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  • Hi! Neil from BBC Learning English here.

  • Did you know that we are now offering

  • a new weekly extra episode of 6

  • Minute English exclusively on our

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  • Hello. This is 6 Minute English from

  • BBC Learning English. I'm Neil.

  • And I'm Sam.

  • In English, there are many expressions

  • which use an adjective to compare

  • humans with animals. For example, you

  • might say, She's as busy as a bee...

  • As hungry as a horse. But you probably

  • won't hear someone say

  • 'She's as clever as a chimpanzee'.

  • ... which is strange, because of all the

  • animals it's our close cousins,

  • chimpanzees, or chimps for short,

  • who are most like us.

  • Just like humans, chimps are highly

  • intelligent. They live in social groups

  • and just like humans these

  • groups have leaders.

  • Also, like humans, chimps have

  • a desire for power. In fact,

  • chimpanzees have their own politics

  • which is surprisingly similar to

  • human politics, as we'll be

  • discovering in this programme.

  • Research shows that the reason

  • chimpanzee behaviour so closely

  • resembles human politics is because

  • biologically we are almost identical.

  • Did you know that a chimp is more

  • like a human than like a gorilla?

  • So, Sam, my quiz question is this:

  • biologically, how close are

  • chimpanzees to humans? Is it:

  • a) 79 % ? b) 89 % ?, or c) 99 % ?

  • Well, Neil, if chimps and humans

  • are almost identical, I'll guess c) 99 %.

  • OK, Sam, we'll find out the correct

  • answer at the end of the programme.

  • In human societies of course, not

  • everyone gets to be a political leader.

  • It's usually the most powerful or

  • ambitious person who

  • becomes president.

  • In chimpanzee society this is

  • called the alpha male - the most

  • successful and powerful male

  • who leads the group.

  • Professor Frans de Waal is an

  • expert on chimpanzee behaviour.

  • Here he is on BBC World Service

  • programme, The Why Factor, telling

  • presenter, James Tilley, about one

  • example of chimp behaviour which

  • closely mirrors human politics.

  • Older males who are over the hill

  • and cannot be alpha males any more,

  • they start grooming a certain young

  • male who they think has a future,

  • and they may end up making that

  • young male the alpha male with

  • their help, meaning that they are

  • essential to the power of

  • that young male...

  • They're the power behind the

  • throne, really...

  • Yeah - these older males - and you

  • see that in human politics all the

  • time, these older males who have

  • a lot of influence still.

  • Professor de Waal calls chimps

  • who are too old to be alpha males,

  • over the hill - a phrase describing

  • someone who is old and no

  • longer useful or attractive.

  • Older chimps try to control younger

  • males in order to maintain their own

  • power and influence. In other words,

  • they are the power behind the

  • throne - an expression meaning

  • someone with no official power but

  • who secretly controls

  • things in the background.

  • Another example of chimp

  • politics is when several weaker

  • males gang up and overthrow a

  • stronger alpha male. By working

  • together weaker chimps can

  • increase their power and the

  • benefits, like food,

  • which power brings.

  • According to Simon Hicks, professor

  • of political science at the London

  • School of Economics, human

  • alliances work in exactly the same way.

  • Here is Professor Hicks speaking

  • with BBC World Service

  • programme, The Why Factor:

  • So, for example if you imagine three

  • parties in a parliament, one big one

  • and two small ones, you might think

  • that naturally the most likely coalition

  • is the big party with either one

  • of the two small ones, whereas,

  • in fact, minimum winning coalition

  • prediction would suggest the two

  • smaller ones should get together,

  • if together they can reach more

  • than 50 percent of the seats,

  • because they can divide up the

  • spoils between the two of them.

  • Whereas, if either one of them form

  • a coalition with a big party, the big

  • party would dominate, and they

  • wouldn't get many of the

  • spoils for themselves.

  • Professor Hicks recommends

  • that smaller political parties get

  • together - join together in a group

  • to combine their power.

  • These smaller parties could form

  • a coalition - a collection of different

  • political groups who unite for a

  • limited time to form a government.

  • In human politics making coalitions

  • improves your chances of

  • winning an election.

  • And in chimpanzee politics coalitions

  • are a good way for young male

  • chimps to defeat the alpha male

  • and divide up the spoils between

  • themselves. Here, the word spoils

  • means the benefits obtained by

  • winning a war or being in

  • a strong position.

  • For ambitious alpha chimps the

  • spoils might include getting first

  • choice of food and female partners.

  • While for human politicians power

  • can bring wealth and fame as well.

  • And there's something else alpha

  • chimpanzees and human politicians

  • have in common - they like to show

  • their softer side by kissing babies!

  • It looks like chimps and humans

  • share many similar behaviours after all -

  • which reminds me of your

  • quiz question, Neil.

  • Yes, in my quiz question I asked Sam

  • how similar we are to chimps.

  • What did you say, Sam?

  • I said that, biologically speaking,

  • we're - c) 99 % the same.

  • Which is the correct answer!

  • Well done, Sam - you're as

  • clever as a chimp!

  • Ah, thanks, Neil! And you're

  • definitely not over the hill! Let's

  • recap the vocabulary from today's

  • programme about chimp politics,

  • starting with alpha male - the most

  • successful and powerful

  • male in any group.

  • Over the hill is used to describe

  • someone who is old and no

  • longer useful or attractive.

  • Someone who is the power behind

  • the throne secretly controls things

  • but has no official power.

  • Get together means join

  • together as a group.

  • A coalition is when different

  • political groups temporarily

  • unite to form a government.

  • And finally, the spoils are benefits

  • or advantages gained by

  • winning a war.

  • That's all for this programme.

  • Bye for now!

  • Goodbye!

Hi! Neil from BBC Learning English here.

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B1 alpha male chimp politics programme alpha male

Is chimp politics like ours? - 6 Minute English

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/09/02
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