Stuff I Care About

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Of course, the Vatican condemns Halloween. Hmmmmm..... The real house of horrors really lies within their walls. How many lives have they destroyed? Here it is, from the National Post.

Vatican condemns Halloween
Posted: October 31, 2009, 12:40 AM by Daniel Kaszor

The Daily Telegraph reports the Vatican has decided Halloween is an Anti-Christian trick and and not a harmless treat. These views spring from an article inL’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, which ran an article with the headline "Hallowe’en’s dangerous messages." In the article Father Joan María Canals was quoted as saying:

“Hallowe’en has an undercurrent of occultism and is absolutely anti-Christian.” Parents should “be aware of this and try to direct the meaning of the feast towards wholesomeness and beauty rather than terror, fear and death,” he said.

Going further he said that Halloween activities are obsessed with death:

"Children dress as witches, vampires, ghosts, masks, corpses, skeletons, and parents favour this type of festivity which plays with elements of death,” Father Canals said. “But when a relative dies they prevent them from seeing the dead relative.”

This admonishment comes after Halloween traditions, previously a North American phenomenon, have begun spreading to other areas of the world.

[Image: Ric Ernst/Canwest News Service]

Read more:
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Hate Crime Does Occur When One Preaches Hate

This is an interesting editorial from the Examiner. It is discussing how a woman in England wrote a letter preaching hate about homosexuals was told that she had committed a HATE CRIME. After having committed a hate crime, which is what it is, she was subsequently arrested. It is interesting how religion really dulls a person's moral compass. If I went around my community giving pamphlets out that explicitly outlined my hate for a group of people, I would be guilty of committing a hate crime. I would fully expect there to be consequences for my actions, nor would I expect a special interest group to advocate for me. Nevertheless, this editorial is being used to "warn" American Christians that this will soon be what is facing them too. By the way, the tone of this article is pretty offensive. Reader beware.

Hate crimes case in Britain should signal a warning to Christians in America

October 28, 10:56 AMManchester Faith & Culture ExaminerDyan Puma
Front of courthouse, Louisville, Kentucky, June 2008
Front of courthouse, Louisville, Kentucky, June 2008 by Fleur-de-louis

The problem is not exclusive to Great Britain. More than ever before, free speech and religious freedoms are under attack right here in America.

In last night’s legal segment of Fox’s 'The O’Reilly Factor,' the panel discussed the story of Pauline Howe a 67-year old Christian woman who wrote a letter to town council voicing her opposition to a Gay Pride parade. Her letter reportedly stated the event is a 'public display of indecency' that was 'offensive to God'.

The Norwich City Council responded to Howe with their own letter “warning her she might be guilty of a hate crime and that the matter had been passed to police.”

“Two officers later turned up at the frightened grandmother's home and lectured her about her choice of words before telling her she would not be prosecuted,” according to UK’s MailOnline.

But Howe’s case still may be headed to court. The Christian Institute is “looking into potential breaches of freedom of speech and religious rights under the Human Rights Act, either by Norwich City Council or Norfolk Police.”

Here’s the reason Howe’s story is an important one to note in the U.S. The legal panel on Foxnews noted that we have the First Amendment, as if to say, a Mrs. Howe here in America is protected under constitutional law. Also, the consensus was that no judge in their right mind would prosecute an old lady whose “intent” was not to harm anyone. I understand this is because of the difficulty in proving someone's intent, and is a common defense.

However, there is a problem with the notion that 'intent' would determine the innocence or guilt in a hate crimes case.

With the disgraceful passage of the Hate crimes bill in the House on Oct 8, and in the Senate last week, and Obama is expected to sign into law today, homosexuals are added to the list of groups covered under the federal law; in this case “extra” protections or “special rights” are based on sexual behavior and orientation, gender identity or disability.

This means that if anyone speaks out against gays and lesbians, by letter or other act such as distributing Christian leaflets (which Mrs. Howe has also done in her town), they could be prosecuted and found guilty of a hate crimes under the new law.

Whether or not the punishment is a slap on the wrist, in this country cases set precedent that can then be used to support similar cases. So, where a gay or lesbian individual claims their “special right” has been violated and the ruling goes in their favor, even in these minor cases where it seems logical that the defendant’s intent was not harmful or threatening, these rulings add up and become culturally embedded into the judicial system.

In other words, there is the potential for fundamentally changing how our first amendment protection will work in the future.

The new law entitled the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act (18 USC 249) is named after two murder victims from 1998 who were targeted for attack because of bigotry. But a hate crimes can extend to minor offenses, not just murder.

Which, by the way, shouldn’t everyone have the protection against bigotry? Gay and lesbians and their supporters haven’t always displayed a tolerance for Christians.

Misguided liberals and civil rights groups such as the Human Rights Campaign and ACLU are probably already lining up their hate crimes cases

Friday, October 23, 2009

Quote of the Day

I love this one. This is on the proper etiquette of how to treat your slaves. In particular, female slaves. This also clearly tells you what rights your daughter is to have if you should decide to sell her. I am thinking that this may be hard to translate to our modern times because we have a tendency to outsource our menial labor on those less fortunate than us. Nevertheless, here it is:

When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment. (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)

More from the New Jim Bakker- Benny Hinn

This comes from the Christian Post today. This truly is history repeating itself. Did we not go through this in the 80's with the Bakkers, Swaggerts, and other televangelists. They all fed themselves fat on the easy money of fools? UGH. Unbelievable. I love how his private jet is a necessity. Hmmmm. Americans are unemployed, unable to pay their mortgages and starving in the streets. And his jet is not a luxury. Why doesn't he sell that jet, be lucky to fly commercial, and use the proceeds to set up a fund to assist Americans who are suffering in this recession. Here is the link to the article:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Quote of The Day

This comes from the buffoon himself, the Honorable Gary Goodyear, Federal Minister of Science and Technology himself. This is his explanation of what Evolution is. He is so qualified to make this assertion, given his chiropody background. I guess this is why he reduced funding to The Human Genome Project, which would have put Canadians on the forefront of international scientific research. He knows best. Here is this gem:

We are evolving every year, every decade. That's a fact, whether it is to the intensity of the sun, whether it is to, as a chiropractor, walking on cement versus anything else, whether it is running shoes or high heels, of course we are evolving to our environment. But that's not relevant and that is why I refused to answer the question. The interview was about our science and tech strategy, which is strong.

While my pride at being Canadian knows no boundaries, this is one of my major cultural criticisms of our society. Our apathy has led morons like this to take position in our federal government. He is feeding from our tax paying troughs!!!!!!! How could this happen? UGH, I just do not understand.....

What Would Einstein Say?

In March, The Globe and Mail reported that our new Minister of Science and Technology, good old Gary Goodyear, reduced major funding to research. He openly admits to being Christian, which is fine, however he is evading answering if he is a Creationist, which is not fine. Scary. I must add, I am a little shocked by this. Through all of my research, I rarely find this type of conflict within Canadian politics.

As you read, you will hear him explain how he clearly has an interest in science, this is interesting. By the way Mr. Goodyear, we all had to take natural sciences in our undergraduate studies. Like you, none of us had a choice. You may be able to snow people who are unaware of the process of taking electives in the university system, but you cannot fool the rest of us. I have my eye on this man. There is a problem with the text, so here is the link:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Interesting Stuff

Here is an article today that I found in the Christian Post. This says that Richard Dawkins is refusing to debate Intelligent Design "specialists". By doing so, he is not gaining their respect. They are stating that he does not debate "creationists". Perhaps, they do not think that they are creationists because of intelligent design. The interesting thing is that I am unable to find any information from his publicists as to why he does not wish to engage with them. The only media printing this information appears to be Christian based. Very interesting.

Nothing Says Happy Halloween Like A Good Book Burning....

I found this article today at This says that a Baptist Church in North Carolina plans to celebrate Halloween this year with a good old fashioned book burning. However, what I found most interesting was their choices of books that are to be included in the fire. Check it out....

One Baptist Church To Celebrate Halloween By Burning Bibles
A Baptist church plans to celebrate Halloween by burning Bibles, music and books.
N.C. Church Plans Bible Burning

CANTON, N.C. (October 13, 2009)—The Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, N.C. will celebrate Halloween by burning Bibles that aren’t the King James Version, as well as music and books and anything else Pastor Marc Grizzard says is a satanic influence.

Among the authors whose books Grizzard plans to burn are well known ministers Rick Warren and Billy Graham because he says they have occasionally used Bibles other than the King James Version, which is the sole biblical source he considers infallible.

According to the church’s Web site, members will also burn “Satan's music such as country, rap, rock, pop, heavy metal, western, soft and easy, southern gospel, contemporary Christian, jazz, soul (and) oldies.

“We will also be burning Satan's popular books written by heretics like Billy Graham, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, John McArthur, James Dobson, Charles Swindoll, John Piper, Chuck Colson, Tony Evans, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swagart, Mark Driskol, Franklin Graham, Bill Bright, Tim Lahaye, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Joyce Myers, Brian McLaren, Robert Schuller, Mother Teresa, The Pope, Rob Bell, Erwin McManus, Donald Miller, Shane Claiborne, Brennan Manning (and) William Young.

During the book burning, according to the Web site, barbecued chicken fried chicken and “all the sides” will be served.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Quote of The Day

Today's quote comes from a retired American Bishop of the Episcopal Church Diocese of Newark named John Shelby Spong. He was known to be "liberal" and "progressive" in his religious ideas. Nevertheless, I like what he says. Here it is:

"The Bible has been used for centuries by Christians as a weapon of control. To read it literally is to believe in a three-tiered universe, to condone slavery, to treat women as inferior creatures, to believe that sickness is caused by God's punishment and that mental disease and epilepsy are caused by demonic possession. When someone tells me that they believe the Bible is the 'literal and inerrant word of God,' I always ask, 'Have you ever read it'?" Bishop John Shelby Spong

Another Sad Day for People Who Went to This Catholic Church

I really wish that I did not have to post these links. The Canadian Press released this today after a news conference of Richard Latimer. This stuff really disturbs me to no end. This will never end. Here is the latest scandal to come down on the Catholic Church in Nova Scotia. The fact that I am not surprised by any of this is really unfortunate.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

ACLU Action

This is an interesting press release that I found on the ACLU website. What is more interesting is the links that are at the bottom. I would encourage anyone to read them, they are a little more telling than this official statement. I cannot believe that they used state funds like this. It is ruthless. Here it is:

ACLU Asks Court to End Government Funding of Religion in Mississippi Abstinence-Only Program (9/9/2009)

CONTACT: 212-519-7844,

Jackson, MS -- The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Mississippi today asked a federal court in Mississippi to end government funding of religion in the state's abstinence-only-until-marriage program.The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District on behalf of a teen and two community members who attended a state-sponsored abstinence summit in May of this year.

"The state of Mississippi cannot sponsor overtly religious events as part of its abstinence-only-until-marriage program," said Brigitte Amiri, Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project."This is not the first time the state has crossed the line in its abstinence programming, but we hope it will be the last. Instead of preaching, the state needs to start teaching youth how to make responsible and healthy decisions throughout their lives."

As part of National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) holds an annual teen abstinence summit each May. After last year's summit, which included overt religious messages, the ACLU sent a letter to MDHS asking for assurances that future events would remain secular.MDHS did not respond to the ACLU's letter and failed to address the legal concerns in this year's event.

The 2009 summit featured religious themes and overtly Christian messages, including a lengthy presentation about the Ten Commandments by Judge John N. Hudson of the Adams County Court in Natchez, MS. Judge Hudson told the audience, "Abstain, God says, from promiscuous sex – thou shall not commit adultery. But why? Is not God being a killjoy? Did He not create this great gift which is so good and wonderful?Why would He tell us not to do it? He's not. He's telling us that He created this great and wonderful gift for a special and unique committed relationship that is to last forever." The program also included several prayers and a performance to gospel songs by the Pilgrim Rest Mime Ministry.

"By using the summit to promote a religious message rather than offer health-related information, the state missed an important opportunity to help teens make healthy and smart decisions when it comes to sexuality," said Kristy L. Bennett, Staff Attorney with the ACLU of Mississippi. "Study after study shows that abstinence-only-until-marriage approaches are ineffective at preventing teen pregnancy or the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Given the high rates of teen pregnancy and HIV infection in Mississippi, the failings of this year's summit are inexcusable."

In Fiscal Years 2007 and 2008 MDHS received $1,428,753 each year in federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funds.

"Mississippi cannot continue to act like it is above the Constitution and repeatedly sponsor religious events with taxpayer money," said Daniel Mach, Director of Litigation for the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

Since 1996, Congress has appropriated more than 1.5 billion dollars for programs that focus solely on promoting abstinence and censoring information that young people need to make healthy and responsible decisions about sexuality. A 2007 congressionally mandated study found that teenagers who had taken abstinence-only courses were just as likely to have sex at the same mean age as other teens. Alternatively, studies show that curricula that stress waiting to have sex while providing information about effective contraceptive use can significantly delay the initiation of sex, reduce the frequency of sex and the number of sexual partners and increase condom or contraceptive use among sexually active teens.

Today's case is Robinson v. Thompson. Lawyers include Amiri of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; Bennett of the ACLU of Mississippi; and Mach of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

Video excerpts from the 2009 Teen Summit can be found at:

The ACLU's complaint can be found at: rights/religion/40962lgl20090909.html

I Had No Interest in This Film Until I Read This Review.

Hmmm.... I found this review in Christian Post today. I will admit, I had no interest in this film until I read this review. I had filed it in the list of "renters". However, I may have to go and see this now. Here it is:

Hollywood's 'Big Atheist Comedy' Pokes Fun at Christians, 'Man in the Sky'

Moviegoers discovered over the weekend that actor and director Ricky Gervais not only lies in his new film, but that he also lied when assuring them that “The Invention of Lying” is not atheist propaganda.

“It’s Hollywood’s big atheist comedy,” wrote New York Post movie critic Kyle Smith on Sunday.

Several days before the Oct. 2 release of “The Invention of Lying,” Smith revealed that the movie “might be the most blatantly, one-sidedly atheist movie ever released by a major studio, in this case Warner Bros.”

But contrary to what you might think, Smith is not “one of those hyper-sensitive Bible lovers who thinks the secularists are coming to strip my Christmas tree down to a Midwinter Solstice Pole.”

“Actually, no. Like Gervais, I’m an atheist,” he confessed.

And even for Smith, “The Invention of Lying” was over-the-top.

“Gervais delights in what a faith-based society would call blasphemy, setting up an imaginary world in which no one ever lies. Except his character, who spreads what Gervais obviously sees as the biggest lie of all: Belief in God,” the film critic wrote in his personal blog.

The movie – directed, produced, and starring Gervais – is set in an alternative reality in which no one has ever lied. And not only does no one tell a lie, but people often tell the entire truth, or blurt out very blunt remarks and opinions that people in normal society would normally keep to themselves.

Organized religion does not exist in this world, nor are there any forms of fiction, in both film and literature.

So when unsuccessful lecture-film writer Mark Bellison (Gervais) invents the first lie by telling a bank teller that he has $500 more than he actually has (and gets away with it), he begins lying to others and helping people feel better about themselves and help others with their relationships.

The lies start spiraling out of control, however, when he tries to comfort his dying mother at the hospital by telling her that she will not go into a state of nothingness, as she believes, but rather to a place where everyone gets their own mansion and where she will be young and happy and be with the people she loves.

Though the news of this “kind of place you go to after you die” makes Bellison's mother happy right before she dies, it also spreads like wildfire until millions around the world believe he is a kind of Messiah, or Prophet.

From there on out, Gervais’ character ends up telling people about the “Man in the Sky” who is looking down at everyone and is responsible for everything that happens – including diseases and tragedies (prompting one magazine headline later to read: “Man in the Sky Kills 40,000 in Tsunami!”).

He also crafts a ridiculously simple-minded 10-point creed on pizza boxes (like the 10 Commandments) and later becomes outfitted like Jesus – with his beard, long hair, and bedsheet.

“His (Gervais’) new film, ‘The Invention of Lying,’ illustrates why Nora Ephron and Christopher Hitchens don’t write screenplays together,” commented Smith. “It begins in frilly cuteness but soon becomes a labored, blunt, loud attack on religion, especially Christianity.”

Though Smith said believes Gervais has one of the most brilliant minds in comedy today, the movie critic confessed that he wished Gervais had not made “The Invention of Lying,” which he believes will be a flop and also damage him in Hollywood.

“Gervais is an atheist, which is fine, but his mean-spiritedness (even before the atheism theme enters the movie, it’s sour and misanthropic) and the film’s reduction of all religion to an episode of crowd hysteria are not going to be warmly received,” commented Smith.

“We don’t have to stand on street corners proselytizing, telling people they’re idiots - which is what Gervais is doing,” he added in his review.

Sounds like it will be fun.

Monday, October 5, 2009

More Good Stuff from the UK

This comes from The Telegraph UK. The campaign started at the start of the year, so this article is a little dated. Richard Dawkins was there to start it off. We have something similar in Canada, but it has not gotten quite the exposure and support. Here it is:

ASA clears Atheist Bus Campaign ads

Atheist advertising campaign launched

Professor Richard Dawkins on a bus displaying an atheist message in Kensington Gardens, London Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

The advertising watchdog has ruled that a controversial atheist ad campaign, which sparked the ire of Christian groups for proclaiming "There is probably no God", did not break its code.

Religious groups including Christian Voice complained to the Advertising Standards Authority arguing that the Atheist Bus Campaign, which ran on buses with the strapline "There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life", broke the advertising code on the grounds of substantiation and truthfulness.

The ASA, which said that some of the complaints were that the ad was offensive and denigratory to people of faith, faced the prospect of having to decide if God existed in order to rule on Christian Voice's complaint.

However, the watchdog said today that the British Humanist Association's campaign did not breach the advertising code or mislead consumers and that it therefore would not launch an investigation.

"The ASA council concluded that the ad was an expression of the advertiser's opinion and that the claims in it were not capable of objective substantiation," said the ASA. "Although the ASA acknowledges that the content of the ad would be at odds with the beliefs of many, it concluded that it was unlikely to mislead or to cause serious or widespread offence."

Writer Ariane Sherine first suggested the idea in a Guardian Comment is Free blog last June, saying an atheist bus campaign would provide a reassuring counter-message to religious slogans threatening non-Christians with hell and damnation.

• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000.

• If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly "for publication".

We clearly need to get more active with this in Canada. I cannot count how many times I have been solicited on public transit with Christianity.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Quote of The Day

This one comes to us straight from the mouth of Napoleon Bonaparte himself. It is a little spiteful, but I am having that sort of day. Here it is:

"Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet."

Love it.

I Am Really Disturbed by This

Here is an article I found. I am so bothered by it, I only want to post the link. This gives some detail about the arrest of Ronald William White, the missionary busted with child pornography on his laptop by border officials. I am just so thoroughly disgusted with all of this. Any other sector of society would not protect these people. Perhaps this is why Catholics are leaving the church in droves. If you are brave enough, here it is.

Comments, anyone?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The UK Has Some Great Rules

This news item comes from the Telegraph UK and is awesome. Benny Hinn was refused to entry to the UK. Apparently, he needs to be sponsored by a church to do business there. Here it is:

By Laura Donnelly
Published: 12:16PM BST 03 Oct 2009

Benny Hinn was refused entry to Britain because he had failed to bring a valid sponsorship certificate from his church

Thousands who travelled to see Mr Hinn perform at a London rally have been were left disappointed after officials at Stansted airport would not let him in the country.
Border Agency officials turned back Mr Hinn, who landed by private jet, because he had failed to bring a valid sponsorship certificate from his church, required under rules introduced last November.

The Pentecostal preacher, who was due to perform at a three day rally in a Docklands exhibition centre this weekend, flew on to Paris, and attempted – and failed – to regain entry to Britain via Luton.Thousands of evangelical Christians who had booked long weekend breaks to see the mission at the ExCeL centre were left waiting for Mr Hinn to appear at the free preaching event, not knowing why he failed to appear. Instead another pastor took his place.

His "fire conference and miracle service" was scheduled to last three days, finishing on Saturday night. Among the "miracles" the Texan preacher performs is one in which he instructs participants to "let the bodies hit the floor". Videos of the services show the devout falling down backwards, "slain in spirit".

Mr Hinn has previously visited Britain without problems, but since November, under Home Office rules intended to combat extremism, all religious workers must obtain a valid certificate of sponsorship before they arrive in the UK. One of the aims of the new points-based system was to prevent teachers of religious hate entering the country. A Border Agency spokesman said the rules were designed to ensure that a legitimate sponsor is linked to any application to enter Britain for work purposes. He added: "These rules are applied objectively and clearly set out for travellers".

Jill Masefield, who lives in Bristol, said she and thousands of other followers had been left waiting for Mr Hinn to appear at the free preaching event, not knowing why he had not appeared. "He's been coming here for years and years," she said. "I think it is very unfair that they have blocked him now. It has cost me a fortune in hotel bills and I feel we have been led up the garden path".

New Ancestor Found

This comes from the Wall Street Journal. A new fossil has been found named Ardi. He appears to be our 4 billion year old ancestor. He has also managed to shed doubt on the belief that we descended from apes. Interesting stuff. And, this is why I trust the scientific explanation of humankind. New discoveries open new doors of inquiry; it is living evidence that further education illuminates when we are wrong. Here it is.

Ardi' Fossil Altering Ideas on Human Evolution

Are humans hard-wired to be ruthlessly competitive or supportive of one another?

The behavior of our ape relatives, known as peaceful vegetarians, once bolstered the view that our actions could not be traced to an impulse to dominate. But in the late 1970s, when chimpanzees were discovered to hunt monkeys and kill each other, they became the poster boys for our violent origins and aggressive instinct.

The skeleton of Ardipithecus ramidus, an ancient fossil dubbed "Ardi," is radically changing our ideas about mankind's origins. Kent State University's C. Owen Lovejoy says Ardi shows our ancestors were more like us and less like chimps. WSJ's Robert Lee Hotz reports.
I use the term "boys" on purpose because the theory was all about males without much attention to the females of the species, who just tagged along evolutionarily. It was hard to escape the notion that we are essentially "killer apes" destined to wage war forever.

Doubts about this macho origin myth have been on the rise, however, culminating in the announcement this past week of the discovery of a fossil of a 4.4 million year old ancestor that may have been gentler than previously thought. Considered close to the last common ancestor of apes and humans, this ancestral type, named Ardipithecus ramidus (or "Ardi"), had a less protruding mouth equipped with considerably smaller, blunter canine teeth than the chimpanzee's impressive fangs. This ape's canines serve as deadly knives, capable of slashing open an enemy's face and skin, causing either a quick death through blood loss or a slow one through festering infections. Wild chimps have been observed to use this weaponry to lethal effect in territorial combat. But the aggressiveness of chimpanzees obviously loses some of its significance if our ancestors were built quite differently. What if chimps are outliers in an otherwise relatively peaceful lineage?

Consider our other close relatives: gorillas and bonobos. Gorillas are known as gentle giants with a close-knit family life: they rarely kill. Even more striking is the bonobo, which is just as genetically close to us as the chimp. No bonobo has ever been observed to eliminate its own kind, neither in the wild nor in captivity. This slightly built, elegant ape seems to enjoy love and peace to a degree that would put any Woodstock veteran to shame. Bonobos have sometimes been presented as a delightful yet irrelevant side branch of our family tree, but what if they are more representative of our primate background than the blustering chimpanzee?

The assumption that we are born killers has been challenged from an entirely different angle by paleontologists asserting that the evidence for warfare does not go back much further than the agricultural revolution, about 15,000 years ago. No evidence for large-scale conflict, such as mass graves with embedded weapons, have been found from before this time. Even the walls of Jericho—considered one of the first signs of warfare and famous for having come tumbling down in the Old Testament—may have served mainly as protection against mudflows. There are even suggestions that before this time, about 70,000 years ago, our lineage was at the edge of extinction, living in scattered small bands with a global population of just a couple of thousand. These are hardly the sort of conditions that promote continuous warfare.

The once-popular killer ape theory is crumbling under its own lack of evidence, with "Ardi" putting the last nail in its coffin. On the other side of the equation, the one concerning our prosocial tendencies, the move has been towards increasing evidence for humans as cooperative and empathic. Some of this evidence comes from the new field of behavioral economics with studies showing that people do not always adhere to the profit principle. We care about fairness and justice and sometimes let these concerns override the desire to make as much money as possible. All over the world, people have played the "ultimatum game," in which one party is asked to react to the division of benefits proposed by another. Even people who have never heard of the French enlightenment and its call for égalité refuse to play along if the split seems unfair. They may accept a split of 60 for the proposer and 40 for themselves, but not a 80 to 20 split. They thus forgo income that they could have taken, which is something no rational being should ever do. A small income trumps no income at all.

Similarly, if one gives two monkeys hugely different rewards for the same task, the one who gets the short end of the stick refuses to cooperate. We hold out a piece of cucumber, which normally entices any monkey to perform, but with its neighbor munching on grapes cucumber is simply not good enough anymore. They protest the situation, sometimes even flinging those measly cucumber slices away, showing that even monkeys compare what they get with what others are getting.

Fossils Shed New Light on Human Past

And then there is the evidence for helping behavior, such as the consolation of distressed group members, which primates do by means of embracing and kissing. Elephants give reassuring rumbles to distressed youngsters, dolphins lift sick individuals to the surface where they can breathe, and almost every dog owner has stories of concerned reactions by their pets. In Roseville, Calif., a black Labrador jumped in front of his friend, a six-year-old boy, who was being threatened by a rattle snake. The dog took so much venom that he required blood transfusions to be saved.

The empathy literature on animals is growing fast, and is no longer restricted to such anecdotes. There are now systematic studies, and even experiments that show that we are not the only caring species. At the same time, we are getting used to findings of remarkable human empathy, such as those by neuroscientists that reward centers in the brain light up when we give to charity (hence the saying that "doing good feels good") or that seeing another in pain activates the same brain areas as when we are in pain ourselves. Obviously, we are hard-wired to be in tune with the emotions of others, a capacity that evolution should never have favored if exploitation of others were all that mattered.

— Frans de Waal, a professor of primate behavior in the psychology department at Emory University, is the author of "The Age of Empathy."