What have they done with the word “simple”? It appears that they have corrupted “simple” to the point that it means the opposite of what it used to mean (They also done this to the words “essential” and “needs”). Why do I say this? Just Google the phrase “simple living” or “living simply.” You’ll see […]
With the obesity epidemic at its current rate, we can easily conclude that a lot of people have a lot of truly excellent excuses not to eat properly and exercise. In my experience, two particular excuses take the cake, so to speak: “I don’t have time” and “I can’t afford it.” These justifications seem to […]
Primatologist Frans De Waal has spent much of his career pointing out how incredibly similar the emotional and moral behavior of human animals is to the behavior of many other animals (he focuses especially chimps and bonobos). In this post, I will comment on De Waal’s 2005 work, Our Inner Ape, where De Waal substantiates his stunning conclusion (well, stunning to those who just can’t bear to acknowledge that humans are animals – see here and here and here) that the precursors of morality are easily seen in animals other than human animals. More specifically, De Waal demonstrates that there is a well-substantiated continuity between the proto-moral behavior of chimpanzees and bonobos and the full-bloomed sense of morality that we see in human animals.
De Waal is clearly frustrated that people consider only human aggression to be “animalistic,” but not human empathy. De Waal describes studies clearly demonstrating empathy in many animals, ranging from rats to the great apes. Children as young as one year of age naturally reach out to comfort others. Household pets such as cats and dogs can become upset (just like children do) when family members feign distress. Empathy therefore develops even before language. This would seem to demonstrate that top-down rule-based (therefore language-based) versions of morality don’t capture the essence of what it means to be moral.
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Check out this Huffpo post by Robert Scheer. He is right to warn that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be distracted with sex scandals when there are much more important issues deserving of our attention: The news about the Foley coverup, while important as yet another example of extreme hypocrisy on the part of the […]
I’m applauding the cover story of the October 9, 2006 edition of Time: “What Makes Us Different?” [The quick answer is that, out of 3 billion base pairs in the human genome, only 1.23% are different than those found in the chimpanzee genome]. The writers based this article solely on the expert opinions of scientists. The fundies […]
I recently spoke with a friend who was having difficulty making a major decision in his life. I suggested to him that he might be struggling because he is a talented fellow who might therefore have too many options. After we concluded our conversation, I recalled reading a well-written book called the Paradox of Choice: […]
If the past few weeks have proven anything at all they have proven to us that no news is not good news. In the absence of a steady stream of vigorous reporting to convince us that things are actually going well, we should never assume that things are okay. We now have evidence that Donald […]