Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, October 6, 2014

Section 13 Group 2 Animal Morality

Megan: Researched, authored, and narrated animal morality paper.

Jack: Researched animal morality videos and authored a PowerPoint for the presentation.

Dylan: Observed animal morality paper and thoroughly searched for flaws within to offer a counter to the idea of animals having morality.

Animal Morality Paper:
"Animals have always been seen as relatively thoughtless, basic creatures. For many years, not many people bothered to actually study their behavior and attempt to make sense of their habits. We have become dangerously comfortable with the idea that we are the only beings capable of morality that feel deep and complex emotions and have the ability to reason. We assume that because animals do not share the same sense of right and wrong and values, they are not there. We are not so special to be the first living creatures with morals. 
         The gap between science and philosophy is becoming smaller and smaller. Research done by Frans de Waal suggests that we are not that different from animals. He argues that “if we take away the concept of morality from its souly human definition, it becomes clear that morality is something created through evolution”, for all beings, and not originated by humans. Spindle cells are believed to be the origin of judgment and morality, we can find these spindle cells in humans within different parts of the brain. However, spindle cells are also present in Sperm Whales and primates, and research done on their spindle cells strongly suggest that they are older than the cells found in human beings in evolutionary terms. De Waal, among others, have spent many years studying the behaviors of animals and humans alike, and realized that no matter what philosophical or scientific discipline one might adopt, the fundamentals of morality remain generally the same, which include compassion, empathy, fairness, and awareness of responsibility. These traits are not limited to humans. De Waal observed that Meer cats would stay by the side of another injured of sick cat, risking their own health and safety, so that they do not have to die alone. The cat receives no reward, and expects nothing in return; it has no benefit to them. Like humans, animals exhibit sorrow and grief when someone they care about passes away. Otherwise, why would dogs stay by their owner’s bed long after they have died? Or why would the temporal lobe (the part of the brain that is associated with sadness and other emotions) appear to be much more active in a horse when her foul has passed away?
         Many people assume that animals are not capable of logical decision-making or fairness. Yet, in a pack of wolves, when a more dominant male plays with a less authoritative wolf, the more dominant one will “handicap” itself through roll reversal, showing the lower ranking wolf submission. If one wolf bites the other too hard during play, it will take a step back and initiate a “play bow” to ask for forgiveness, regardless of rank in the pack, before resuming play. Without some form of moral code governing this type of behavior, these actions would not be possible.  
         While I agree with the notion that it is an instinct to develop morals and identify with those pre-established within a group or society, I don’t believe that it is impossible for animals, and humans for that matter, to act beyond those instincts."
-Megan Stockett

Jack put who-did-what (shown at top), along with these links, on the PowerPoint:

Flaws of Animal Morality Outline:
"• We believe we are the smartest beings in the universe. That we are alone in our intelligent state. What if animals are already above us?Animals are shown, by many beliefs, to have existed long before humans. They could have surpassed our intelligence and are secretly hiding that fact.
• If this is so, surely animals would refuse to be abused by humans.
• When a human is attacking another human, it feels pain and responds through defense. Physical and verbal.
Although animals do physically defend themselves, they could be ignoring the humans verbally to avoid the drama/conflict of interest.
• Some people would argue that it does not matter whether they have morals or not. If their morals are not our morals, then they are wrong and therefore are not morals at all.
• What other being on the planet can define words? It is our language, and if we choose animals to not have morals, then they don’t have them. Once we remove the definition from the word, then the word ceases to exist; therefore, morality is morality while the whole definition is there, with no more or no less description.
• We cannot compare judgment with morality. Judgment is an actmorality is an idea. Two non-similar terms cannot be compared.
• Animals could experience acts of morality without having morality. 
• An animal could do something that is accepted as being good/right; however, it has not yet been determined that an animal can decide what is right and wrong; an animal just does based on natural (animalistic) instinct. 
• No one knows what an animal feels, and until someone does, it cannot be chosen whether an animal has morals or not.
• Emotions are not to be confused with morals either."
-Dylan White 


  1. Good job (and very cool that you contacted Frans de Waal, Megan)!

    Here's the link to that 60 Minutes piece on canine intelligence I mentioned: http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/anderson-cooper-does-your-dog-really-love-you/

  2. There was no post to comment under adding my FQ, DQ, and link so I am putting it under our Midterm Presentation.

    FQ: The scientific philosophy, falsificationism, was developed by who?

    DQ: If falsificationism is believed to be a good method of reasoning, then do we need to take Pyrrho and his skeptic followers more serious?

    Link on Karl Popper and Falsificationism:

  3. FQ: who said: "there is more to seeing than meets the eyeball?"
    DQ: Do you agree that what one sees depends on one's knowledge, expectations, and culture?
    LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E383eEA54DE