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Challenges to Moral and Religious BeliefDisagreement and Evolution$
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Michael Bergmann and Patrick Kain

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199669776

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199669776.001.0001

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Why an Evolutionary Perspective is Critical to Understanding Moral Behavior in Humans

Why an Evolutionary Perspective is Critical to Understanding Moral Behavior in Humans

(p.195) 10 Why an Evolutionary Perspective is Critical to Understanding Moral Behavior in Humans
Challenges to Moral and Religious Belief

Sarah F. Brosnan

Oxford University Press

It is sometimes argued that moral behavior and concern for others set humans apart from other species. Yet other species share some of these behaviors. Studying them helps us to understand the evolution of our own moral behavior, including when these characteristics may have emerged and the social and environmental variables which may have been critical in selecting for them. This large topic entails (at least) three components considered here: behaviors which contribute to social regularity, the mechanisms which relate to moral behavior (including moral emotions and empathy), and moral judgment. The chapter emphasizes that such studies need not demonstrate systems of morality or moral judgment that are the same as those of humans; instead the focus is on precursor behaviors that led to the evolution of our own system of morality, and thus help us to better understand human moral behavior.

Keywords:   moral behavior, fairness, inequity, reciprocity, prosocial behavior, property, possession, evolution of behavior, non-human primates, comparative approach

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