Caturday felid (with goggie bonus): sympathy, trust, gratitude

Displaying Steve Pinker’s rudimentary moral sentiments not just toward their human companions, but toward one another, these goggies and kittehs show that Bill Murray’s disaster of Biblical proportions is upon us. Or maybe that we can all just get along.

Caturday felid

by Greg Mayer As a herpetologist with a cat, I’m always interested in feline-reptilian interactions, and here’s a South African tortoise that either doesn’t like cats, or likes them so much that it gets close enough to annoy them and drive them away. Note that the orange tabby, at least, appears to regard its interactions […]

Dogs can be moral, too.

by Greg Mayer WEIT readers know that cats are a frequent subject of posts here, and that the origin of the moral sentiment is another, although not quite as frequent, subject. The two topics have occasionally joined hands, mostly in the person (?feline) of my cat Peyton (see here and here). Well, it turns out […]

Robert Wright: Pirouetting on the fence

When my advisor Dick Lewontin’s book, The Genetic Basis of Evolutionary Change, appeared in 1974, one reviewer criticized him for equivocating about the significance of genetic variation. In his text, Lewontin seemed to vacillate endlessly between the “neutral theory,” which saw variation at the DNA level as of no selective consequence to the organism, and […]

The origins of morality

by Greg Mayer One of the curious things in Francis Collins’ The Language of God is his claim that there are no, or scarcely any, antecedents of moral behavior in animals.  He writes (p. 23): As best I can tell, this law [the “Moral Law” or “‘the law of right behavior’”] appears to apply peculiarly […]

Chimps throwing stones

by Greg Mayer My local newspaper, along with many other news outlets, had a story this morning about a chimp at a zoo in Sweden who collects and stores rocks that he later uses for throwing at zoo visitors.  The major point of the article was that the chimp made plans for something he was […]

Sympathy for the human: further consideration of my cat Peyton

by Greg Mayer I gave a public lecture yesterday at my university entitled “Is There a Moral Instinct?”  Part of what I did was to elaborate on the theme of Steve Pinker’s rudimentary moral sentiments– sympathy, trust, retribution, gratitude, guilt– and how I see them exemplified in the behavior of my cat, Peyton.  I showed […]

Two articles about animal morality

Re the most recent discussion about whether the rudiments of morality may be found in our relatives, an alert reader has called my attention to two articles in today’s (UK) Telegraph, here and here, that briefly describe Frans de Waal’s work on chimps and monkeys, indicating that they show the building blocks of morality. I […]

Do animals have morality? A response: “For I will consider my cat Peyton”

A moral cat? An alert reader, my friend and colleague Dr. Greg Mayer from The University of Wisconsin, Parkside, read Steven Pinker’s thoughts on the evolution of morality (posted below) and informed me that he saw the rudiments of morality in his cat Peyton (pictured above). I asked him why, and he responded with an […]