Nature

★Zieggzaggg★

Posted on July 15, 2014. Filed under: Nature, Uncategorized |

I tried to leave a comment, Lalo, but I couldn’t read the instructions.  They are not in Texan.  So I thought I would just re-blog this jim-dandy bird picture since it illustrates my point in my previous post (Me, Myself, and I) which you left a “like” on.  Do birds talk among themselves about the strange behaviors of family members?

lalocabrujita

Zie je wat ik zag
Nee jij zag niet
Wat ik voel
En ook ik niet
Wat ik bedoel
Ik zie en zag
En voel en lach
Voel je wat ik zie
Nee jij kijkt
Wat erop lijkt

La Brujitaaa

image

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Me, Myself, and I

Posted on July 14, 2014. Filed under: Animals, Nature, Self-awareness, sociology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

LIARS* from the elite and restricted club of The Great Learned** have decreed that, if a living entity cannot recognize the reflection in a mirror as itself, it cannot be self-aware.  Such evaluations ignore that…

  • Humans are born not knowing squat about anything except screaming and kicking.
  • Human babies, like all mammals, learn by mimicking what others around them are doing.
  • Human babies finally see the grooming utility of mirrors after much coaching from older persons.  More importantly, they are taught the satisfaction of admiring the fine creature-form looking back at them.  (Oooh!  From this angle I have a Roman god-like profile.  And check those pec definitions…   uh, sorry!  Having flashbacks.)
  • Most life forms, including non-human mammals, depend on other senses than sight to describe the world and their particular placements in that world.
  • A wide variety of life forms have survived on this planet for millions upon millions of years.  Had they not been able to delineate the boundary between SELF and the surrounding environment, they would not have survived for one single day.
  • Being alive is about being SELF-ish.  Didn’t anybody read anything in that book The Selfish Gene?***

But, the Great Learned maintain that if an entity does not perceive the world as the Great Learned perceive it, then that entity must be simply a robot-like biomass bound to instinctive action and programmed reaction.  So, I repeat my question from a previous post:

  • If a blind homo smart sapiens cannot recognize its reflection from a reflective surface, is that h. smart sap. NOT self-aware?

The world in which non-humans live is fast-moving and dangerous.  Lethal even.  Quite often.  The only creatures goofy enough to kill time staring at their reflections are those who are not constantly on the lookout for predators and have the leisure time and safety to amuse themselves…   with themselves.  The ability to even see that reflection in the first place is a biggie, too.

All living entities know about Numero Uno.  The only ones in the dark on this have been converted to Numero Dos.  All others not SELF (the perceiving Numero Uno) are accorded different degrees of trust in keeping with their genetic and social distance from SELF.  These are my classifications of sentient entities:

  • self = me, myself, and I; numero uno; an entity’s awareness that it is separate from other stuff
  • near-self = siblings and other kin and relations bonded to SELF during the growing years.  Accorded the highest degree of trust
  • other-self = distant relatives and casual members of the self, near-self group.  Accepted, but regarded cautiously
  • far self = others that sort of look like me and my group, but, I don’t know them and I don’t trust them;  unrelated others of my species

Through the years, I have been out and about at all hours of the day and night.  Taking public transportation some years ago put me out on the streets around dawn and dusk when certain birds (grackles) flocked from sleep mode and, later, flocked in from their far feeding ranges.  At first, the view was just a noisy din of chatter and fluttering feathers amid a chaotic and frantic in rush of bird bodies.  Over repeated inclusions in these social interactions, a pattern began to resolve itself:

  • MORNING.  Great rushes of feathered bodies rose from the various night lodgings (trees to you hardcore city dwellers) and began chattering and swooping, then briefly settling on electric power lines.  There, you could see strings of bird-beads arrayed in varying proximity to each other.  These “beads,” bit by bit, eventually took flight and joined a selected group of passing flyers as they left the area to begin the day’s business.
  • EVENING.  This was almost an exact reversal of the morning start-up.  One by one, flocks of varying sizes returned to the same area swirling, diving, coasting a-wing as though in play.  On the power lines, a few birds began perching, typically with a large separation between them.  Early arrivals settled on a spot that was equidistant from bird-left and bird-right.  As more birds settled in, I began to see little groups separated by gaps.  Groups of birds would take off as one, join a passing group of flyers and wing off to sleeping quarters.

But there is more to this ordered disorder than meets the  eye.  After more and more flocks arrive, the beads are closer packed on the power line, with two, three and four or more parked side by side.  An arrival might fly up to one bead excitedly and the two might carry the flitting above the rest spot, then both settle down side by side.  New arrivals seem to do a fly by of all the parked beads then either move on to another area or settle in with or near previous arrivals.  But, the process is not always peaceful.  Sometimes a new arrival drops in close to a bead only to have the original arrival jump him and run him off.  Toward night fall, pretty much all the flyers have settled in — peaceably — on the power lines and are pretty much packed shoulder to shoulder with a gap in the string here and there.  Then, segments of the string take off as one and move on to the various bedrooms.  In the morning, from bedroom to assembly area, this same process is repeated with departure to foraging areas the goal.

Within this observed process, I see the SELF, NEAR-SELF awareness playing out.  The variable spacing between the beads is directly related to the relationship of one bead to another:  the shorter the distance, the closer the relationship.  This explains the ejection of an arrival by a sitting bead.  The assault says:

  • I don’t know you that well.  GET LOST!
  • I’m sorry, but that seat is taken.  GET LOST!

The swirling, chattering fly bys are a sorting out process.  I surmise that the sleeping group has a different composition than the foraging group.  In the morning, the sleeping group hits the assembly area and looks for those it prefers to hang with during the day.  In the evening, the various foraging groups meet at the assembly area and begin locating the members of their  sleeping group.  My guess is that the sleeping group is close kin to each other.  Like humans, there is a domestic life and a separate work life.

And all that chatter is excited TALKING, not just generalized, instinctive noise.

 

_________________________________________

*LIARS = Learned Individual Ascribing Refinement to Self

**The Great Learned = that association of self-proclaimed experts, as in “See my sheepskin from the University of Great Humans?”  (UGH for short)

***Author Richard Dawkins.  And, all I have read of the book is the title.

 

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Pop-roach Pops the Question

Posted on June 22, 2014. Filed under: Animals, Nature, Self-awareness | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Cue the cricket choir, and amp up the frog croakingromance is afoot.  Soft, sultry nights just ooze with it…   unless you are alone.  That feeling has another name — lonely despair (…sigh)!  But, enough about me.

Today’s pick-up lineWild thing, I think I love you.

Presently, we remain confined to my dark ell.  My new friend, the pop-roach, mimics my solitary routine.  Out here in the open, he moves through my awareness in cautious fashion, scurrying here, investigating there, fearful that a tiny scrap of edibles might be missed…   or that he might become a tiny scrap of edible to larger others.  It is our his lot in this existence.

Your words for the day (mostly the same as the previous post):

  •  pop = explode; suddenly increase in size
  • roach = cockroach, an insect; various sizes; worse than a fly in my soup
  • pop-roach = a cockroach with desires
  • CR = cheesy reference (I am shamelessly using big names to improve my blog visibility)

Responding to a disturbance in the force,* pop-roach suddenly became alert.  Whatever it was, it exuded an irresistible perfume…   to the pop-roach, not me.

Whoa!!!  It was a CHICK…   or…   whatever roach guys call roach gals.

Forgetting the take-out, he homed in on gal.  Like a radar-guided missile, he maneuvered his approach to intercept directly from the front.  She stopped in her tracks.  They met, nose to nose (technically, that might be antennae to antennae, but that’s not so picturesque), and “for a brief, shining moment” there was “Camelot,”**  and they stood there, strangers in the night.***  Cue the singersWild thing, I think I love you.****  It was a classic “boy meets girl” moment, until…

…pop-roach got carried away and mimicked an overheated popcorn kernel:  he EXPLODED.  I had never seen anything like that.  Barely did they get the prelims out of the way, and testosterone guy jacked up his hind legs so his body was inclined about 45 degrees while maintaining nose contact.  Popping the question, “Will you be mine tonight?  Say you will, say you will be mine tonight!”,***** he emphasized his ardor by deploying both wings and both wing covers at 90 degree angles to his body, like a frilled lizard magnifying its true size.  It was sudden, it was frightening, it looked painful.  Jacked-up butt, splayed wings and covers!  WOW!!

For her part, gal-roach put out some feelers…   uhhh, so to speak.  She felt him up (literally) and concluded, “Loo-zer!”  She broke off contact and resumed her hunt for take-out.  Or a better offer.  Whichever came first.

Pop-roach, in true guy fashion, persisted.  The scuttlebutt among the guy-roaches down in the sewer drains was that the gals really wanted to be with a guy (wink, wink), and persistence would always pay off.  Persistent he could be.

Food now far removed from his mind, he tracked (…H. smart sap. gals might say “stalked”), he intercepted, he repeated his astounding display.  “Aw, c’mon!  Be mine tonight.”

Again, she considered.  Warned by gal-roach gossip that guy-roaches have only one thing on their tiny little minds, she had two options:  Romance?  No-o-o-o-o!  Roach-a-cide?  Still considering.  After all, she had…

  • Opportunity:  he is spending a lot of uninvited time in her personal space.
  • Motive:  What part of “no” could he not understand?
  • Means:  Possibilities were (1) lure him to a roach motel and let him go in first, (2) lure him close to the foot of that killer-ape who hangs out in their neighborhood.  Downside:  both choices would put her too close to the kill zone.  So, she opted for (3), a sprint out of the area and just hope that he did not follow.

Twice rejected, he gave up and consoled his (probably) broken heart by…   scurrying here and there hunting for a bite to eat; comfort food, no doubt to soothe the aching 13 chambers of his heart.  (Sheesh!  That will take a lot of comforting.)

Two insect entities, two different genders.  Both considered to be primitive life forms, yet each of them knows what it will take to satisfy itself.  Sounds like “primitive” is up to snuff on this self-awareness thing.

Dr. Smart E. Butt can forget that mirror test.  These guys do reflected vibrations, not reflected light.

______________________________

*CR#1:  the force.  Star Wars movie term, George Lucas   |   **CR#2:  Camelot, playwright Alan J. Lerner   |   ***CR#3:  Strangers in the night, Frank Sinatra, Charles Singleton & Eddie Snyder   |   ****CR#4:  Wild Thing, The Troggs, Chip Taylor   |   *****CR#5:  Say You Will, Foreigner, Lou Gramm & Nick Jones

____________________________________________________________

Previous posts in the TALES FROM MY DARKEST ELL (An exploration into self-awareness)

  • Pop-roach does the Colonel
  • The Art of Fly Fishing
  • The Best Part of Waking Up…   is not having to actually get up

 

 

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Pop-roach does the Colonel

Posted on June 21, 2014. Filed under: Animals, Nature, Self-awareness | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

OOOPS!   Maybe that should be “kernel”…   as in “popcorn kernel.”

Today’s pick up lineAre you through with that?

The night was cool, the lighting soft.  Night sounds, though punctuated by the sound of passing cars, complemented the ambiance.  One thing could have made it better:  a romantic interest to tease enjoyment from my “all work no play” mode.

But, hey, a warm bag of popcorn at break isn’t half bad, either.

Your words for the day:

  • pop = explode; suddenly increase in size
  • roach = cockroach:  an insect; various sizes; worse than a fly in my soup
  • pop-roach = a cockroach with desires

Popcorn is aptly named.  You pop a fresh bag into the microwave, kernels pop in the bag, you pop the white fluff into your mouth, and no matter how careful you are, some of that  will pop out of your hand or out of your mouth as you crunch them.  When done with the lot, the floor around your chair looks like a scene from a snow-globe.  Yeah, the popcorn I enjoy scatters everywhere.  If I can’t make a clean transfer from bag to hand to mouth, the escapees are on their own.  I want nothing more to do with them.

We operate in the macro world.  Food crumbs on the floor or ground have crossed over, becoming inedible to humans…   at least to those over 8 years of age.  It has entered the world of the micro, where the workings of Nature proceed without the constant monitoring of macro denizens.

Contrary to the killer-ape moniker attached to my species (i.e., the great Homo smart sapiens) I did not kill any of the little critters encountered here.  Instead, I did the voyeur thing:  looked, didn’t touch.  Eh…   true, in my own home some of these guys would have warrants out for their immediate apprehension, but, here in ell, it’s live-and-let-live.  My consignment to this dark corner gave me an opportunity to view those micro works from a detached and non-involved perspective.  Those guys operating on the down-low have some interesting behavior on display…  such as the charming pop-roach.

He must have viewed my droppings as manna from heaven.  On his fast-moving, meandering path across the concrete surface, he came across my snow-field and took the time to investigate.  What luck!  He located a whole popped kernel and latched onto it without hesitation, which would be expected.  I could see the suspended kernel move as he tested it with his…   uh…   mouth parts.  Then, he did something I would expect from a mammalian carnivore, but, not from vermin that is normally content to crawl over its prize along with a hundred others like it and eat in place.  This 2-inch cockroach hauled the claimed kernel over to a crevice between the concrete surface and the bottom of the wall panel and proceeded — in relative privacy — to consume its prize…

an act of indulging a personal whim from a creature viewed as an instinct-bound member of a communal swarm.  It would seem that this pop-roach is just eaten up with self-awareness.

Yeah, I know.  It couldn’t possibly be aware of itself since, in the mirror test, it would ignore its image and just poop on the smooth surface.  Doctor Smart E. Butt — who would be irritated because he has to wipe poop off the reflector so he could admire HIS OWN image — would flunk the poop-roach’s awareness submission in a heartbeat.

But pop-roach doesn’t care about test results.  He has his huge food treasure to satisfy HIS appetite and is warming up his moves for a run at a midnight rendezvous.  Yes, our 6-legged popcorn miser is also a multi-legged Casanova.

Next up:  Wild thing, I think I love you

________________________________________

Previous posts in TALES FROM MY DARKEST ELL (An exploration into self-awareness)

  • The Art of Fly Fishing
  • The Best Part of Waking Up…   is not having to actually get up
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The Art of Fly Fishing

Posted on June 8, 2014. Filed under: Animals, Nature, Psychology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

We’re talking REAL FLIES here, folks

Today’s riddleIf a blind h. smart sap. cannot recognize its reflection in a mirror, does that mean the blind one does not posses self-awareness?

This is more a tale of spider-web filaments than of spiders.  I mean, in this account, I never even saw a spider.

Above the entrance to this facility (the ell shaped building referred to in the previous post) there was a sign proclaiming its identity.  That identity is not important.  Mounted above this sign were several small spotlights appended to the end of conduits gracefully curved so the lights illuminated the name.

A dark parking lot offers few sights for distraction.  Occasionally, when other employees were out, there was laughter and loud conversation.  But, my break times differed a little from the others.  The flitting of bug wings around the lights easily caught my eye, and, I would find myself trying to visually track the patterns of flight, which really looked like chaos.  The whole exercise was sort of like drumming your fingers on a table top or tapping with your toes to get in touch with some hidden inner rhythm.

There was something else that caught my eye and reminded me of my childhood in a rural area where nature had not been completely overrun by  civilization — spider-web strands floating in the air at certain times of the year.  My biology class in school told me that some spiders disperse their populations in this manner, with a tiny passenger at the lower end of the traveling strand.  Apparently, new populations of arachnids grabbed the first bus out of the backwater towns they were born in and set out to make their fortunes in the big, wide world.

Only…   here the webs were NOT floating away.  They streamed out from the top edge of the sign for several feet waving like ribbons in a breeze.  I figured some old webs had been knocked loose from the light fixture and sign structures just to give me a distraction on these long nights.  I observed this spotlighted scene several times during various night breaks:  hundreds of tiny bugs in staccato flight and streaming webs doing a slow dance in the breeze.  Until…

I noticed another type of movement; the web strands were getting shorter.  Not at the same time, but individually.  The only thing I know that would be interested in reclaiming web filaments is a spider.  To the best of my knowledge, a spider recycles only its own web material.  Ergo, there are spiders poised on the top of the sign pulling in the filaments.

Once I had become aware of this phenomenon, it was easy to isolate it on subsequent nights; long strands of webs streaming out into the breezy dark, only to be pulled back by the producer.  It seemed weird to me.

At some point, I overlaid the second observation onto the first one, and that yielded another picture from my early years — those tedious fishing trips with my father and uncles.  People lined the piers flicking fishing rods outward, waiting for the fishing line to unwind in a long, twisted arc, only to be slowly reeled in to either claim the catch or reload and re-cast.

My conclusion was inescapable

The unseen spiders on their equivalent of a coastal pier were fly fishing (or running trout lines?) in the schools of flitting bugs attracted to the lights.  I did not get to run any of those spiders through Dr. Smart Butt’s mirror test to prove self-awareness, but, I would say those spiders knew who they were, who the bugs were, and just exactly which was going to benefit the most from this fishing trip.

A tiny bird protecting its soon-to-be-sleeping butt by not revealing its night sanctuary; sparrows wanting to extend their sleep time for personal satisfaction; spiders turning web netting into fishing lines for personal culinary satisfaction.  I would say that in the proof of self-awareness competition, the score is lopsided:

  • Nature – 3
  • Mirror – 0

I am thinking that a living entity cannot continue to exist unless it possesses the trait of self-awareness, a trait that I suspect forms the core of all life forms.

Yeah!  I know that is counter to what The Great Learned have been preaching for centuries, but, it’s okay — I am a graduate skeptic licensed to think freely without prior permission from intellectual authorities.  If you are cowed by their disapproving glares, you might want to reconsider your decision to hang out with me.  It’s your call.

————————————————————

Previous posts under Tales From My Darkest Ell:

  • The Best Part of Waking Up…   is not having to actually get up.

 

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The Best Part of Waking Up

Posted on May 11, 2014. Filed under: Animals, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

…is not having to actually get up.

Post No. 1 in a series of articles I callTales from my darkest ‘ell

I called it ‘ell.  It was not particularly descriptive of my work environment, but, the private joke kinda’ lightened my mood.  I’ve worked the night shift in a number of different capacities and locations over the past couple decades, and yes, doing unnatural things before daylight (such as being awake and up before sunrise) sets up a tiring tedium.  After a while, you start looking for ways to stay alert and interested in the moment.

Actually, the workplace really was ell — that was the shape of the building.  Outside, a concrete apron and a roof overhang of 8 feet formed the inside of the ell, bordering the main parking lot on two sides.  A picnic table, nestled in the 90 degree corner, constituted the break area.  It was here, often alone, that I got a glimpse of the night world outside normal human sleep time.

The small collection of white dots at the edge of the apron was indicative of an often used roosting spot above.  Yet, all I could see above it was a small electric junction box with a 4″ long conduit protruding from it; since it was flush against the wall, it could not be a roost.  I started to routinely check the area for any birds, finally noting a single little sparrow flitting around under the awning near sunset.

On a midnight break, I finally had my answer to the poop-a-dot question.  Directly above the drop zone, in the angle formed by the little junction box and along the groove formed by the round conduit extension and the wall, the little sparrow had wedged itself for an undisturbed night’s sleep.

In all the months I worked there, I never saw the sparrow tuck itself in for the night.  It always waited until I was not watching before it would trundle off to its little hidey.  Even without that self-awareness mirror, it is evident the bird was acutely aware of itself and that it needed to be careful to protect itself.

Just before sunrise, the air above and around my little bit of ell would come alive with various birds, including hordes of sparrows, chattering and flitting.  All these guys must have read the little adage about the early bird and the worm.  Much to my delight, I learned that humans are not the only recalcitrant risers before sunrise.

Between the break table and the wall at the inside of the ell, there was a space of about 3 feet.  I was sitting on that end, facing outward into the parking lot.  I noticed a small object coming right toward me on a steadily descending glide path.  Any second now, I expected the sparrow to hit the brakes after seeing me and redirect its path elsewhere.  It did not, continuing to a smooth landing on the sidewalk between the table and wall.  Then — not giving me the least bit of consideration — fast walked to the inside angle of the ell.  Once there, facing the wall, it tucked its head under a wing and settled in, oblivious to my perilous proximity.  Apparently, morning came a lot sooner for this tiny creature than it had been prepared for.

My third ell-ish encounter was similar to that, without the smooth landing.  I was standing at the edge of the concrete apron, sort of hanging 10, awaiting the dawn.  Again, there is the approaching silhouette of an early riser, but, it leveled out at about 30 inches above the pavement and slowly glided past me well within arm’s reach.  My first thought was, “this little guy is going to make a quick stop just before the wall and snatch a bug off the brick,” a trick I had seen grackles do.  But, no air brakes were deployed.  The little critter went head first into the wall, and dropped in a heap onto the sidewalk.

This was not the first time I had seen birds crash like that, but, usually, it happens against glass barriers.  It is frequently a fatal error.  But, this little fella got to its feet in a few seconds, shook its head a few times, and started walking back toward the edge of the apron.  Obviously dazed, it struck a pose that mimicked mine, toes teasing the edge of the curb, and facing the parking lot.  About the only difference between us were our head heights (5.5 feet vs. 2.5 inches) above sea level, and the fact that I had not just bashed my head into that brick wall.  I was hanging 10, it was hanging 6.  Sans the brick wall, I knew this little guy would never be caught dead standing a mere 18 inches from me.  So, I started talking to it, like we were long-time buds just shootin’ the early morning breeze.  I could tell it heard my droning voice since it kept looking toward me.  I don’t think we got more than a minute of quality time together, ’cause it finally figured out this was not Kansas anymore, and took off like demons were after it.  I had to wait for the bell at shift’s end before I could flee my demons.

Enthusiasts of the whole “natural order” hypothesis proclaim that Nature — indeed, all of Existence — is a precision machine that moves its various components in a grand procession of order across the Cosmos.  I think I speak for a large number of smaller components in this “precision machine” when I say, “It just ain’t so!” 

That NOCTURNAL > DIURNAL transition switch has a definite herky-jerky characteristic to it, and needs a little work.  Until it is ironed out, we unfortunate and disenfranchised membership of “the perfect order” will continue to rely on the snooze-button, un-cut coffee (more than 4 cups a day) and banging of heads against walls just to get clear of sunrise.

 

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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Posted on May 9, 2014. Filed under: Nature, Psychology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

…who is the smartest one of all?

Aw, shucks!  That is just too easy.  Why, it’s Homo smart sapiens, of course.

Your proverb for todayKnow thyself.

(It’s Greek; a Delphic maxim from the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.  That means it is very, very old so it must be highly respected.  Actually, I would not have thought those old Greeks would speak in King James’ lingo.)

Your words for the day:

  • Narcissus = a Greek-myth guy with a thing for himself
  • mirror = a reflective surface that says, “Right back atcha, big guy.”

The vaunted, and much invoked, mirror test for self-awareness is an exceptional choice for scientist to use in validating their superior observations about the lesser smarts of other life forms.  Of course, the test is useless without defining the parameters of “self-awareness.”  Who better to define those parameters than the League of The Great Learned?  What better standards to use than those that define The Great Learned themselves?  I mean, they are the epitome of H. smart sap., are they not?

“Okay, Lesser Beings, here is the mirror that Narcissistic types (such as we scientists) like to drool at.  Do you understand that you are beholding your very own self?  C’mon, show us the drool.”

  • The lizard, who gets attacked by almost anything its size or bigger, has only a split second to respond to the presence of another.  It has no time to see if all its scales are in place or which angle presents his best profile (take that, Geico gecko).  There is also the matter of lizard social protocol that must be adhered to, and, since the image looks like a good matchup to himself, he figures he can take the other guy and goes on the offense.  This lizard may not give any thought to killer asteroids or last days on the Mayan calendar — big subjects for the science dudes — but you can bet your sweet bippy he gives a lot of thought to the care and maintenance of HIS ass.  To be concerned with HIS, he has to be aware of HIMSELF.
  • The pasture cow, who lives day in and day out with a herd of very peaceful look-alikes, says, “Ho hum.  If you want me to show interest here, slip in an image of the Big Bull out there and sprinkle this thing with some of that cologne he uses.  Now, that’s something I could stand still for.  Otherwise, get this thing out of my face and get me another wad o’ cud.”
  • Tomcat domesticus, full of tomcat hormones, might go for the glass like the lizard; yet, that same tomcat, relaxing in the shade and giving his best impersonation of The Great Sphinx (over there in the mother of all sand boxes) with tail stretched out behind him, can take time from his busy schedule to fiddle with the last 3 inches of that tail.  It stands like a snake, tip twirling slowly, then dipping to the side toward the ground, then back up.  Tomcat looks like a stone lawn ornament, but, you know he is having a good time.  One short kitten leg away from the tom’s twitching extremity is a kitten, and it just knows he can swat that wiggling thing.  For quite a while, this tableau continues.  The tomcat, looking ever so stoic, knows full well the excitement he is creating in the kitten’s mind, and he is enjoying the game as much as the kitten.  The tomcat knows who he is and where his personal boundaries are.  He is aware of HIMSELF.

I could do this for quite a while, given the number of different creatures that have survived on this planet for a lot longer than H. smart sap., but I hear that, for maximum effect, you repeat something no more than 3 times.  The law of diminishing returns, or something like that.  Maybe I heard it from Johnny Carson.

A long, long time ago (if you knew my age, you might want to add one more “long” in there) I devised a couple of mental exercises to illustrate self-awareness in other creatures.  Now, don’t tell me that mental projections prove nothing, ’cause H. smart sap., sub-species science dudes, have built veritable cults around an imaginary dead/alive cat* and an imaginary razor** purported to be so sharp it can slice intangible arguments right down the exact middle.  My tests are a little different…   they can actually be tested in real-time with real subjects.  If real-time is opted, these tests for self-awareness can only be performed by real representatives of The Great Learned.  Only they can truly appreciate the outcomes.

TEST 1.  THE SILVERBACK CHALLENGESetup:  A line of 3 strong cages.  Cages Number 1 and 3 each contain a very contented silverback gorilla.  Cage Number 2 in the middle is empty.  Our observer/actor (preferably a Great Learned One with a Ph. D. in something or other that sounds real smart) has been outfitted with a medium weight baseball bat, a note-book and pencil for note taking, and a hit of Valium — it is the humane thing to do.  Oh, yeah!  And a mirror for later reference.  The test proceeds thusly:

  • The observer/actor enters Cage Number 3, walks over to the contented silverback, who looks at him with only slight interest.
  • The observer/actor lifts the bat and attempts to get a base hit using the silverback’s head as a baseball.
  • This is the critical part:  The observer/actor will now take detailed notes as to whether the gorilla in Cage Number 3 reacts as though it was the gorilla way over in Cage Number 1 that took the bat upside his head.
  • If the gorilla in Cage Number 3 has NO sense of self-awareness, the observer/actor can exit the cage, leaving the mirror for the bleeding gorilla to play with later.
  • If the gorilla in Cage Number 3 DOES have a sense of self, the observer/actor can keep the mirror so that someone else can hold if for him at the hospital where he can see what self-awareness really looks like.

TEST 2:  THE FIRE ANT CHALLENGE.  Setup:  2 fire ant mounds 10 feet apart.  One observer/actor as in test number 1, equipped with that note-book and pencil and an assistant holding a syringe full of a local anesthetic.  The test proceeds thusly:

  • The observer/actor walks up to one of the mounds, his choice.  Removing the shoe and sock from one foot and rolling up the corresponding pant leg, he vigorously and with great gusto stomps the selected mound back into the ground.
  • The observer/actor leaves his bare-naked foot and leg in the middle of the destruction, and, lifting that note-book and pencil, takes detailed notes on whether the ants in the stomped nest reacted as though it was the OTHER NEST, 10 feet away that got the crap stomped out of it.
  • A Giventhe ants in the stomped mound would flunk the mirror test, if anyone could figure out how to administer one to them.
  • If the disrupted colony has no sense of SELF, the nervous assistant will not have to moonlight as an EMT.

A human-vanity mirror test to determine whether other life forms are self-aware, science dudes stating emphatically what a life form IS or IS NOT thinking…   give me a break.

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*Schrödinger’s cat                      **Occam’s razor

 

 

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What Is Man…

Posted on May 5, 2014. Filed under: Nature, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

…that you should even consider us, or our descendants that you would stay with them through the whole of time?  We are neither Deity nor Angel, yet, you have accorded us your utmost respect,” said the created to its Creator.

NOT A DIRECT QUOTE — like you couldn’t tell.  That is strictly my interpretation; for the original wording, you are directed to whatever language in which the poet wrote, or the King James Version of The Holy Bible (Psalms 8:4) which, itself, is an abridgement of the original, or to any one of about 6 different versions of the original original.  This is my blog, so, for the moment, you are stuck with my interpretation.

Your words for the day:

  • sentient = sensate; the state of being aware of input from the senses
  • self-aware = an entity’s knowledge that it is separate from everything around it
  • Life’s Prime Directive = every living thing shall attempt to bend circumstances and events (natural and behavioral) to further its own narrow interests in the struggle to survive one more day

Generally, religions concede that Man is of the most inconsequential status in comparison to Deity.  Yet, since Deity accords Man consideration, Man boasts that it is extra special and is the pinnacle of all creation.  With that self-anointing, other creatures are deigned to be totally worthless except to be put to work, eaten or converted into shoes.  Deity gives Man the Insignificant the widest latitude of respect, but, that honored piece of Cosmic flotsam cannot spare even a respectful appraisal, let alone decent treatment, of its fellow travelers through this tortured existence that not one living thing has asked for.

Humans (via The Great Learned) long shouted that only they are sentient.  All other creatures are biological automatons living out their meager lifespans in a dance of instinctive rote so that Man the Insignificant can pretend that it is Deity over them.  Only humans, so the mantra goes, had feelings about existence and could introspectively mull just what it all means.  Animals (everything not human) made cries of pain, but, that was just an instinctive reaction designed to help them live longer to serve Man the Insignificant just a little more.  And characterizing their wails and whimpers as evidence of self-pity was simply humanizing mere animal reaction.  Common folk who lived and worked with non-humans recognized and responded to this mutual inter-species communication.  But, the Great Learned, from the massive towers required to house their massively superior intelligences, just shook their heads and said, “Tut, tut” to the poor, less intelligent masses way down below.

Anyway, that was PLAN A.  Research over the past few decades have shown that many of the behavioral and intellectual traits of humans are shared by an awful lot of non-human beings.  The Great Learned has had to concede that many besides humans are, indeed, sentient.  Lest you think, however, that the Great Learned has admitted that the common masses of humanity are as smart, or even smarter, than they, behold…

The New and Improved PLAN B.  Slicing the “self-aware” implication from the term sentient, the Great Learned slapped a coat of paint on it, mounted it on wheels and gave it its own sitcom.  “Sure, other creatures can feel things just as we do, but, only humans can really think deep about it.”  Don’t think I’m making this up as I go:

  • Darwin, The Descent of Man… :  No animal is self-conscious…   on such matters as whence he comes or whither he will go, or what is life and death, and so forth.”
  • Marc Bekoff Ph. D., Psychology Today, http://www.psychologytoday.com/em/30619.  He said a lot, so I will summarize:  Some animals have self-awareness, there are degrees of self-awareness, more of a sense of mine-ness such as my scent, my buddy, my food;  he said just about as much as he could without saying that “animals have an innate sense of self.”  On the surface, it appears that scientists are embracing the new concepts when, in fact, for every inch of the old way they give up, they add 2 inches of hedging.

It has long been my personal conviction that any life form having to make at least one decision to maintain existence is sentient and self-aware, at least for the duration of that decision making.  The scope of that sentience may not be as grandiose as that experienced by Man the Insignificant (who, by the by, is so great that it can predict the end of the whole world in the far, far distant year of 2012), but, that entity must KNOW WHEN to make its single death-avoiding decision.  Doing it right when it is called for is often the factor allowing continued existence.  What is the point to being sensate if one cannot react in a timely and appropriate manner to the incoming information?  Why would one sidestep an imminent danger if one were not aware of a threat to its personal boundaries?

Sentience, like an object in sunlight, casts its own shadow — that of self-awareness.  Simply put, it means that a life-form receives input from its environment and recognizes that it comes from beyond its corporeal boundaries.  In response to Life’s Prime Directive, that informed entity attempts to maintain its distinctive boundary for as long as it can before its physical components succumb to re-absorption by the reality all around.

There is no point to being sentient without self-awareness, nor can there be self-awareness without being sensate.  It neither diminishes nor enhances the fact of my personal existence to hold that even one-celled animals possess self-awareness, at least to the degree that their available sensory input permits.

I am what I am, they are what they are.  No amount of superior intellectual acrobatics will change that.

 

 

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