I don't know how new or old this story and video clip are but they are related in today's Daily Telegraph
At a US zoo a 210-pound ape [15-stone or 95-kg] noticed a young bird struggling in a pond. It picked a leaf from a tree and tried to get the bird to grasp it in its beak. After several attempts the chick did so and was saved from drowning. The orangutan placed the bird on the grass and proceeded to stroke it gently. The video is captivating. 
The origins of mammalian compassion to mammals who are not of their own genus or species are not limited to the religious and non-religious world of Homo sapiens
I wrote "atheist orangutan" to attract special attention and to strongly emphasise a point because christians----with their anti-atheist stance----like to claim morality and benevolence for themselves. A fundamentalist religious writer might try to pretend that the ape was displaying the principles of christian charity and love. Instead, it was displaying the best principles of human charity and love. 
Certainly, orangutans and other apes are neither christian nor muslim, although presumably not knowingly 'atheist' or 'non-theist' either---- because they have no fictional theism to contend with as we atheists and humanists have. Of course, aside from this, some mammalian mothers do like to nurture foundlings of other species.  
This event visibly demonstrates that some non-human primates can express emotional and caring rationality, coupled with kindness, mercy and tenderness, towards others of the mammal kingdom who would otherwise drown and die. 

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That video was extraordinary, Terry; thank you for posting it.

A VERY long time ago, I saw a sequence of photographs in a National Geographic, depicting a somewhat related sequence of events, I believe, in Africa.  At a edge of a largish body of water, a gazelle had been attacked by a crocodile, who was then scared off by a hippopotamus.  The hippo seemed to attempt to revive the gazelle, even to the point of taking the gazelle's head gently into the hippo's mouth.  These were actions which belie the well-known ferocity of the hippopotamus.  Eventually, the hippo gave up and the croc returned to claim its prey ... and the impression the photographs which recorded that event remain with me decades later.

To anyone who wants to assert that the qualities of mercy or care or empathy are the sole province of homo sapiens, I refer them to those photos and the above video among doubtless many other such occurrences.

@Loren Miller  I saw a National Geographic video of the hippo trying to rescue the gazelle just a few days ago on youtube here.
MANY thanks, Wanda!  I suspect the photos I saw were taken from that exact same incident.

Birds aren't mammals.


Did you mean "animals"?




Anyway, I love this.

Yes quite so. I put the story together too hurriedly and did not check for odd slips. I had meant to write "mammals and other animals".

Thanks for sharing the video.  It is certainly interesting. I especially find it interesting how people, myself included, often project human emotions onto non-human animals. What I saw in the video appeared to have more to do with curiosity than compassion. I think it is a bit of a stretch to think that the orangutan formulated a plan to rescue a struggling bird and then put that plan into action. It is much more likely that the orangutan was curious about the bird, was using a leaf to probe it, and by chance, the bird grabbed the leaf and was pulled out of the water. Once out of the water, the orangutan continued to probe the bird.  Had the orangutan proceeded to eat the little bird (they do occasionally eat small birds) would we suggest that the orangutan was demonstrating human-like traits of cruelty, intolerance, and malevolence? I don't think so. To assign human-like motivations to non-human animals is something that we all tend to do, but that does not make it so.

What's the big deal about being human ? You say, 'To assign human-like motivations to non-human animals is something that we all tend to do, but that does not make it so.

The primate looked at and studied the bird, understood its plight and thought about it. It selected a tool/implement and used it thoughtfully while considering the birds ability to understand and react to his plan. The primate also demonstrated care and concern, and showed overall understanding of the situation.

Motivations ? There could have been many factors motivating the primates behavior.

This primate did not think, nor did he show an overall understanding of the situation.


What motivated the primate ? I don't know, it could be anything.

I think what it more clearly shows is that humans can't separate themselves from being 'animals'. The animal kingdom has shown that it has a wide variety of 'emotions' that mimic human behavior. This is where we come from! Seems to me like the religious always want to create a wider divide between us and the animal kingdom with their religion, as if humans are the only ones capable of being 'above' beastly animal behavior and thus, more superior. That is if you're religious and have found god, but if you are an atheist, you are supposedly no better than the predatory animals.
Wow! That's incredible!

Part of the video was shown on a national morning news/talk show here in the U.S. called Today and the show competes with two other such ones that are on at the same time. This evidences that the show’s producers had in serious consideration deemed the video to be something that would capture the interest of and intrigue the news oriented and early rising sector of the American general public.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the orangutan were demonstrating loving behavior. I certainly on many occasions have seen other lower animal forms demonstrate what appeared to be loving behavior.

However, beyond the question of whether the orangutan demonstrated loving behavior I think the video has introduced one that is at least as interesting. That is, I think the video has introduced a question of why so many people are intrigued by the prospect that the orangutan may have demonstrated loving behavior.

One might say the intrigue is because, in that as a species we love, the prospect that the orangutan may have demonstrated it suggests that it is not much different from us. However, as a species, we also have often and regularly engaged in selfish behavior. As such, if our reason for being intrigued by a lower animal that appears to be demonstrating love is that the behavior suggests the animal is similar to us then why are we not equally intrigued by a lower animal that appears to be demonstrating selfishness?

Clearly then, to the majority there is something precious about love that selfishness cannot provide. In a scientific vernacular, natural selection has opted as a characteristic of our species for an appreciation of love to prevail over selfish desires on a wide scale basis.

Atheism should not fly in the face of this. There are too many good reasons to be Atheists (such as those espoused by Secular Humanism) to considerate this aspect of natural selection to be problematic or inappropriate. Natural selection has taken this course because it is the best one for our survival. It happens to be consistent with love. Notwithstanding, it also demonstrates that there is nothing about Atheism, science nor rationality that need be inconsistent with love.

ok first thing here is another heart-wrenching video


the article is from here



ok before i go on most christians nowadays have an apologetic trick that state

"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts."—Hebrews 8:10.

talking to the local mega-church pastor; he backed it up saying that all humans have "the law of god written in their hearts" this is the way that they get around a common atheist argument that goes something like: can people who are not christian be good (i don't remember the exact argument but you can look it up). afterward they will answer "no" to the question "do animals have a moral law in their hearts" (this lead to a little retreat from the pastor when i confronted him with a lot of evidence similar to the main thread starter)


most likely most evangelicals and people who don't care for animals don't like this (animals and altruism) Genesis 1:26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

but most people have a certain affinity for animals and reject this


i do remember learning that humans more aggressive nature is reflected in our closest relatives (chimps) while going a little farther away (bonobos) leads to a very peaceful species.


another one i remember hearing was monkeys using crude first aid; i forget if it was rubbing mashed leafs or just cleaning the wound but both are remarkable  


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