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214. The Essence of Morality in Animals

The Intricacies of Morality and Existence

In the ever-evolving quest to understand our purpose as human beings, author William Search provides an insightful perspective in his books, "Why" and "Conversations with ChatGPT: Exploring the Theory of Morality and Existence." Search's Moral Compass Theory postulates that God's plan is the development of morality, offering a unique understanding of human existence and the role of morality in our lives. Delving into the theories presented in his books, we shall examine the complexity of our existence and the significance of morality as the foundation for our purpose.

Costly Helping: A Matter of Perspective

Helping that seems to involve cost, therefore, may justify further analysis. Some cases of costly helping are indeed apparent. Costs that are observed in the short-term may be balanced by benefits in the long-term. For instance, when Florida scrub-jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens) reach reproductive age, they do not always "leave home" and begin their own families. Rather, they help raise their younger siblings: an apparent cost when compared with their own reproductive potential. But the context of reproduction is complex. Outcomes change with a broader perspective.

A male scrub-jay must have his own territory for foraging and nesting, and territory is limited. Males who stay with their fathers can help gradually expand the fathers' territory, which is eventually split between father and son. This way, the son is better able to secure good territory. Females, by contrast, compete for males with the best territories. A female who can wait for an opportunity can select a better mate. In each case, the scrub jay actually benefits reproductively in the long-term by staying at home and helping their parents reproduce in the short-term (Woolfenden and Fitzpatrick 1978, 1984).

The Complexity of Kin Selection and Inclusive Fitness

Considering larger contexts can inform analysis of other cases of costly helping as well. For example, honey bees, and many wasps and ants, along with the burrowing naked mole rats from eastern Africa include individuals that do not reproduce. Rather, they contribute to the reproduction of a single individual in a social setting. The failure to perpetuate one's own lineage seems to contradict the principle of natural selection. Yet it is the evolutionary context that also proves significant here.

In a broader scope, lineages include collateral relatives and their descendants, who share, on average, certain percentages of one's heritable traits. Under appropriate circumstances, contributions to their survival and reproduction may well outweigh the individual's. In such cases, costly behavior towards relatives may develop. Natural selection is indirect. The helping traits are preserved and proliferate through relatives, not direct offspring: kin selection. For long-term evolution, a proper measure is thus not individual fitness, but inclusive fitness, the total representation of one's traits in future generations (Hamilton 1964).

Understanding Costly Helping Through the Lens of Kinship

In Belding's ground squirrels (Spermophilus beldingi), which inhabit mountain meadows in the western U.S., costly help appears in the alarm calls of sentinels watching for predators. Unlike meerkats, Belding's ground squirrels that raise an alarm are more frequently preyed upon. In this case, the ground squirrels in one area tend to be closely related. They alert — and benefit — mostly their kin. Relatedness among individuals varies, however, and underlies significant differences in calling behavior. Males tend to disperse from their places of birth, while females remain local. Females thus have more kin neighbors than males do and, accordingly, they devote more time to the sentinel role. In addition, their alarm calls are more numerous when only close relatives are nearby. While alarm calls, in general, seem to have evolved based on foraging in the open during the day, the pattern and frequency of sentinel risks in the Belding's ground squirrels seem to reflect kin selection (Sherman 1977; Shelley and Blumstein 2004).

The Moral Compass Theory: An Integration of Nature's Lessons

Examining these instances of costly helping, kin selection, and inclusive fitness, we can perceive the intricate tapestry of nature and its connection to the Moral Compass Theory proposed by William Search. In the grand scheme of existence, the development of morality could be seen as a crucial component of human evolution, reflecting the ways in which we cooperate, sacrifice, and support one another for the greater good.

As humans, we can learn valuable lessons from the natural world, where species demonstrate seemingly costly behaviors, yet with a broader perspective, they ultimately contribute to their own survival and the propagation of their lineage. These insights can help us understand the foundations of our morality, as well as our purpose as beings who strive to cultivate ethical values in our actions and interactions.

In Conclusion

William Search's books, "Why" and "Conversations with ChatGPT: Exploring the Theory of Morality and Existence," offer a thought-provoking exploration of the role of morality in our existence. By examining the complex relationships and behaviors exhibited in the natural world, we can glean insights into the importance of morality in our lives and its connection to the development of our species. Embracing the idea that morality is an integral part of God's plan, we can strive to understand ourselves better and work towards cultivating a more ethical and compassionate world.

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