Ethology is the study of animal behavior. Franz de Waal is a distinguished ethologist and author of several best-selling accounts of primate behavior. As de Waal reports at length in the Atheist and the Bonobo, and other works, a key feature of the behavior of apes and to a greater or lesser degree other social animals, is sharing, helping, commiserating, comforting and demanding fairness.
From this reality of animal social existence, de Waal concludes that morality is neither unique to humans nor dependent on religion, but is inherent in mammalian biology. Furthermore, he contends, that religion is, though difficult and perhaps impossible to eradicate, superfluous to the good society.
Thus, de Waal writes:
This brings me back to my bottom-up view of morality. The moral law is not imposed from above or derived from well-reasoned principles; rather it arises from ingrained values that have been there from the beginning of time.In this, however, de Waal is sadly confused. The constructive, cooperative, fairness-demanding and mutually beneficial behavior of social animals is not evidence of morality, natural or otherwise. It is merely the rational, self-serving behavior of the small business owner who refrains from swindling his customers in the hope that they will return for more. It is the principle of you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. By helping one another, social animals achieve a level of well-being beyond that attainable were they to live independent, uncooperative lives.