Researchers from around the world met in Chicago this past weekend to delve in to the intelligence of man’s closest relative in the animal kingdom. Meeting for three days at the Mind of the Chimpanzee conference organized by the Lincoln Park zoo, 300 researchers participated in the first major academic conference focussed on chimp cognition. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times by Jeremy Manier (originally for the Chicago Tribune) describing the conference one of the goals of the participants is to learn how well chimps understand what other chimps know, feel and perceive.
Manier goes on to say,
Some experts believe chimps and other higher primates have empathy, the ability to imagine themselves in another animal’s place. And that may be the first step in the evolution of morality.
Chimps may use their empathic skills for good, but also to manipulate others. “Researchers have found that chimps have a talent for deception, which requires mental sophistication”, said conference co-organizer Elizabeth Lonsdorf, director of the zoo’s Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes.
We at BFD have long thought that the study of primatology would eventually reveal that our primate relatives are capable of cogent thought and of ultimately learning to communicate with humans. The only questions in our minds, are:
Which of these two individuals would have the most empathy for life around the world, which would be most manipulative, which of them would we have the best chance of a cogent discussion about morality, honesty and world events?