate from and perhaps reside in a developed nation. I humbly suggest you to take a trip to a poor one and then harp on about ‘how successful’ humanity is. You’ll find that our success was built on the back of the ‘coolie’, the resources (‘environmental interaction’?) and the greed for commerce.

    Western populaces are a priviliged minority; were you to see how the majority of the homo sapien population live you might revise your assertion.

  6. GlidingPig
    September 1, 2010

    I gotta be nicer to my Mom I see….

  7. EMJ
    September 1, 2010

    However, chimpanzees are male philopatric as well so there’s no inherent reason for this dispersal pattern to account for why bonobo females are so important to male reproductive success. The most likely cause has to do with the female networks that allow the species to be female dominated in the first place. Frances White has documented how environmental conditions have promoted these female networks and males have adapted by embracing this social structure rather than using sexual coercion as is commonly found in chimpanzees.

  8. amphiox
    September 1, 2010

    You probably originate from and perhaps reside in a developed nation. I humbly suggest you to take a trip to a poor one and then harp on about ‘how successful’ humanity is.

    Evolutionary success is measured in numbers only (gene copies). Even the poorest, most miserable, most badly exploited human societies, are, indeed, “immensely” more successful on that ground than the bonobos. And one cannot fairly make any comparisons between a single human society/tribe and the entirety of the bonobo species. It must be species vs species, or it is apples and oranges.

    Other measurements of “human” success, obviously, cannot be applied to bonobos. It’s apples and oranges again.

    Bonobos were around a million years ago.

    You cannot say that. Bonobos split from chimpanzees just under a million years ago, based on genetic clock evidence. But we cannot say that they were “bonobos” then – we do not know when the traits and adaptions that make modern bonobos unique appeared. We have almost no fossil record of bonobos (or chimpanzees) to give us any clues about this.

    If you want to say that bonobos have been around for a million years, then you also have to say that humans have been around for at least 6 million years, the time of our divergence from our LCA with chimps (and bonobos), and that all the hominids that ever existed in that time period qualify as humans.

    Sadly (because bonobos are truly awesome), it is quite unlikely that they will outlast us as a species, simply because we’re the main reason they’re endangered, and in pretty much all the imaginable realistic scenarios whereby humanity gets extirpated from the earth, self-inflicted or otherwise, we’re going to be taking the poor bonobos (and the chimps, gorillas, whales, lions, and other large mammals) with us into oblivion.

  9. Peter Demain
    September 1, 2010

    Let’s revise the existence length point:

    Certain other non-human primates lived on Earth for millions of years. Arguments over chronology aside, the earliest homo sapiens – de facto modern man – term on Earth is short compared with several other primates. Not to mention many other species we’ve driven to endangerment or extinction.

    Success. What is success? You mean ‘productivity’? Or happiness? Wealth? The whole notion of measuring success is fraught with subjectivity. If we do destroy ourselves in within say…another 50,000 years, we’ve hardly been successful on the grand scheme of things compared with many animals as our ‘civilized’ tenure on the planet is small. We’d be rather like an infant who fails to thrive, compared to certain other species who had a good span of existence.

    I’d be a bonobo rather than a human: Simpler existence; no screwing one another for margins; very low risk of neurosis, worry or suppression over sex; likelier to be contented and at peace. Hunting or captivity are the largest risks. Of course it’s ridiculous to take a tiny part of humanity and compare it. However a big chunk like the world’s poor is hardly unfair: Going the whole hog and comparing all of humanity to a species is.

    Divisions of nationality, class, persona…bonobos are straightforward by comparison. Same with lots of animals. That’s why I took a large chunk of the world’s populace (poor labourers) to make the point. In my perception the word ‘success’ can be defined only be generalized opinion. I don’t think much of humanity is successful in life compared to bonobos, so er…that’s it.

    Pete, editor at Dirty Garnet

  10. amphiox
    September 2, 2010

    Certain other non-human primates lived on Earth for millions of years.

    Which ones? Pan paniscus? Gorilla gorilla? We don’t actually have a very good fossil record for most modern large primate species. We don’t know how long most of these species have existed, as a single species. A fair comparison of existence duration simply cannot be made.

    (Humans are actually ones of the primates we have the best fossil record on – Homo sapiens has been around for about 200 000 years. The Homo genus has been in existence for about 2 million. These numbers, by the way, are not short among medium to large sized mammals in general – they’re average.)

    Success. What is success?

    Poster #4 quite explicitly defined what he meant by that term in his post, and his definition is quite specific, and the point he was making was narrowly focused within the bounds of that definition. And most importantly his definition is narrow enough and specific enough that a direct comparison of the circumstances between humans and bonobos can in fact be made.

    You appear to disagree, but you contradict yourself. You say success is subjective and at the same time you insist that the bonobos are more successful than humans. So what definition of success are you using? And in what way is your definition applicable to both humans and bonobos in their unique circumstances such that any comparison can be made at all?

    I also gave my definition explicitly in post #8. I will elaborate further – evolutionary success as I am using the term (the thing I am comparing between humans and bonobos) is a combination of numbers, distribution, duration, and niche diversity. Nothing more and nothing less. (On this measure humans are by far the most successful primate species ever).

    If we do destroy ourselves in within say…another 50,000 years, we’ve hardly been successful on the grand scheme of things compared with many animals as our ‘civilized’ tenure on the planet is small.

    It’s a common assertion that humans have only been on this earth for a short period of time relative to other living things. This assertion is flat wrong, and can only be made when comparing humans (a single species) with much larger taxonomic categories, such as genuses, families (sharks have been surviving for hundreds of millions of years! The equivalent clade to which humans belong is just as old), whole orders or even domains (like when someone tries to compare humans with bacteria!). On a species to species comparison, humans sit comfortably in the middle of the pack (of the ones we actually know enough about).

    no screwing one another for margins

    Chimpanzees most certainly do the equivalent to each other, all the time. We don’t know about bonobos as much as we haven’t had the chance to study them as well.

    very low risk of neurosis

    And what counts as a neurosis for a bonobo?

    worry or suppression over sex

    If you’re a chimpanzee female, expect to be beaten up regularly by each and every male in your social group. If you’re a low-ranked bonobo male you’d better hope your mom lives a long and healthy life. If you get orphaned, it sucks to be you.

    likelier to be contented and at peace

    And you know this how? Did you ask a bonobo?

    Going the whole hog and comparing all of humanity to a species is.

    How so? All of humanity is one species. How is a species vs species comparison not a fair one?

  11. Ed Yong
    September 2, 2010

    This last comment is full of excellence. There are plenty of reasons for humans to behave well towards one another and consider their impact on biodiversity without having to draw agonisingly trite life lessons from animal behaviour studies. This is science, not March of the Penguins.

  12. amphiox
    September 2, 2010

    If we do destroy ourselves in within say…another 50,000 years, we’ve hardly been successful on the grand scheme of things compared with many animals as our ‘civilized’ tenure on the planet is small.

    A little more on this issue of “success” vis-a-vis longevity.

    Asexually reproducing eukaryotic species are generally thought to last for relatively short periods, several tens of thousands of years at most, and almost never, ever give rise to new daughter species. They’re almost always “dead-ends” in the tree of life. (Except the bdelloid rotifers, of course). One modern asexually reproducing species are dandylions. Assuming dandylions ultimately share a similar fate to other asexual species, are they, or are they not, “successful”?

    The polar bear diverged from the brown bear about 150 000 years ago (making them younger than humans). Are polar bears “successful”?

    Coelacanths have been around for several hundred million years. There are now two surviving species, each found in only a one place in the world (as far as we currently known). Are coelacanths “successful”?

  13. Peter Demain
    September 2, 2010

    There are plenty of reasons for humans to behave well towards one another and consider their impact on biodiversity without having to draw agonisingly trite life lessons from animal behaviour studies. This is science, not March of the Penguins.

    There are also plenty of reasons not to ‘behave well’ or ‘consider impacts of biodiversity’ eg. pursuit of material wealth. A lucrative hunting opportunity will be chosen by enough people to make your noble assertions fall flat on their face. The proportion of conscious, well-behaved humans isn’t high enough relative to those who’d choose material gain over behaving well on biodiversity.

    Isn’t moralizing over sex trite? I hear sanctimony over that more than an argument for freer sexual mores derived from bonobo behaviour. I seldom see anyone cite the great apes in an argument for freer human sexual mores before. It isn’t spoken about, so doesn’t meet the definition of ‘trite’.

    Post #10:

    ‘Success': You can’t package that term up in an overriding definition and assume you’ve got a perfect argument from it. I haven’t used a formal definition of success because I haven’t got one.

    You’re overlooking the subjectivity of the whole shebang. You can wax philosophical on the semantics as much as you wish; it doesn’t change the truth that humans have varying perceptions on what constitutes success.

    You appear to disagree, but you contradict yourself. You say success is subjective and at the same time you insist that the bonobos are more successful than humans.

    That’s my opinion to which I am entitled. I didn’t say subjectivity was out-and-out bad as you apparantly assumed from my post by conflating with argument with spoken fact. That’s affirmation, not contradiction.

    Regards humanity’s tenure…since you believe my comparison is ‘flat wrong’ let’s look at human civilization. Hunter gatherers began to dwindle in favour of agriculture circa 10,000 years ago. It’s debatable and superfluous as to when civilization first appeared, though Mesopotamia is a common reference point: 5200 years ago.

    Damage we can feasibly do to our own species in a week – under 1/50th of one year – thanks to technology developed over the past century puts our future in passive doubt. As you said earlier we could send ourselves and many other animals to oblivion. No animal can claim that dubious ability.

    Chimpanzees most certainly (screw each other over margins) the equivalent to each other, all the time.

    Topic was bonobos. This applies to them too:

    What about wars? They’re fought for material gain – the profit margins of interested individuals and groups. Do chimps wage large scale conflicts, killing one another over (Ie.) a tract of habitat?

    Do chimps make their kin do sustained work most of the time in squalid, unsafe conditions for the sake of gain? A leader of a given group cannot replicate authority prevalent between humans. Where’s the equivalence?

    And what counts as a neurosis for a bonobo?

    I’m no psychiatrist, but mental illness occurs among all great apes. Parity exists with human mental abnormalities. Where ‘health’ ends and ‘neurosis’ begins is another issue fraught with subjectivity.

    “…worry or suppression over sex” – If you’re a chimpanzee female…

    Wasn’t talking about chimpanzees. Bonobos are the focus.

    If you’re a low-ranked bonobo male you’d better hope your mom lives a long and healthy life. If you get orphaned, it sucks to be you.

    If you’d read Ed’s article closely you’d see the maternal influence is not vital, it’s a complimentary role. Were it pivotal we’d have known long ago. What you assert here is circumstantial. Don’t you think it superfluous to point out calamity happens to bonobos? Hazard and misfortune can beset any creature.

    “likelier to be contented and at peace” — And you know this how? Did you ask a bonobo?

    This is my belief. If you can find a study measuring contentedness in bonobos compared with humans in Western society I’d like to hear it. I constructed my argument over the numerous poor in undeveloped/developing nations. Evidence to the contrary along those lines would be appreciated too.

    “Going the whole hog and comparing all of humanity to a species is.” — How so? All of humanity is one species. How is a species vs species comparison not a fair one?

    Here’s what I said earlier: Divisions of nationality, class, persona. Those aren’t biological points. My entire post was based on the social more than the scientific, I maintain that comparing a generalized humanity to bonobos is unsound.

    I compared the largest proportion of humanity – the poor – to illustrate the original points. Articulating those based on the whole of humanity was not and is not practical for the beliefs I possess.

    Ed: This last comment is full of excellence.

    Elaborate?

    -Post #12-

    ‘A little’ more on this issue…………..’

    #12 reminded me of a relation of mine who works as a prison governor. He occasionally pontificates at length what ‘rehabilitation’ means; to him that is.

    Perhaps you (whoever you are) should employ or invent a new word to better express your perception of what you currently term ‘success’?

  14. amphiox
    September 3, 2010

    You’re overlooking the subjectivity of the whole shebang.

    No I am not. I am explicitely saying that because of the subjectivity of the many definitions, if you want to make a comparison, as you are trying to do, you have to choose the definition you want to work with, explicitely state it, and stay strictly within the parameters of that definition, which is why I always prefaced “success” with “evolutionary” in my posts. This is the narrow, specific type of success that I am comparing between species.

    that humans have varying perceptions on what constitutes success

    Of course they do. But which of those perceptions are actually valid to use in a comparison with bonobos? Only those for which there are equivalents in bonobos, and of those only those about which we know enough about the bonobo equivalents that we can say something intelligible about it.

    let’s look at human civilization

    And in what way can a comparison of the duration of human civilization (one specific type of survival strategy employed by a generalist species that uses many different types of survival strategies), with the duration of another species’ entire existence as a species be considered fair, valid, or meaningful?

    I’m no psychiatrist, but mental illness occurs among all great apes. Parity exists with human mental abnormalities.

    Of course it does!! But how do you diagnose it? How do measure its severity? What is the prevalence in the great apes? What are the presenting symptoms? Do great apes have social conventions for treating them? If so, what are they? How effective are they? What is the content of the great ape DSM IV? Without the answer to these questions, which we do not yet have, you cannot make any comparisons between them. You cannot say that great apes suffer less than humans, or vice versa.

    Divisions of nationality, class, persona. Those aren’t biological points.

    And until such time as we know enough about what the bonobo equivalents of “nationality”, “class”, and “persona” to quantify them, we cannot validly compare such things between bonobos and humans. The only thing we can compare are the biological points, because we already know enough about them in both species to make the comparisons fairly.

    I constructed my argument over the numerous poor in undeveloped/developing nations.

    What is the great ape equivalent of this? Until we know this well enough to actually quantify, you cannot just point out the existence of such among humans as an argument that other great apes have it better, as you did. You have absolutely no idea whatsoever as to what the equivalent condition is among bonobos, and what proportion of their population are in that state.

    Perhaps you (whoever you are) should employ or invent a new word to better express your perception of what you currently term ’success’?

    That term is “evolutionary success”, and I stated it in my very first sentence, and defined it explicitly. And it is not a definition I just made up, it is one that is commonly used. It is a narrow definition focused on just one type of “success”, and I use it only within the narrow bounds of that definition. But such narrow, type-specific comparisons are the only valid comparisons that can be made. The more generalized comparisons that you are trying to make simply cannot be fairly made.

    I compared the largest proportion of humanity – the poor – to illustrate the original points

    And comparing one proportion of one species to the entirety of another is not a fair or valid comparison. And a comparison that is invalid at its very basis does not illustrate anything at all.

    You are making an argument using a bad analogy and an unfair equivalence. I am pointing out to you why and in what manner the analogy you are trying to use does not apply and does not, in fact, support your initial position. And Ed’s point in #11 is that this invalid comparison is not in fact necessary to your original point.

    I have not, incidentally, taken any position, of any kind, on your original points themselves. It is solely the invalidity of the comparison between humans bonobos you are trying to use to illustrate your arguments that I am pointing out.

  15. amphiox
    September 3, 2010

    Do chimps wage large scale conflicts, killing one another over (Ie.) a tract of habitat?

    As a matter of fact they do. And the proportion of the population participating in the aggression, as well as the casualty rate, relative to total population of the groups engaged in the conflict, is much higher than human wars. Chimpanzee conflicts very commonly go to near 100% casualties for the losing side, followed by the winning side taking over the territory. Whereas total extermination of an enemy side in human wars is rare enough that we make special note of it when it happens, and give it a separate name.

    Ironically, large-scale human warfare is only possible because humans are more sociable, more cooperative, and more peaceable than other great apes. It is only with this greater capacity for cooperation, this decrease in individual-on-individual aggression, that large armies can be assembled and directed into battle.

    The truth is, the damage we do to each other and our environment largely results from the simple fact that, thanks to our big brains and capacity for assembling large and complex societies, we wield far more power than any other species, for good and ill. The actual instincts and behaviors that initiate and generate the damage we in fact broadly share with our close primate relatives. Most of the species we have driven into extinction we did not deliberately exterminate, and in most of the instances were we did try to deliberately exterminate something, we failed (witness our near total impotency in extirpating invasive species). We destroyed them by accident, by manipulating our environment in order to obtain the things necessary for our own survival and propagation, which is what primates have always done. But we have made ourselves so incredibly powerful (but not commensurately wise) that we blunder about like giants in a playground, crushing the small children underfoot and barely noticing what we have done until it is too late.

  16. Peter Demain
    September 3, 2010

    I am explicitely saying that because of the subjectivity of the many definitions, if you want to make a comparison, as you are trying to do, you have to choose the definition you want to work with, explicitely state it, and stay strictly within the parameters of that definition.

    Why? You can’t set the rules; there is no ball or court when it comes to subjectivity – I’d be in danger of getting caught up in semantics as you have. Bit of a stumbling block and quite besides my overall opinion on bonobos which is clear.

    Of course they do. But which of those perceptions are actually valid to use in a comparison with bonobos? Only those for which there are equivalents in bonobos.

    Again, why? I find the human condition in general, together with our behaviour and influence in the world quite agreeable in developing my view. You think that my method of developing that opinion are invalid; that’s no more than your own take on it. You can’t authoritively say I’m wrong, because I have my view of the bonobos happily intact and have yet to be convinced otherwise.

    in what way can a comparison of the duration of human civilization with the duration of another species’ entire existence as a species be considered fair, valid, or meaningful?

    We and the bonobos live on one planet; a shared habitat. Human civilization influences that habitat greatly. This includes bonobos, whether it be through hunting, zoos, study – the animal and the human are intertwined. I think the contrast of modern Western life and the primitive existence of the bonobo are fertile ground for comparison.

    “I’m no psychiatrist, but mental illness occurs among all great apes. Parity exists with human mental abnormalities.” – Of course it does!! But how do you diagnose it? How do measure its severity? What is the prevalence in the great apes? What are the presenting symptoms? Do great apes have social conventions for treating them? If so, what are they? How effective are they?

    Can’t answer: Not a psychiatrist or researcher. Try reading the paper I linked and others that observe incidence of mental problems in the great apes.

    My perception that bonobos have less neurosis stands based on my own unsubstantiated impression/speculation that stress, depression, anxiety are less likely to occur during a given bonobo’s life. I can say it, did say it, and continue to believe it.

    until such time as we know enough about what the bonobo equivalents of “nationality”, “class”, and “persona” to quantify them, we cannot validly compare such things between bonobos and humans. The only thing we can compare are the biological points, because we already know enough about them in both species to make the comparisons fairly.

    Actually I find comparing say…a western human’s gathering of food say in a supermarket quite a good comparison and contrast with bonobos who gather their nutrition from their environment. I find this fair as I try to put myself in the bonobo’s position when arriving at a likelihood my life would be ‘better’.

    We can’t even quantify personality or class without encountering argument. But both are huge parts of human society and as these too serve development of my evaluation with aplomb.

    “I constructed my argument over the numerous poor in undeveloped/developing nations.” —- What is the great ape equivalent of this? Until we know this well enough to actually quantify, you cannot just point out the existence of such among humans as an argument that other great apes have it better, as you did.

    There isn’t an equivalent. That I cannot derive my view from human hardships like poverty and hard labour is your opinion. There is no edict which forbids my using this; yet you keep asserting your view that it’s somehow invalid because it isn’t directly equivalent. I’m comparing lives of humans to bonobo lives; this means contrasting and weighing up the pros and cons to arrive at a view.

    The more generalized comparisons that you are trying to make simply cannot be fairly made.

    They’ve been made, if you find that unfair then do say why. Can’t promise it’ll sway me, but I’d imagine my generalized view would find acceptance and interest among others regardless of your preconceptions of fairness and validity.

    I made my original post before you jumped in with ‘evolutionary success’; infact it was your attempt to confine the definition of success to suit your viewpoint which led to this discussion.

    “I compared the largest proportion of humanity – the poor – to illustrate the original points” ——- And comparing one proportion of one species to the entirety of another is not a fair or valid comparison. And a comparison that is invalid at its very basis does not illustrate anything at all.

    To my mind it’s the least unfair of the options: As stated the whole won’t work, a tiny fraction won’t be valid either…so I went for the most numerous. It illustrates by opinion that a common, rank-and-file bonobo has a better existence than a typical human belonging to the poor class.

    I’d rather be a bonobo than a labouring poor human in say China, India or much of the African continent. But then I’d trade bonoboship for my garden variety middle class, comfortable life too.

    I have not, incidentally, taken any position, of any kind, on your original points themselves. It is solely the invalidity of the comparison between humans bonobos you are trying to use to illustrate your arguments that I am pointing out.

    Heh. Your notion and view of invalidity you mean. Or is there an overwhelming, authoratative definition of ‘valid’ too? Or are we talking about ‘evolutionary validity’ ?

    I’ve reconciled my comparisons to a fairly coherant view in favour of the bonobo. Within the confines of a few square inches beneath my skull it’s quite valid, sensible, and thus if there’s a reincarnation scenario upon dying I will try to become a bonobo not a human.

    As for Post #15 – the topic is bonobos. Not chimpanzees. Not ‘other great apes’. Ed’s article is about the bonobo, my focus are them and them only.

    But we have made ourselves so incredibly powerful (but not commensurately wise) that we blunder about like giants in a playground, crushing the small children underfoot and barely noticing what we have done until it is too late.

    A slight variation of this conclusion might well apply to your assertive points over my entire argument. As to the crushing of my argument and views; the foot trod on a rebounding foamy sponge rather than flesh and bone.

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