Morals, Religion, Humans, Animals
(Top Posts - Science - 021805)

Religion is 'good' for children?

Childhood brainwashing, the scare-them-to-death and
they-adopt-the-edicts-of-religious-authority routine,
an immoral and contemptible recourse of the religiously
insecure, so weak in their support of magic beings and
places that they depend on childhood brainwashing to
keep their religious faiths alive.

The legitimacy of God-free morals are well-founded in
America, a society with a secular government, secular
laws, secular institutions, and individuals free to choose
any law-abiding conduct.

Speaking of God-free morals ...

Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong
in Humans and Other Animals, by Frans De Waal

Editorial Reviews at


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In Good Natured Frans de Waal, ethologist and primatol-
ogist, asks us to reconsider human morality in light of moral
aspects that can be identified in animals.

Within the complex negotiations of human society, a moral
action may involve thoughts and feelings of guilt, recipro-
city, obligation, expectations, rules, or community concern.

De Waal finds these aspects of morality prevalent in other
animal societies, mostly primate, and suggests that the two
philosophical camps supporting nature and nurture may
have to be disbanded in order to adequately understand
human morality.


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Publishers Weekly

Is morality a biological or cultural phenomenon? Can non-
human animals be humane? Primatologist de Waal (Chim-
panzee Politics) explores these questions in a provocative
book and makes a strong case for biology.

He is convinced that social tendencies come into exist-
ence via a genetic calculus rather than rational choice.


He discusses aggression and altruism and offers abund-
ant anecdotal evidence of moral behavior among pri-
mates and other animals: food sharing, protection, sym-
pathy, guilt.

De Waal argues that the remarkable trainability among
certain species, e.g., sheepdogs and elephants, hints at
a rule-based order among them.


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Ethologist de Waal is engaged in research that hits
humans where they live. Observing monkeys and apes,
he seeks to find and explain behaviors among them that
bespeak qualities often thought to be exclusively human
and artificial.

In his new book, morality is the object of inquiry, and
in incident-packed chapters on sympathy, hierarchy, ex-
change, and social accommodation among animals (be-
sides his primate studies, he cites other researchers'
work on nonprimates), he demonstrates how animals
manifest morality and presents reasons for regarding
moral behavior as natural.

Not surprisingly, those reasons are social, beginning
with the demands of familial loyalty and extending to
the requirements of living with others of their species
and even to getting along with friends of other species,
such as zookeepers and researchers.


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Kirkus Reviews

Can we recognize a sense of morality in creatures
other than ourselves? De Waal (Peacemaking Among
Primates, 1989, etc.) asks, then smartly, rangingly,
appealingly deploys his ethozoological background to
see what he can find.

Since moral systems are universal among humans, de
Waal considers this tendency to be an integral part of
human nature--biologically significant, rather than a cul-
tural counterforce.

Yet from the standpoint of evolutionary biology, whence
came such moral attributes as self-sacrifice and com-
munal interests, dubious traits in the Darwinian scheme
(but only when Darwin is narrowly interpreted, as de
Waal notes)?

And since the moral ingredients of sympathy, recipro-
city, and peacemaking are found scattered throughout
the animal kingdom, what is their evolutionary advan-

Two theories in particular give some beef to his hunch
that animals have a moral faculty: kin selection (in
which the genetic imperative is satisfied even at one'
own expense) and reciprocal altruism (immediate
costs balanced by long-term benefits).

The greatest truth emerging from juxtaposing genetic
self-interest with intense sociality, de Waal figures,
is that human and beast are both noble and brutish,
both nurtured and natured.


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