Business, Politics & Society

Chimps & Humans (Cont'd)

Dr. Jane Goodall

Lesson time 11:34 min

After observing the similarities between chimps and humans, Dr. Jane believes that emotion plays an important role in science and that human beings might not be the only animal to display spiritual behavior.

Dr. Jane Goodall
Teaches Conservation
In 29 lessons, Dr. Jane Goodall shares her insights into animal intelligence, conservation, and activism.
Get All-Access


So often, different behaviors have been thought to be unique to humans, like when I got to Cambridge, I was told that only humans had personalities, which is not true, that only humans can use tools and make tools, which is not true, that only human beings have emotions, which is not true. And then people have said, well, it's only humans who have some kind of spirituality. And maybe that's right, but I don't think so. So there are two ways in which chimpanzees show behavior which doesn't seem to be related to any special purpose. If sudden heavy rain starts, just suddenly, and it can be very violent, sometimes particularly the male chimpanzees will do this spectacular display. And very often, they'll be upright, and they'll drag branches. And sometimes they make a deep kind of .. And it may last for about five minutes as the rain comes pouring down, and then they stop and sit huddled because they don't really like the rain. And maybe that's just because they're angry. Nobody knows. But there's another display, and this one is done around the base of a waterfall. So at Gombe you get these narrow streams coming down from the rift escarpment. And in some places, you get these very steep drops. And there's one particular waterfall that I know best in the Kasakela Valley. And over the thousands of years, the falling water has worn a channel in the rock so that it's a narrow channel with the water falling, which means that as the water drops about 80 foot, it's displacing the air. So the ferns at the side and vines at the side are always moving a bit, and it's cool when you get there, compared to the heat outside. And as you approach, you hear the roar of the waterfall. And if you're following a group of chimpanzees, again, mostly males, as they get closer, the hair starts rising. And when they get up to the waterfall, they go into the stream, which normally they avoid. They jump over it. It's very shallow at the base of the waterfall. And they do this rhythmic display. It's very different from a dominance challenge. And they sway from foot to foot, and they may pick up big rocks in the stream bed and hurl them forward. And they may leap up and grab a vine and sway from foot to foot. And I have seen them climb up the vines at the side of the waterfall and push out into the spray. And at the end of one of these displays, if you're in the right place, occasionally a male chimpanzee will sit on a rock close to the waterfall. And if you're in the right place to see his eyes, you see him looking up at where the water is coming down. And you see him looking at the water as it flows away. And you can't help thinking, if chimpanzees had developed a way of communicating that's words, what is this stuff that's always coming and always going, but it's always here? And if they could start questioning it, might that lead to one of the e...

Take action

There is still a window of time. Nature can win if we give her a chance. In her first ever online class, Dr. Jane Goodall teaches how you can conserve the environment. She also shares her research on the behavioral patterns of chimpanzees and what they taught her about conservation. You'll learn how to act locally and protect the planet.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I loved this class! I was skeptical at first because I feared it would be depressing but I feel full of hope. Jane Goodall was wonderful, hearing her was marvelous, it was like sitting there with her. The stories were the best.

The most interesting pieces were here wonderful personal anecdotes and stories of her mother. The most compelling content are the stories of the damage being done to the environment and cruelty to animals. Ultimately, this is a very hopeful class

Dr Goodall is extraordinary. And such a brilliant teacher.

I love Jane! Jane has taught me that change doesn't have to be big, small changes, when accumulated can also bring significant impacts.


Emily B.

Having emotion and empathy for the creatures you work or study with is what will drive you to constantly work harder to learn more to care and protect. Emotion is never a sign of weakness or lack of intelligence. Conservation and animal work centres strongly on the love for animals and the determination to create a more harmonious world for all, and we should all be proud to display emotion and care for things seperate to ourselves.

Gabriela L.

My female dog Kinky has taught me too a lot about empathy, animal consciousness and spiritualy. I adopted her two years ago, when I was 32 and she was my first pet ever. As Jane says, I was very surprised to find how alike are pets and humans. That similarity is more evident when you treat them not as pets, but equals. When I explain that, some people show their scepticism and laugh about me, but I really don't care.

A fellow student

The important thing is to base knowledge on science from your own curiosity

Dee P.

I can understand why people thought chimps were so different to humans. Not too long ago, people thought Jews were less than humans. And Africans. And some simple-minded people still think that way.

Dee P.

The questioning of reality - I think primates do this all the time. But is that spiritual? I think spirituality is based on emotions more than reason. A dog knows when it's owner is sad, and often tries to uplift their spirit.

Stephen C.

So true, we can learn so much more when open to observing through empathy and intuition and trusting that there is something more within us to understand things in a simple and natural way. Furthermore, the value of words is a reflection of the meaning we have given to the word, but the true meaning of something and any given situation in unveils its true identity through silent observation with an open heart and mind.

A fellow student

This was absolutely amazing. Jane speaks to you, so personally and conveys her messages so beautifully. We have just lost our beautiful German Shepherd dog of 11 years, and it is so reassuring to listen to Jane speak of the wisdom of not only chimpanzees and other animals, but of her dog Rusty and how important a part he played in her life.

Katie S.

This was beautiful - especially the last bit dealing with empathy in science. Dr. Goodall has a wonderful speaking voice which just has a way of cutting through everything and planting her ideas right into your mind. I am absolutely loving getting this insight into her world.

Vanessa G.

I totally agree in empathy and feeling needed in science. Science although objective can’t be 100% separated of subjective things like creativity and hunches... that is what feeds the scientific method. Loved this lesson

Louanne F.

I just love this lesson. I was wondering about the waterfall effect on the chimps that she described - I've visited Niagara Falls a number of times, and it does have a hypnotic effect on most people - they do say it also releases ions into the air that make you feel euphoric. I wonder if that was the effect she was seeing on the chimps? That they knew that this special place made them feel good, etc. Something to ponder! I also loved that her best teacher in many of her ideas was her dog - as a pet owner, I so understand that experience.