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The analogies with our relatives are useful insofar as they give us some idea of the range of behaviours of other animals similar to us in many ways.

That would be useful if it were true. But that's not how I see these studies being used. The Social Darwinists and the Bonobo Fans both seem to be intent on creating narratives that say we 'should' be like their subjects because it's 'natural.'

I don't think that's a valid premise. In fact I think it should be challenge vigorously.

As for the possible range of behaviours - when you have anthropological studies that seem to cover almost every imaginable social structure - the range of actual human expression is already wide enough without needing to draw on animal studies.

Being socially conditioned is our natural state, but we don't start from a blank slate - we are primed in all sorts of ways and the innate tendencies vary from person to person.

That's also true and personal differences seem to be under-appreciated in these models.

But that's more or less the point I'm trying to make - there is no 'right' culture, and no 'natural' one. And the range of possible cultures is huge.

It's the diversity and adaptability that's unique to humans. Not some specific ethological instantiation.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Mar 8th, 2007 at 09:07:54 AM EST
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