Thursday, July 9, 2015

Thor's Day: Natural morality

More thoughts of 
Frans de Waal

By Morris Dean

Yesterday’s post on “reading monkeys” introduced Frans de Waal. We’re pleased today to share a few more quotes from this Dutch primatologist and ethologist, borrowed from Wikipedia & Wikiquotes:
  • “I’ve argued that many of what philosophers call moral sentiments can be seen in other species. In chimpanzees and other animals, you see examples of sympathy, empathy, reciprocity, a willingness to follow social rules. Dogs are a good example of a species that have and obey social rules; that’s why we like them so much, even though they’re large carnivores.”
  • “Atheism will need to be combined with something else, something more constructive than its opposition to religion, to be relevant to our lives. The only possibility is to embrace morality as natural to our species.”
  • “Being both more systematically brutal than chimps and more empathic than bonobos, we are by far the most bipolar ape. Our societies are never completely peaceful, never completely competitive, never ruled by sheer selfishness, and never perfectly moral.”
  • "The possibility that empathy resides in parts of the brain so ancient that we share them with rats should give pause to anyone comparing politicians with those poor, underestimated creatures."
  • “The enemy of science is not religion...The true enemy is the substitution of thought, reflection, and curiosity with dogma.”
  • “Don’t believe anyone who says that since nature is based on a struggle for life, we need to live like this as well. Many animals survive not by eliminating each other or by keeping everything for themselves, but by cooperating and sharing. This applies most definitely to pack hunters, such as wolves or killer whales, but also our closest relatives, the primates. In a study in Taï National Park, in Ivory Coast, chimpanzees took care of group mates wounded by leopards, licking their blood, carefully removing dirt, and waving away flies that came near the wounds. They protected injured companions, and slowed down during travel in order to accommodate them. All of this makes perfect sense given that chimpanzees live in groups for a reason, the same way wolves and humans are group animals for a reason. If man is wolf to man, he is so in every sense, not just the negative one. We would not be where we are today had our ancestors been socially aloof. What we need is a complete overhaul of assumptions about human nature. Too many economists and politicians model human society on the perpetual struggle they believe exists in nature, but which is a mere projection. Like magicians, they first throw their ideological prejudices into the hat of nature, then pull them out by their very ears to show how much nature agrees with them. It’s a trick for which we have fallen for too long. Obviously, competition is part of the picture, but humans can’t live by competition alone.”

Copyright © 2015 by Morris Dean

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to have to commit to memory the quote about rats, empathy, and politicians. I would also agree with him that the enemy of science is not religion, not true religion anyway.

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