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212 Woodsedge Apts.
Lansing, NY 14882
4 March 2003
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
National Human Genome Research Institute
National Institutes of Health
Building 31, Room 4B09
31 Center Drive, MSC 2152
9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20892-2152
Dear Dr. Collins,
It is with some interest to learn that of the many genome projects that the NHGRI is undertaking, the bovine genome is being given serious priority for your investigations. More importantly is the decision to include the chimpanzee in those investigations, a recommendation that I made in 1993 before the NIH Panel on Violence and Aggression.
As you may be aware the bonobo chimpanzee, our closest genetic relative (1% DNA difference), is the most peaceful and non-violent primate on this planet, whereas, homo sapiens is the most violent primate on this planet. It is highly unlikely that a 1% difference in DNA can account for this enormous difference in peaceful and violent behaviors in these two primates. However, it would be important to know what this 1% of DNA difference is and how it is distributed on the chromosomes. Such knowledge could give a final resting place to the claim that genetics are a determining factor in peaceful and violent behaviors. [DNA estimates derived from Jared Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee (1992)]
As De Waal and Lanting (1997) noted in Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape:Had bonobos been known earlier, reconstruction of human evolution might have emphasized sexual relations, equality between males and females, and the origin of the family, instead of war, hunting, tool technology, and other masculine fortes. Bonobo society seems ruled by the "Make Love, Not War" slogan of the 1960s rather than the myth of a bloodthirsty killer ape that has dominated textbooks for at least three decades" (p.2).
There are extensive scientific data that the primary causes of peaceful and violent behaviors are environmentally induced through the encoding of the developing infant/child brain for such behaviors. Some of this core data can be found at the following websites and you may find of interest the enclosed essay "How Culture Shapes the Developing Brain & the Future of Humanity" that provides an alternative thesis to genes in shaping behaviors.
Enclosed are copies of video documentaries that make more clear how infant/child rearing practices influence the developing brain for peaceful or violent behaviors and the cross-cultural data that supports this conclusion.
I would welcome being apprized of whether the bonobo chimpanzee is on your schedule for genome investigation and whether this subject matter will be a part of your April 2003 celebration of the human genome.
James W. Prescott, Ph.D.
Republished with the kind permission of James W. Prescott. OCR/proofreading/HTML by Joel Schlosberg. Please inform us about any errors you find. If you want to write a translation, please contact Erik Möller.