This June's National Geographic put it this way:
In the great ape family bonobos are the cheeky, easy-going members. Not for them aggressive chest-pounding displays of dominance. They are lovers, seldom fighters. In their female-dominated societies, individuals copulate to settle conflicts. Bonobos also engage in communal sex to east strains at a new feeding site.
Unlike humans and standard chimps the bonobos, at least as presented by journalistic accounts of the science of that day, were never observed to hunt, make war, or resolve in-group conflicts with ferocious displays and physical attacks. They were, in other words, our good cousins -- the ones that had followed a feminist, rather than a patriarchal path, and as such they were held up as a model for human interactions. Their existence and behavior suggested that male aggression an dominance were not necessarily determined by evolution -- that there was an alternative evolutionary history for mankind.
Well, now in the post-feminist era the whole subject of bonobos is coming in for reappraisal. A new study finds that not only are bonobos meat-eaters, they also hunt for their food and their prey often is..., monkeys. What is more, female bonobos not only hunted monkeys, but participated in the kills.
Read about it here.
The image of playful, vegetarian, feminist, non-aggressive apes has taken a decided hit. More importantly, this revisionary study provides yet another example of the fact that science is not an objective undertaking. Rather, even the most careful studies are shaped to some degree by opinion and ideology. What is studied, how it is studied, and the conclusions drawn from the research vary with the shifting intellectual climate in which the studies are undertaken. Science, in other words, is a human activitiy and as such subject to human foible.
As I have said time and again, there is no such thing as a disinterested authority.