Saturday, July 07, 2007

Altruistic Apes

This painting depicts the Buddha while living in the deep forest,
where no people were around who could support him by offering food.
The monkey then gave the Buddha some honey.

It shouldn't be a surprise that life with complex cognitive and social structures could exhibit behavior similar to ours. The more people observe other creatures, the more we realize the depth of life's processes.

Monkeys and other simian are the closest forms of life to ourselves, therefore many of their social processes are similar to ours. Altruism, or the idea of compassion, has been considered a uniquely human trait. However, it should be expected to be seen in living things that form social networks and produce the cognitive feedback that we call emotion.
Monkey Buddhism is alive and well among our fellow primates -

Science News:
"Ape Aid: Chimps Share Altruistic Capacity with People"

PLoS Biology:
"Spontaneous Altruism by Chimpanzees and Young Children"

Of course, just like people, sentient creatures are also prone to what we consider negative characteristics such as violence and aggression. Just as there is a Monkey Buddha, there must be a Monkey Devil to explain this madness -

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