Friday, February 12, 2010

Monkey Cooperation and Fairness: Fundamental Principles in Law

Non-humans reason well enough to recognize the logical relationships necessary for negotiation to facilitate cooperation and they recognize when they are not getting treated the same as a peer. These are fundamental concepts to morality and law evident in non-humans. The following video is of two experiments demonstrating this fact.

To demonstrate cooperation in primates, two monkeys are separated by a translucent wall.
One monkey has a pot of hazel nuts one monkey has a flint rock. The pot of hazel nuts can only be opened by the flint rock. The monkey with the flint rock gives it to the monkey with the nuts, the monkey with the nuts opens them, and gives half to the other monkey.
The monkeys cooperate to open the pot of hazel nuts, and share them.

In the second experiment, to demonstrate a sense of fairness, a technician gives treats to two monkeys. One monkey only gets grapes, one monkey only gets biscuits. The monkey that only gets biscuits protests until he gets grapes.

This demonstrates that not only is cooperation and fairness common between human religions and cultures, it is common in non-humans. Since monkeys don't have gods, this strongly suggests that a God is not necessary to derive cooperation and fair-play, and that a God is not necessary for creatures to recognize an unfair situation enough to take action to correct it.


Matt K said...

"God is not necessary" in the sense of needing to require explicitly formulated statements or verbalized propositions, but that doesn't mean that these very features don't bare any relation to God.

I'm not saying that this is somehow "proof" that God has something to do with it, just saying that the fact that animals are prone to certain behaviors, behaviors that seem to be foundational to all group dynamics, is not really evidence for or against God. It is only evidence against the idea that moral elements must be explicitly revealed by God.

Matt K said...

sorry, I meant to say "is not really evidence for or against God's role in morality."

Logan Cres said...

well then,
what is gods role in morality?

Something observable please. Saying that God is our ultimate judge is debatable across cultures because there would be no agreement on the identity of that God, and we won't know till we get there, since he refuses to explicitly and unambiguously present himself to us.

And I am perfectly willing to concede that this not "proof" that god does not exist. I will go on the record to say that I don't think its possible to prove that God does not exist anymore than it is possible to prove the Elves don't exist in Iceland (they are magic and hide you know), but I will say that it DOES show where "A god is NOT NECESSARY or SUFFICIENT".

However certain fundamental principles that are able to be discovered by non-human minds are NECESSARY and SUFFICIENT.

Logan Cres said...

The desire to avoid retaliation,
and the desire in higher order thinkers (like humans) to not live in a crappy place, is sufficient to derive "MORALITY".

It all comes down to maintaining an equilibrium of comfort across agents.

Matt K said...

I agree that fear of retaliation and a want for comfort are part of morality, but I am not convinced that they are sufficient and that it "all comes down to maintaining an equilibrium of comfort across agents." I am suspicious of reductive reasoning because while it may have intuitive appeal it lacks real support.

What is God's role in morality? I think it can be found in things like love for one's enemies. As Paul Moser argues:

"We humans, it is arguable, cannot create this rare power [of enemy love] ourselves, but God as perfectly loving would seek uncoercively to introduce, proliferate and sustain this power among all humans, at their motivational centers (see 1 Jn 4:7-9, 19). Humans would thus depend on God for this unusual power, even if some humans mistakenly take credit for it themselves. Such mistaken self-credit, I suggest, is the typical root of failing to appreciate salient evidence of God's existence."

I have a sneaking suspicion that you won't like that explanation one bit:-P However, I think there is valuable point that Moser makes: there may be features of human interaction that we mistakenly attribute to ourselves when they reflect the work of God. It is this claim that I am arguing when I talk about God's role in morality.

Rich said...

Hey Matt,
I agree that fear of retaliation and a want for comfort are part of morality, but I am not convinced that they are sufficient and that it "all comes down to maintaining an equilibrium of comfort across agents."

But sufficient for what? I think this can be a true statement for morality. It's not sufficient to enter the kingdom of God but it is sufficient for moral behavior. I think that God just expects more of us, in fact Jesus gives us the bar when he states we are to be perfect even as our father in heaven is perfect.