ANOTHER yearning attempt within the scientific community to elevate the capacities of animals to approach those of human beings. (Last time, it was CHIMPS CAN COOK, but don’t.)
This time, it is chimps which, supposedly have now been shown to know the difference between right and wrong!
Except, they don’t. Here’s what the experiment on 17 zoo animals discovered. From the Daily Mail story:
The clips showed chimps either performing a neutral activity such as walking or cracking nuts, aggressive adult chimps, a small colobus monkey being hunted and killed by chimps and an infant chimpanzee being killed by its own kind.
How did they react?
The chimpanzees looked far longer at infanticide scenes than at control videos showing nut cracking, hunting a colobus monkey, or displays and aggression among adult males.’
Did you get that, they looked longer!
How the chimps respond?
However, the researchers also found while the chimps watched the infanticide scenes for longer, there was only limited evidence they became agitated or reacted to them.
Whatever. From this, an ephemeral web of moral agency is weaved!
Dr Rudolf von Rohr said this perhaps suggest while chimpanzees can distinguish between right and wrong they will only respond emotionally to digressions within their own social group. She said: ‘We propose that chimpanzees as uninvolved bystanders may detect norm violations but may restrict emotional reactions to such situations to in-group contexts.’
Please. Infanticide is a common thing in the animal world. It isn’t right or wrong, as animals haven’t a clue about the concept.
In fact, the researchers are superimposing their own anti-infanticide moral views onto the morally clueless chimps.
Morality is a strictly human concept (in the known universe), views that are determined through rational/emotional/philosophical/religious analysis and societal/cultural persuasion.
Moreover, to state the obvious, not all societies share the same concepts of right and wrong. e.g., Rome permitted infanticide, as did Nazi Germany, today, the Dutch, while ISIS murders babies.
Thus, unlike animals, we craft mores–not as a matter of instinct–but rather, as a natural function of our human natures.
So let’s recap:
Chimps looked longer at a screaming infant being killed than other images–and weren’t even upset. And from that we are to infer moral agency.
More like wishful thinking, say I.