Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind
Dorothy L. Cheney, Robert M. SeyfarthISBN: 0226102432; 9780226102436;
Lovers' quarrels and murder, greed and social climbing: baboon society has all the features that make a mainstream novel a page-turner. The question Cheney and Seyfarth (How Monkeys See the World) ask, however, is more demanding: how much of baboon behavior is instinctive, and how much comes from actual thought? Are baboons self-aware? To find answers, the authors spent years observing a clan of baboons in Botswana's Moremi Game Reserve. Like most primates, baboons are social creatures, living in large groups of 100, where individual rank—and the ability to claim food or a mate—is based on a complex web of birth and consort relationships. Cheney and Seyfarth pepper their descriptions with surprisingly apt literary comparisons, such as the example of a baboon who runs afoul of a higher-ranking member and receives much the same treatment as an unwitting character in an Edith Wharton novel. Along the way we get a good look at the state of current primate research on intelligence and...