Do chimps know death?

I’ve always said that we are the only species whose members know they’re going to die.  I’m not sure that’s true, of course, but there have been suggestions that some mammals, even if they don’t grasp their own personal mortality, at least understand that death is something final and unique.

Two years ago, Natalie Angier of The New York Times had a piece on this issue, prompted by the death of a baby gorilla in a German zoo whose mother continued to carry the corpse for days, refusing to surrender it to keepers.  Angier mentioned work by Karen McComb and her colleagues showing that African elephants preferentially fondle the bones of dead elephants as opposed to bones from other species.

The latest issue of Current Biology has two thanatological notes (thanatology is the scientific study of death) suggesting that chimps, our closest relatives, perceive death as something unique. The first, by Dora Biro et al., is straightforwardly called “Chimpanzee mothers at Bossou, Guinea carry the mummified remains of their dead infants.” The authors report that, in 2003, a respiratory disease killed several chimps in a free-living colony in Bossou.  Two of the dead were infants, 1.2 and 2.6 years old.  In both cases the mothers continued to carry the dead babies around for several weeks, despite the putrefaction of the corpses.  Mothers continued to treat the bodies (which eventually mummified) with care, grooming them and chasing away flies, as well as carrying them in a unique way, gripping the arms of the dead infant between the mother’s head and shoulders (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1.  A. Mother carries corpse of her baby who died 17 days earlier. Notice the unique carrying posture.  B.  Head of mummified infant who was carried for 68 days after death.

The authors speculate that the mothers knew the babies were dead:

An obvious and fascinating question concerns the extent to which Jire and Vuavua “understood” that their offspring were dead. In many ways they treated the corpses as live infants, particularly in the initial phase following death. Nevertheless they may well have been aware that the bodies were inanimate, consequently adopting carrying techniques never normally employed with healthy young (although mothers of handicapped young have also been known to respond appropriately).

I’m not sure that carrying a corpse in a unique way betokens an understanding of death; maybe it’s just the best way to tote around a nonmoving infant who doesn’t smell too good.  But it is intriguing.

The second report, “Pan thanatology,” describes the behavior of a group of captive chimps when one of their members, a 50-year old female called Pansy, expired peacefully.  After describing the behaviors, the authors reiterate them, drawing parallels with human behavior:

During Pansy’s final days the others were quiet and attentive to her, and they altered their nesting arrangements (respect, care, anticipatory grief). When Pansy died they appeared to test for signs of life by closely inspecting her mouth and manipulating her limbs (test for pulse or breath). Shortly afterwards, the adult male attacked the dead female, possibly attempting to rouse her [7] (attempted resuscitation); attacks may also have expressed anger or frustration (denial, feelings of anger towards the deceased). The adult daughter remained near the mother’s corpse throughout the night (night-time vigil), while Blossom groomed Chippy [Blossom’s son] for an extraordinary amount of time (consolation, social support). All three chimpanzees changed posture frequently during the night (disturbed sleep). They removed straw from Pansy’s body the next morning (cleaning the body). For weeks post-death, the survivors remained lethargic and quiet, and they ate less than normal (grief, mourning). They avoided sleeping on the deathbed platform for several days (leaving objects or places associated with the deceased untouched).

This is a bit anthropomorphic to me, but doesn’t exceed the bounds of informed speculation.  Indeed, the BBC News headline this description as “Chimps ‘feel death like humans'”, and of course it shows nothing of the sort.  (The BBC link has a video of the death, which, unfortunately, you can’t access in the U.S.  If you do have access to Current Biology, you can see two videos here, including a male attacking Pansy’s body.) UPDATE: The videos are now on YouTube and I’ve embedded them below.

What the BBC headline misses is the ineluctable fact that even if we observe behaviors in other species that are similar to our own, we cannot understand what is going on in the consciousness of chimps. Are they grieving? We won’t know until we can teach chimps to communicate in a sophisticated way with humans, or, more easily but less usefully, observe a similarity in brain activity between the two species evoked by the occurrence of a death.

Although many atheists see our knowledge of death as a blessing, making us realize that life is ephemeral and we should live it to the fullest, I see it as a curse. It takes a certain amount of courage to face the fact that one day we will lose everything we have.  Few of us, I think, are enough like Socrates to accept our mortality with equanimity.  Yes, our consciousness is gone when we die, and yes, we don’t agonize about our absence from the scene before we were born, but I for one would choose immortality or, barring that, at least merciful ignorance of my finitude.

___________

Three chimps surround Pansy as she dies:

A male attacks Pansy’s corpse:

Anderson, J. R., A. Gillies, and L. C. Lock.  2010. Pan thanatology.  Current Biology 20:R349-R351.

Biro, D., T. Humle, K. Koops, C. Sousa, M. Hayashi and T. Matsuzawa. 2010. Chimpanzee mothers at Bossou, Guinea carry the mummified remains of their dead infants. Current Biology 20:R351-R352.

h/t: Matthew Cobb’s Z-letter.

46 thoughts on “Do chimps know death?

  1. “I’ve always said that we are the only species whose members know they’re going to die.”

    These sorts of statements always bother me, and particularly from evolutionary biologists. Given that we share evolutionary history with the rest of the animal kingdom, defaulting to the idea that any human behavior or characteristic is unique in the absence of data seems difficult to defend. I know that people resist anthropomorphizing for good scientific reasons, but taking the opposite tack (where we start from the assumption that humans are unique unless proven otherwise) strikes me as a secular version of the religious idea that we are god’s special creation and fundamentally apart from the animal kingdom. I don’t believe that, and I don’t think it’s scientifically defensible. In the absence of good data, it seems like the sensible position is to start from the assumption that we are probably somewhat like our close relatives and vice versa, and let data determine the areas where that is not true.

    1. Well, the perspective is defensible to the point that it can be used a scientific program among the alternatives. In other words, you can start from any point and converge to the facts.

      But the reverse is the more natural and productive one, I think. That way you have to test exceptions from the get go. Instead of theorizing them out of, mostly, thin air and let the dross build in the absence of tests. Why would humans be exceptional?

      [Here: the capability to model others and even self is there (self-recognition in mirrors among apes and elephants), the capability to plan as well (mice traversing labyrinths model self back and forth in time), so why would modeling “dead” be different?]

      So it isn’t a troubling perspective as such to me, it is the idea that you would want to use it that troubles me.

      Regarding death itself it is mundane trivia. It is a fact of life, there would be no evolution without it, and we loose consciousness daily. (At least, if we are healthy and sleep regularly.)

      Granted, as a conscious being it would be nice to decide when to let go. Life extension is the interesting area.

      Peter Hamilton writes about such techniques where you copy brain processes (never mind that the substrate is unique) and techno-magically push non-redacted parts into clones after mind-wiping rejuvenation or accidental death.

      He suggests that if it happens it will be a generational question. Older generations may see such a technique as “death” and making “similes”, especially if you have to use an older backup copy in case you are irretrievably lost. They may opt out.

      While younger may grasp at the opportunity in the sense I gave above; every time you wake, in fact every time you sense self, you reconstitute your consciousness, it is a mostly robust process by self-redacting gaps et cetera. Any continuity is part of the model, not an inherent property of the brain. So such extension techniques are no worse here.

  2. We are such close relatives of the great apes that it would be surprising to me if we were very different in our basic emotions. I would expect them to feel the same love towards family and grief at the loss of a loved one as humans typically do.

    As to what they “think” about such things, that’s very tough to determine — unless as you say, we eventually learn how to communicate in depth with them.

    1. “I would expect them to feel the same love towards family and grief at the loss of a loved one as humans typically do.”

      just another flaw in thinking brought about by a commitment to the evolutionary Dogma.

      We are sitting here discussing life, death, consciousness, love & grief…..they are carrying around dead babies unaware that the baby is dead.

      Is there no discernable difference to you?

      1. evolutionary “dogma”? Perhaps you need a dictionary, the word dogma does not apply in this circumstance. Do you also speak of peoples adherence to gravity or germ theory as dogmatic?

  3. Yes, our consciousness is gone when we die, and yes, we don’t agonize about our absence from the scene before we were born, but I for one would choose immortality or, barring that, at least merciful ignorance of my finitude.

    I think this is giving up.

    Imagine immortality. You could continue to live while all the people around you, loved ones and friends, faded away and died, leaving you behind alone with nothing but pain and suffering. It would not take very long for you to do everything you ever wanted to do, to learn all there is to know about science, to read all the classics, to visit all those wonderful places in the world and so on, at least compared to the infinite span of immortality. You could also procrastinate and get nothing done, as there was always time to do things later. As the universe continued to wind down to oblivion and absolute zero or a big crunch, you would be all alone with no ability to starve off nihilism. Everything you ever cared about would be gone…

    Consider blissful ignorance. If you do not know what the future brings, you cannot make plans. Imagine dying before you are able to tell your wife and children that you love them one final time. The very fact that our life is finite means that we have to do everything we can if we want to get anything out of it. Imagine not knowing that your life is finite, so you waste it…

    It is immorality and ignorance that breeds nihilism and sadness, not finitude. To stand up for knowledge and courage, to dispell irrationality and to accept reality for what it is with equanimity is truly virtuous and clearly outweighs the false comforts of delusion…

    1. The thought of me being immortal(in the sense of CAN’T die) is frankly terrifying. I simply can’t wrap my head around wanting to never ever ever die… Forever is such a long time that really I can’t see myself enjoying it.

      Now, wanting to be eternally young(ish) in the sense of never dying from disease/age? That sounds fine to me, as long as I retain some measure of control, being able to choose death when I want. And I’m split on if I want a car/flying car accident to be able to kill me.
      Without such a risk I’d get laaaaaazy, but wouldn’t it be awfully annoying the moment just before that car hits me?

      A live that’s as long as I want, while probably not really living fully vs living more fully but potentially having that cut short. It’s a tough decision.

    2. Immortality? God, how perfectly horrible. That’s my idea of hell right there. I’m quite looking forward to checking out of this mortal coil, 70-80 years is waaaay more than enough of this bullshit, thank you very much!

  4. I guess there are two levels of knowledge: Knowing that an other is dead and knowing that what has happened to that other will inevitably happen to oneself.

    It seems from these behavioural studies that the chimps have at least some understanding of the death of the others. But if they can infer that this will happen to themselves too we cannot know. This would seem to require a considerable degree of inferential reasoning and thinking ahead of time. Interestingly, thinking ahead is a much studied topic in behavioural science and there is some evidence that apes and corvid birds do indeed plan for the future. My guess, however, would be that awareness of one’s own mortality and the inevitability of death is still a uniquely human feat (cf. Heidegger’s ‘Being-toward-death’)

  5. It seems to me that if those apes really understood death, they’d discard the corpses of their dead babies. Carrying them around makes me think that the apes think their babies might recover.

    The “Pan thanatology” apes do seem to show some sort of understanding. They seem to realize that Pansy is dying, comfort her, and then grieve for her. (Although, I wouldn’t go as far as the parallels drawn by the authors.)

    How could anyone deny the existence of death? It is only through eating the once living flesh of plants and animals that we can maintain our own existences. Our lives are contingent on death.

  6. Flaffer’s link (thanks!) doesn’t seem to work, so I’m posting the YouTube video of that Onion piece:

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJkWS4t4l0k&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

    1. But, do YouTube videos ever die? Is there an expiration date, or will they remain forever, until every atom in the universe is devoted to keeping them available?

  7. I assume all these behaviours like “For weeks post-death, the survivors remained lethargic and quiet,” are backed up with statistical analysis of recorded behavious, preferably blind (the human annotating the behaviour for analysis did not know of the death).

    If this is done for a few more chimp deaths, then we will have good evidence that death causes this behaviour in chimps. As the behaviour is seen in another primate (us), it would be a strong indicator of similar emotional state.

    I might get a copy of the paper and see how good the stats and blinding are …

  8. So finally, based on emotions and behavior, we are positive about the existence of the soul and by extension, afterlife.
    In chimps.

  9. I have to admit that I am scared to die, mainly because I don’t want to leave this world, but I graciously embrace my finitude. That being said, I’d much rather live as long as I want (i.e. a looooong time) and be able to choose my time of death.

    Anyway, I have to agree that while these observations are intriguing, until we better understand what exactly these animals ARE feeling or thinking or doing, as opposed to what we THINK they are doing, it’s merely informed speculation on our part.

  10. Roger Fouts is a sociologist who, some time ago, raised a chimp named Washoe as a foster daughter and taught her sign language — which she later passed on to her son Loulis. While I feel his book “Next of Kin” overly anthropomorphisizes some of the observation, it’s still a fascinating read. On the balance, unless Fouts is making everything up from whole cloth, the weight of evidence would seem to suggest that chimps are not at all lacking in consciousness (the way we traditionallty assume is the case).

    1. I certainly wouldn’t want to encourage people to adopt and live with wild chimps. I have no idea what you mean by “lacking consciousness” though; I think it’s pretty obvious, for example, that all tetrapods are conscious (unless sleeping, sedated, or expired).

      1. Roger Fouts’ point was similar to the thrust of your first sentence — once the chimps are adults, it’s just not safe to be around them, and then what do you do with them? As to the second — “Consciousness: awareness of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc.;
        awareness of something for what it is.” (Dictionary.com) —
        one can be “conscious of one’s own mortality,” for example.

  11. “I’m not sure that carrying a corpse in a unique way betokens an understanding of death; maybe it’s just the best way to tote around a nonmoving infant who doesn’t smell too good. But it is intriguing.”

    And right now, some chimp is blogging, “I’m not sure that burying a corpse in a unique way betokens an understanding of death; maybe it’s just the best way to get away from a nonmoving infant who doesn’t smell too good. But it is intriguing.”

    1. Absolutely true! That’s why it’s important to know what the person/chimp is thinking rather than just what they’re doing.

  12. I remember a cow lowing all day and night for almost a month after it lost its calf; I wanted to shoot the animal so I could get some sleep. I can’t remember any other cow like it. Now if chimps were aware that their friends or babies were gone for good, wouldn’t you expect this sort of behavior to have been observed far more frequently? Then again they could be christian chimps and they have to wait a certain number of days to see if the deceased chimp is the messiah.

  13. Just seems apropos to mention Woody Allen’s line ‘I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality by not dying.’

    1. “On the plus side, death is one of the few things that can be done just as easily lying down.” (W. Allen)

      …and from someone who died two years before Woody was born: “Those who welcome death have only tried it from the ears up.” (Wilson Mizner, playwright & scoundrel)

      Our normally incompetent cat managed to kill a bird near our front door (luckily an extremely common variety of house wren). A few hours later, after the crime scene had been cleared, I witnessed something I can only describe as a scene from “The Birds”.

      The nearest electrical wire, feeding a streetlight near our front door & directly overlooking the scene of the murder was filled end-to-end with the same species — all of them absolutely quiet, completely motionless, and facing the spot where their buddy got chomped.

      It was spooky as hell. Since then, I have never witnessed a congregation on that particular wire (I can see it plainly from my bedroom window). …only shortly after the crime, that one day – and it was standing room only, motionless birds shoulder-to-shoulder.

      It’s pretty easy to read too much into this, but I’d give an eye tooth to know what kinds of “thoughts” were flickering through those tiny assembled brains.

    2. Here’s another one of Woody’s: “I don’t mind dying—I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

  14. In this context, it would be interesting to know why and how humans know that they will die.

    Say that we (in an unrealistic thought experiment) take a single human child, transplants him to an island filled with edible fruit, but no humans or other animals. Will he know that he is going to die? Probably not—and the same applies to other species.

    Next make the same experiment with sufficiently many animals present that the human sees the end of animal life on a few occasions. Will he deduce his own end? Many will likely do so, but probably not all. Some highly developed animals may also be able.

    If not, put him in a group of equally innocent humans, where he eventually sees other die. Will he realize that he too is mortal? Likely—and the chances for an animal is at least larger than before.

    In the final step, a realistic example, where he is exposed to humans that already know about and will tell him about death. Here we know that he will know; however, this option is likely not available to any other animal.

  15. If there wasn’t social norms against it, I think some humans would carry their dead infants around for a while as well. We’ve probably all seen news reports showing parents being pulled from their dead children during coverage of wars.

    Primates and some other animals, I think, could have some awareness of death. Animals apparently have some notion of potential danger or they wouldn’t be able to avoid it ever. So what are they considering when they run away or when they avoid going down a hillside that is too steep?

    There is a video (link below) of Koko and her cat All Ball, of coarse it doesn’t prove anything other than a reaction of some sort.

    http://www.koko.org/world/kokoflix.php?date=1999-04-05

  16. Took me awhile to think about this.

    First, I don’t think that we can conclude, from the evidence, that either chimps or elephants “know” about death or dying. There’s no reason to think that they do not have particular attachments to members of their own species who have died (elephants), or to their own dead infants or kin, but it’s hard to jump from that to a highly conceptualised idea of death or dying, or what the state of “being dead” is, or is like. That’s too big a jump.

    As for the idea of immortality, and the wish to live forever. That seems, on the face of it, an odd desire, though one might certainly wish that life had been somehow different, and not, to such a degree, a condition of suffering and frustration. Bernard Williams’ “The Makropulos Case” is a pretty good remedy against the desire to live forever, and, as even C.S. Lewis points out, life gives us no more reason to hope for something better in the hereafter (should there be a hereafter) than for something worse.

    In my own experience, the idea of being as if one had never been, is not in itself so bad. Epicurus was so far right. What is much worse, however, and much more difficult, is the idea that those one has loved and lost are now as if they had never been. That seems to me to be the source of our worst anxieties and fears, and is probably the reason that so many have come to believe that death is not the end. It is very difficult to think of a loved one being as if they had never been. They are simply too real to us for that to be easy.

    It is perhaps worth pointing out that, though rabbinic Judaism accepts the existence of a life of the world to come, this is not an aspect of the religion of the Tanach, which clearly thinks of the state of being dead very much as the Greeks thought of it, as a strange, shadowy realm, lacking the immediacy and vivacity of being alive in the flesh. The biblical writers seem to have understood, much better than we, the fragile beauty of life, and its almost unbearable fleetingness – the unbearable lightness of being.

    1. “First, I don’t think that we can conclude[…]”: Having an idea about death is not that hard a thing; in particular, considering that animals are surrounded by death to a higher degree than humans. (However, even if an animal has as an understanding, it could be far more superficial than an adult human’s, in the same way that four y.o. can “understand” death.) The hitch is what comes next: Having an awareness of ones own future death.

      “As for the idea of immortality[…]”: With me it is the other way around—it is one of the most natural desires there is. Notably, the many stories warning against immortality is a sign that the wish for it is quite common. (Else, why warn?) Further: How do we now that immortality (with a sound mind and in a sound body…) would be bad? It is only literature that tells us otherwise, and the authors have not experienced immortality themselves. Possibly, even the warnings are just another example of fear of death, sour grapes, or similar.

      “In my own experience, the idea of being[…]”: Rationally speaking you are right, but for most [snobby latin quote to the effect that learning to die is a life-long process that I could not dig up on short-notice] applies. At 35, I have a reasonably relaxed view on my inevitable future death (mostly with complaints of the “Ars longa vita brevis” kind) but at earlier ages, I have been worried—and who knows what I will feel when I am 85…

      1. In general 4 year olds don’t have an awareness of death. That’s much too young. Consciousness of death starts to develop around 7 or so, but even so, that itself tends to be suppressed until much later. It is well known that youth (16-30 or so) don’t have a strong sense of their own mortality.

        35 is very young to develop a very profound sense of mortality, and its implications for life. To a large extent we tend to suppress the consciousness of mortality. Some psychologists (see Schumaker’s Wings of Illusion) think that most humans live in a state of at least mild self-hypnosis most of the time – which is often what religious beliefs are for. The in between years seem to be years of mild psychosis, when death does not loom very large, and we can be reasonably relaxed about our inevitable death (in what seems to the young 30-50 or so an improbably long way off). When you are very old, there comes a time for many if not most, when death comes as a welcome rest for the weary. Which is why, of course, the idea of immortality would be such a frightening thing, given the way life goes. The desire for immortality tends to cancel through by positive and negative experiences, giving a balance, if you’re lucky, of positive ones.

        But the problem of ‘positive’ as we understand it, is that it is alwas something that has death as an horizon. If we never died, would there be such positives? It’s hard to say, since it is so hard to imagine what this state of immortality would be like, or what it would be for.

        As for immortality being a “natural” desire, this, given the evidence, seems unlikely. The Greeks apparently did not have it, nor the Hebrews, and the people for whom the Epic of Gilgamesh was normative had a deep sense of life’s diaphonous insubstantiality. The idea of immortality – and an immortality which does not suffer from the manifold defects of life in the world – is a huge jump, and an essentially irrational one. Why should anyone think, given what we know of life from our own experience, or by considering the experience of others, that eternal life (if there is one, per impossibile, I suggest) should be better, richer, or more rewarding than the one we have? Anyone who thinks this has clearly not taken his/her present experiences to heart, and will believe most anything. A scientific cast of mind would assure anyone that any life to come is only plausibly thought to be as unsatisfactory as this one. Of course some, the lucky few, live their lives as if in a cocoon of unending summers, of love that never grows cold, and of joys that never cloy.

        1. I readily admit that four may be an unrealistic number—I have very little do with children. Let us say “that age when a child is able to understand that [some relative] is gone forever because he died”. However, the point was neither that a good understanding should be present, nor that a sense of own mortality should be so—but that a rudimentary understanding should be present.

          (Incidentally, I did myself have a strong fear of death around seven after my grandfather and the family dog died during a comparatively short time, with the other grandfather having died a few years earlier.)

          You write “When you are very old, there comes a time for many if not most, when death comes as a welcome rest for the weary. Which is why, of course, the idea of immortality would be such a frightening thing, given the way life goes.”: Is this weariness inevitable? If we assume that someone remains physically and mentally young and leads a good and rewarding life, it seems reasonable that he would want to extend it (although, possibly, not forever in the literal sense). If someone is in great pain, has no interests in life, has to work 16 hours a day in a coal-mine—yes, then the situation can be very different. Interestingly, in my impression, those who do have a strong interest and joy in life, feel that they still have something to accomplish, or similar, tend have an over-average chance of great age, which makes me believe that it is quite possible to keep this interest for far more than the typical 70–80 year life-span. (The situation may or may not be different after 200.)

          The desire for eternal life is actually quite common in various mythologies of old, and most (?) contain some mechanism by which the rare individual human is raised to an immortal status (by being taken to Heaven physically before death in the Bible; being turned into a star constellation in the Greek mythology; eating Iðunn’s apples; various pills, peaches, and even skill-learning in the Chinese mythology; and similar). Obviously, this is something that may vary from person to person, depending on quality of life, amount of time available to think on existential questions, whatnot.

          “Why should anyone think, […]that eternal life […] should be better, richer, or more rewarding than the one we have?”: Does it have to be better in quality? If life is good, I find it natural to want more of it, even if the quality does not improve. (Notwithstanding that many forms of immortality is combined with a removal to some type of paradise. Possibly, the discussion should be divided strictly into eternal life on earth and post-death/ascension rewards.)

  17. It takes a certain amount of courage to face the fact that one day we will lose everything we have.

    Imagine the plight of Alzheimers sufferers who face the gradual onset of oblivion and the prospect of becoming estranged from the self.

  18. Seems to me there is a difference between having a concept of death and mourning a loss. A mother chimp only knows that the baby isn’t responsive anymore and I think that is enough to cause mourning. Also, since mourning is almost certainly caused by biochemical conditions, it should be possible to identify those conditions in humans and determine if similar conditions exist in chimps that suffer loss.

  19. If the question comes down to a definition of what it means to know what death is, it would seem to me that christians don’t know what it is either. So should christians then be grouped along with other none human animals.

    1. This is a specious argument: Christians may (or may not) be wrong about what death entails, but they do have an understanding of the end of “mortal” existence, its inevitability, and so on. Their error would be of a very different kind from e.g. a dog’s.

      1. Yes, going to sleep and waking up on a cloud would definitely be different than what a dog might think but, beyond that christians and dogs might well be similar.

        However, what is being considered is another primate and cannot be dismissed as easily as you think.

        The evidence is certainly stacked heavily against christian mythology.

  20. Humans Comprehension Of Life And Death

    A. From “Chimps May Be Aware of Others’ Deaths”
    http://www.usnews.com/science/articles/2010/04/28/chimps-may-be-aware-of-others-deaths.html

    – “These (chimp) mothers understood that there was something unusual about their infants, but whether for them that indicated that the infants would never come back to life remains a fascinating open question”

    – “Chimpanzees may know something of someone else’s mortality, but we have no way of knowing whether they understand their own mortality”

    B. What about humans’ comprehension of life and death?

    The tremendous technological evolution of some humans since our chimp time not withstanding, how much has humanity’s comprehension of life and death evolved by now?

    Considering the potential tremendous practical personal and societal implications of furthering human comprehension of the origin, nature and evolution of life and the universe, humanity’s advance since its chimp time is mostly in tooling-technology, and only barely little in comprehension of its own essence…

    Dov Henis
    (Comments From The 22nd Century)
    03.2010 Updated Life Manifest
    http://www.the-scientist.com/community/posts/list/54.page#5065
    Cosmic Evolution Simplified
    http://www.the-scientist.com/community/posts/list/240/122.page#4427

  21. I dont see why animals other than humans cant recognize death.
    Sure, they are probably slow in catching the symptoms. Heck, even humans are sometimes pretty slow. But yah, why would anyone think that humans alone are supercool beings capable of recognizing death? If you say, its because of science, then what about 1000s of years ago when humans still recognized that.

  22. Here’s what I’d like to know: what would a chimp do if it came upon a grisly scene of an unrelated chimp or other primate that had just recently been violently killed. Would the chimp recgonize an unseen danger that could kill it as well, or would it simply disregard it as unimportant? Most other animals would fall under the letter.

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