RE: Do animals ever "sin" (was something else)

From: Glenn Morton (
Date: Tue Feb 05 2002 - 23:21:50 EST

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    Richard and Tim wrote:

    >-----Original Message-----
    >From: []On
    >Behalf Of
    >Sent: Tuesday, February 05, 2002 9:35 AM
    >Subject: Re: Do animals ever "sin" (was something else)
    >Richard Kouchoo wrote:
    >> And this is what separates us from other animals. There is a huge
    >> gulf between humans and animals in terms of _results_ of actions
    >> and meditative abilities. The young monkey would perceive 'interesting'
    >> results from his harassment of the adult but he would not be able to
    >> post-meditate his actions in terms of Good and Evil. Hence he cannot sin!
    >I'm not convinced that chimps lack capabilities for pre- or post-
    >meditative thought. I recall hearing about a case where a lower-ranking
    >chimp male that had just copulated with another female tried to hide
    >its erections from the male leader of the group. It clearly knew that
    >it had done something "wrong" (within the context of the group) and
    >could be punished if the behavior was discovered. It also knew that
    >there was evidence that could expose its infraction. Finally, it
    >knew how to cover up the evidence, albeit somewhat comically. In
    >species where success in navigating social interactions is the key
    >to survival, I do think that the ability to weigh the consequences
    >of actions in more than a "stimulus -> response mode" can arise.

    As much as I want to avoid this issue, Tim is correct that chimps and
    baboons do have some ability to perform social calculations. Below are two
    examples. In the first, Paul must calculate 1. he wants the root, 2. what
    the reaction of the group will be if he yells. and 3. what the consequences
    of his yell would be. Thus, he had to plan the activity.

    "Forming alliances is only the beginning. If it takes smarts for a baboon
    or monkey to keep track of all the facts in his social relationships,
    imagine how much intelligence is required when he and his companions begin
    to lie."
            "Take Paul, for instance, a young juvenile chacma baboon observed in
    Ethiopia by Richard Bryne and Andrew Whiten of the University of St. Andrews
    in Scotland. One day they noticed Paul watching an adult female named Mel
    dig in the ground for a large grass root. He looked around. There were no
    other baboons nearby, though the troop was within earshot. Suddenly and
    with no visible provocation, Paul let out a yell. In an instant his mother
    appeared, and in a flurry chased the astonished Mel out of sight.
    Meanwhile, Paul walked over and ate the grass root she left behind." ~
    Donald Johanson and James Shreeve, Lucy's Child, (New York: William Morrow
    and Co., Inc., 1989), p. 274

    Of this same baboon, the observers note that he knew what he was doing!

            "Neither of these possibilities is likely, because both of us
    saw this young baboon go through the same routine with different
    'victims' on different days." ~ Richard Byrne and Andrew Whiten,
    "The Thinking Primate's Guide to Deception," New Scientist, Dec 3,
    1987, p. 54-57, p. 54

    Below, this seems to imply vicious hatred of the neighboring group and
    premeditated actions taken to wipe them out. Once again, some planning and
    consequences are calculated.

    "In the most celebrated case, the males of one powerful community in the
    Gombe National Park study area systematically hunted down, attacked, and
    destroyed the males of the community next door. In three years time, the
    neighboring group had been utterly annihilated, its home range - and many of
    its females - taken over by the aggressors. Such violence, never before
    witnessed in the history of mammal research, was not the work of some band
    of simian sociopaths. In subsequent years, the victorious group was itself
    threatened and attacked by males from another nearby community." ~ Donald
    Johanson and James Shreeve, Lucy's Child, (New York: William Morrow and Co.,
    Inc., 1989), p. 277

    animal lying
    "A case sent to us by Hans Kummer, the Swiss primatologist,
    stretches the imagination to breaking point if we are to accept
    the explanation by unintentional conditioning. In the hamadryas
    baboons Kummer studies, a single male typically controls a harem
    of females. Females may seek contact with other males but the
    owner of the harem does not usually permit this. On one occasion,
    Kummer watched a female spend 20 minutes shuffling bit by bit over
    a distance of only 2 metres. She stayed in a sitting position, so
    that she ended up with her head and upper parts visible to the
    harem male but her hands were concealed by an intervening rock.
    Why conceal her hands? Because there were busy grooming another
    male, who was likewise hidden by the rock. Here, if we try to
    construct a 'plausible history' that could have conditioned this
    behaviour by reinforces, it is no longer sufficient that the
    female discriminates between the simple presence or absence of
    another individual. Her behaviour shows that she was able to
    calculate precisely how the world looked from another animal's
    viewpoint--by no means a simple feat even for young humans." ~
    Richard Byrne and Andrew Whiten, "The Thinking Primate's Guide to
    Deception," New Scientist, Dec 3, 1987, p. 54-57, p. 55

    Or what about prostitution--the ultimate thinking of consequences:
    "A male chimpanzee in a Tanzanian forest is chewing on the
    limb of a monkey carcass that he has caught. Other members
    of the hunting party cluster around him attempting to get
    a morsel. Juveniles sit on the forest floor below, hoping
    that fragments of bone or drops of blood will fall to them.
    The beggars in the tree ask for meat with outstretched,
    upturned palms, and place their fingertips at or even
    inside the hunter's lips in order to get his attention. He
    tries to ignore their presence, continually turning his
    body away from them. One exception to this indifference is
    a female, who carries a sexual swelling and receives the
    male's attentions. He allows her to take pieces of the
    carcass, which she then shares with her infant.
    Occasionally she presents her swelling to him and they
    copulate. Meanwhile the possessor of the meat allows one
    other chimpanzee, a longtime ally, to take bits of meat
    also. This interplay of meat with sex, political networks,
    and status displays is typical of the strategic meat-
    sharing pattern seen among chimpanzees." Craig B. Stanford,
    The Hunting Apes, (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
    1999), p. 199-200

    I know of a case where a chimp tried to 'lie' to a monkey in order to
    capture him. But I can't find it right now.

    This being said, chimps and baboons are not the inveterate planners that
    humans are, but they are not that much unlike us when it comes to social
    climbing. Females give sex to get attached to powerful males and thus
    enhance their position in the troop.


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