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Primates and Philosophers

How Morality Evolved

Frans de Waal

Princeton University Press, $22.95, 230 pp.

Our Inner Ape

A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are

Frans de Waal

Riverhead Books, $24.95, 288 pp.

A standard distinction in discussions of science and religion is that science discusses matters of fact and religion discusses matters of value and purpose. Science, so it goes, tells us what is, and religion tells us what ought to be. This division of territory, many argue, keeps religion forever relevant because even the greatest discoveries of science would still leave matters of value and purpose unaddressed.

But what if science had important things to say about our values and purposes? What if not only our bodies but also the origins of our morality are the products of millions of years of evolutionary development? If so, would the explanatory power of science finally succeed in making religion irrelevant?

Frans de Waal, an acclaimed primatologist, has much to say about what he considers the biological origins of morality. Unlike many recent antireligion writers...

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About the Author

Joe Pettit is an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore.