Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wisdom from the Chimps?

Tomorrow my post will be a full fledged review (as good as a review can be from a social scientist!) about two evolutionary biology articles in the book Moral Markets called "How Selfish an Animal?" and "Fairness and Other-Regarding Preferences in Nonhuman Primates". Both articles are interesting perspectives on the expectations monkies have for others in their community. But, today I want to take a passage from the former article and tie in how I think it relates to some practical everyday living for Christians. The following passage is primarily about the willingness to share food, perhaps also keeping record of deeds:

We analyzed nearly seven thousand approaches, comparing the possesor's tolerance of specific beggars with previously received services. We had detailed records of grooming on the mornings of days with planned food tests. If the top male, Socko, had groomed May, for example, his chances of obtaining a few branches from her in the afternoon were much improved. This relation between past and present behavior proved general . . .

Then, there is the question of why grooming between chimpanzees that rarely interacted led to a greater impact on subsequent sharing of food. One theory?

Individuals who groom frequently tend to be close associates, and favors may be less carefully tracked in these relationships.

The more frequent the interaction the less careful the record keeping.

While we may not keep careful records of small sums of money lent to friends (maybe when they forget their money at home) we probably do keep records about other matters. That is why Jesus notes the recipricol nature of humans and calls his followers to a more difficult task ---love despite the actions of others. Moreover, the best kind of love does not keep record of wrongs like we are so wont to do.

So what must we do?

1. Trust in the strength of our love. Do not believe the lie that love must be withheld. Withholding love produces more anxiety not less.

2. Be lavish in our love. Perhaps the more we love the more love will consume us. Then, we will not see life as a simple game: I do X for you therefore you do Y for me. Kierkegaard, one of my favorites, says that the more we imitate Christ the more we will come to know the truth of our faith.


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