This post is a stump to be completed at a later time.


So, all major religions condition their members into obeying a version of the Golden Rule.
Then why are there so many differences in how people behave across the world?

Mainly because most observers concentrate their attention on the available differences, however minute?

The goal of this post is to explore the difference – I’m an observer too, between humans and their closest relatives. Apes, dolphins, … you name it.

‘We are conscious beings’!

Humberto Maturana teaches us that human consciousness – which he defines as “self-awareness“, is something which has co-evolved with our ability to speak and with our increased ‘brain-power’.
Makes a lot of sense, right?

Then what am I still looking for?
I fully agree with his ideas yet – my basic training being that of an engineer, I long for a specific trait which would explain our ‘strange’ behavior.

By ‘strange’ I mean the sometimes huge difference between our words and our actual deeds.

For instance, if enough of the self described ‘religious people’ around the Earth would obey the rule all (surviving) major religions have in common, we’d all be living in a completely different world!

Retracing Maturana’s line of thought, I reached the point where our ape ancestor was unable yet to speak so his self-awareness must not have been, according to Maturana, any different from that of his ‘peers’ – gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans…
I’m going to make an assumption of my own now.

Our ‘cousins’ have evolved a lot less than we did.

I’m not going to enter into details – this would broaden too much the scope of this post, but I have to mention here that evolution is not a linear process – as Darwin thought. It ‘works’ in fits and bounds, influenced mainly by dramatic changes in the environment.
In Ernst Mayr’s words, ‘evolution is not about “survival of the fittest” but about the demise of the unfit‘.
In the last 5.5 million years parts of the African environment had been stable enough to allow our cousins to survive more or less unchanged while our more direct ancestors evolved following the changes in the more ‘active’ parts of Africa.

Back to my original quest.
What was the special trait which allowed our direct ancestors to survive in such diverse conditions?
I must remind you that in those times – when proto-humans, a.k.a. hominins, coexisted with the (proto)chimpanzee, both had approximately the same ‘brain size‘. And probably neither could yet ‘speak’.
Then what was left? ‘Our’ ability to run? Which we’ve made good use of since some two million years ago?
Well, running certainly opened to our forefathers – and mothers, the opportunity to  ‘harvest’ a considerably wider selection of prey than that accessible to present day chimpanzees – and, probably, to their ancestors.
You didn’t know that chimpanzees hunt? In packs?
Well, in at least one place they over-hunted their favorite prey to the tune of having to target a different species…, just as we, their supposedly more reasonable relatives, have done in too many cases…

OK, so we’ve figured out one thing. Having feet at the end of our legs allowed us to hunt, and escape other hunters, in the savanna.
But could this small difference be large enough to explain the huge difference between us and some of our closest genetic relatives, the ‘robust’ chimpanzees?

Shouldn’t we rather focus on the ‘other’ difference?

The manner in which we, humans and bonobos – the ‘other’, less known, chimpanzee, use sex?

For the regular chimps, Pan Troglodytes, as well as for all the other primates except for humans and bonobos, sex is purely a reproductive thing. So much so that it is not unusual for the new ‘ruling male’ to kill some of the babies fathered by his predecessor so that their mothers ‘accept’ him earlier than if he would have waited for the nature to take its course.




The fact that our brains are some three times larger?

Remember what I said about ‘evolution’?
About the demise of the unfit?
Now try to figure out the survival chances of a species whose members have, at birth, such a relative large brain that the delivering mother is basically incapacitated for two or three days after labor. Whose babies need five to seven years to become self sufficient enough for the mother to give birth to another baby.
And which species does not enjoy the evolutionary advantage of being sheltered by a dense jungle!

But what about the other difference that separates us from most of the chimps?