Who is a non-human person?

An orangutan has settled into a Florida home after a court granted her personhood rights. But what is the basis for personhood?

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  • An orangutan named Sandra was granted non-human personhood rights in 2015 and has been moved from the Buenos Aires Zoo to a home in Florida.
  • Legal personhood is not synonymous with human being. A "non-human person" refers to an entity that possesses some rights for limited legal purposes.
  • Sentience might be the characteristic necessary for granting legal rights to non-human species.
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New fossils suggest human ancestors evolved in Europe, not Africa

Experts argue the jaws of an ancient European ape reveal a key human ancestor.

  • The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
  • Researchers speculate it could be a previously unknown species and one of humanity's earliest evolutionary ancestors.
  • These fossils may change how we view the evolution of our species.
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The return of the 'stoned ape' theory

A long-ridiculed theory about humankind's early leap of consciousness is revived.

Photo credit: Elena Schweitzer / procy / Shutterstock / Big Think
  • Terence McKenna first proposed psychedelic mushrooms as the trigger for our rapid cognitive evolution.
  • McKenna's theory was called the "Stoned Ape Hypothesis."
  • The hypothesis is being revisited as a possible answer to a vexxing evolutionary riddle.
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Why the 'alpha male' stereotype is wrong

Big and strong? That's not what makes an alpha male, says primatolgist Frans de Waal.

  • The cultural notion of an alpha male as a strong, mean aggressor is rampant but wrong. The reality is more complex.
  • Frans de Waal notes two types of alpha males: Bullies and leaders. In chimpanzee society, the former terrorizes the group while the latter mediates conflict.
  • The reign of alpha male bullies usually ends poorly in the wild. Chimpanzee bullies get expelled or even killed by their group, while leader alphas are somewhat democratically kept in power, sometimes for as long as 12 years.
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Why people (and chimps) throw temper tantrums

Primatologist Frans de Waal explains the primal instinct that unites humans and chimpanzees.

  • Humans throw temper tantrums when they feel frustrated, lose power, or sense a threat to their status or security.
  • Chimpanzees exhibit the same behavior; alpha male chimps who lose their status throw tantrums to elicit sympathy from their group, hoping to have their power restored.
  • But that tactic almost never works, notes primatologist Frans de Waal. An important lesson for humans from chimps.
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