Fingers still aching, but here's a short bit I found of interest; it's a book review in the December issue of Scientific American. The book is called Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved by Frans de Waal. In it, apparently, he posits (and demonstrates) the concept that morality, fairness and altruism -- doing the right thing -- are not merely human traits, but are in fact an evolutionary advantage. Do read the review; there are others available at amazon.com.
I've seen altruistic behaviour among animals, even those as 'low' on the evolutionary scale as rats. When I got Reinhart, he was a baby, hardly bigger than a mouse, and Siegfried was pretty big. They wrestled; it's part of rats' social behaviour, it's the way they play. Siegfried, of course, won. A lot. And when he won, he washed Reinhart, who HATED IT HATED IT.
But one day Reinhart won. Now, this isn't some heartwarming tale of the small guy growing up to beat the big guy. (That came later, when Reinhart actually got big.) No, this was a plain-and-simple case of Siegfried letting Reinhart win. I watched it; Siegfried fell right over and let Reinhart wash him. I read, a little later, that this isn't at all unusual among rats; the bigger rat will let the smaller one win every once in a while, even if he's just plain big and strong and wily enough that he'd always win if he wanted to. Because it's only fair.
For those (all, what, two of you) who read this, have you ever seen fair or altruistic behaviour among animals? Strong ones taking care of the weaker, one letting another have his fair share? I'm interested to see. I also look forward to reading the book itself; I'm sure I'll find it interesting.