We are all animals.

02009-06-18 | Uncategorized | 4 comments

A friend sent me this link.

Animals can tell right from wrong – Telegraph
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. His conclusions will provide ammunition for animal welfare groups pushing to have animals treated more humanely, but some experts are sceptical about the extent to which animals can experience complex emotions and social responsibility.

Prof Bekoff, who presents his case in a new book Wild Justice, said: “The belief that humans have morality and animals don’t is a long-standing assumption, but there is a growing amount of evidence that is showing us that this simply cannot be the case.

Now go ahead and play nice, human.


  1. Adam

    Well, it raises an interesting question: to what extent does “animal morality” go against the survival instinct? To what extent does human morality?

    I think there are examples of humans exhibiting a morality that can’t fit easily into a survival-of-the-fittest context – sacrifice comes to mind. What’s described in this article seems to be directed at communal stability. Do we see animals acting “selflessly”? Does it matter?

  2. steve

    There is an interesting paper on altruism or “selfless” acting that coincidentally, I discovered this evening:


    I think there is a great deal of connectivity between this article Ottmar cites, and the paper referenced above.

  3. Victor Hornback

    The author of the article apparently senses how talk of “morality” is going to push the human’s hot buttons. So, I’m curious about that. I mean, when I read it I was already contrasting “codes of conduct” (implying conscious behavior) with “hard-wired” (implying unconscious behavior). I was also quick to make huge leaps such as: “The larger the brain the more likely to act immorally. (i.e. Contrary to moral hard-wiring.)” Why all the hot buttons on this?

    The human sense of morality leaves open all these points to interject judgements, which requires the application of other mental tools and/or faith. But what about that “hard wiring”? Can it be trusted? And why are we so quick to put our “morals” above those of animals?


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *




@Mastodon (the Un-Twitter)