The scientist Frans de Waal has some entertaining stories about chimps but he is too tolerant of religion
A bonobo chimpanzee; there are no sharp differences between human and primate emotions, says Frans de Waal © Cyril Ruos/JH Editorial/Minden Pictures/Corbis
It was once regarded as a cardinal sin to anthropomorphise in discussing non-human animal emotion. The danger of “reading in” empathy, sympathy, concern and (perish the thought!) altruism was so great, and the conservative impulse to regard all behaviour as explicable solely in terms of food-finding and gene-bequeathing so compelling, as to make generations of ethologists shut their eyes to anything else. The person who, almost single-handedly, has effected a revolution in this regard is the primatologist Frans de Waal, whose new book, The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates, has just been published.
For de Waal there are no sharp differences between the great apes and their human cousins in respect of emotions and intentions. Indeed he sees no difference, only a