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Mortality – the best remedy for procrastination


Love is in our genes
Desmond Morris Writer
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So, you have sexual love with people falling in love even when they don't want to – they can't help it, they've developed an attachment for somebody, sometimes against their will. Now again, you might say yes, but this all goes wrong because people keep having affairs and couples break up. But that's because of the human zoo... that's because we live in this huge complex. The point is, in a small tribe, you wouldn't meet a strange girl who was attractive to you because you'd have your small tribe of 100 people; it would all be sorted out. But when a man or a woman goes into the urban zoo, they're surrounded by members of the opposite sex who are sexually attractive, and it requires quite a strong effort not to respond to those presences. And the result is that you do have a lot of breakdown. And people say, oh well, there's so much divorce, so much breakdown, that clearly we're not a pair-bonding species. That's not true. We are a pair-bonding species, but the pair bond is given so much pressure by urban life that it isn't always a success. And, you know, because urban life disturbs and disrupts a lot of ancient behaviour, we tend to think that ancient behaviour isn't important but it is. And we will always be a cooperative, loving species because it's in our genes and just as we will also be an assertive, competitive species because it's in our genes. And if we're lucky, we get a nice balance between the two.

Born in Wiltshire, UK in 1928, Desmond Morris had a strong interest in natural history from his boyhood. Later, as an undergraduate, he studied zoology, and after obtaining a First Class Honours Degree from the University of Birmingham, he moved to the Oxford University Zoology Department where he began his research into animal behaviour for his doctorate thesis. In 1957, having moved to London, Morris famously organised an exhibition at the ICA of art work created by Congo the chimpanzee. Morris's engagement with the visual arts remains strong and he has often exhibited many of his own paintings since 1950 when his paintings went on show alongside those of the surrealist painter, Jean Miró. 1950 was also the year when Morris began his career in TV creating and presenting Zootime and Life in the Animal World. Soon after this, he began work on a book that has proved a huge best-seller, The Naked Ape. Focusing on human behaviour, it was the first in a series of books in which the author observes humans primarily as a species of animal. Today, Desmond Morris has lost none of his inquisitiveness and continues to observe and write about what he sees in the world around him.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: sexual love, human zoo, sexual attraction, pair bonding, divorce, ancient behaviour

Duration: 1 minute, 48 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2014

Date story went live: 06 November 2014