Morality is not the exclusive domain of Homo sapiens; there is significant cross-species evidence in the scientific literature that animals exhibit "pre-morality" or basic moral behaviors (i.e. those patterns of behavior that parallel central elements of human moral behavior).

Empathy, fairness, reciprocity and other moral behaviors preceded the emergence of human religions by millions of years (deWaal, 2013).

Many believe that our species exclusively receives morality from God or gods. Is that so?

Certainly this view is widely held. However, facts do not support this incorrect belief.

From scientists’ observations, we are beginning to realize that humanity, Homo sapiens, is just one species among multitudes that innately possess morality.[1][2] Consider the social interactions of non-human primates. More than 90 percent of these interactions are affiliative and cooperative, rather than competitive or divisive.[3]

Some other examples of moral comportment [4]:

  • Diana monkeys help each other obtain food.
  • A herd of elephants unlocks an enclosure gate to help imprisoned antelopes escape.
  • A cat named Libby leads her elderly, deaf and blind dog friend Cashew away from obstacles and towards food.
  • A rat in a cage refuses to push a lever for food when it sees that another rat is receiving an electric shock as a result.

As the noted ethologist Marc Bekoff remarks about humans, “We’re not the sole occupants of the moral arena.”[5]

Helping, cooperation, and caring are not traits exclusive to humans acquired by way of sacred texts or deities. Our nearest primate relatives, the chimpanzees (who share 98% of our genes), also exhibit these characteristics. Such qualities are central to a shared, evolved phylogenetic ancestry. They have been observed even in species on branches that are far away from us on the evolutionary tree.[6][7]

Statement #1
Statement #3

Recently Added References

  • Coyte, K.Z., Schluter, J. and Foster, K.R. (2015). The ecology of the microbiome- Networks, competition, and stability. Science 350 (626) 663-666. PDF
  • Oliveira, N. M., Martinez-Garcia, E., Xavier, J., Durham, W. M., Kolter, R., Kim, W., & Foster, K. R. (2015). Biofilm formation as a response to ecological competition. PLoS Biology, 13(7). PDF
  • Pande, S., Shitut, S., Freund, L., Westermann, M., Bertels, F., Colesie, C., ... & Kost, C. (2015). Metabolic cross-feeding via intercellular nanotubes among bacteria. Nature Communications, 6. PDF

References

  • Aureli, F., & de Waal, F. B. M. (Eds.). (2000). Natural conflict resolution. Berkeley: University of California Press. 
  • Axelrod, R., & Hamilton, W. (1981). The evolution of cooperation. Science, 211, 1390-1396. PDF
  • Brosnan, S. F., & de Waal, F. B. M. (2003). Monkeys reject unequal pay. Nature, 425, 297–299. PDF
  • Chen, K. & Hauser, M.D. (2005). Modeling reciprocation and cooperation in primates: Evidence for a punishing strategy. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 235, 5-12.
  • Church, R. M. (1959). Emotional reactions of rats to the pain of others. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology52(2), 132.
  • Coyte, K.Z., Schluter, J. and Foster, K.R. (2015). The ecology of the microbiome- Networks, competition, and stability. Science 350 (626) 663-666. PDF
  • Crespi, B. J. (2001). The evolution of social behaviour in microorganisms. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 16(4), 178-183. PDF
  • De Waal, F. B. (2008). Putting the altruism back into altruism: The evolution of empathy. Annual Review of Psychology59, 279-300. PDF
  • De Waal, F. B., Leimgruber, K., & Greenberg, A. R. (2008). Giving is self-rewarding for monkeys. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(36), 13685-13689. PDF
  • Engelmann, J. M., Clift, J. B., Herrmann, E., & Tomasello, M. (2017). Social disappointment explains chimpanzees' behaviour in the inequity aversion task. Proceedings of the Royal Society - B, 284(1861), 20171502. PDF
  • Engelmann, J. M., Herrmann, E., & Tomasello, M. (2015). Chimpanzees trust conspecifics to engage in low-cost reciprocity. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 282(1801) 20142803. PDF
  • Engelmann, J. M., Herrmann, E., & Tomasello, M. (2016). The effects of being watched on resource acquisition in chimpanzees and human children. Animal cognition, 19(1), 147-151.PDF
  • Grueneisen, S., Duguid, S., Saur, H., & Tomasello, M. (2017). Children, chimpanzees, and bonobos adjust the visibility of their actions for cooperators and competitors. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 8504.PDF
  • Hamilton, W. D. (1963). The evolution of altruistic behavior. The American Naturalist, 97, 354-356. PDF
  • Harcourt, A., & de Waal, F. B. M. (Eds.). (1992). Coalitions and alliances in humans and other animals. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Maynard Smith, J., & Price, G. R. (1973). The logic of animal conflict. Nature, 246, 15-18. PDF
  • Melis, A. P., Engelmann, J. M., & Warneken, F. (2018). Chimpanzee helping is real, not a byproduct. Nature Communications, 9(1), 615. PDF
  • Melis, A., & Tomasello, M. (2013). Chimpanzees’ strategic helping in a collaborative task. Biology Letters, 9, 2013. PDF
  • Melis, A.P., Warneken, F., Jensen, K., Schneider, A.C., Call, J., & Tomasello, M. (2011). Chimpanzees help conspecifics obtain food and non-food items. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 278(1710), 1405-1413. PDF
  • Meloni, M. (2013). Moralizing biology: The appeal and limits of the new compassionate view of nature. History of the Human Sciences 26 (3), 82-106. PDF
  • Oliveira, N. M., Martinez-Garcia, E., Xavier, J., Durham, W. M., Kolter, R., Kim, W., & Foster, K. R. (2015). Biofilm formation as a response to ecological competition. PLoS Biology, 13(7). PDF
  • Pande, S., Shitut, S., Freund, L., Westermann, M., Bertels, F., Colesie, C., ... & Kost, C. (2015). Metabolic cross-feeding via intercellular nanotubes among bacteria. Nature Communications, 6. PDF
  • Pierce, J., & Bekoff, M. (2012). Wild justice redux: What we know about social justice in animals and why it matters. Social Justice Research, 25(2), 122-139. PDF
  • Range, F., Leitner, K., & Virányi, Z. (2012). The influence of the relationship and motivation on inequity aversion in dogs. Social Justice Research, 25(2).PDF
  • Sussman, R. W., Garber, P. A., & Cheverud, J. M. (2005). Importance of cooperation and affiliation in the evolution of primate sociality. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 128(1), 84-97. PDF
  • Tomasello, M., & Call, J. (2018). Thirty years of great ape gestures. Animal Cognition, 1-9. PDF
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  • Trivers, R. L. (1985). Social evolution. Menlo Park, California: Benjamin/ Cummings.
  • Warneken, F. (2013). The development of altruistic behavior: Helping in children and chimpanzees. Social Research, 80(2), 431-442. PDF
  • Warneken, F. (2016). Insights into the biological foundation of human altruistic sentiments. Current Opinion in Psychology, 7, 51-56.PDF
  • Warneken, F., & Tomasello, M. (2006). Altruistic helping in human infants and young chimpanzees. Science, 2006, 1301-1303. PDF
  • Warneken, F., & Tomasello, M. (2009). Varieties of altruism in children and chimpanzees. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(9), 397-402. PDF
  • Warneken, F., Chen, F., & Tomasello, M. (2006). Cooperative activities in young children and chimpanzees. Child Development, 77 (3), 640-663. PDF
  • Wolf, J. B., Howie, J. A., Parkinson, K., Gruenheit, N., Melo, D., Rozen, D., & Thompson, C. R. (2015). Fitness trade-offs result in the illusion of social success. Current Biology, 25(8), 1086-1090.PDF
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