On Atheists and Bonobos: A Conversation with Frans de Waal

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Open Agenda Publishing, Oct 1, 2020 - Science - 46 pages

This book is based on an in-depth filmed conversation between Howard Burton and primatologist Frans de Waal, Emory University, who is renowned for his work on the behaviour and social intelligence of primates. This thought-provoking conversation examines fascinating questions such as: Are we born with an innate sense of “the good”? Do we learn from others what is “wrong”? Does religion determine, or is it a result of, morality?

This carefully-edited book includes an introduction, Aping Morality, and questions for discussion at the end of each chapter:

I. Denying Our Inner Animal - Cartesian dogs, religious baggage and false dichotomies

II. Morality and Evolution - Between chimpanzees and bonobos

III. The Demise of Veneer Theory - Science discovers human cooperation and empathy

IV. The Roots of Religion - A sociological approach

V. Community Concern - Chimpanzee groups and Golden Rules

VI. Beyond Theatrics - Reconciling science, religion and mortality

VII. American Exceptionalism - Speculations on religiosity

VIII. Testing Morality - Fairness, cooperation, risk-taking and more

IX. Reasons for Optimism - Positive behaviour throughout the animal world

X. Breaking Down Barriers - Towards species continuity

About Ideas Roadshow Conversations Series 

This book is part of an expanding series of 100+ Ideas Roadshow conversations, each one presenting a wealth of candid insights from a leading expert in a relaxed and informal setting to give non-specialists a uniquely accessible window into frontline research and scholarship that wouldn't otherwise be encountered through standard lectures and textbooks. For other books in this series visit our website (https://ideas-on-film.com/ideasroadshow/).


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A Note on the Text
The Conversation
Denying Our Inner Animal
Morality and Evolution
The Demise of Veneer Theory
The Roots of Religion
Community Concern
Beyond Theatrics
American Exceptionalism
Testing Morality
Reasons for Optimism
Breaking Down Barriers

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About the author (2020)

Howard Burton, the founder and creator of Ideas Roadshow and Ideas on Film, holds a PhD in theoretical physics and an MA in philosophy. He was the Founding Executive Director of Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) from 1999-2007. During his time at PI, he also developed an extensive outreach programme for teachers, students and the general public. His experiences at developing the research and outreach mandates of the institute were described in the book, First Principles: Building Perimeter Institute, featuring a foreword by Nobel Laureate Roger Penrose.

Ideas Roadshow is an award-winning initiative, recipient of the London Book Fair International Excellence Award in 2018. Howard has hosted and filmed in-depth conversations with more than 100 of the world’s brightest thinkers, including 3 Nobel Laureates, across the arts, sciences, sports and games. 

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