October 28, 2007 | David F. Coppedge

Machiavellian Monkeys Made Us Compassionate

Love, loyalty, patriotism – all the qualities that imbue a romantic novel with soul – came from Rhesus monkeys acting badly.  This is the belief of Dario Maestripieri, a primatologist and Associate Professor in Comparative Human Development and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago, according to an article in Science Daily.
    Dr. Maestripieri observed behavior between groups of Rhesus monkeys and saw “ruthless aggression, nepotism, and complex political alliances.”  Machiavelli was right, he figured: success involves using whatever tactics necessary to hold onto power.  But alas, sometimes poor outcasts became the patriots of a new revolution.  Thus, us:

  “Our Machiavellian intelligence is not something we can be proud of, but it may be the secret of our success.  If it contributed to the evolution of our large brains and complex cognitive skills, it also contributed to the evolution of our ability to engage in noble spiritual and intellectual activities, including our love and compassion for other people”, Maestripieri said.

But why shouldn’t we be proud of something evolution has built into us?  What is the evolutionary origin of shame?  If anything, we should be ashamed of the kinds of senseless values – noble spiritual and intellectual activities, love, and compassion – that contradict the secret of our success.
    Maestripieri did not explain whether his new book, Machiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World, intended to propose something that might be true about the world, or was itself a Machiavellian ruse to gain personal power for himself (see self-referential fallacy in the Baloney Detector).  He also did not explain why the Rhesus monkeys got stuck in an eddy with small brains in an endless cycle of group power struggles if, in our case, during the same period of time, big brains and complex cognitive skills were natural by-products of the very same process.

His theory also ascribes evolutionary success to those who use sex for power.  Ladies and gentlemen used to despise their fellow humans who acted like brute beasts.  It’s not that people prior to Darwin failed to notice that we share much in common biologically with other creatures.  They just understood that there are superior values to our biological drives, such as self-control, honor, integrity, righteousness, fairness, justice, unselfishness, rationality and common sense.  Brute beasts, lacking these moral and intellectual capacities, were never held responsible for them, but neither were they held up as models for human behavior.  Evolutionary philosophy, by contrast, celebrates our baser nature unconstrained by reason and ethics.  Darwinists only get away with it by borrowing rationality and ethics long enough to dispense with them, a self-refuting position.
    For undermining all vestige of human nobility by ascribing it to monkey antics under mindless evolutionary forces, for excusing bestial behavior as the secret of success but then saying we should be ashamed of it, and for shooting his argument in the foot by assuming the ontological existence of love and nobility, Maestripieri handily wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.  We can’t believe anything you said, professor; you’re just in a mindless, truthless, toothless, ruthless power grab.

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Categories: Dumb Ideas, Early Man, Mammals

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