The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 14th, 2015: Intelligence

happy_valentines_day_by_plusonedead cupid

And with that tribute to Saint Valentine out of the way, let’s move on…

Last night on Bill Maher, David Duchovny was the second interview guest, promoting his new novel, “Holy Cow!” The book, according to USA Today, is “…about a talking cow, pig and turkey that go on the lam when they discover they’re destined for the dinner table.” During the interview, Duchovny discussed (in part) animal rights, and briefly mentioned that cases were being brought to court regarding captive chimpanzees.

His mention of the chimpanzee cases coincided with an article from BuzzFeed that I was in the middle of reading just before Real Time started. The article, “People Are Animals, Too” by Peter Aldhous, opens with a couple of paragraphs about the Nonhuman Rights Project’s Steven Wise, who is arguing for “personhood” under New York State law for a chimpanzee called ‘Tommy.’ Here’s an excerpt:

“Central to Wise’s arguments in Tommy’s case, and to similar suits his organization has filed on behalf of other captive chimpanzees, is the assertion that apes are highly intelligent and self-aware beings with complex emotional lives. “The uncontroverted facts demonstrate that chimpanzees possess the autonomy and self-determination that are supreme common law values,” Wise told the five judges hearing the case.”

The article discusses aspects of various studies on animal intelligence, touching on crows, scrub jays, wolves, even octopi and cuttlefish. And, of course, no article on animal intelligence would be complete without a mention, however brief, of my co-worker’s friends’ son, Josh Plotnik, whose college studies and subsequent career I have been made aware of, and have been jealous of because he gets to study elephants. From the article:

“Some researchers working on vertebrate cognition, meanwhile, are starting to reject the field’s anthropocentric biases. In Thailand’s Golden Triangle, Josh Plotnik of the University of Cambridge works at a luxury resort that is home to a group of elephants, which, when not giving rides to tourists, take part in his research. Plotnik started with the usual roster of experiments tried on young children and chimps, including the mirror test. But he now realizes that he needs to better understand the elephants’ sensory world — dominated by odors and low-frequency sounds — before he can work out how to explore the full scope of their cognitive abilities.

“It would be very unethical of me to take all of the chimp experiments and just run them on the elephants,” Plotnik says. “I’d be publishing all these negative results, saying: ‘Elephants can’t do this. Elephants can’t do that.’ When in fact, they probably could, if we asked the questions the right way.”

Speaking of elephants, it was on a Valentine’s Day, maybe 35 years ago, when an Indian elephant wrapped its trunk around my arm to pull me closer, and a tiger thoroughly washed my hand – certainly the most unusual Valentine’s Day I’ve ever experienced. So I guess this turned out to be a sort of Valentine’s Day thread after all. Oh, well!
Happy Valentines Day Wallpaper

This is our daily Open Thread, so, open up!

33 thoughts on “The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 14th, 2015: Intelligence

  1. This guy can’t be pigeonholed. The RWNJs are claiming he’s a ‘Progressive’ because of his atheism, and his likes on his Facebook page, but he’s apparently a Muslim-hating gun nut like most of them.

    Chapel Hill Suspect Owned Huge Arsenal

    Search warrants show the suspect in the shooting deaths of three Muslim college students in North Carolina had an arsenal of a dozen firearms in the home he shared with his wife, along with a large stash of ammunition.

    Records filed in Durham County superior court on Friday list items recovered by police from the Chapel Hill condominium of Craig Stephen Hicks, the 46-year-old charged with three counts of first-degree murder. The warrants show that three handguns were recovered from the Hicks home, in addition to a pistol the suspect had with him when arrested. Also listed are two shotguns and seven rifles, including a military-style AR-15 carbine. Police also recovered numerous loaded magazines and cases of ammunition. Eight spent shell-casings were found in the neighboring apartment of the young couple killed.

  2. Thinking of Chimpanzees and ‘personhood’ brings to mind this quote:

    “I do not want to discuss evolution … only touch on it from my own perspective: from the moment when I stood on the Serengeti plains holding the fossilized bones of ancient creatures in my hands to the moment when, staring into the eyes of a chimpanzee, I saw a thinking, reasoning personality looking back. You may not believe in evolution, and that is all right. How we humans came to be the way we are is far less important than how we should act now to get out of the mess we have made for ourselves. How should the mind that can contemplate God relate to our fellow beings, the other life-forms of the world? What is our human responsibility? And what, ultimately, is our human destiny?” ~Jane Goodall in Reason for hope

    Goodall clearly never bought into the biblical crap that man is created in God’s image. Only Teh Stupid among us are unable to grasp the god was created in MAN’S image, and that man is “superior” to NO other life form in any way other than in our ability to destroy. That factoid will finally become clear enough for all (except Republicans, who are by definition INferior to everything anywhere) to see when human-induced severe climate change brings on the sixth mass extinction.

    • I often wonder how man managed to survive back in the day, before language had been invented (or was in the process of being invented).

      Sure we’re clever, but in the wild we’re not very durable. We don’t run particularly fast. We don’t have fur, so temperature swings are a problem for us. We’ not particularly strong, when compared to animals of similar size. And our young wail loudly to alert all other animals to our presence.

      • The answer to that question is the ultimate refutation of libertarianism, which seeks to deny any benefit to society. “There is no ‘we’.” If ‘we’ didn’t exist, humans would have disappeared long long ago.

    • Then there’s this:

      Sandy Rios: ‘The Real Experts’ Know Evolution Has Been ‘Disproven’

      American Family Association governmental affairs director Sandy Rios is upset that media commentators like George Will are mocking Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for refusing to say this week whether he believes in evolution. After all, Rios explained on her radio show today, “science has done nothing but disprove the theory of evolution.”

      “There is no scientific evidence” to substantiate evolution, she said, at least according to “the real experts.” So why has this stunning revelation that the foundational theory behind modern biology has been refuted not percolated through the scientific community? Well, Rios explained, that’s because evolution has become a sacred, religious tenant.

      “Evolution has become the religion of the elite,” Rios said. “It’s a religion to the [level of] fanaticism of what they would say was the people at the Scopes monkey trial, the Christians waving their Bibles who were not really thinking through the facts, they were just outraged because it was against God’s law. The truth of the matter is that the evolutionists like George Will, waving their evolutionary theory, have become as rabid and unreasoned as what they accuse the Scopes monkey religionists of doing to Darwin during that time. It has become a religion. Science has disproven so much of evolution…. These guys are wrong, Scott Walker is right.”

  3. (figured something was up when standing in line at the market there were lots of bouquets, wine, chocolate shoppers)



    • I’m guessing that 98.44% of said registry is already up in the form of Republican voters, candidates, and those already elected to whatever.

      I have no fear of ISIL, but I do worry about 2016 and the ‘terrorist’ potential of the Republican ticket. You know, like for example Rubio, Paul, Christie, Huckabee, Perry, Walker, Cruz, Bush, Carson, Santorum, Jindal, Trump, Graham plus a few other idiots. ISIL? Nah. Relatively harmless by comparison.

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