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Do Animals Display MoralityDo Animals Display Morality?

Animals appear to show morality in their behavior. Is this the source of human morality?

Kevin Harris: Dr. Craig, we have done many podcasts on the moral argument. There’s something that just never seems to go away, and that is from time to time you'll see something in the popular press about research done on animals, and that animals tend to act in moral ways, exhibit moral behavior. Obviously in a Darwinian evolutionary paradigm it’s going to indicate that that’s where we got our morals.

CNN has done an interview with the author of a new book called The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates. Frans de Waal, director of Emory University's Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Lawrenceville, Georgia, studies how our close primate relatives also demonstrate behaviors suggestive of a sense of morality. CNN recently spoke with De Waal about the book.[1] He says,

Well, the reason I chose that title is, when I bring up the origins of morality, it revolves around God, or comes from religion, and I want to address the issue that I think morality is actually older than religion. So I’m getting into the religion question, and how important is religion for morality. I think it plays a role, but it’s a secondary role. Instead of being the source of morality, religion came later, maybe to fortify morality.

Let’s take that paragraph.

Dr. Craig: I think it’s very evident that when Dr. De Waal uses the word “morality” and “source” that he is using these words in a very different way than I have when I’m talking about the moral argument for God’s existence. When I talk about morality, I mean objective moral values and duties that are independent of human opinion, independent of human society. I don’t use the word “source” of morals, but I talk about the foundation for moral values and duties. What is their foundation in reality? Why do these objective moral values and duties exist?

Now, Dr. De Waal isn’t really concerned with that question at all. When he uses the world morality, he simply means certain behavior patterns that are exhibited by homo sapiens, and which he finds anticipated among certain higher primates – that these behavior patterns are also exhibited there. When he talks about the source of morality, he is talking about the historical origins of morality, not about their ontological foundation, and I think this is very evident in a later paragraph in the interview where he says, “years from now we will believe different things from what we believe now, and so morality changes as a result of society.” Now, I think that makes it very evident that he is not talking about objective moral values and duties that are independent of society or human opinion. He is talking about the mores and psychological beliefs and behaviors that society exhibits, and as he rightly says, that sort of behavior and belief changes as a result of changes in society.

So, in that sense, this argument is…


Do Animals Display Morality? | Reasonable Faith