We sometimes forget that morality and ethics are not the monopoly of religions and their administrators. They are not even unique to humans. Ethologist Marc Bekoff thinks that morality is developed during play of social mamals to help learn the rights and wrongs of social interaction.
The article “Six ‘uniquely’ human traits now found in animals” offers a few examples of animals showing that they are capable of use culture, mind reading, tools, morality, emotions and personality to their benefit.
So what is what really sets apart humans from animals?
- Art: Gorillas contemplating the magnificient landscape of the crater of the mount Virunga in awe qualify them as passive admirers of art. Art is however a luxury of opulent societies or individials. Desmond Morris and others explored the capacity of animals as creators, and the results suggest that indeed art is not exclusive to humans.
- Humour: If human humour is just an emotion in reaction to absurdity or exageration, then humour is an animal trait as well.
- Sport: Ritualized contests or games to determine status by adults. No, that’s quite animal.
- Religion. The contrite behaviour of elephans when visiting the remains of relatives or friends would suggest the involvement of memory and emotion, but maybe not spirituality or religion.
- Cooking with fire. Uniquely human.
So religion and cooking with fire might be the only truly unique human traits.