• jorndoe
    8
    Rat morals?

    In a simple experiment, researchers at the University of Chicago sought to find out whether a rat would release a fellow rat from an unpleasantly restrictive cage if it could. The answer was yes.A new model of empathy: The rat (Dec 2011) by David Brown in The Washington Post

    Whatever had the rats in the experiment free their fellow rat (even save a bit of food for them), I wouldn't be surprised is also an aspect of human moral behavior, or perhaps proto-morals of sorts. Should rats evolve over very long periods of time, this behavior could perhaps be seen as a precursor to morals.
    Presumably, rats don't deliberate situations the way we know deliberating. Not a conscious decision to do the right thing as we know it.
    A release of the strain from hearing distress calls turned pro-social even if (emotionally) selfish? I don't think we can hang morals on self-interest. Nor on non-deliberating rule-following.

    What might we learn from such experiments?

    Original paper:
    Empathy and Pro-Social Behavior in Rats
    Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal, Jean Decety, Peggy Mason
    Science (AAAS)
    Dec 2011


    Going by a technical definition, altruism has been found in non-humans, and Machiavellian self-serving opportunism ain't hard to find in us humans.
  • Ying
    11
    Vampire bats also exhibit altruistic behavior:

  • T Clark
    28
    Whatever had the rats in the experiment free their fellow rat (even save a bit of food for them), I wouldn't be surprised is also an aspect of human moral behavior, or perhaps proto-morals of sorts.jorndoe

    I think our social instincts are a major source for our moral attitudes, but thinking of empathy as a sort of proto-morality is putting the cart before the horse. Morality is the icing on the cake, the rationalization, for our emotional and social behavior.
  • 180 Proof
    41
    Morality is the icing on the cake, the rationalization, for our emotional and social behavior.T Clark
    :up:
  • Kenosha Kid
    18
    Morality is the icing on the cake, the rationalization, for our emotional and social behavior.T Clark

    Yes, I also agree with this, yet disagree with

    I think our social instincts are a major source for our moral attitudes, but thinking of empathy as a sort of proto-morality is putting the cart before the horse.T Clark

    One of us hasn't got your post right.
  • T Clark
    28
    One of us hasn't got your post right.Kenosha Kid

    Are you saying you don't think our social instincts are a source of morality?
  • James Riley
    10
    I read my wife's FB periodically and see a metric shit ton of videos showing things I have seen in the wild; things that fly in the face of all I was taught about animals growing up in a rural area/culture. I also have a hearty "meh" (if a "meh" can even be hearty) for all the scientists who try to distinguish our proclivities from those of the animals; whether bloody or loving or both.

    I was thinking, with all the new video "evidence" there might be a positive "turn" in our understanding. Lots of anecdotal, isolated evidence can only be dismissed for so long. Perhaps a scientist should do a study: Are we turning, as Joshs suggested, in the racism thread, that we might be capable of doing? Or will the $ in factory farming get the science to bury it? Will the open conspiracy keep us killing without gratitude? Even though we all know better, and have since we killed the first animal to fill our bellies? Let us all say grace before we eat instead of living and killing in grace with what we eat.

    New model of empathy? No. Old news for those with situational awareness.
  • jorndoe
    8
    thinking of empathy as a sort of proto-morality is putting the cart before the horseT Clark

    A taunting torturer can use empathy for bad. Empathy itself does not entail doing the right thing, but can just help understanding others.
    (At least the rat experiment didn't show any taunting, as far as I can tell.) :)

    Ages ago I read that some have less empathy and tend to make moral decisions based on perceived consequences, but this has been shown wrong.

    Anyway, maybe the main thing that can be learned from these experiments, is that whatever morals (can) have emerged via biological evolution, even though we cannot derive such morals from biological evolution itself.
  • Kenosha Kid
    18
    No, I absolutely do. I also don't believe that nature is in the habit of finding two ways to do the same thing, so our social biology most definitely underpins our morality. However it is social biology designed to cope with small groups who fare better if they help one another. It's not designed for cities of people who don't know one another, can't possibly help everyone who needs it, and have no reason to assume reciprocity. That seems to me where social biology fails and moral philosophy enters.

    However, since we have mostly been blissfully unaware of why we feel the way we do and act the way we do, moral philosophy had been forced to a) place a priori truths instead of impulses, drives and capacities, and b) confuse post-hoc rationalisation with reasoning (the fallacy at the heart of Rationalism). That's not to say that reason plays no role, rather that morality is not fundamentally reasonable (Kahneman's System 2 taking credit for everything).
  • T Clark
    28
    It's not designed for cities of people who don't know one another, can't possibly help everyone who needs it, and have no reason to assume reciprocity. That seems to me where social biology fails and moral philosophy enters.Kenosha Kid

    I'm not sure if that's true, but it seems plausible.
  • Pop
    14
    Trees / plants also share nutrients and exist as a community.https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-whispering-trees-180968084/
  • TheMadFool
    26
    proto-moralsjorndoe

    Ratjorndoe

    Well, ladies and gentlemen, we have a new (role) model, the humble rat (Rattus rattus) who until Dec 2011 were treated as vermin, to be exterminated en masse. My my, how the times have changed. It was only yesterday that people minted money by selling rat poison and now, this study shows us a side that we never in our wildest dreams thought rodents had. Our relationship with animals needs a major overhaul but that would've been true even if rats and other animals are utterly devoid of empathy, right?

    Till recently I thought morality was what came out when you mix empathy and reason, when heart and mind partner up and that it had to wait until reason grew up so to speak. However, without some proto-morality already in play we would've never gotten to the point where we could do that.

    P. S. What about the so-called replication crisis in psychology.
  • Cuthbert
    2
    The experiment teaches us some of the limits to empathy in humans.

    Empath 1: I want to learn all about human empathy and morality and stuff.
    Empath 2: Me too. Let's put a rat in a distressingly small cage and see if another rat will let it out.
    Empath 1: Great idea.

    Later:

    Empaths in chorus: Wow! The other rat let it out! That's so cool. We know so much about human empathy and morality and stuff now. Let's do it on some more rats, though, just to make sure.
  • Benkei
    35
    What might we learn from such experiments?jorndoe

    People suck?
  • Cuthbert
    2
    It also teaches us that everything Richard Dawkins had to say about the survival of genes trumping the welfare of individuals has been forgotten. A rat gives up food for another rat. Bad for the rat, good for the gene pool.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    40
    What might we learn from such experiments?jorndoe

    That we are more appropriately considered vermin than are rats.
  • James Riley
    10
    That we are more appropriately considered vermin than are rats.Ciceronianus the White

    :100: As far as the Earth is concerned, probably more like parasites than vermin. But yeah, right down there with them. They probably serve a purpose in the grand scheme of things, but I'm not sure what this is. I guess that's why they have TPF. :grin:
  • jorndoe
    8
    People suck?Benkei

    That we are more appropriately considered vermin than are rats.Ciceronianus the White

    What new might we learn? :)
  • baker
    8
    Duh. People vote for Trump!!!!
  • baker
    8
    A taunting torturer can use empathy for bad. Empathy itself does not entail doing the right thing, but can just help understanding others.jorndoe

    But what is "the right thing" to begin with?
  • Cuthbert
    2
    But what is "the right thing" to begin with?baker

    I think of Amartya Sen when I hear that question. Avoiding doing the obviously wrong thing is a start. E.g. we may not be certain whether working for an investment bank is an ethical career choice but if we find ourselves abducting children and selling them into slavery we've definitely gone wrong somewhere.
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