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Science & Tech

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
Dr. Jane Goodall shares her insights into animal intelligence, conservation, and activism.
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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...

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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.

She gave me hope. Thank you! She also gave me practical Next Steps beyond "send money."

That was absolutely beautiful and inspirational! I loved it.

It was a privilege and a pleasure to learn from this great lady.

I enjoyed the class, but didn't learn many "new things" per se. For an expert in environmental science and policy this was less of a learning course.



I can’t help but feel a little frustrated as I learn about the stories Jane tells us. Jane says that during her early years of study, the scientific community believed that animals could not make tools, feel emotions, and that humans are superior. Well, the scientific community at that time were mainly white males with privileged high society backgrounds. If England had taken the time to learn from the people they “conquered” in places like Africa and India then they would know that the local people already figured out lessons of animal intelligence. We know this from rituals and storytellings by indigenous people who are more connected to nature and have learned from their ancestors. The findings by Jane were well known by native peoples, but those native peoples will never be credited for their knowledge - simply because they were not respected, treated as equals, or looked at as intelligent. It’s such a shame that society has a history of ignoring the intelligence of indigenous people. There is so much we can learn from them.

Bernardo F.

Haha, if I followed what Neil taught me in his masterclass I shouldn't accept what Jane is saying in this one. However, I agree, my ethology teacher told us all the clases that animals shouldn't be anthropomorphized but in the sense that we can't say: "oh, this animal is making this because of..." that is, we cannot assume the animals' intentions, if they indeed have them. I don't doubt that animals have intelligence, nor a "personality", but it's hard to say, even with today's advances, when a behaviour is done on purpose or only as a habit. As Jane well says, we still cannot proof that, but that doesn't mean that it's false.

Antonia T.

I totally disagree with this lecture. We humans share 50% DNA with bananas, and that does not make the banana "half human". Of course mammals have feelings, but this forced anthropomorphism doesn't appear very scientific in my opinion. Following Viktor Frankl, we humans are beings in search for meaning. We have a spiritual layer (spiritual, not religious) that makes us very different than animals, like it or not. We can learn a lot from animals, but not to the point to make them our teachers. If Jane's dog was her teacher, well, what can I say. We cannot put human babies and chimp babies or frog babies or clam's babies in the same line.

Marieke J.

"It was perfectly possible to be objective on the one hand and emotionally involved on the other." I love this!

A fellow student

Does anybody know where I can find the video that Dr. Goodall mentions toward the end of the lesson?

Bobbe N.

Extraordinary human being and teacher. Filled with gratitude and love all the comments as well.

Diana H.

Listening to her teach about behavior at a waterfall : "what is this thing that is always coming,always going, and is always here". Such a wonder. How wonderfull she was able to get a PHD in ethology at Cambridge having never been to college to get a BA. She studied at the school life. The scientific community was against so many of her discoveries because she observed emotions, personality, feelings. Now we can prove and study those aspects.

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