This collection of topics, a brief view of life, could be used to teach an adolescent the basics about life.
Chimpanzees and bonobos are the closest genetic relatives to human beings. There are interesting similarities and differences among the three species of primates.
All are social beings where they live within a community. The chimpanzees organize around an alpha male who might mate with several females, though there is usually a pecking order among both the males and the females. The bonobos organize around the important females, while the status of each male is determined by that of his mother; the mating practices are loose so the father for any baby bonobo is typically unknown. Human communities are based on a collection of families; humans are monogamous unlike chimpanzees or bonobos. 90% of birds engage in monogamy while only 3% of mammals (including humans) are known to do the same.
All three share similar forms of communication like vocalizations, hand gestures and facial expressions. Only humans have a written language but in captivity both chimpanzees and bonobos have been able to learn the basics of a human language structure using symbols for a small vocabulary. All three exhibit empathy, the capacity to recognize feelings in another. They are willing to help another in need of help even when there is no benefit for that action.
There are other significant social animals, especially those having a larger brain size, like dolphins, whales and elephants. In observing their social behaviors, these animals also exhibit some degree of empathy. There are other social animals that live in communities, like wolves, but the presence of empathy is much less visible.
A person is born within a social network, already possessing the inherent capability for both language and empathy. Having empathy, each person is capable of relating to another and therefore understanding the consequences of one's actions on that other person, either for their benefit or not.
Historically, there have been debates about whether a person is inherently good or bad. There is also the claim by many religions that only when following an ancient scripture is a person to know what is good or bad.
There is a fundamental rule of behavior called the ethic of reciprocity or the Golden Rule: one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. This rule obviously depends on our inherent capacity for empathy where each person can understand how our treatment of another would feel if we were the recipient of that same behavior. It forms the foundation for most rules, laws or commandments within most cultures and religions.
Religions do not exist to help people understand right from wrong, as is often stated. Religions exist to distinguish one group of people from another, by defining rules of dress, or of the method for prayer, or of belief (i.e., an interpretation of ancient scriptures). With a religion providing the definition, one group can be set aside as having a higher status or even as being the 'chosen ones' while the rest are in some way at a lower status or the 'wrong ones' in society.
References in Wikipedia: Bonobo, Chimpanzee
created - December 2011
last change - 12/17/2011
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