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 Animal ethics and morality?
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the_ignored
SFN Addict

2550 Posts

Posted - 07/11/2005 :  23:02:22  Show Profile Send the_ignored a Private Message
Well, here's something from a TIME article: animals seem to have emotions and "ethics" like we do, only just not as developed. So, maybe we aren't "unique" in having a soul? (Or whatever the fundies would claim)

quote:
That doesn't mean animals necessarily have a fully developed moral or ethical sense. "I don't say dogs are fair the way you and I are fair, or have the same moral systems," says Bekoff. But it does mean that-- just as with so many other attributes once considered unique to humans, including toolmaking and language--animals have at least rudimentary versions of what we call morality. That would conform to Darwin's ideas of evolution, and indeed, Darwin himself was convinced this must be true. "It would be bad evolutionary biology," says Bekoff, "to assume that moral behavior just pops on the scene only with us."


quote:
But while animals may not possess true ethics or morality, Bekoff, De Waal and a growing number of their colleagues think fairness and cooperation may be the forerunners of those qualities, just as the apelike brain of our distant ancestor Lucy was the forerunner of our own, much more sophisticated minds. After all, Lucy was no Einstein#8212;but without her, the leap from the tiny brains of primitive mammals to the subtle intelligence of an Einstein could never have occurred.


>From: enuffenuff@fastmail.fm
(excerpt follows):
> I'm looking to teach these two bastards a lesson they'll never forget.
> Personal visit by mates of mine. No violence, just a wee little chat.
>
> **** has also committed more crimes than you can count with his
> incitement of hatred against a religion. That law came in about 2007
> much to ****'s ignorance. That is fact and his writing will become well
> know as well as him becoming a publicly known icon of hatred.
>
> Good luck with that fuckwit. And Reynold, fucking run, and don't stop.
> Disappear would be best as it was you who dared to attack me on my
> illness knowing nothing of the cause. You disgust me and you are top of
> the list boy. Again, no violence. Just regular reminders of who's there
> and visits to see you are behaving. Nothing scary in reality. But I'd
> still disappear if I was you.

What brought that on? this. Original posting here.

Another example of this guy's lunacy here.

trishran
Skeptic Friend

USA
196 Posts

Posted - 07/12/2005 :  00:07:48   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send trishran a Private Message
While I do understand that humans have a tendency to anthropomorphize, I do believe that cats do have some sense that might qualify as wanting fairness [cats being the animal I have the most experience with]. Try giving a gob of wet food to one of a group of cats and then leaving the kitchen. They won't go after the cat with the food, they will follow me, meowing in protest.

I would think that any animal that has social attributes would have to have at least a basic sense of fairness, sharing, and the fact that their groupmates have the same needs.

trish
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filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 07/12/2005 :  03:54:58   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message
This is fairly old stuff in a new package. It has lomg been known that all social species have a code of conduct within their societies, and in dealing with others of the species outside of the society. 'Morals' and 'ethics' are simply a lable that we have placed on these codes. These lables are strictly an invention of our own.

What is interesting is the communication between them. In a herd, pack, or pod (or gaggle, flock, murder, and so forth), communication is vital and often subtle, and little really, is known about it.

Trish's cat example is a good one in that her cats (please don't throw one at me, trish) actually regard and accept her as another, rather deformed cat and the dominant one in their territory. I get the same thing here amongst my cat, opossum, and myself. If I drop a treat in the 'possum's dish and he's not awake yet, the cat won't touch it. Rather, she'll get up on the stand where her bowl is and wait for me give her one as well. The same is not true for the 'possum, who will scarf food where ever he finds it, which is why the cat's dish is reachable only by leaping, not climbing. It is a recognition of the propriety of others on the part of the cat, who regardes me as a rather large, deformed, and sometimes ill-tempered cat.

The 'possum, being by nature a solitary creature, has no such restraints. He regards me as some sort of large, ugly source of food to be avoided except when hungry, and then plundered.

Even solitary animals have a communication system within the species. When meeting for other than mating, they will communicate in various ways in order to avoid a fight, which could be injurous to both. Opossums, for example, raise their hackles and scream at each other with a yapping sort of a bark until one backs down.

Observe an adult dog when it is first placed in another dog's territory. Most of the time it will demonstrate submissive behavior. This is seldom seen in young puppies due to their pack instincts. Wolf puppies literally have the run of the pack and can get away with anything. They are cared for and protected by the entire pack. This state of affairs changes when the puppy becomes a juvenile, and finds it's place in the pack's hiarchy.

Sound familiar? It should because primates including ourselves do exactly the same. We can't resist a toddler, any toddler of any race, but when he/she gets beyond that stage, we civilize them (assuming the parents and neighbors are not a bunch of crank-heads). Many people have died trying to rescue a small child in trouble.

At the same time, like all social species we are highly territorial. We will negotiate before fighting and sometimes, when we see the opportunity, we will steal the territory of others. Just like chimps or wolves, or my fat, little house 'possum.

Ethics and morality as described by the preachers have nothing to do with anything. This behavior is hard-wired into us by nature and refined by evolution.


"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


"The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff." ~~ Dude

Brother Boot Knife of Warm Humanitarianism,

and Crypto-Communist!

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gezzam
SFN Regular

Australia
751 Posts

Posted - 07/12/2005 :  05:11:00   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit gezzam's Homepage Send gezzam a Private Message
Apparently elephants mourn their dead. I read somewhere that if they even come across the bones of a dead elephant they seem to pay respect. Even funnier is that they seem to like to get drunk as well.

Dogs will also pine for one of their parents, my friend had two dogs, a mother and a son and when the mother died, he went on anti-depressants. He would pine and howl for the mother, even after several months. My dog will move up to the front door and wait for me to come home from work between 5:00 and 5:30 every weeknight.

I suppose that they miss the leaders of their packs.

quote:
Ethics and morality as described by the preachers have nothing to do with anything. This behaviour is hard-wired into us by nature and refined by evolution.


Agreed filthy, most wars have been fought for territory or resources. No different than predators fighting for land where there is ample prey. We just have better tools and thus cause more carnage.

Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it's a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from.

Al Franken
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pleco
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USA
2996 Posts

Posted - 07/12/2005 :  06:14:49   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit pleco's Homepage Send pleco a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by trishran

While I do understand that humans have a tendency to anthropomorphize, I do believe that cats do have some sense that might qualify as wanting fairness [cats being the animal I have the most experience with]. Try giving a gob of wet food to one of a group of cats and then leaving the kitchen. They won't go after the cat with the food, they will follow me, meowing in protest.

I would think that any animal that has social attributes would have to have at least a basic sense of fairness, sharing, and the fact that their groupmates have the same needs.



Or maybe they realize that it is easier to get food from you than fight for it?

My personal view of how morality evolved is that it comes from the survival instinct. For example, I don't want to kill anyone because the reaction to that would be my death, which I don't want. I don't steal because I don't want others to steal from me. Etc etc...

I guess it is "do unto others", but we all know that concept is far older than christianity.

by Filthy
The neo-con methane machine will soon be running at full fart.
Edited by - pleco on 07/12/2005 06:54:25
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hippy4christ
Skeptic Friend

193 Posts

Posted - 08/05/2005 :  15:55:14   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send hippy4christ a Private Message
Hello Board,

I saw this thread and felt like reviving it.

Has there ever been any observation of an animal (excluding those of a hive instinct) saving another animal's life at the risk of its own; and it is apparent that the animal knew that it would likely die in the rescue?

If so, how would that instinct evolve, since it is directly contrary to self-preservation? And if not, how did humans gain this ability?

Hippy

Faith is believing what you are told, whether it's by a priest or a scientist. A person's scientific beliefs are ones based on personal observation and experimentation.

Lists of Logical Fallacies
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 08/05/2005 :  16:10:10   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by hippy4christ
Has there ever been any observation of an animal (excluding those of a hive instinct) saving another animal's life at the risk of its own; and it is apparent that the animal knew that it would likely die in the rescue?
Long ago on a nature program, I saw a mother gazelle (I can't be certain now what it was, but it resembled a gazelle), literally sacrifice itself to save it's young. It pretended to be lame so that an advancing cheetah would attack it rather that its slower and more fragile offspring. It would dash a few paces, then limp, then dash, and limp, until the cheetah finally went in for the kill and mortally wounded the animal.

It left quite an impression on me. You could see the mother's drive to save itself kick in as it sprinted off, but you could also see that she was clearly handicapping herself to allow the cheetah to kill her. It was if she had made up her mind to do this, yet was battling her own fear during the act.

quote:
If so, how would that instinct evolve, since it is directly contrary to self-preservation? And if not, how did humans gain this ability?
Self-preservation is only one instinct among many. Animals have also evolved altruistic and maternal instincts, which can and do override the desire to preserve one's own life. These insticts evolved because more offspring of the animals that possess them stay alive to procreate and pass on those traits. How many people do you think there would be if human mothers abandoned their young at the first sign of trouble?


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 08/05/2005 16:57:34
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pleco
SFN Addict

USA
2996 Posts

Posted - 08/05/2005 :  16:31:17   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit pleco's Homepage Send pleco a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by hippy4christ

Hello Board,

I saw this thread and felt like reviving it.

Has there ever been any observation of an animal (excluding those of a hive instinct) saving another animal's life at the risk of its own; and it is apparent that the animal knew that it would likely die in the rescue?

If so, how would that instinct evolve, since it is directly contrary to self-preservation? And if not, how did humans gain this ability?

Hippy



I recall seeing water buffalo defend against attacks from lions...

Self-preservation could also be defined by: if I do something "good" for someone, then other people will do "good" to me.

by Filthy
The neo-con methane machine will soon be running at full fart.
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Siberia
SFN Addict

Brazil
2322 Posts

Posted - 08/05/2005 :  16:37:01   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Siberia's Homepage  Send Siberia an AOL message  Send Siberia a Yahoo! Message Send Siberia a Private Message
I've seen a kind of pheasant-like bird pretend it had a broken wing to attract foxes/predators away from its young.

"Why are you afraid of something you're not even sure exists?"
- The Kovenant, Via Negativa

"People who don't like their beliefs being laughed at shouldn't have such funny beliefs."
-- unknown
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pleco
SFN Addict

USA
2996 Posts

Posted - 08/05/2005 :  16:53:05   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit pleco's Homepage Send pleco a Private Message
Survival of the species, in some cases, may override self-preservation. Those species that could exploit this would be more successful and survive, thus preserving this instinct as species evolve.

Just a thought.

Edit: I accidentally repeated H said, apologies...

by Filthy
The neo-con methane machine will soon be running at full fart.
Edited by - pleco on 08/05/2005 17:00:52
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filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 08/05/2005 :  17:59:14   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by hippy4christ

Hello Board,

I saw this thread and felt like reviving it.

Has there ever been any observation of an animal (excluding those of a hive instinct) saving another animal's life at the risk of its own; and it is apparent that the animal knew that it would likely die in the rescue?

If so, how would that instinct evolve, since it is directly contrary to self-preservation? And if not, how did humans gain this ability?

Hippy

Yes, this behavior is quite common especally in species that live in family groups such as wolves and elephants. If a member is in trouble, the whole group will attempt to help, often at great risk. Individuals of most herd and flock species will attempt to rescue an offspring, but they will usually ignore any other individual from the group. The same holds for most solitary species.

Oddly, with primates such as chimps and baboons, and indeed humans, childless females will sometimes try and steal another's infant.


"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


"The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff." ~~ Dude

Brother Boot Knife of Warm Humanitarianism,

and Crypto-Communist!

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Chippewa
SFN Regular

USA
1496 Posts

Posted - 08/05/2005 :  18:48:54   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Chippewa's Homepage Send Chippewa a Private Message
I think our cat (Buster) understands geometric relationships. We have a small bungalow built in the 20s with a tall narrow garage on the side. Its roof is framed with Spanish tiles and birds sometimes build nests inside the curved tiles.

I once observed Buster as he observed a bird swoop down and land into the upper corner tile. Buster got up on the roof (with complete ease) and went to the corner where he sheepishly peered over the edge. Unable to reach down inside, he then headed straight for the front door. One might think he forget the bird and decided canned food would be an easier meal. But when I let him in, he ran to the garage door next to our dining room and wanted in. Inside the garage he went right for the corner. Of course from inside, the corner is angled the opposite as outside, yet he had no problem reasoning that the bird went in here: \/ and might come out here: /\.

Diversity, independence, innovation and imagination are progressive concepts ultimately alien to the conservative mind.

"TAX AND SPEND" IS GOOD! (TAX: Wealthy corporations who won't go poor even after taxes. SPEND: On public works programs, education, the environment, improvements.)
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Ricky
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USA
4907 Posts

Posted - 08/05/2005 :  19:24:08   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Ricky an AOL message Send Ricky a Private Message
Various species of female spiders will kill and eat their mate after mating. Not exactly the same situation, but pretty much along the same lines. The death of one helps the survival of many.

Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
- Isaac Asimov
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 08/05/2005 :  19:26:41   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Ricky

Various species of female spiders will kill and eat their mate after mating. Not exactly the same situation, but pretty much along the same lines. The death of one helps the survival of many.

Yeah, not really the same at all, though, since the males definitely try to get away. It isn't self-sacrificial behavior--just a risky liaison.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 08/05/2005 19:30:50
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Ricky
SFN Die Hard

USA
4907 Posts

Posted - 08/05/2005 :  20:29:31   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Ricky an AOL message Send Ricky a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by H. Humbert

quote:
Originally posted by Ricky

Various species of female spiders will kill and eat their mate after mating. Not exactly the same situation, but pretty much along the same lines. The death of one helps the survival of many.

Yeah, not really the same at all, though, since the males definitely try to get away. It isn't self-sacrificial behavior--just a risky liaison.



Oh, I didn't know they tried to get away. And I thought I was desperate...

Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
- Isaac Asimov
Edited by - Ricky on 08/06/2005 12:07:26
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filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 08/06/2005 :  04:28:24   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by filthy

quote:
Originally posted by hippy4christ

Hello Board,

I saw this thread and felt like reviving it.

Has there ever been any observation of an animal (excluding those of a hive instinct) saving another animal's life at the risk of its own; and it is apparent that the animal knew that it would likely die in the rescue?

If so, how would that instinct evolve, since it is directly contrary to self-preservation? And if not, how did humans gain this ability?

Hippy

Yes, this behavior is quite common especally in species that live in family groups such as wolves and elephants. If a member is in trouble, the whole group will attempt to help, often at great risk. Individuals of most herd and flock species will attempt to rescue an offspring, but they will usually ignore any other individual from the group. The same holds for most solitary species.

Oddly, with primates such as chimps and baboons, and indeed humans, childless females will sometimes try and steal another's infant.



Looked at from evolution's point of view, the above makes perfect sense (except for maybe the baby-snatching). The parent or the family are protecting their contribution to the genetic total of the species.

Re: spiders, they are notoriously canniblistic. Indeed, there is at least one species of communal spider in which the female sometimes allows her offspring to eat her, although this behavior is thought to occure only in times when prey is scarce.

Canniblism often begins for the spiderlings in the egg case, where they devour their siblings.

The males in some species actually set themselves up to be eaten by the female after mating.

It all reads as pretty ghastly, but spiders are cool. And I remind: spiders are among the most successful creatures ever to populate the earth.


"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


"The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff." ~~ Dude

Brother Boot Knife of Warm Humanitarianism,

and Crypto-Communist!

Edited by - filthy on 08/06/2005 05:03:32
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