I became interested in this question just today after reading a response to an article. The article is about the psychology of bonobos in contrast with Chimpanzees (title:Score One for Sociable Apes, http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/co 007/308/2) written by Greg Miller. The response to the article was:
"All learned...all speculative research...all instincts. Can a monkey really find remorse in stealing your banana? I will believe in evolution when a monkey sits down and prepares my 1040 tax form for me and gets me a huge refund on my taxes! Tell me ... how many more zillion years until monkeys form their vocal cords?"
I suppose it is obvious that the person who said this is an anti-evolutionist which usually follows being a person knowing very little about biological evolution or the philosophy of science.
My question: Can bonobos empathize with other bonobos, and what evidence is there for this?
In a session of Beyond Belief (http://beyondbelief2006.org/), an experiment was mentioned. I'm not familiar with the details of the experiment, nor am I sure if this the experiment was carried out at all, but the experiment suposedly done on a group of chimps (maybe two chimps sharing a cage which would increase their relationship and familiarity with one another). End of story, the chimp refused to eat if it knew the other chimp would be tortured. If this really did happen, would this be evidence that chimps feel guilt, remorse, or have the ability to empathize with other chimps? Sympathize is probably the word I want to use rather than empathize.
Besides that, I've read some articles about mirror neurons. From what I've read, I think that there is corelation between mirror neurons and the ability to sympathize, or simply put oneself in the shoes of another. If mirror neurons are present in bonobos and chimps, then I believe this is evidence that chimps have the ability to sympathize with members of their tribe. I think neuroscientists think this since autists have some sort of "bad" mirror neuron system, and with that -- a poor ability to socialize (read peoples faces etc.).
Thanks for this wonderful webpage.