Can we induce morality in sea monkeys?

This was posted on a forum by the user Wabbit. It isn’t of my creation, but a friend of mine on that forum asked me to find out what smart people would think of this :P.

The question of whether or not morality can be induced in another species has troubled me for some time. In an attempt to answer this question, I performed an experiment on some sea monkey’s I happened to aquire (note: I chose sea monkey’s b/c the package they came in clearly showed them living in stable familial groups and that their technology level was high enough to enable them to construct fairly complex shelters). The results–posted below–were inconclusive so I was wondering if anyone had performed similar experiments. If so, I would appreciate it greatly if you would post your results.
Thank you for your time.


29 January 1998: Initial Experiment

In an attempt to induce an organized system of morality in the seamonkeys I received at our office Christmas party, I’ve decided to introduce them to religion. This was done by lowering a 2 inch, plastic Cat-in-the-Hat icon into their environment. It is hoped that the seamonkey’s will, by being confronted with an overwhelmingly large and (to them) incomprehensible event (i.e. the introduction of the plastic icon into their jar), begin to formulate some sort of belief in the supernatural in order to explain the previously mentioned ‘event’. In the second stage of this experiment, I have decided to use a straw to randomly remove a few seamonkeys from their jar and then (after a few minutes of vigorous shaking) return them to the jar. It is hoped that this experience will induce a significant proportion of the abducted seamonkeys to claim that they have ‘special knowledge’ of their environment (i.e. there’s a big guy on the outside of our jar who enjoys torturing us) and then become the precursor’s of a new priestly class by using this insight to scare the hell out of their peers.

3 Febuary 1998: Preliminary Results

I have been unable to observe any signs of religious activity among the seamonkeys (no visible haranguing of the masses, no signs that the seamonkeys are nailing each other to trees, etc.) since the introduction of the Cat-in-the-Hat icon into their tank. Given this information, I hypothesize that brine shrimp have a ‘steady state’ type of religious conciousness wherein the entire culture converts enmass to whatever morality system is articulated by the ‘priestly class’ (in this case the ‘Abductees’ which, I might add, were incredibly hard to capture)–hence no religious conflict and no need to harangue folks or to nail heretics to chunks of wood, etc.
EXPERIMENT 1A: In an attempt to induce some sort of religious conflict in the Seamonkey community, I have introduced a vibrating Mr. Potato Head icon to the other side of the glass jar (this is interesting in and of itself–who in the world would come up with the idea of converting a standard Mr. Potato Head into some sort of massaging device?! Amazing…). I feel that the Mr. Potato Head icon, with its goggly eyes, blindingly orange nose, and paunchy build, will cause the seamonkeys which (by design or accident) frequent it’s side of the jar to display social and moral characteristics which are substantially different from the ones displayed by the Cat-in-the-Hat devotees. In addition, I will utilize the vibration mode of the Mr. Potato Head to ‘rock the seamonkey’s world’ by causing it to shake the entire jar for a few moments. It will be interesting to see if the faith of a few zealots (i.e. the Abductee’s on the Cat-in-the-Hat side) will be sufficient to maintain the old religious system in the wake of the societal vibrations caused by Mr. Potato Head.

3 March 1998: Final Results

I am sorry to announce that my experiments on inducing morality in seamonkeys must be considered an unmitigated failure. At no time during the experiments did I see any evidence of moral behavior or even immoral behavior from the test subjects (although, with a strict Puritanical worldview, aimlessly roaming around their jar could be considered ‘immoral’ I suppose). In addition, further experimentation is now impossible as the test subjects had the bad grace to ‘pass on’ over the weekend. The cause of death is uncertain–their numbers had been diminishing steadily for weeks) as my attempts to perform an autopsy on several of the larger corpses caused them to be mashed into an unrecognizable . There is no hard evidence linking the unfortunate demise of the seamonkeys to my attempts to instill moral fiber in them, however. I believe the experiment failed because it was not undertaken in a controlled laboratory setting. The unbridled enthusiasm of my co-workers once they learned of my experiment led to several ‘contamination events’ during the course of my studies including: abducting the entire biosphere in a well-intentioned attempt to ‘rescue’ the seamonkeys (I should note that I found the poor buggers sandwiched between a gigantic portrait of someone’s glowering family and a hulking, faceless lace angel figure–I don’t doubt that the rapid transition from the relatively benign Mr. Potato Head/Cat-in-the-Hat environment to this harsh reality would shock even the most settled culture). In addition, several lame attempts at humor such as putting an ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign over the seamonkey biosphere and calling me ‘Herr Doktor Mengele’ in front of the test subjects could not help but introduce even more moral structures than were already influencing them. Lastly, and most seriously in my professional opinion, several of my co-workers got carried away in their enthusiasm for my work and literally encrusted the entire biosphere with plastic figurines of slavering lizards, bug-eyed frogs, and various unsavory arachnids. When I arrived, there were so many of these hellish idols clustered around the experiment that there was no way that the test subjects could get sunlight, much less see their ‘gods’. One can only wonder what the abrupt eclipse of a culture’s holy icons by such demonic figures would have on the general populace. Obviously the lack of a laboratory environment seriously contaminates any results that can be gleaned from this experiment.
On a final, more optimistic note, I did notice that the seamonkey jar was positioned by my ‘When in trouble, when in doubt; run in circles, scream and shout’ sign. Although I never heard any ‘shout outs’ from the test subjects, they certainly swam in circles constantly. Perhaps I didn’t induce morality in them, but I surely induced confusion. Any way you slice it, I got my $1.50’s worth of fun out of them…