Homo sapien Cousins


Pan paniscus consoling

They are deeply social. Very intelligent. Use various tools. Build homes for their family. Very often share food and adopt the young of others. Communicate with remarkable frequency and animated gestures, including laughter. Protect their homeland fiercely. Hunt and kill other lower-class species. And have a fascination for solving puzzles and problems.Who are they? Many would cautiously guess us… humans. That would be very close.

No, the correct answer would be the Hominids known as Panina or chimpanzees. Not only do our chimpanzee cousins exhibit common intelligence and social behaviour with us humans, but in a few areas they are surprisingly diverse or adaptive like humans. How exactly? Besides the nine or ten close similarities already listed above, a subgroup of chimpanzees, called Pan paniscus, also have non-monogamous and non-heterosexual relationships just like humans! Primatologist have discovered that P. paniscus or Bonobos, possess a distinct social behaviour not found in P. troglodyte groups; a more aggressive and violent group of chimpanzees. Frankly, Bonobos chimps have a more advanced degree of anger management skills or impulse control than common chimps. This is because of the differences between amygdala-to-VAC-cortex brain connection in Bonobos compared to the thinner smaller connection found in the P. troglodyte brains.

The panina hominids (chimps) have almost an identical genetic DNA make-up to us humans; close to 95% identical! This is the closest out of all known living species on Earth, so they are truly our close cousins. Dr. Susan Block, of Yale University and a popular sexologist, says:

“At first, I just couldn’t get over how similar they look to us — like hairy people with longer arms — then I saw they have a lot of sex, very much like humans, but without all the pretense, hypocrisy and shame. When I learned they make peace through pleasure, I realized that ‘oh my god these close kissing cousins of ours just might hold the keys to a world without war.'”

Dr. Block is also an advocate for saving the endangered Bonobos through her book, The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace through Pleasure. A portion of the proceeds go to paniscus conservation.

Go back to the larger group of common chimps, P. troglodytes, and there are several other fascinating similarities. Dr. Christopher Ryan, author of Sex at Dawn: Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, writes “If you look at us as a species, we’re not very impressive. What we’re good at is forming complex social networks.” And that right there makes us so similar to both our troglodyte and paniscus cousins…

Peace through pleasure? Ways of managing our anger and impulses? More empathy for others? More ingenious collaboration for the betterment of humanity? What’s not to like about any of that!? Seriously!

How similar do you find our chimpanzee cousins? Where and when are our behaviours remarkably alike? Share your answers below.

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6 thoughts on “Homo sapien Cousins

  1. Thanks for posting about this. I’ve long thought that any real understanding of human psychology needs to take primatology as its starting point, or at least as a very major factor to be considered. Given how close the genetic relationships are, it’s inevitable that there are significant underlying commonalities.

    There’s some very interesting stuff in that last video, and I hope people will give it a shot despite the length. For example, the mention that when you see a chimpanzee in a zoo, that chimpanzee is more closely related to you than it is to anything else in the zoo. I’d never thought of it that way before.

    I knew that modern “wife-swapping” originated in the military, but that always seemed like just a curious fact. Given death rates in pre-modern warfare, it would be interesting to see if anything similar happened in pre-modern times.

    He is wrong about chimpanzee warfare, though. It’s been observed in many places and the idea that it’s caused by human interference has been pretty well debunked.

    Also an interesting observation that humans get PTSD from seeing or committing extreme violence, while chimpanzees don’t, implying that such behavior is unnatural to humans. As Pinker points out, though, primitive and medieval humans didn’t seem bothered by horrific violence either, and his books have a lot to say about why modern human nature has become so different. It’s probably more a matter of civilization rather than species differences.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Great comment Infidel. Thank you. 🙂 Dr. Steven Pinker (Harvard University’s Dept. of Psychology) is a favorite top cognitive psychologist and author of mine!

      It’s probably more a matter of civilization rather than species differences.

      Yes. We are definitely gregarious and realize on many conscious and subconscious levels that we actually need each other (family too of course) to survive, yes, but more importantly to thrive and feel deeply part of a community with clear group purpose. Today, the prime example of this is (hyper?) patriotism and nationalism.

      However, that peer-assimilation/pressure, the Placebo-effect, and how easily our emotional connections (gullible dopamine abuse) can overtake and distort the broader objectivity/reality, our rationale, and needed collaboration, tolerance, and empathy with each other. In other words, too much self/individual pleasure can and does often lead to selfishness, egocentricity, or territorial… literally or metaphorically, and increased aggressiveness. A crazy-train if you will! Compared to many other species, Homo sapiens are currently horrible at and way behind species who have been practicing refined Eusociality and Superorganism behavior for hundreds of thousands or millions of years. They have survived 5-6(?) major extinction events on Earth because of their much more superior social skills. Today, after only perhaps 10,000 to 20,000 years of crude eusociality(?) and no significant Superorganism behavior to speak of… Homo sapiens are not only putting hundreds of other species into extinction, we will extinct ourselves too if we don’t quickly right the crazy-train we’ve created on this planet. 😦

      Fyi, much of what I’ve alluded to here is what Dr. E.O. Wilson (of Harvard) and a colleague of Dr. Pinker, has advocated and taught in his acclaimed work and scholarship for many years. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m glad you had this post linked at the top of your blog so it was easy to find. With these species being so similar genetically (and gorillas and orangutans not much less so), it’s obvious that we can learn an enormous amount from them about the origins of our own instincts. I’m rather pessimistic about the long-term survival of much of the non-human ecosphere, but it would be a terrible loss to science, if nothing else, if the great apes were to disappear (all of them are currently endangered species). Think what we could learn from the early hominids if some populations still existed so we could observe their behavior! I actually think of the four great ape species as surviving forms of primitive man.

        I recently reviewed Pinker’s latest book. He amazes me with his thoroughness and the vast amount of evidence he can bring to support his case. He has to, since so much of what he says is contrary to popular belief — and it doesn’t fit well with any particular ideology, so he’s not going to get many people to agree with him on emotional grounds.

        I’m not sure that “self/individual pleasure” is a bad thing. If the Catholic priesthood were more self-indulgent it might have spared a few zillion altar boys some disagreeable experiences. And it seems to be the most uptight, self-denying, pleasure-denying, anti-individualist societies that channel their hormonal urges into that territorial aggressiveness. If humans were more like bonobos, one imagines we might have been spared all that unpleasantness with the Nazis and the Maoists and Stalinists and so forth.

        I really hope we never develop superorganism behavior. One of the things I hate about religion is the way it pushes suppression of the self and the ego, from the Abrahamic religions’ constant self-deprecation and groveling before their imaginary sky monster to the Hindu and Buddhist aspiration to dissolve the individual self into union with some sort of ultimate cosmic universal blah blah horseshit (that’s what “Nirvana” means). It’s humans’ distinctive individuality and personal uniqueness that makes them interesting. I want to see that strengthened and emphasized.

        Hyper-patriotism and nationalism can certainly be manipulated in the service of our worst instincts. Trump is quite good at doing that, as we’re seeing. It seems to be the only thing he’s good at.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I believe what E.O. Wilson was ultimately suggesting, and I would agree, and what you are as well, is that we “advanced” Homo sapiens can learn MUCH from our fellow planetary inhabitants. We could certainly learn forms of Superorganism behavior suitable for us… in the sense that we need (must?) if we are to save this planet and/or leave it for another in order to not go extinct. Sorry for the confusion. In my quest to be brief I did not elaborate enough on the Eusociality and Superorganism behavior to make that clear. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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