Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mark Rowlands - Animal morality

Mark Rowlands - Animal morality

Eleanor, the matriarch of her family, is dying. She is unable to stand, so Grace attempts to help her, lifting and pushing her back to her feet. She tries to get Eleanor to walk, nudging her along gently. But Eleanor stumbles, and falls again. Grace appears very distressed, and shrieks loudly. She persists in trying to get Eleanor back to her feet, to no avail. Grace stays by the fallen figure of Eleanor for another hour, while night falls.
If the figures that played out this grim tableau were human, we might have little hesitation in explaining what was going on in moral terms. Grace, we might say, was motivated by her sympathy for Eleanor’s plight. However, neither Grace nor Eleanor is human. Eleanor is the matriarch of a family of elephants, one that the British zoologist Iain Douglas-Hamilton and his colleagues have come to call the ‘First Ladies’ family. Grace is a younger, unrelated, member of another family, the ‘Virtues Family’.
Grace is not unusual among elephants. Take another series of events: a young female elephant suffered from a withered leg, and could put little weight upon it. A young male from another herd charged the crippled female. A large female elephant chased him away and then, revealingly, returned to the young female and gently touched her withered leg with her trunk. Joyce Poole, the ethologist and elephant conservationist who described this event, concluded that the adult female was showing empathy.

Animals naturally evolve as Y-Ro with team natures, they form cooperative groups that survive as predator and prey in a war of attrition. Elephants as Ro prey have survived more my protecting each other from the team attacks of predators, such as a pride of lions overwhelming a single elephant with sheer numbers. Those with less empathy then would abandon each other more and then survive less well against Y teams unless they as R became faster and more secretive. Elephants cannot run and hide so they must like buffalo rely on their team instinct to survive.

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