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This book is loaded with references to The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, so click the picture below and study it for a while. The painting shows an evolutionary trend from the early non-moral garden on the left, with a few creatures just lounging about and frolicking in the water, through the heavily populated middle painting of partying people proffering fruits and berries, and the right panel loaded with morally challenged monsters holding man-made musical instruments and knives moving toward pain and fiery darkness. The few people in the painting with clothing are religious figures. The message in 1504 seems to be the non-moral past was peaceful, the present is frolicking fun, and the future is technological advancement and horror.

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, Dutch painter

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, painted in 1504, click to enlarge

The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates, by Frans de Waal is about morality and the origins of morality. It moves through many examples of how animals are moral in their relationships with their own species members, and sometimes with their personal friends, even if those friends are of another species. We would call their behavior moral if it were human behavior. Some other moral artworks discussed are The Triumph of Death by Pieter Brueghel and a work by Damien Hirst, (a google image gallery,) for a modern comparison.

The book begins with, “Why not assume that our humanity, including the self-control needed for a livable society, is built into us?” on page 2. Then De Waal for 240 more pages discusses animals, mostly chimps and bonobos, and gives observed examples of their well-developed behavioral morality. However, there doesn’t seem to be a discussion of the forcing factors that brought humans to our higher state of inherited morality, or at least the inherited ability to easily learn our group’s morality. That is strange omission for a world-famous biologist. If you are curious about how human morality came into being read, Human evolution was controlled by emergent human women. And, Gossiping women created human morality. Although De Waal talks about morality as being generated by natural selection he generalized that thought to: it is there because it works; but that isn’t saying anything informative, nor does it give a clue as to how we should be creating better morality. He leaves that to the philosophers, but anyone who has been in philosophical discussions knows, morality isn’t created in graduate school seminars. Morality is created in normal people during their social interaction with other normal people.