Are Humans No Better Than Chimpanzees?

Are we more violent now than our ancestors were? Are we more like our close animal cousins the chimpanzees than we want to admit? Is it all genetics or environment? Is there hope for the human race?

Historically, violence is very prominent in the human timeline. War, domestic violence, murder and overall aggression are not new. The amount of violence hasn’t increased; we just have the technology to make it seem more prominent. 50 years ago, the world didn’t know about a murder within seconds of it occurring. Technological advancements and the media’s focus on violence have created an environment where news spreads quicker than ever. Our knowledge of violence has increased, not the amount of violence.

We share many traits with chimpanzee, including aggression. An expert in the field, Dr. Brian Hare, an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology and a member of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, studies humans, bonobos and chimpanzees since it is believed we share a common ancestor. In his research, he discovered humans are more like our aggressive chimpanzee cousins than the more cooperative bonobos. A talk by Dr. Hare, “From Nonhuman to Human Mind: What Changed and Why?” has information on the similarities between humans and chimps.

Although we may be more like chimps, humans also have the capacity to understand that violence is not the answer. There are many debates on whether aggression is a matter of nature or nurture or a combination of both. There may also never be a complete answer to this question. It is simply a part of what we are as a species.

Is it possible for us to alter our violent tendencies? Can people truly get along well enough to decrease violence? In everyday life many people experience conflict with the members of their own family or group of friends. How can we possibly get along on a global scale?

It is going to take a conscious decision and a lot of communication if we are going to reduce violence in the world. We are human after all. A chimpanzee is not going to stop being a chimpanzee just because we do not like how it behaves. We, as humans, have the advantage of choice because of our higher learning capability.

Humans understand that we can change if we really want to. Like professor Hare, there are many advocates working on curbing violence, but everyone needs to get involved. We must continue to try, otherwise we will continue down the road of war, hate and destruction until society crumbles. It’s nice to think humans have the ability to affect global violence and aggression. Let’s get together and prove we are not just a bunch of chimpanzees.