We humans are disturbingly willing to cause pain.
Altruism and hierarchy
A famous study – Obedience to Authority: An Experimental Overview – performed after World War II, showed that humans willingly induce torture “to give harmful electric shocks-up to 450 volts-to a pitifully protesting victim, simply because an authority commanded them to, and in spite of the fact that the victim did not do anything to deserve such punishment.”
According to at least one other study involving empathy, and an awareness of other’s pain, humans tested much worse in morality than other primates.
An old post at Teardrop Souffle is about our gravely self-serving assumptions about being the pinnacle of evolution.
“We picture our own species as the greatest achievement of and ultimate reason for billions of years of evolution. This way of thinking – the idea of making positive evolutionary progress and being purposeful, is called ‘teleology‘.
“If we humans are at all moral as we fancy ourselves to be… we’d start to see that animals are not only capable of feeling intense pain, but also feeling intense empathy and concern for pain in others.
Animals and altruism
Essentially a scientific text, Good Natured: The Origins of Good and Evil in Humans and other Animals is devoted to morality across species. Is morality a biological or cultural phenomenon?
“This work succeeds most of all by gradually eroding invisible assumptions about morality as an exclusively human prerogative.
“For some readers this might be a kind of Copernican Revolution against the absolute centrality of human beings in the moral universe.
“We are not alone: we have moral ancestry and moral companionship…