We birds hardly ever come to blows when disagreeing--it would be a huge jump in human evolution for you guys to finally figure out how to define and defend your property not with barbed wire fences and AK-47s and well-armed police departments and military might, but with song.
The Times editorial says:
Is it all that unlikely that, even if humans had been wiped out a few million years ago, eventually a species with reciprocal altruism would reach an intellectual and linguistic level at which reciprocal altruism fostered moral intuitions and moral discourse?Robert Wright clearly has not observed a chickadee flock or he'd realize that the time he's speculating about is NOW. We chickadees already have developed moral intuitions and moral discourse of a higher level than humans have. We have enough intuition to know which species to accept into our foraging flocks and which to avoid, not by mindless prejudices but by the knowledge of which birds are literally trying to kill us. We let everyone know about danger and good food resources, and are perfectly happy sharing a feeder. (Of course, we'll never understand those piggish finches who stand in the food rather than simply taking what they need and moving away so everyone else has a chance.) We join forces to scold and shun shrikes and hawks and owls, but even with nasty predators we have a live and let live philosophy and don't go out of our way to seek them out.
Humans are far more narrowly altruistic than us chickadees. Yes--even in the area of altruism, we're more evolved. You won't find a chickadee setting a roadside bomb, lobbing a grenade, flying an airplane into a building, dropping an atomic bomb on an entire city, shooting anyone, or watching starving children on TV and not doing a friggin' thing to help. We chickadees aren't into pretense and all that crap either. Breast implants?! Botox???? Plastic surgery? Give me a break!
This is a tricky world to negotiate as a moral being, but I think our chickadee moral system is far more evolved than that of humans, no matter how you look at it. Maybe if those human brains were less egocentric and more evolved, they'd see it too.