Where does our sense of right and wrong come from?
We tackled this question in our show, “Morality”. In the episode, Dr. Frans de Waal, a primatologist and biologist, argues that sharing and empathy probably come from our primate ancestors. After all, you can see these qualities in apes today. He points to the famous 1996 example, when a 3-year-old boy fell into the gorilla enclosure at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo. Binti Jua, a female western lowland Gorilla, then 8 years old, scooped up the unconscious boy, cradled him, and then safely returned him to handlers waiting at the doors of the enclosure.
“The media made a big deal of it,” Frans says in the episode, “but actually the response of the gorilla for the boy who had fallen in was a very common typical ape response.”
Last week, an eerily similar event occurred at the Cincinnati Zoo...this time without the storybook ending. The 4-year-old boy who found himself inside the enclosure survived, but Harambe, the silverback male gorilla, did not.
Frans was tapped by Alternet, the online news magazine, to comment on yet another moral quandary: the zookeepers’ decision to shoot Harambe. You can read how Frans weighs in on these recent events here.