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Scientist Finds the Beginnings of Morality in Primate Behavior

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BurtWorm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-20-07 03:10 PM
Original message
Scientist Finds the Beginnings of Morality in Primate Behavior
Edited on Tue Mar-20-07 03:17 PM by BurtWorm
Oops! Almost forgot the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/20/science/20moral.html?...

Some animals are surprisingly sensitive to the plight of others. Chimpanzees, who cannot swim, have drowned in zoo moats trying to save others. Given the chance to get food by pulling a chain that would also deliver an electric shock to a companion, rhesus monkeys will starve themselves for several days.

Biologists argue that these and other social behaviors are the precursors of human morality. They further believe that if morality grew out of behavioral rules shaped by evolution, it is for biologists, not philosophers or theologians, to say what these rules are.

Moral philosophers do not take very seriously the biologists bid to annex their subject, but they find much of interest in what the biologists say and have started an academic conversation with them.

The original call to battle was sounded by the biologist Edward O. Wilson more than 30 years ago, when he suggested in his 1975 book Sociobiology that the time has come for ethics to be removed temporarily from the hands of the philosophers and biologicized. He may have jumped the gun about the time having come, but in the intervening decades biologists have made considerable progress.

Last year Marc Hauser, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard, proposed in his book Moral Minds that the brain has a genetically shaped mechanism for acquiring moral rules, a universal moral grammar similar to the neural machinery for learning language. In another recent book, Primates and Philosophers, the primatologist Frans de Waal defends against philosopher critics his view that the roots of morality can be seen in the social behavior of monkeys and apes....
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mainer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-20-07 03:15 PM
Response to Original message
1. I thought you had to be religious to be moral?
guess those primates must have found God.
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kath Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-20-07 03:27 PM
Response to Reply #1
8. you BETCHA you've got to be religious to be moral!
All us atheists are as IMMoral as all get-out, and as GHWB said "No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots."


Never mind that it seems to me to be a much more highly developed morality to be a good person simply because it's the right thing to do, rather than because Big Daddy In The Sky is always watching and will punish you if you're bad...
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meldroc Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-20-07 03:15 PM
Response to Original message
2. The fundies are gonna get their panties in a bunch over this...
:popcorn:
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verse18 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-20-07 03:50 PM
Response to Reply #2
14. What don't they get their panties in a wad for?
Methinks they like wadded panties.
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cassiepriam Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-20-07 03:16 PM
Response to Original message
3. Maybe there is hope for Chimp?
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gatorboy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-20-07 03:18 PM
Response to Original message
4. Bullshit! If chimps are so moral, whats Bush's excuse? n/t
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Turbineguy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-20-07 03:18 PM
Response to Original message
5. Well, if monkeys have morality
Edited on Tue Mar-20-07 03:20 PM by Turbineguy
then obviously a lot of RW Christians did not evolve from them.

It must have been some sort of evolutionary jump. A change of state. A sublimation direct from something more slime-like.

But then again, I am not a life-sciences guy.
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mudesi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-20-07 03:19 PM
Response to Original message
6. Not surprising
Edited on Tue Mar-20-07 03:22 PM by lynyrd_skynyrd
We humans are animals, whether our narcissistic tendencies like it or not. The modern homo-sapian has existed on this planet in less than a blink of an eye when viewed in geological terms. We are not special, we are simply another species of animal.

Therefore any characteristic (Sexual orientation, morality, emotion, etc...) that we may have also will exist somewhere else in the animal kingdom. If we got it, animals got it. "Morality" is no different.

Animals have also been observed to show pride, hate, jealousy, and all the other negative characteristics of humans. I can even think of an example in the Insect world: Red ants and black ants will kill each other based on the color of their skin, will they not?
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Glorfindel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-20-07 03:27 PM
Response to Original message
7. I have seen adult birds of different species attempt to distract
a puppy from killing a baby bird that had fallen from its nest. I thought it amazing at the time, and still do. Does this count as "morality?"
:bounce:
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central scrutinizer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-20-07 03:30 PM
Response to Original message
9. unlike humans
http://www.qeliz.ac.uk/Psychology/milgram.htm

Aims: Milgram was sceptical about the idea that only strict authoritive figures could afflict the horrors seen during World War Two by the Nazis. He wanted to prove this view held by the general public wrong, by doing an obedience experiment to show that ordinary people of the general public could inflict harm on other human beings.


Procedures: 40 males aged 20-50 were recruited through a newspaper advertisement, and paid $4.50 to participate in a study regarding 'memory'. Participants were introduced to a confederate, Mr. Wallice. Lots were drawn to decide who would be the teacher and who would be the learner (the participant always became the teacher). The learner was strapped into a chair with electrodes on his hands. The participant was to ask the learner questions, each incorrect answer was punished with an electric shock, beginning at 15 volts (very mild), going up by 15 volts for every incorrect answer up to 450 volts (danger - severe shock, xxx). The learner stated he had a mild heart condition.

Shocks were recieved in silence up until 300 volts, Mr. Wallice then complained of having heart trouble and pounded on the door to be let out. He then refused to answer any more questions. After a short while he begame silent and was presumed unconscious or dead.

If the teachers questioned the experimenter (also a confederate), they were presented with four orders:
1. Please continue,
2. The experiment requires you to continue,
3. It is essential that you continue,
4. You have no choice, you must continue.
If the participant still refused to administer any more shocks, they were allowed to stop.

Unknown to the participant, the experimenter was an actor, as was the learner. The lots drawn to distinguish roles were fixed, and the electric shocks WERE NOT REAL.
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angstlessk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-20-07 03:44 PM
Response to Reply #9
12. I am glad you found that study, cause I was going to say
monkeys are MORE humane than people, because we shock people just cause we can..there have been other studies also, and people did not fare to well, can you imagine what we would do if we were PENALIZED for not shocking,(like starving for several days) instead of just encouraged?
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I_Will Donating Member (211 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-20-07 03:30 PM
Response to Original message
10. What does "morality" have to do with being innately supportive of the group?
Edited on Tue Mar-20-07 03:32 PM by I_Will
You can see it, benevolently, in acts of kindness, regardless (in spite of?) of traditional "morals" teaching.

You can see it, malevolently, when crooks and liars take a dive (wit, the bunch in DC) for the sake of the mangy others up the line.

We are just another species. Some of work to benefit the greater good, however humble our resources or scope of effect. Some work to benefit themselves above others. Same as in nature.



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BurtWorm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-20-07 03:44 PM
Response to Reply #10
11. Crime is just a left-handed form of human endeavor.
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Atman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-20-07 03:47 PM
Response to Original message
13. Scientists still searching for signs of morality in Republicans...film at 11.
:hi:

.
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