Could someone simply explain this concept to me as i can’t quite grasp it.
My previous understanding is that it means a weighing up, like a fairness, the ability to know consequences of actions and which actions are morally right and this is what sets us apart from other created species. However athiests who believe in evolution and human beings as merely advanced primates refute this saying that there is concrete evidence that other species such as apes have a great sense of fairness, of right and wrong, which guides their actions.
Humans are not unique in our understanding of the “higher good.” Police dogs will die for their human masters. Most species of birds will feed their offspring before they feed themselves. A mother bear will endanger her life to protect her cubs.
There was a recent experiment in which rats (RATS!) displayed a capacity for empathy for other rats (RATS!) that they had no relation to.
Does this mean that dogs and birds and bears and rats understand the moral implications of “right” and “wrong?” If a big dog takes a bone from a small dog, does it feel guilty? Does the small dog feel cheated? Because big dogs will do that 100% of the time. Many species of fish will eat their newly-hatched young. Do they feel guilty? Birds will starve to feed their offspring, yet fish will EAT their offspring. Do birds feel righteous, and fish feel guilty?
Humans alone exhibit a fundamental understanding of “right” and “wrong.” Animals may echo some of the resulting behaviors (because they were also created by the same God) without understanding morality. In animals, atheists call this “instinct” without any understanding of where this “instinct” came from or how it is transmitted.
There is an on going discussion/debate as to whether the sort of examples you quote are truly altruistic or based on instinctive aspects of personal and lineage survival and acceptance. I believe in most instances it is the spirit of the latter that motivates - or even instinctive reaction to a perceived common enemy/threat. There are however a few instances and examples that give serious pause for thought that altruism could be at work.
It is written “Then God said: Let us make* human beings in our image, after our likeness…God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them;
male and female* he created them.” (Genesis 1: 26-27). The image and likeness to God refers here to our spiritual souls with the spiritual faculties of intellect and will. All other animals on earth are not created with spiritual souls with the spiritual faculties of intellect and will. The highest powers of the souls of the more perfect brute animals are sensory powers; they are devoid of the spiritual or rational powers of intellect and will which human beings and angels have and even God himself.