lundi 9 mai 2011

More human, more primate-like?

It is proven, that in affluent societies, men have more typically male personality features, and women more female ones as measured by psychologists. This despite the advances of gender equality, the fact that many women nowadays do work that was in the past reserved for men and vice versa. The explanation offered to this, at first sight paradoxical result is simple: nowadays people have more chances to become what they want to become and to be what they want to be: there is more freedom, and both men and women make use of it. This study proves that the for most of us, having male or female mind is something inborn, although in traditional, and necessarily non-affluent societies we cannot make full use of our inborn characteristics.

Now, we may ask whether this is true also of our "animal-like" characteristics, of the features we have in common with chimps, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans. Are we nowadays more similar to the big apes than in the past? We have indeed more sexual freedom, more freedom to play, to socialize, to chat and to have bodily contact with other people. We spend a lot of time boasting, competing, our aggression is canalized into entertainment and sports. Our inquisitive, explorative behavior finds a more or less free outlet in science and technology, as well as in tourism. These are but some of the parallels between the modern Homo sapiens and his/her primate cousins.

For many moralists, especially religious ones, re-emergence of our primate-like features is a clear sign of our degeneration, and points to the urgent need of returning to the traditional way of life, to "family values", to God-given rules, etc. However, the fact is that in our modern "decadent", "immoral" societies, there is much less violent crime and much less theft too than there was and is in more traditionalist, religious ones. And often the perpetrators of violent crime are precisely the moralists, traditionalists, fundamentalists. In some countries, it's a crime for a widowed woman to have sex with a man, but it is not a crime to stone her to death. One of many horrific paradoxes of the modern world.

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