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In honour of Charles Darwin

Posted by pbio on 07 May 2009 at 22:19 GMT

Author: johanna assies
Position: senior investigator Biological Psychiatry
Institution: Dept. Psychiatry Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Submitted Date: July 26, 2007
Published Date: August 1, 2007
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

Reading the primer "With a Little Help from a Friend" by Frans B.M. de Waal I thought how much we are indebted to Charles Darwin [1]. It so occurred that at that time I was also reading in " The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex"[2]. In Chapter 3 "Comparison of the Mental Powers of Man and the Lower Animals-continued" under the subheading Sociability Darwin discusses how (higher) social animals aid each other in many important ways. It is true that Darwin does not use the word altruism. However, the many examples of important services rendered by animals to each other can without doubt be described as "altruistic". So I presumed de Waal and for that matter Warniken et al. had an excellent opportunity to point out Darwin's far reaching insights [3]. Nothing of the kind. Alas, Poor Darwin [4].


1. de Waal FBM (2007) With a little help from a friend. PLoS Biol 5(7): 1406-08.
2. Darwin C (2006) from so Simple a Beginning. The four great books of Charles Darwin. Ed. E.O. Wilson. The Descent of Man and the Lower Animals-continued. P 817-38. W.W. Norton & Company. New York London.
3. Warneken F, Hare B, Melis AP, Hanus D, Tomasello M (2007) Spontaneous altruism by chimpanzees and young children. PLoS Biol 5(7):1406-08.
4. Rose H, Rose S (2001) Alas, Poor Darwin. Arguments against evolutionary psychology. Vintage.

No competing interests declared.