Saturday, May 30, 2009

Animals have a sense of morality?

According to one scientist at least:
Scientists studying animal behaviour believe they have growing evidence that species ranging from mice to primates are governed by moral codes of conduct in the same way as humans.

Until recently, humans were thought to be the only species to experience complex emotions and have a sense of morality.

But Prof Marc Bekoff, an ecologist at University of Colorado, Boulder, believes that morals are "hard-wired" into the brains of all mammals and provide the "social glue" that allow often aggressive and competitive animals to live together in groups.

He has compiled evidence from around the world that shows how different species of animals appear to have an innate sense of fairness, display empathy and help other animals that are in distress.
I don't get what is so special about moral compasses if they are all relative to the particular culture one is raised in and do not necessarily include those perceived as outsiders:
"Just as in humans, the moral nuances of a particular culture or group will be different from another, but they are certainly there. Moral codes are species specific, so they can be difficult to compare with each other or with humans."
Looks like we sociopaths are more alone than we thought. But at least no one will ever be able to call us filthy animals anymore.


  1. Morality is a feeling not a compass....thats the best way i can try and explain it. Those who do what is considered "immoral" don't "feel" anything negative about the act they are committing. I suppose society uses morality as a compass to control the masses, like a tool almost....However i guess what i find moral others perhaps wouldn't and vise versa, morality is relative to the individual. Thats what i think anyway, i may be wrong...just my opinion.

  2. Actually I agree. And so would Phage judging from one of his comments on another post. From what I’ve read, the evidence seems to indicate that morality is felt as emotion (shame, guilt, righteous indignation, disgust, and so on) first. Rationalizing those emotions (creating moral principles) come second.

    The moral sense is universal feature of the human mind (and by universal I mean cross cultural). It’s true that specific moral codes differ among various social groups and individuals; however there do appear to be some moral concepts that are commonly shared across the world. Also, it has been pointed out by a variety of researchers and thinkers that basic moral knowledge is gained with very little explicit instruction and without laborious mental work. This suggests that the moral sense is innate. The moral instinct has been aptly compared to our instinctive facility with language. Languages may differ among groups, but they are generated based on a universal set of grammatical principles. And learning to speak your native language in childhood is a relatively easy skill to learn. This is because the standard human brain comes equipped with a robust intellectual tool kit for acquiring human speech. So it is with morality, in my view.

    It’s like the piano. There may be only 7 white notes and 5 black notes per octave, but from those 12 notes comes a seemingly infinite variety of musical compositions. So it would be with morality (and language, and art and so on…). The standard brain has a basic moral syntax built in, which is then used to generate the variety of moral codes, traditions and mores we see the world over.

    I guess this means that the sociopath is “tone deaf” when it comes to morality, so to speak. Perhaps. I’d also suggest that it doesn’t matter. I don’t believe that morality exists independent of brains. Morality was evolutionarily adaptive for a species also endowed with innate selfishness and aggressiveness. I see no reason to believe that morality is an objective fact of the universe however. In other words, sociopaths aren’t missing out on some great truth of existence. We’re just in a better position to clearly see what morality is and is not and how it functions for most people most of the time, without idealism blurring the vision.

  3. You would think that Scientists would be smart enough to notice this already. Evolution would basically create morality in species so genes would survive and progress--like in humans and their sense of empathy.

    Humanity needs more humility.

  4. What about psychopathic animals?

  5. ...what, like cats? Wait no, that's schizophrenic.

  6. Over the years, I've had several cats. Currently, I have one who I can honestly say is sociopathic, intent only on himself and what I can do for him. He derives great pleasure from me, but shows no emotion or feelings back to me unless it can benefit him in some way. He is a great troublemaker to boot and plagues everyone in the household (animals included) with his actions! Very smart, easily bored and targets others. HMMM...sounds sociopathic to me!

    I have another cat, which I've had for 18 years; she wants to know the rules and not only follows them to a "T" but expects all the other cats in the household to follow them also...or she will beat the "carp" out of them. Routines are to be followed at all costs. She is very loving on rare occasions (to me only), but it is genuine, as she never wastes time with false emotions. She is honest through & through. Definitely OCD, don't you think?

    Finally, I have a very sweet, loving black cat who is 13 years old. His sole purpose in life is to find a way to spend all his time with me. If I sit down, he is in my lap, going to bed, he not only wants to sleep with me but be as close as he can, preferably touching my skin in some way. He always stops and thanks me for his food, before he dives in. Follows me everywhere. And he is incredibly empathetic, always knowing when I am sad and offering comfort to the best of his ability. My friends marvel at this loyal little cat, who pesters them to go home at the end of the evening, so that we can go to bed together! One friend said he was worse than her husband! No other creature in the world has ever loved me like this, including my kids and two ex-husbands. And I don't treat him any differently than my other cats, so I don't deserve so much love. Empath, borderline...I don't know.

    So, no, not all cats are sociopaths. But from my experiences, I would have to say, all have different personality disorders/traits, just like humans. Since I treated them all the same, I have to conclude that they are the product of their genetics, i.e., they came to me that way, I didn't make them the way they are. Just like the world is not environmentally responsible for "creating" sociopaths; you were all born that way, and there is nothing we "NORMALS" can do about it, except to stay as far away from you as possible, for our own sakes. Surely, you spaths can understand self-protection and putting ourselves ahead of you. And if not, as my ex-spath was so fond of saying to me, "I DON'T CARE!" :)

  7. I've been reading this and soooo want to go on and on and debate w u all, but first and foremost... You guys are debating back and forth w a SOCIOPATH/APD!!!! Anywhere you read, or have been around one, it is a fact you cannot debate with them! They will win, they know it all, they are smarter than us all, so why are you even trying!?!? Lol...they are getting off on this, they think you are soooo stupid! You are wasting your time and won't get anywhere, you can't reason w them PERIOD! I'm sure one of you will have a hay day w me now :) but I've learned from taking psycology classes and being in a relationship w one! So say what you want, but you won't control or manipulate me into believing your bs :) I feel sorry for you in a way, that something along the way in your upbringing made you this way (this caveman crap isn't true) but I don't feel sorry for you that you've known something is wrong (you just do!) and ill give ya the benefit that IF u didnt, troubles along the way and people have made it apparent to you that something is, and you've never done shit about it!!!! Cuz you think ur superior and don't need help, but like someone on here said its a miserable life (a socio corrected her in saying "why because its the norm to u so it must be shitty to live this way" (in so many words) YOU KNOW IT IS!!! You've caused nothing but grief and need help if not for your "awesome" self, than for others who have to put up w urself!!!! It might surprise yourself to find even a sliver of happiness you could experience blearning some tools, and taking your meds

  8. Morality is fucking stupid. Thanks, sociopaths, for making me feel good about myself. Seriously. I'm an Aspie with sociopathic tendencies and I love this site.

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