Good_Natured - 122 Chapter 3 The Other Animals 2 To give...

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Unformatted text preview: 122 Chapter 3: The Other Animals 2. To give positive moral weight to the interests of the being is, roughly, to give those interests favorable and proper weight in one's deciding what one ought to do. 5. We are indebted to one of our reviewers for sug- gest‘ing this useful distinction. 4. In an analytic fashion, Mary Midgley, in Animals: Why They Muller. calls attention to the fact of our living in com 'tias of mixed species and that for many the presence of animals is like that of kin; we have ongoing relationships with animals. They have names. it is contrary to much of our experi- ence to think of (many of) them as men: commodi- "crops" to be harvested. 1. Baird Callioott, "Animal liberation: ATriangular Affair," Enuimirnwrital Ethics 2(4) (Winter 1980), 311-338. 14. Good NaturedrThe Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals __________,___d__.—P———— Frans do West the dragon of In addition to being human, we pride ourselves on being humane. What a brilliant way of mtablishing morality as the hallmark of human nature—by adopting our species name for charitable tenden- cies! Animals obviously cannot be human; could they ever by humane? If this seems an almost-rhetorical question, consider the dilemma for biologier anyone else adopting an evolutionary parapective. They would argue that there must at some levelbe cont-i: nuity between the behavior of humans and that of other primates. No domain, not even our celebrated morality, can be excluded from this assumption. Not that biologists have an easy time explain— ing morality. Actually, there are so many problems with it that many would not go near the subject, and i may be co 'dered foolish for stepping into this morass. For one thing, inasrn . ch as moral rule represents the power of the oorr'irnurdty over the individual, it poses a profound challenge to evolu- tionary theory. Darwinism tells us that traits evolve because their bearers are better off 'with them than without them Why, then, are collective interests and self-sacrifice valued so highly in our moral systems? Debate of this issue dates back a hundred years, to 1893 when Thomas Henry Huxley gave a lecture on ”Evolution and Ethics".to a packed audi- torium in Oxford, England. Viewing nature as nasty and indifferent, he dep‘cted morality as the Reprinted by perrniSSion‘of the publisher from Good Humans and Other Animals by Frans de Waai, Cambridge, Frans B. M. cleWaal. [Notes have been edited and renumbered I human nature, Huxley deftly pushed the ques ' sword forged by Home safiieris to slay its animal past. Evenii the laws of the physical world—-the cosmic pmcess—am unalterable, their impact on human existence can be softened and modified. “The ethical progress of society depends, not on imitating the cosmic process, still less in run- ning away from it, but in combating it.“ By viewing morality as the antithm' of its origin outside the biological realm. Af iii? if moral conduct rs a human inv'ention—a ve' beneath which we have remained as amo . ' immoral as~any other form of liter-there is need for an evolutionary account. That this 'tion is still very much with us is illustratedb startling statement of George Williams, a co porary evolutionary biologist: "1 saw morality as an a 'dental capability produg its boundless stupidity, by a biological p - I is normally opposed to' the expression of capability.“2 , _ln this view, human kindness is not real ot'the larger scheme of nature: it is either a r; ' '_ oounterforoe or a dumb ufistake oi Mothet ' Needless to say, this View is extraorzl' simistic, enough to give goose linings with faith in the depth of our moral- ' leaves unexplained where the ' possibly find-the strengthand ing enemy as formidable asiis own it L Hts-J. bitten-Zia m’fifig - Good Natured—The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals 123 Several years after Huxley’s lecture, the madam philosopher ]ohn Dewey wrote a little- known critical rejoinder. Huxley had compared the relation between ethics and human mature to that between gardener and garden, where the gardener struggles continuously to keep things in order. Dewey turned the metaphor around, saying that gardeners work as much with nature as against it. Whereas Huxley’s gardener seeks to be in control and root out whatever he dislikes, Dewey’s is what we would today call an organic grower. The suc- cessful gardener, Dewey pointed out, creates condi— tions and introduces plant species that may not be normal for this particular plot of land "but fall within the Wont and use of nature as a whole."3 I come down firmly on Dewey’ 5 side. Given ' the universality of moral systems, the tendency to develop and enforce them must be an integral part of human nature. A society lacking notions of right and wrong is about the worst thing we can imag- ine—ii we can imagine it at all. Since we are mural beings to the core, any theory of human behavior that does not take morality 100 percent seriously is bound to fall by the wayside. Unwilling to accept this fate for evolutionary theory, 1 have set myself the task of seeing if some of the building blocks of morality are recognizable in other animals. . Although I share the curiosity of evolutionary biologists about how morality might have evolved, the chief question that will occupy us here is whence it came. . .. Do animals show behavior that parallels the benevolence as well as the rules and regulations of human moral conduct? If so, what motivates‘ them to act this way? And do they realize how their behavior affects others? With questions such as these, the book carries the stamp of the growing field of cognitive ethology: It looks at animals as knowing, wanting, and calculating beings. . .a Biologicizing Morality Social inclusion is absolutely central to human morality, commonly cast in terms of how we should or should not behave in order to be valued as members of society. immoral conduct makes us outcasts, either here and now or—in the beliefs of some peoplerwhen we are turned away from the gates of heaven. Universally, human communities are moral communities; a morally neutral existence is as impossible for us as a completely solitary exis- tence. As summed up by Mary Midgley, a philoso- pher, "Getting right outside morality would be rather like getting outside the atmosphere.” Human morality may indeed be an extension of general primate patterns of social integration, and of the adjustment required of each member in order to fit in. It so, the broadest definition of this book's theme would be as an investigation into how the social environment shapes and constrains individ ual behavior. No doubt some philosophers regard morality as entirely theirs. The claim may be justifiable with regard to the "high end" of morality: abstract moral rules can be studied and debated like mathematics, 'almost divorced from their application in the real world. According to child psychologists, however, moral reasoning is constructed upon much simpler foundations, such as fear of punishment and a desire to conform. In general, human moral devel- opment moves from the social to the personal, from a concern about one's standing in the group to an autonomous conscience. While the early stages hardly seem out of reach of nonhuman animals, it is impossible to determine how close they get to the more'rational, Kantian levels. Reliable nonverbal signs of thought in humans do not exist, and the indicators that we sometimes do use (staring into the distance, scratching the head, resting the chin on a- fist) are commonly observed in anthropoids. Would an extraterrestrial observer ever be able to discern that humans ponder moral dilemmas, and if so, what would keep that observant-rum arriving at the same conclusion for apes? \ Biologists take the back door to the same ' building that social scientists and philosophers, with their fondness for high-flung notions, enter through the front door. When the Harvard sociabi— ologist E. O. Wilson twenty years ago proclaimed that ”the time has come for ethics to be removed temporarily. from the hands of the philosophers- and homemade he formulated the same idea a ' bit more provocatively My own feeling is that instead of complete reliance on biology, the best way to generate frmh air is simultaneously to open both front and back doors. Biologists look at things . in a rather functional light; we always wonder about the utility of a trait, on the assumption that it would notbe there if it did not serve some'purpose. Successful traiiscoritribute to "fitness," a term that expresses how well adapted (fitted) an individual is to its environment. Still, emphasis on fitness has its lirnitations’."'lhese are easily recognized when 124 Chapter 3: The Other Animals Figure 1 Evolutionary tree 'n branches of .I—J—n" Millions of years ago showing the ma; 3 the primate order: the New E World monkeys, the Old ..35 30 25 20 15 10 5 D . World monkeys, and the Humans c hominoicl lineage that pro- Chimpanzees ; b duced our oWn species. This 30(10th i1 diagram reflects recent Gorillas p advances in DNA analysis 5‘ that place the African apes i i (gorillas, chimpanzees, and . Orangutans i; bonobos) much closer to OLD WORLD 3‘ 5 humans than previously B ab 00 n s 5, thought. H I: It Macaques h 0 P f] . f: Capuohlns s: Muriquis S Squirrel monkeys 1; h paleontologists hold up the fossil remains of an than most of his contemporaries, he could not pre— i: ancestor who could barely walk, declaring it a vent his theory from being incorporated into a g defining moment in human prehistory when the closed system of thought in w 'ch there was little v unfit began to survive. room for compassion. it was taken to its extreme by 0 To understand the depth of these limitations, Herbert Spencer in a grand synthesis of sociology,- 3 e one need only realize the influence of Thomas political economy, and biology, according to which 3 h Malthus’ essay on population growth that the pursuit of self-interest, the lifeblood of society, ‘ 1: appeared at the beginning of the nineteenth cen— creates progress for the strong at the expense of til i- tury. His thesis was that populations tend to out— " inferior. This convenient justification of dispropo i cut back tionate wealth in the hands of a happy few was so I.I rted to the New World, where it led; ‘ r grow their food supply and are The idea of cessfully , expansionist automatically by increased mortality. the same species over the same John D. Rockefeller to portray the s "merely the workingput of a la competition within resources had immediate appeal to Charles large business 3 Darwin, who read Malthus; it helped bring his of nature and alaw of God.”7 Struggle for Existence principle into focus. Given the popular use and abuse of evoluiio Sadly, with these valuable insights came the ary theory (comparing Wall Street to all ‘ ' ‘tical views. Any help one jungle, for example), it is not surprising that in minds of many people natural ‘s _ ‘ burden of Malthus’ poll em to survive and propa- gives the poor permits th gate, hence negates the natural process according _ petition. How could such a harsh p to which these unfortunates are supposed to die far as to claim that if there is explain the concern for others and th encountered in our species? That a tea _ off. Malthus went so at passess, it is the t follow read one right that man clearly does :1 right to subsistence that he himself is unable to pur— behavior does no chase with his labor.6 theory should not be held against to have struggled way that birds and airplanes appeart _ hilly subjectedm ' ‘ Although Darwin appears ofgravity yet are more with the moral implications of these ideas decency may selection yet still be one of its many products. Altruism is not limited to our 5 its presence in other s challenge this represents biology~the contempora ing human) behavior , is what gave rise to socio— anirnal world. The warn» other birds to escape a hungry mouths and thus raise more offspring than otherwise possible. Dolphins support injured oom- panions close to the surface in order to keep them from drowning. And so on. Should not a tendency to endanger one’s life for someone else be quickly weeded out by natural selection? It was only in the 19605 and 19705 that ' satisfactory explanations were proposed. _ According to one theory, known as kin selection, a ' helping tendency may spread it the help results in - ' ed the new developm v impressive book pre vioral sciences will on ents. It is an influential dieting that all other e day see the light and 'obiology, Confidence in future was depicted in an amoebic drawing =p3eudopods reaching out to devour other dis—l Understandably, nonbiologists were by what they saw as an arrogant attempt at :8, tion; but also within biology, Wilson's book Y hired battles. Should Harvard be allowed to .7 Some scientists prei vioral ecologists rather though their theories entially the same. Moreover, like children thief their old folks, sociobiologists were 9” appear to fly in the face of natural pecies. Indeed, pecies, and the theoretical such as Mai, shares quite 125 quick to categorize earlier studies of animal behav- w. - Sociobiology represents a giant stride forward; it has forever changed the way biologists think ut animal behavior. Precisely because of their power and elegance, however, the new theories ave lured some Scientists into a gross simplifica- framework is regarded as an oddity, even a mistake. This is best illustrated by a single branch of sociobiology, which has gotten so caught up in the Malthusian dog-eat—dog view of the world that it sees no room for moral behavior: Following Huxley, it regards morality as a counter— ,= force, a rebellion against our brutish makeup, ’ rather than as an integrated part of human nature.El Calvinist Sociobiology At the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center, one chimpa nzee has been named Atlanta and"another Georgia. It is impossible for me to for- get where I am, as I see both individuals on a daily basis. 1 moved to the Star of the South, as the city declared it "a s ecurely established fact that the chimpanzee is not necessarily utterly selfish.”9 g I know about Georgia, sh ' the sort of character Yerkes had in mind when he made that declaration six decades ago. When we p rovision the colony with freshly cut branches and l eaves from the forest around the field station, Georgia is often the first to grab one of dles, and one of the last to share it. with anybody else. Even her daughter; Kate, and younger sister, Rita, have trouble getting food. They may roll over the ground, screaming in a piti— ful tantrum, but to no avail. "- No, Yerkes must have thought of individuals an older high-ranking female, who readily not only with her children but ter 3'. The Other Animals es have neither a self nor the emo- the sid , them selfish, one W0 d think this irresponsible, but not murderous. metaphor. True, but when repeated sation would surely be heard, however, had aphors tend to assume an aura of one watched me grab the pot and throw it 3 Even though Dawkins cautioned erson. The effect is the same, but the motiV‘ wn anthropomorphism of the gene, absolutely crucial. Iury and judge would W passage of time, carriers of selfish genes know which emotions I showed, the (18'. ' y association. Statements such as planning involved, my relationship with the elfis ” show how some sociobiolo— and so on. In short, they would want to lath e made the nonexistent emotions of genes psychology behind the act. e emetional nature; A criti- These distinctions are lar a sociobiology exclusively interested in ared the socio- against their own metaphor to biologists’ warnings 126 Chap also with nonrelatives, young and old. Or he may have thought of adult male chimpanzees, most of the paternosters of the Mafiosi. , whom are remarkably generous when it comes to Pushed into a corner by a witty p ilosopher, food distribution. Dawkins defended his metaphor by a ' g that it 4 While a distinction between sharing and keep- was 'not a metaphor. He really meant that genes are in means a lot in human socie , it is sometimes selfish, and claimed the right to define selfishness 1 lost in the language of a particular brand of socio— any way he wanted. Still, he borrowed a term from E; biology that takes the gene as absolute king. Gene- one domain, redefined it in a very narrow sense, centric sociobiology has managed to reach a wide then applied it in another domain to which it is com- audience with its message that humans and other pletely alien. Such a procedure would be acceptable animals are entirely selfish. rom this standpoin , if the two meanings were kept separate at all times; the only difference between Mai and Georgia is in unfortunately, they merge to the extent that some the way they pursue self-interest; whereas Georgia authors of this genre now imply that if people occa— is ust plain greedy, Mai shares food so as to make sionally think of themselves as unselfish, the poor friends or receive return favors in the future. Both souls must be deceiving themselves. thmk only of themselves. In human terms, this it is important to clear up this confi15ion, and he claim that Mother to emphasize once and for all that the selfish gene ' ' ' metaphor says nothing, either directly or indirectly, ' ' or intention. Elliott and reproducti gene, not the individual. A gene for bringing home food for one‘s children, for example, will enSure the exclusively With genetic se survival of individuals likely to carry the same for example, is able to‘further its gene.10 As a result, that gene will spread. Takento yet cannot possrbly be selfish in enes favor their own replica— sense. A . panzee or person w ' ' with others acts altruistically in the verna the b ' turn prom "a chicken is an egg’s way of making To describe such genetic self-promotion, Richard tron, hence that Dawkins introduced a psychological term in the sense.11 I title of his book, The SelfiSh Gene. Accordingly, what There 15 almost no point in discussing the e may be a generous act in common language, such lution of morality if we let the vernacular sense as bringing home food, Milli? be selfish from the our terminology be overshadowed by the evu ' With-time: the important addi— tionary sense. Human moral ju ' looks for the intentionbe ' dbeha ‘ . ' ' th floor and of Simultaneous micro and ersus other~servmg behawor macro realities: the reality in the mind of each 1nd:- - g that it What we say versus What we mean, or an honest vidual IS not the same as the reality that emer es l en es are versus a dishonest mistake Having thus denied when many individuals interact Atone level we do gfishness themselves the single most important handle on Afor Aserves pur {em from ethical issues, some so ' ‘ ‘ en up pose C. Biologlsts are familiar with such multilevel se on explaining morality. . . . thinking. For example sex serves reproduction et 'w- 583m: Whereas de Mandewlle provided a mere animals ' Streisafabie satire, the idea of pubh ' ' ‘all times; er purely on the , Smith mellowed with consecrated the final years of his life to a of A Theory ofMoml Sentiments, expanding ing together to defeat a third. earlier belief in unselfish motives. ' ther Animals 128 Chapter 31The0 s rarely go dowu literally at stake. Alpha male without a fight. ldealists such as Kropotkin tend to focus agreeable side of cooperation, such t, and camaraderie, while ignoring ' ‘ 'de. Although the Russian natu- mon enemy in ralist did refer to the role of a com ly ignored the fostering mutual aid, be convenient m'ght belong to one’s possibility that the enemy own species. In The Bioio of Moral Systems the biologist Richard Alexander presents our violent history of group against group and nation against innate reason why we attach so nation as the ult good and to ethical much val...
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