Morality Play

I was at the Physical Therapist the other day (long story… shoulder sugery… a story for another time), sitting patiently in the waiting room when I spied a copy of Time Magazine. Time is always good for a interesting article or two so I picked it up.

I flipped to a story titled What Makes Us Moral.

The story starts out quite familiar: human are capable of such great compassion and such cruelty. The article then posits that it\’s our Morality (or Empathy) is what makes us human, but then goes on to show how that trait doesn\’t belong only to humans. It touches on the acts of empathy that have been observed in chimpanzees and apes. One story that caught my attention was a researcher who raized a chimpanzee in her home. This chimp would climb onto the roof of the house and she couldn\’t get him to come down… until she sat down and pretended to cry. He would go to her immediately and look to protect her from the unseen person who made her cry.

A few weeks ago Chelle and I were walking our dogs through our neighborhood. We passed a house where a young boxer lives and he had gotten loose. Upon seeing us he ran out to the street and start circling and barking… wanting to play. A woman from the house came running over apologizing and trying to catch the dog, quite unsuccessfully. After a couple of minutes of circling and barking Chelle fell to the ground. I thought that the tangling of leashes from our own dogs had tripped her. The boxer ran over to Chelle and she promptly grabbed him by the collar. She had intentionally fallen to get the dog to come over. While you could argue that it possibly a hunting instinct or pure curiosity, I believe there was a feeling of concern and empathy from that dog to make sure she was alright.

So many of mankinds assumptions of the animal world have been proved wrong. We have discovered that animals communicate with each other in ways, and in greater detail than we have previously thought. We continue to discover complex societies in all levels of the animal kingdom. We have discovered the complex tools that are used by mammals and birds. Is it reasonable to believe that humans have the corner on the market on morality? Do only humans have the ability to think ahead; to understand the reprecussions of their actions? I think not.







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