Sci-ku: the morality of dogs

by Gene on Aug. 29th, 2008

Dogs have a sense of
right and wrong,
which is more than
some people can say.
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Sci-ku ™ -- haiku in the service of science!

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Lots of animals have a sense of altruism, down to the tiniest social insect. It probably helped them survive as a species. Any nineteenth-century biologist could tell you that.

posted on Sat, 08/30/2008 - 12:59am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

And any twentieth-century biologist (or 21st, for that matter) could tell you that this theory has been invalidated. Social insects are basically "programmed" and react to chemical messages. Lower vertebrates, too, show no evidence of self consciousness, will, or empathy, all of which would be prerequisites for morality. Actions previously interpreted as altruistic are now understood as adaptive behaviors evolved through natural selection and performed by instinct, not volition.

posted on Sat, 08/30/2008 - 9:29pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Just because a behavior is instinctive (part of an adaptive behavior) doesn't mean it isn't altruistic.

posted on Sat, 08/30/2008 - 11:36pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Yes, it does. Altruism requires free will.

posted on Sun, 08/31/2008 - 7:30pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Not buying it. What looks like free will could still be instinct.

posted on Tue, 09/02/2008 - 1:24pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

That is exactly what I have been saying.

posted on Wed, 09/03/2008 - 12:30am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Here's the definition of altruism from Webster's onlne dictionary. No where does it say that free will is required for altruism.

1 : unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others
2 : behavior by an animal that is not beneficial to or may be harmful to itself but that benefits others of its species

posted on Tue, 09/02/2008 - 1:30pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

To be unselfish, one must first have a sense of self, which most animals lack. "Regard" and "devotion" are acts of choice, and choice requires free will.

The definition in American Heritage is similar: "Concern for the welfare of others, as opposed to egoism; selflessness." Again, there is no demonstrated "ego" among the lower animals, nor the capability of having "concern."

posted on Wed, 09/03/2008 - 12:37am

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