Is it possible that God has a different plan for us, one that is revealed in the ways of a Congolese great ape?
Anderson Cooper of “60 Minutes” seems to suggest so in his Dec. 6 segment on bonobos and the sanctuary Lola Ya Bonobo or Bonobo Paradise.
Cooper’s segment, “Bonobos: What We Can Learn from Our Primate Cousins,” teaches us about female leadership, sex as a cure for violence, and the importance of saving animals from extinction.
Who are the bonobos?
They are, “60 Minutes” tells us: “ … the only great apes that live in female-dominated groups and unlike chimps and humans, which are often violent and aggressive with each other, bonobos would rather make love than war.”
Evolutionary anthropologist Brian Hare of Duke University tells us that life in bonobo paradise means that: “Here if you try to be in – an alpha male, you will be, as the Congolese say, ‘corrected’ by the females.”
Cooper adds: “Not just by one female, but by a sort of alliance of females?”
Hare responds: “That’s right. That’s right.”
Hare then defines what this means in moral terms: “Bonobos,” he says, “have never been observed to kill each other.”
Why is this true? Because, he says, “they don’t really have that darker side.”
Bonobos, we learn, prefer cooperation because of the females, who work together. And no other primate has “more sex, more often.”
Fighting stresses bonobos, so instead of turning to fisticuffs they turn to what Hare calls the “Bonobo Handshake,” sex, whenever there is conflict in the group.
The bonobos, Cooper suggests, have a more enlightened approach to sexual activity than human beings: “It’s not that they want to procreate or have kids, it’s not that they even find each other attractive?”
No, the bonobos live in a perfectly cooperative and sexually egalitarian female-run social group and prefer negotiation in the form of sex as way of resolving conflict:
“And males do that with females, males will do that with males, females will do that with females, doesn’t matter, even the ages?”
Hare responds: “Any combination. Any age.”
The plight of the lovable, sex-loving bonobos, seemingly born without the instinct to violence that has plagued human beings since Cain and Abel, deeply moves Cooper: “It’s an irony that this peace-loving primate is being hunted to extinction.”
In fact, our smaller-brained, primitive cousins may be trying to tell us something, the segment suggests, when they look deep into our eyes.
Perhaps that’s what Claudine Andre, the Belgian-born founder of the sanctuary, sees when she explains why she cares for bonobos:
“The way they look in your eyes, deeply in your – just like they look in your soul.”
All Cooper can say is: “In your soul.”
The bonobos, Cooper and Andre agree, are: “so . . . human.”
Thankfully, Cooper’s segment suggests, Bonobo Paradise exists to teach us that perhaps we’ve missed all along that God has intended for us to be more like bonobos, and that if we were more like bonobos we would be more human and there would be peace on earth and perhaps we might even return to paradise.