That’s a very good point about most of us not seeing rats in the context we associate them. But, then again, most of us have never been in space to see that the continents are arranged the way we see them on a map, either.
I’m inclined to think our aversion to rats has less to do with apparent differences and more to do with apparent similarities, and I think that’s the point Burt makes. You are right in saying that we attracted to similar others, but further than that we are attracted to similar others who have qualities we like about ourselves. Rats have similar qualities we DON’T like about ourselves, and so we are averse to them.
I’m not sure we blame rats for the filth created by our growth. I’d be inclined to think most people know we are responsible for the problems created by our cities. But, rats are an excellent symbol for this reality and “save” us from attributing these qualities to ourselves.
Great post. I’m not sure I agree with the perception of mice as heroic or tragic. While I do manage some sympathy when I think about an entire species being reduced to a “unit” used solely for our benefit, they have no voluntary involvement in this process so I don’t see them as sacrificing themselves. They simply come into existence for a short while and then shortly after leave having no idea the involvement they had in the big picture that is our own prosperity.
Kelly I think you’re right in applying that logic to racism. There are a bunch of studies in psychology and sociology that show that “cooperative contact” between racial groups (or other types of groups) can often reduce conflict and lead to improved relations. An example might be something called “jigsaw classrooms” where children are given pieces of information, and that information must be combined cooperatively to complete an assignment. It forces interracial students to cooperate and their relations improve afterwards.
Because again they don’t attribute their behavior to their own volition. The fact their hunting is a behavioral response initiated by the need for food. The mistake we make in our modern thinking is that, when we think about our behavior, we think like, “I’m hungry, so I’m going to decide to eat,” when the behavior is more accurately explained as “eating behavior is initiated by the need to eat.” Hunting is a system of behaviors, a system that self-evolved over time. While it includes humans, the system is consists of the environment, the hunted animals, and the collection of humans involved that all act interdependently to form what we call a hunt. While we perceive the people, the animals, and the environment as distinct parts, that’s just an illusion created by our brains.
So, my impression is that the hunters during this time had yet to develop the perspective we have, meaning they didn’t see themselves at the center of their decision-making. Their hunting behaviors are initiated and executed, outside their own free well, by 1) their hunger, which they have no control over, 2) the constraints of their bodies, like their strength, 3) the constraints of the environment that determine where they can go and what they can do, and 4) the behavior of the hunted animals. None of these things they can attribute to their own free will. The error that our brains make automatically is that we perceives ourselves at the center of this system. When I watch myself do something, I unconsciously think, “I did that because I decided to,” when in fact I did that because the interactions between my brain and the environment produced a semi-predictable reaction that “I” was not involved in creating. We assume we are the centers of what we do and what happens to us, when in fact there is no center and this interdependent system carries out on its own. We are just along for the ride, and in this sense the Reindeer People are right.
I’m not sure whether I agree with gene therapy for weight loss, but I don’t think it should be necessary. It’s pretty easy to see why we have a weight problem in this country. Our economic system has produced a ridiculous number of sources of food that difficult to resist (e.g., sugar, fat, salt) and very easy to obtain. I was reminded of this when I traveled to Orlando this week. I haven’t traveled outside the Virginia-Maryland-North Carolina region in a while, and the number of restaurants and food stores in northeast Orlando is astonishing in comparison to most places around here. Gene therapy would just be a means to circumnavigate the obvious problem of food availability and consumption created by our economic system.
I agree that desperation may have been a reason for the development of agriculture, but I am also skeptical that it’s the only reason. In my opinion, it wouldn’t have been difficult for ancient humans to observe plans growing an connect the dots that placing seeds in the ground, watering them, and giving them sun exposure causes them to grow. Sure, growing enough for entire populations is more challenging, but the I don’t see agriculture as being such a large hump for humans to get over in the process of their evolution.
Sorry. Forgot to post the site about brain size: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subspecies_of_Canis_lupus
>>I see their common ancestor as on more of a middle-ground behaviorally<>One thing that does irk me is that people have a tendency to refer to all domestic dogs in a general sense, as one entity whose behavior is constant between individuals.<>After all, dogs ride the subway in Russia with no problems. So which is really the more intelligent- dogs or wolves?<<
Well, you'd have to place a population of wolves into Russian cities and see whether they'd be able to learn how to use the subway system. My guess is they'd have no problem. If they did, it would be because of behavioral tendencies they have (e.g., excitable aggression) that would prevent them from learning, not any real deficiency.
I may be in the minority here on the intelligence perspective. According to this page, the average domestic dog has a 30% smaller brain than many wolf subspecies. Brain size doesn't have a perfect relationship with intelligence, but the relationship does exist. While dog behavior is more successful in a human context than that of wolves, I think it is premature to label this higher social intelligence. Behavior is highly malleable using simple learning processes (e.g., conditioning), and combined with artificial selection for tameness and companionship, the dog becomes more apt in the human environment simply as a result of processes that, in my opinion, are separate from the overt construct of intelligence.
Intelligence is a poorly defined construct and few people agree on its meaning in the psychological community, but if I am to describe words I associate with intelligence, these are some that come to mind: systematic thinking, mental adaptibility, swiftness of thought, ability to "connect the dots," and the ability to emulate others' behavior. These are just a few, if we follow this line of thinking on intelligence, I think wolves win easily.