E. O. Wilson’s latest book, The Social Conquest of Earth, has generated the usual firestorm. Wilson couldn’t publish a bus schedule without complaints from a large group of angry scientists who prefer the train.
So it’s a little unusual to encounter so close together two predominately positive references to Wilson.
The first is admiring passages in Jonathan Haidt’s new book, The Righteous Self. (Review to come — I’m still reading.) The second is last week’s Wall Street Journal article, “Evolution Revolution,” by Michael Gazzaniga.
We often attribute feelings and emotions to members of other mammalian species.
Our dogs are loyal, while our cats are haughty. Orcas who live in aquarium tanks miss the open sea, and chimpanzee mothers mourn for infants that have died.
The list goes on and on.
Entire ethical movements are based on a belief that cultivated animals feel pleasure and pain in the same ways that we do. One current example is the push to recognize higher animals like dolphins and chimpanzees as “intelligent non-human persons.”
But how much can we learn about our own emotions by looking for emotions in animals? Is there a better way to do comparative studies?
It’s a story for everyone from Apple addicts to ape lovers.
According to “Apps for apes: Orangutans want iPads for Christmas,” published by New Scientist on December 28th, orangs at the Milwaukee zoo are gaga over the gadget.
It makes a feel-good story, especially as spun by the article’s author, Julian Smith.
But there’s more potential, and more to think about, than how cute the big orange apes look when they try out the latest apps.
One popular way to describe our brains is to think of them as composed of three parts, arranged from most primitive to most advanced.
At the top is the human brain, where we think. This lies both figuratively and literally on top of the mammal brain, where we perceive and respond physically to our surroundings. At the bottom is the reptile brain. Here we experience our basest feelings and instincts.
But one reptile, the red-footed tortoise, is working to upset that comfortable hierarchy.
As a teenager, I was addicted to sci-fi of all kinds.
One of the most persistent and intriguing conventions of the space adventure subgenre is “first contact,” initial encounters between humans and sentient aliens.
Often, these aliens have been depicted as having descended from non-mammals, usually dinosaurs. The common premise is that on some planets, dinosaurs survived and evolved into intelligent, technological species.