Check out Deb Blum's review of Wild Justice, the new book from University of Colorado biologist Marc Bekoff and bioethicist Jessica Pierce. The book argues that dogs, dolphins, elephants, wolves, whales, and other nonhuman social animals have emotions and morals too, as evidenced by their empathy, compassion, and cooperation.
As Blum notes:
Their definition of morality is a strongly Darwinian one. They see moral actions as dictated by the behavioral code of social species, the communal operating instructions that bond a group safely together, the "social glue" of survival. They believe such codes are necessarily species-specific and warn against, for instance, judging wolf morals by the standards of monkeys, dolphins or humans.If you have a dog, Bekoff tells The Denver Post, you can easily spot these kinds of emotional and moral behaviors:
Still, a "moral" decision can seem remarkably similar across many species. Bekoff and Pierce make their case by calling on a wide range of animal studies, from field biology to the laboratory and from the anecdotal to the statistical. In one lab study of Diana monkeys, for instance, the animals had to put tokens into a slot to receive their food. When an elderly female couldn't manage hers, a neighboring male inserted the tokens for her. In a different kind of experiment, rats refused to push a lever for food when they realised their action meant another animal got an electric shock. ...
These moral behaviors, they argue, are evidence of a kind of evolutionary continuity between humans and other species.
• Dogs have a sense of fair play. They dislike cheaters. They experience joy in play. They delight in friends. The big guys handicap themselves in games with little guys.
• Dogs get jealous when a rival gets more or better treats or treatment. They are resentful, unnerved or saddened by unfair behavior.
• They are made anxious by suspense. They get afraid.
• They are embarrassed when they mess up or do something clumsy.
• They feel remorse or regret when they do something wrong. They seek justice. They remember the bad things done to them but sometimes choose to forgive.
• Dogs have affection and compassion for their animal and human friends and family. They defend loved ones. They grieve their losses.
• They have hope.