Researchers at the Great Ape Trust near Des Moines are trying to see if apes can give humans some insight into why we forgive and forget. William Fields is one of the researchers studying forgiveness in bonobo apes. He says “It gives us understanding in those processes in a different kind of way as opposed to looking at them in human populations.” He says it allows them to objectify them and see forgiveness in a different kind of way. Williams says it’s a scientific study that tries to assign objective measurements to the process of forgiving — something he says is unique in this area.He says, “It’s thought to be a philosophical or ethical question, a question that’s not well answered by science.” He says they hope to show through the bonobos that there is some way to identify how forgiveness happens and that there’s some way to measure it. Fields says the study could open a whole new way of thinking about forgiveness. He says most people believe that forgiveness is a concept that only applies to humans. He says, “I think that if they can certainly demonstrate that (forgiveness) in bonobos in a persuasive way, all of a sudden you add a dimension to forgiveness that is different than when it simple is a property of humanness.” The four month project is funded by a 125-thousand dollar grant from the Campaign for Forgiveness Research headquartered in Richmond, Virginia.
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