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Yerkes researcher Frans de Waal discerns the origins of human morality in primates

At the wooded, 117-acre Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center Field Station some thirty miles north of the Emory campus, a clear plexiglass wall in Frans de Waal's office overlooks a large, outdoor enclosure that is home to a colony of more than twenty chimpanzees. Since 1991, de Waal has used this vantage point to watch the chimpanzees battle and reconcile, tease and play, nurture and protect one another, and compete for dominance. One day, he saw Jimoh, the group's dominant male, try to attack Socko, an adolescent male. Several females began to bark stridently in protest, and soon the rest of the colony joined in. As the intensity of the chorus rose, Jimoh backed off.

"These are the sorts of moments when we human observers feel most profoundly that there is some moral order upheld by the community," de Waal writes of the incident in his new book, Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals.

The Yerkes research professor of behavioral biology and Emory professor of psychology sees in this kind of behavior the evolutionary roots of human moral systems. Our need for social order, sympathy, empathy, justice, and peace, he suggests, has many parallels in other species.

Drawing on his own work with primates as well as the insights of other researchers, de Waal cites examples of animal behavior that might illustrate the beginnings of morality: a female chimpanzee shares food with a juvenile not related to her; a herd of African elephants tries to revive a young female dying from a poacher's bullet, then spreads earth and branches over the body before leaving it; a group of dolphins supports an injured companion at the surface to prevent it from drowning.

"There are two schools of thought in morality and evolution," de Waal explains. "One argues that human morality is a cultural product we have invented to keep all sorts of selfish, nasty tendencies in check. The other school, the one to which I belong, says not only are our unfriendly and selfish tendencies a part of evolution, but so is morality." According to de Waal, natural selection, otherwise a brutally competitive process, has produced some highly cooperative species.

For example, in the incident between Jimoh and Socko, de Waal perceives the origins of a sense of social rules. "It is possible that our background is in cooperative societies where trust and following rules was important," he says. Notions of guilt and shame may have begun with systems of social order in other species. The human conscience, he suggests, may have evolved from the ability to internalize rules to the degree that they are believed to be "right."

De Waal's studies of food sharing among primates demonstrate another way cooperation has evolved in the interest of survival. In one study, two capuchin monkeys are placed in a test chamber divided by a mesh partition. One is given a bowl of apple slices for twenty minutes, after which the other receives cucumber slices for twenty minutes. "Many a colleague has been amazed by our video footage of capuchins handing, pushing, or throwing food through the mesh to their neighbor," de Waal writes in Good Natured.

"Reciprocity is an interesting phenomenon, because you can look at it from the selfish perspective--you get something out of it," he says. "But there's also a sense of gratitude and obligation, of doing something in return. These, of course, are moral terms."

De Waal also uses moral terms to describe the behavior of the Yerkes chimpanzees who seek consolation and reassurance if they are distressed. "When upset," he writes in Good Natured, "chimpanzees pout, whimper, yelp, beg with outstretched hand, or impatiently shake both hands so that the other will hurry and provide the calming contact so urgently needed." The other chimpanzees respond by hugging, touching, and grooming the animal in distress.

De Waal defines these responses as acts of sympathy. "I think the tendency to help others is probably very basic, especially in cooperative animals," he says. "All these elements are present in human morality. What is interesting to contemplate is, when they help someone else, do they understand exactly what the situation is and then adjust their help to whatever the other individual needs? I do think chimpanzees have the capacity for empathy, for understanding what someone else feels or needs. I'm not sure that's present in animals other than humans and chimpanzees, who are so closely related to us."

In Good Natured, de Waal writes, "A chimpanzee stroking and patting a victim of attack or sharing food with a hungry companion shows attitudes that are hard to distinguish from those of a person taking a crying child in the arms, or doing volunteer work in a soup kitchen. To classify the chimpanzee's behavior as based on instinct and the person's behavior as proof of moral decency is misleading and probably incorrect."

What does de Waal's work mean for the distinctions humans make between themselves and other species? While he argues that there are clear parallels in other animals for the basic mechanisms and emotions of morality, he stops short of suggesting that animals deliberate the way humans do.

"Members of some species may reach tacit consensus about what kind of behavior to tolerate or inhibit in their midst," he writes, "but without language the principles behind such decisions cannot be conceptualized, let alone debated. To communicate intentions and feelings is one thing; to clarify what is right, and why, and what is wrong, and why, is quite something else. Animals are no moral philosophers."

However, de Waal adds in an interview, "I've never seen a sharp dividing line between people and animals. To think of ourselves as totally unique and central to everything is a very arrogant position."--A.O.A.


More than seven hundred alumni, family, friends, faculty, and staff turned out for the festivities at the annual Oxford Day this spring. Participants enjoyed a barbecue lunch on the Quadrangle, took in a performance by the Oxford Dance Company, and were treated to a visit by Dooley, the spirit of Emory. A new event on the agenda was the "Rugby Rumble," (top left) a match pitting the rugby squads from Oxford and Emory colleges. In the inaugural clash, Emory emerged victorious by a score of 17 to 10. The winners of the Oxford Day 5K Road Race (right) were Mark Lenker '93Ox-'95C and freshman Christine Graf, an exchange student from Sweden who is attending Oxford on a Rotary scholarship. Alumni also had the opportunity to renew old friendships. One such reunion took place between Rosemary Armour Salter (at left in bottom left photo) and Susan Cratem Killoren, who hadn't seen each other since they graduated from Oxford in 1971.(Photos by Annemarie Poyo)--J.D.T.


From baseball diamonds to diving platforms, Jamie Squire captures athletes in action

During his four years as a photographer for the Emory Wheel, Jamie Squire frequently focused on the famous and powerful. "The greatest part about [working for] the Wheel was that I was able to get press credentials to just about everything," says Squire, who earned his bachelor's degree in art history from Emory last year. "I photographed anything from the Falcons and the Braves to the presidential election campaigns. I photographed Bush, Clinton, and Reagan. I also did lots of rock concerts, including Billy Joel and INXS. So it was really a great opportunity because there was a lot happening in and around Atlanta that the Wheel was able to get credentials for."

Squire would probably miss all that privileged access if not for the fact that his first job out of college provides him more of the same. Since October 1995, he has been a staff photographer at Allsport, the world's largest sports picture agency, working out of the company's Los Angeles offices. During his second day on the job, Squire flew to Seattle to photograph baseball's American League championships. The following week he jetted off to Hawaii to shoot the Grand Slam of Golf. He has also covered NFL football games around the country and photographed motorcycle racing in the Mojave desert.

It was in Atlanta, however, that Squire had his most successful Allsport assignment. "At the Atlanta Diving Invitational I got a picture that was voted one of Allsport's twenty best pictures of the year," he says. "It's quite an honor to be among those. I was very excited, because it's flattering just to be considered."

Squire, whose photographs have appeared in the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Los Angeles Times, and the Sporting News, became interested in photography when he was ten, after his father gave him a camera. Photography was his hobby throughout high school, and he turned serious when he arrived at Emory. During his junior year, he attended a photojournalism seminar in Atlanta, where an Allsport photographer examined his portfolio and hired him as an assistant. That association led to an internship with Allsport in Los Angeles the following summer.

After his internship, Squire was hired by Allsport as a freelancer and worked for them throughout his senior year. After graduating, he signed a three-month contract on a trial basis before becoming a full-time staff photographer. "Allsport is known for taking young photographers and molding them into better photographers," says the twenty-three-year-old. "A lot of Allsport photographers have gone on to [work for] Sports Illustrated or have gone on to enjoy a lot of success."

Squire says part of the reason he is drawn to sports photography is the variety. "It's the most exciting [kind of photography] to me because so many elements go into making a great sports picture that are unique to the sport you are photographing," he says. "Every time you go out it's different. The light is different, the teams are different, the action is different."

The official photographic agency for the International Olympic Committee and World Cup soccer, Allsport covers athletic events all over the globe, including Formula One auto racing and World Cup skiing. Squire says in the near future he should be getting some international assignments. Even though he's looking forward to the travel, he admits he wants to settle down some day.

"I don't think I could do this forever," he says. "The travel is great while I'm young, but eventually my goal is to move more toward the commercial aspect of photography. The ultimate thing I want to do in photography is environmental portraiture, like taking an athlete in their home or setting up a shoot where it's all your creative vision, and you have to come up with a picture that tells the story of the athlete. That's the most challenging thing in my mind."--J.D.T


At recent Law Day festivities, the new, five-story, 70,000-square-foot Hugh F. MacMillan Law Library was dedicated. Attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony were (from left) Robin K. Mills, associate dean and director of the library; Hugh F. MacMillan Jr., son of the library's primary benefactor, 1934 School of Law alumnus Hugh F. MacMillan, who died last September; Dean of the School of Law Howard O. Hunter; Trustee Emeritus and Chair of the Law Library Task Force Randolph W. Thrower, who graduated from Emory College in 1934 and from the School of Law in 1936, and for whom the new library's fifth floor administrative offices are named; and University President William M. Chace. (Photo by Corky Gallo)--J.D.T.


Newt Gingrich '65C comes full circle

Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, a 1965 Emory College graduate, recently came full circle when he accepted an invitation from Emory's College Republicans, a group he founded as an undergraduate, to speak at his alma mater. It was his first public appearance at the University since earning his degree, and a nearly packed house was on hand at Glenn Memorial Auditorium to hear him talk and answer questions.

Gingrich's wide-ranging opening remarks touched on such subjects as the fall of the former Soviet empire, the crisis in America's public schools, and the need for government decentralization and reform. He also impressed upon students the importance of getting involved in their communities. "You are not just a private person going through life in a private world," said Gingrich, who represents Georgia's sixth district in Congress and who earned master's and doctoral degrees in history from Tulane University after graduating from Emory. "You are a part of a larger community called America, and you have a civic responsibility to be involved in that."

One of the concepts that interested Gingrich is the impact the information technology revolution is having on society. "You ain't seen nothing yet . . . ," he said. "The best analogy I can give you is to compare airplanes and computers. We are about where the Wright brothers were around 1908 or 1910. Remember, the first Wright brothers flight took off and landed within the wingspan of a Boeing 747. . . .

"The rate of innovation is accelerating, and the number of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs is growing, so in your lifetime you will see large breakthroughs." As an example, Gingrich pointed to telemedicine, which he described as "the ability to deliver health care over distance by satellite. There is already a project here at Emory dealing with St. Petersburg, Russia, and the Republic of Georgia by satellite, so a lot of the analytical work is done here, talking with the doctors who are there."

Following his address, Gingrich fielded questions from the audience on subjects including the recent government shutdown, the concept of leadership, and the impact of the presidential line item veto. When asked what he would trim if he were given the power to unilaterally cut the government bureaucracy, Gingrich said the Department of Energy should be eliminated and eventually the Pentagon should be reduced to "a triangle."

After the program, Emory's College Republicans hosted a reception for their organization's founder in the Church School Building. Gingrich mingled with club members, signed autographs, shook hands, answered more questions, and accepted an Emory College Republicans T-shirt. "My only admonition," he told the group, "is to take yourselves seriously. Pursue passionately what you believe in. . . . You'd be surprised how much impact you could have."

Chairman of Emory's College Republicans Jeffrey Frederick, a junior majoring in economics and political science, said it was "nice to have [Gingrich] come to the reception and address the College Republicans. He opened up a lot more. . . . It was also good for the club because in volunteer organizations it's sometimes hard to motivate people, and events like this really do a lot for us in terms of motivating our membership to do things and to get involved."--J.D.T.

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