"Good Dogs, Bad People and Cats"
"Do animals have moral values? It's a tough question. We can't rely on exit polls. As everyone knows, it's impossible to get a straight answer from a cat.
It's impossible to get any kind of answer. They're all too busy pretendin' they're gods or somethin'.
"The question comes to mind because of a report in the Nov. 25 issue of Nature by Karthik Panchanathan and Dr. Robert Boyd of the University of California, Los Angeles. The researchers did a mathematical analysis of how cooperation and punishment might make evolutionary sense.
"…it's hard to see how cooperation would evolve without punishment. Why not be a slugabed, or free rider, as the researchers term it, and live off the cooperative people? The analysis showed that one punishment, refusing to help free riders, turns out to be a method that makes survival sense."
Hmmmm… Speakin' of "free riders"…
"Fair enough. But in something of an offhand comment, quoted in a U.C.L.A. news release, Mr. Panchanathan said, "If you put two dogs together, and one dog does something inappropriate, the other dog doesn't care, so long as it doesn't get hurt." He added, "It certainly wouldn't react with moralist outrage. Likewise, it would not experience elation if it saw one dog help out another dog. But humans are very different."
What does he know. My dad was big on keepin' the pack in line and he definitely cared. One of my half-sisters had turned into quite a little street-walker which irritated the hell out of us. (She was a real head case--we decided it was 'cause she hung around with Silly Human Female too much.) Half-sis would climb the four foot high picket fence. Yep--the picket fence--the kind with pointy tops. Makes me cringe just thinkin' about it. Then she'd go shashayin' around town, wigglin' her butt at every stray hangin' on the streetcorner, while the rest of us ran around like fools tryin' to find her.
Dad was definitely morally outraged about the whole thing, and decided to put a stop to her behavior. Every time she headed for the fence and started to climb, he would rush off to find AHM and raise such a ruckus she'd come outside in time to catch sis in the act.
"…If dogs have a sense of right and wrong, then they could do wrong. Right? They may not be capable of carrying guilt around for years and years and years, but they do recognize certain rules about how to act in a social group, and that is sort of a moral value."
I've talked about social group/moral values business already. Now, I'm not too sure about carryin' around guilt for years and years, but we sure as hell know when we've screwed up and try not to repeat that mistake. And we remember for years and years not to repeat that mistake!
Go watch a major dog show some day--especially the Best in Show competition. There we are, all millin' around muzzle to muzzle, and (mostly) never fightin'! And if a Borzoi wins BOS at Westminster, you don't see every Borzoi in town riotin' and burnin' their kennels in celebration, do you? So already our moral values are better than your average sports fan's. Not to mention a fe-lyin's. Go visit a major fe-lyin' beauty contest and you'll see they have to keep those suckers in cages 'cause they just can't get along!
"In fact, if moral values and moral outrage are results of evolution, in human beings they may have reached the level of being counterproductive, like the vast antlers that supposedly doomed the Irish elk."
Yeah. Humans spend waaaayyy to much time worryin' about whether or not their feelin's have been hurt. Geeze! If they had to put up with the crap we canines have to deal with they'd be blithering fools. Oh. Wait…
"Dogs could presumably evolve into the same morass. It is, however, reserved for social animals, as Dr. [Frans] de Waal [author of "Good Natured: The Origin of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals,"] points out. Animals that evolved as solitary predators feel no moral bonds or restrictions on their behavior."
Not too sure about that "moral bonds" business. I gotta' admit, if a hot babe in heat wanders past it's every canine for himself. And the bitch is no great paragon of moral virture either! But aside from that we generally respect everyone in the pack--unlike those spoiled brat "only dogs" we sometimes meet up with. (Are ya' listenin' Maury?)
"Cats, in other words, are safe. They have no morals, which is one of the reasons so many people love them."
Which just proves my point that dogs are Republi-canines and fe-lyin's are Demo-cats!
posted by Harrison at 1:16 PM
I have a bone to pick with Mr. Panchanathan. See my article at http://www.conservativecat.com/mt/archives/2004/12/good_dogs_bad_p.html. (Where is trackback when you need it?)3:49 PM
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