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Re: Social Biology and Dinosaur Behavior
---Chris Campbell <Sankarah@ou.edu> wrote:
> What you have to keep in mind here is that you don't know what animals
> "get." We're on the outside of the looking glass, looking in. We see
> things happen, but we don't know why. The best we can do is assume
> the universe operates according to some intelligible norms (and its
> inhabitants as well). We assume they have good reasons for doing
> and try to decipher them. But we don't know what they do or do not
Which is the reason I suggest that we become better acquainted with
social biology before we hope to hypothesize intelligently about
animal behavior. Otherwise we're working off the top of our (human)
heads and supplying healthy doses of anthropomorphization.
An example: Victorian observers believed that certain African
predators who'd just made a kill felt guilty about what they'd just
done because they looked hesitant and peered sheepishly around the
carcass (ignoring the simpler explanation that they were scouting out
something that might come along and rob them of the kill). Victorians
felt (more than a little hypocritically, might I interject) that this
killing was "wrong" and that the animal might feel guilt at having
taken a life.
> Not necessarily. We also have to keep in mind that some forms of
> cooperation are not only highly efficient but also extremely simple.
I suspect that this is more anthropomorphization. We cooperate, so we
assume cooperation is simple.
> I wouldn't mind if you'd actually observed proper netiquette and asked
> permission first. It wouldn't take much, and posting mail in this
> extremely rude.
You are upset. Well, I'm sorry then.
>Be that as it may, yes, I would want to cooperate if times
> were tough, but not because I'd figured out why this is a good idea.
As a human being, you of course would. But tigers generally don't,
savannah monitors don't, an entire huge range of animals don't.
> but characterizing a behavior as
> cooperative is fine so long as we have our definitions straight.
Well, that's correct of course, and that's what I'm suggesting -- that
we get our definitions straight.
> The best book on the topic is Wilson's _Sociobiology_. The first
> chapters are enormously controversial, but the bulk of the book in
> is quite excellent. Other works to consider include anything from
> Trivers, Nico Tinbergen, W. D. Hamilton, and R. D. Alexander. These
> get you started nicely.
Glad to have the correct title and the other references. Hope others
who partake in these discussions read these.
> Remember that some on the list have actually
> read the extant literature on social behavior and know what they're
> about (though of course no one knows much about dinosaur social
> all is speculation there). You might not agree with their
> that doesn't mean they're "talking out of [their] respective asses"
Of course, as long as they actually have, they're not (the point of my
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