27 December 2014

Solely instinct? Wrong.

     I sometimes meet people who don't believe that  an animal can feel any emotion other than fear. They don't believe that an animal can think, or reason, or dream.They don't believe that animals really have lives and thoughts and worlds of their own.

    This is a hangover from the Descartian philosophy. Descarte was convinced-and pontificated-that animals were merely animated machines. They were incapable of emotions like love, hatred, fear, or physiological ones such as hunger, pain, or cold. He demonstrated this to people who disagreed with him (even back then there were enlightened folks) by nailing a living dog to a gate, and then explaining its anguished screams as merely labored exhalations caused by the unnatural, head down position of the dog.

     This philosophy was by no means unusual. Pope Pius number I don't know which made it 'law' that  animals didn't go to heaven because they had no souls. (He was also the pope that made it law that popes were infallible. Talk about circuitous reasoning!)

     This decree was merely the capstone of a belief that was almost universal as well as ancient. Many people believed otherwise, such as the Native Americans and Buddhists, but in general, "advanced' societies bought into the idea that animals could be treated inhumanely.   It was the philosophy that allowed humans to treat animals with the utmost cruelty, neglect, and maltreatment. The horse that was whipped to pull a much too heavy load was not incapable of the work, it was merely trying to escape the (probably less painful) sting of the whip or  just  lazy (interestingly, a undesirable characteristic, such as laziness or meanness, was fully attributed to the animal.  The Puritans would hang a horse along with it's criminal master, punishing it for being an accessory to the crime.) It was no different than the use one gave a tool, like a hammer. Once it broke, dispose of it. (as an aside, I cheer the current Pope, Francis, for stating that animals do too go to heaven.)

   This dogma, if you will, was so pervasive that scientists used it to justify painful experiments on animals AND in some cases, fellow humans. An especially thick headed refusal to use common sense is the practice of circumcising male human infants without benefit of a topical painkiller.

     In the US, at least, things have and continue to change, but slowly. The arena of animal experimentation is an especially contentious one. It's impossible to create a new drug without experimentation, but it is morally, ethically and illegal to test new medical procedures and medications on humans (although there are many humans I think would be ideally suited to experimenting on, just to punish them...but there you are. That's the problem.)

     Scientific experiments sometimes cause death, and courts (not to mention the families of people being experimented on) don't look kindly on such results.

    So they use animals, that have no civil rights.  Scientists and researchers who can't be bothered to properly sedate or anaesthetize an animal justify it by saying that such medication may skew the results. I suspect it truly is because such work costs more money, or puts the researcher in danger of being bitten, or for so many other reasons. Oh dear.   I won't go any further into this realm, I could go for days.

   Researchers merely put scientific jargon in Descartes mouth. They called an animals actions 'instinct', and insisted that animals were wholly instinctive animals. The mothering of a baby, feeding it, teaching it to hunt or flee from a predator, establishing a relationship with another herd member-these and other actions were merely instinctive acts. The animal didn't really love its young. The animal didn't really prefer the company of another herdmember.  They insist that the dog at your feet is incapable of anything but an instinctive drive to coerce you into feeding, grooming and housing it. They don't mention that living with apes is certainly not natural, and dogs shouldn't have such instincts that allow it to do so.

    This not to say that animals aren't instinctive. They most definitely are. Many of their actions ARE due to instinct. But they aren't solely instinctive creatures. 

   Hypocritically, they wholeheartedly agree that a human infant exhibits instincts: the sucking reflex is the very first one to kick in. But infant humans have other instincts less well known, because we no longer live on the African savannah. For instance, the reason babies used to be slapped upon birth was to get it to breathe. Somewhere in our past, we had an aquatic lifestyle, because infants instinctively don't breathe when they first exit the birth canal.  Some cultures take advantage of this by having women give birth in water, depending on the infant to hold its breath until it is brought to the waters surface to take a deep breath. In this same vein, infant humans also instinctively swim, and retain that ability to swim, even underwater, until the age of six months or so.
    Yet no one claims that human infants, creatures that really DO operate solely on instinct for several months, don't 'feel emotions'.

   I guess they also believe that humans are somehow not animals.
 

   You and I know differently. You know that animals think, reason, feel. I know this because you wouldn't be reading a blog about an animal you're crazy about.

   You know your horse has the same gamut of emotion and feelings you do. That's not to say that horses think the same way you do. No, a horse thinks like a horse. He values horse things.

The sin that animal behaviorists were taught for years to avoid was that of 'anthropomorphizing'. To anthropomorphize was to 'attribute human values to the actions or reactions of an animal."
The concept was, animals couldn't be tested to find out if they really thought, emoted, or dreamed, therefore, they did not.  It didn't matter that they were unable or unwilling to learn to speak their study animal's language. The guinea pig couldn't say 'I am hurting', therefore, the scientist attibuted it to the animal being incapable of feeling pain.

    The tests were created, monitored and scored by humans. Thus, they were biased.  Because a mouse can't read the arrow that pointed to the maze exit, it meant the mouse was stupid. Animals refuse to learn their ABC's.  Obviously that means they are stupid.


   Well, that is so much bullshit, too, and you've seen it. No, my cat may not ever wonder where in the world am I going to find the money to feed her. She doesn't think that way. She is incapable of understanding money, or economics, or being paid by someone else to do work, or going to the feed store to purchase food, or paying the utilities so we all can sleep in a nice warm house. None of these things are within her mind, or even her capacity to understand. What she DOES understand is that I am the Filler of the Bowl. What she does understand, and know, is that she must, every time she feels a hunger pang, come and rub up against my leg, or sit and stare at me, until I fill the bowl for her. Where it comes from she doesn't know, or care.
    And she is, too, capable of loving me, without the impetus of hunger to tell me so.

   Researchers who marginalized scientists for anthropomorphizing had, apparently, never  thought that animals were just as capable of doing it to us. They apparently had never loved a pet. They did not want to believe that a dog was capable of caninomorphizing (meaning, attributing canid values to a human). Yet it was in front of their very eyes. Conducting an experiment to conclude that a dog is most definitely capable of attributing canine values to a human is easy to conduct. Have the owner, a stranger to you, give his equally strange to you dog a juicy raw bone, covered with raw meat. Now try to take that bone away from the dog. What happens? You get a snap and a growl if you're lucky, and a full out bite/attack if you're not. Why? Do you want that nasty, raw bone? Hell, no. But the DOG values it, very much so. He knows you want it and will try to take it from him because he is caninomorphizing-attributing HIS canine values (that of the bone) to YOU, the human.

    Why is this not factored into the theorizing that an animal has the full suite of emotions and feelings that we do?

    Because it's inconvenient. 

    Because believing that a dog is in incapable of love, doesn't want to be free to move around where and when he will, makes it easier to do things to it-like keep it chained in the backyard to a tree.

    Because it's easier to think that the monkey in the cage is shrieking because it wants food rather than because it is insane from being caged.

          It makes it easier to put a severe bit in the mouth of a horse rather than try and work with the animal to get it to do what you want. 

    Yes, most animals are incapable of passing tests that an average three year old human can ace.

     Yet the folks who insist animals cannot think do not see the proof that they DO, despite it being right in front of their eyes.

     How 'natural' is it for a cow to live in a barn, and allow a machine to be placed on its milk distended udder? How natural is it for a horse to willingly enter a claustrophobic box that moves? Or to allow a man to put metal in its mouth, get on its back and ask it to chase a cow? How natural is it for a dog to allow itself to be dressed in dolly clothes and carried about in a purse?

    It's not. But they allow it. Only by being able to think, and reason, and learn that such actions, while odd, don't hurt it, and usually are followed by other, nicer things like eating, petting, etc. And most of our companion animals actually do things that are unnatural because they LIKE it. I know horses that adore jumping. I know dogs who would rather go for a ride in the car than eat. My neighbor had a chicken that was raised by ducks, and believed it was a duck, and couldn't understand how it just wasn't able to float atop the water.

    To the researchers who insist animals cannot think, reason or emote, I give this challenge. Lets see a more balanced and unbiased experiment.

    Let's have the researcher go out onto the prairie with a domesticated horse. Somewhere in the vastness is a body of water. All about him is grassland-no trees, no rocks, not a bit of civilization. It's high summer or deep winter.

    We want the researcher in the exact same condition as the horses. Naked. Shoeless. Carrying nothing-no bottles of water, no food, no tools, no weapons,  no shelter. He is in the exact same condition he was in at birth.
    To be a true scientist, in order to truly dismiss the concept that animals can't think, he must be exactly the same physical condition as the horses. No, he cannot ride the horse. No he cannot kill the horse and eat it.  No, he must subject himself to the exact same conditions the horse is in, in order to truly see who is intelligent, who can think and make decisions.

   Leave the man and the horse out there for two weeks.

   Who do you think is going to survive?


   
   


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