Moral behavior in animals (TED lecture by Frans de Waal)

April 21, 2012

Empathy, cooperation, fairness, and reciprocity are characteristics not only of (some) humans, but also of non-human animals. In this lecture Frans de Waal shares some surprising videos of behavioral tests on primates and other mammals that demonstrate that altruism is not a uniquely human phenomenon. This point is both intrinsically interesting and significant for its implications regarding debates on the nature of morality and the connection between morality and religion. While many theists see their religion or deity as the source of morality, these animal studies suggest otherwise, that morality, like all other forms of human and animal behavior, has evolved naturally over time and should be studied and understood in light of scientific research rather than mythology and religion.

Frans de Waal is Charles Howard Candler professor of Primate Behavior in the Emory University psychology department in Atlanta, Georgia, and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center.

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