From where? Morals.

by AK - Jeff 23 Replies latest jw friends

  • Farkel

    :From where? Morals.

    Don't know. When I get some, I might know.


  • changeling

    I'm with Voidy :)

  • dig692

    PSacramento poses an excellent question:

    This is basically a question of what came first, morals or a belief in God(s) that lead to a creation of morals.

    For those that profess a belief in God, it can be argued that their sense of morality is influenced by that belief. For those that profess no belief in a higher being, it can be argued that their sense of morality is influenced by society. Though which came first is another matter.

  • frankiespeakin

    Morals are an evolutionary product found found in many species. They are not just inherent to the human species and as such are seen in other species as well.

    Scientist Finds the Beginnings of Morality in Primate Behavior
    Some animals are surprisingly sensitive to the plight of others. Chimpanzees, who cannot swim, have drowned in zoo moats trying to save others. Given the chance to get food by pulling a chain that would also deliver an electric shock to a companion, rhesus monkeys will starve themselves for several days.
    Biologists argue that these and other social behaviors are the precursors of human morality. They further believe that if morality grew out of behavioral rules shaped by evolution, it is for biologists, not philosophers or theologians, to say what these rules are.
    Dr. de Waal’s views are based on years of observing nonhuman primates, starting with work on aggression in the 1960s. He noticed then that after fights between two combatants, other chimpanzees would console the loser. But he was waylaid in battles with psychologists over imputing emotional states to animals, and it took him 20 years to come back to the subject.
    He found that consolation was universal among the great apes but generally absent from monkeys — among macaques, mothers will not even reassure an injured infant. To console another, Dr. de Waal argues, requires empathy and a level of self-awareness that only apes and humans seem to possess. And consideration of empathy quickly led him to explore the conditions for morality.
    Though human morality may end in notions of rights and justice and fine ethical distinctions, it begins, Dr. de Waal says, in concern for others and the understanding of social rules as to how they should be treated. At this lower level, primatologists have shown, there is what they consider to be a sizable overlap between the behavior of people and other social primates.
    Social living requires empathy, which is especially evident in chimpanzees, as well as ways of bringing internal hostilities to an end. Every species of ape and monkey has its own protocol for reconciliation after fights, Dr. de Waal has found. If two males fail to make up, female chimpanzees will often bring the rivals together, as if sensing that discord makes their community worse off and more vulnerable to attack by neighbors. Or they will head off a fight by taking stones out of the males’ hands.
    Dr. de Waal believes that these actions are undertaken for the greater good of the community, as distinct from person-to-person relationships, and are a significant precursor of morality in human societies.

  • SacrificialLoon

    A system of morals or ethics are established by a society and are enforced by laws and religion. A society with 'superior' ethics will be more successful than others. Some things like murder are almost universally judged as immoral by societies. You're not going to have a very successful society when everyone is killing each other off whereas killing others outside the group can be seen as good because that leaves less competition for your group.

    Morals aren't really even a human trait as it is a primate or even more social animals. Ethics evolved to make groups more successful than others.

  • frankiespeakin

    Dogs, whales, and all kinds of animals have morals:

    Animals can tell right from wrong
    Animals possess a sense of morality that allows them to tell the difference between right and wrong, according to a controversial new book.
    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.
    Wolves live in tight-knit social groups that are regulated by strict rules. If a pack grows too large, members are not able to bond closely enough and the pack disintegrates. Wolves also demonstrate fairness.
    During play, dominant wolves will "handicap" themselves by engaging in roll reversal with lower ranking wolves, showing submission and allowing them to bite, provided it is not too hard.
    Prof Bekoff argues that without a moral code governing their actions, this kind of behaviour would not be possible. If an animal bites too hard, it will initiate a "play bow" to ask forgiveness before play resumes.
    In other members of the dog family, play is controlled by similar rules. Among coyotes, cubs which bite too hard are ostracised by the rest of the group and often end up having to leave entirely.
    "We looked at the mortality of these young animals who disperse from the group and they have four to five times higher mortality," said Bekoff.
    Experiments with domestic dogs, where one animal was given a treat and another denied, have shown that they posses a sense of fairness as they shared their treats.
    Elephants are intensely sociable and emotional animals. Research by Iain Douglas Hamilton, from the department of zoology at Oxford University, suggests elephants experience compassion and has found evidence of elephants helping injured or ill members of their herd.
    In one case, a Matriarch known as Eleanor fell ill and a female in the herd gently tried to help Eleanor back to her feet, staying with her before she died.
    In 2003, a herd of 11 elephants rescued antelope who were being held inside an enclosure in KwaZula-Natal, South Africa.
    The matriarch unfastened all of the metal latches holding the gates closed and swung the entrance open allowing the antelope to escape.
    This is thought to be a rare example of animals showing empathy for members of another species – a trait previously thought to be the exclusive preserve of mankind.
  • cofty

    Thanks for that reference frankiespeakin. I watched an example last week on the BBC of a male ape breaking nuts open with a stone. A female with an infant had plenty nuts but no stone to open them. She went and sat beside the male and after a few minutes he handed her the stone which she used and then returned. Really fascinating.

    I also saw elephants release antelopes from a corral. It looked at first as if they were wanting the food in the corral but they didn't, they just opened the gates and stood guard while the antelopes made off. It appeared t be the first recorded example of cross-species altruism?

  • frankiespeakin


    I hope you don't mind my putting these post and vids and paste and clips on your topic. I find this subject intriguing and an opening to understanding human nature. And as an animal lover and a observer of dogs, cats, lions, and apes I see in many way we are not all that different, especially from those mammals that live in groups and have complex social behaviors.

    Our closest related species and the understanding of social groups and how they function in these species is revealing to understanding ourselves, I tend to see religion the same way the same way I see culture on our moral development merely just one of many factors and by all means not the most dominant it has more to do with brain chemistry, hormones, and the path our evolution has taken us.

    Learning Morality from Monkeys

    The Mystery of Love - Animal Love

    Can you live a morally good life solely on the basis of religion? (Templeton Foundation)

  • tall penguin
    tall penguin

    Great post Jeff. The term morality has a rather complicated denotation and even more complicated connotation. It is difficult to even define the term let alone be clear on where morals come from. There's been some great research quoted here to show how primates establish morality to promote certain social outcomes. But, as you quite eloquently put it: "Morals carry with them a great deal of subjectivity, and are generally not very objective." Much of morality is relative, as you mention, according to where you find yourself historically, geographically and societally.

    Since leaving the JW's I've had to revisit the question of morality time and again. Did being a JW make me more moral? Or did it just make me appear more moral? Or did it just make me feel morally superior when really I was just suppressing that which came more naturally for me to explore?

    The mind is indeed a vast place. The older I get, the more I realize that what goes on in my mind is nothing but a bunch of belief systems and ideologies that are in need of constant questioning and adjustment. Rather than having an overarching moral "code" with which to live my life, I prefer to use judgement based on experience, empathy and wisdom, which is most often based on lots of previous hits and misses and learning first hand what life is all about.

    I read a great quote recently that could apply here:

    “ When you try to identify the use of your entire life, you are asking to be used . When you try to identify the function of your entire life, you are asking to be turned into a mere functionary. ” ~~ James Ogilvy

    When we subscribe to an overarching morality as dictated solely by society or religion, we are asking to be used. We are asking for a life half-lived. Been there, done that. I have no interest in ever again subscribing to an overall belief system of right and wrong to live my life.

    tall penguin

  • frankiespeakin

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