Jejudo, South Korea
I don't want to get into a tit for tat, animal for animal debate (though why not? It might be fun for its own sake.), but hyena females, don't cross suckle their young, hyena males aren't allowed near the nest (at least for this species):
The reason I don't want to get into different animal type of bahaviors is the question isn't that animals exhibit a variety of different behavior (they do), but whether they have the ability to judge the rightness or wrongness of their actions. Pragmatically, of course they can. If it hurts, it's bad, if it's helpful it's good, but can an animal make the choice between a moral sacrifice for the clan and a mistake? Can they intentionally make a moral decision? Where does a moral decision come from?
Dennet says that we can't call it murder for they know not what we do, but should we equate infanticide between human beings and lions? Should we send a lion to jail for this act? The mistake most of us make when it comes to higher mammals is not that what many mammals do is ostensibly similar to many of the things we do (they are), but that we apply the same meaning, the same sense of charity (the benefit of the doubt), and not the sense of responsibility that we also ascribe to other humans.
Dennet said, "Because they know not what they do."
I suspect, "Because we know not what they do."
But we can know what other humans do. It is irrelevant that we get this wrong sometimes, we act on the whole as if this were true. We ascribe intent to anybody who speaks a language and make our decisions accordingly. How do we do this? We translate from their language to our language (language here is generally defined, it's not just words, but the assumption of using a language is a given in order to give this ascription.).
If we were wrong most of the time, we would be dead.
So, Phaedrus, you've correctly read my argument. The introduction of language compels some type of ethical system for any individual who speaks a language, but that individual is not compelled to follow every aspect of that ethical system.
The introduction of WMD doesn't change this attitude at all. If an animal were to use a WMD, even by accident, would they have the ability to feel remorse?
One of the arguments that I'm sure you get all the time is the problem of evil, how can God allow for evil? But that's easy to explain for a non-believer if we define evil in terms of bad things happening (We just say it results from indifference in Nature and/or the indifference to other people rather than evil.). The question is reversed for the non-believer then. How do we account for genuine moral belief and action? If we fall back on evolution (that's just the way genes work), I think we're dodging the question (We're trading one cure-all answer -- that's the way God set things us -- with another -- that's the way evolution works).
However, if we see or try to see what actually happens when two or more humans communicate, the necessary assumptions that we use to communicate to other humans (and then partially project on to animals and even things), we can see, I think, a basis for an ethical system beyond Nature and evolution.
And one that's thoroughly down to earth even if I'm probably not smart enough to get enough complexity into it that any useful theory might need.