Blast from the Past
IGF 2010 Finalists (ihobo)

Squirrels Better Communicators Than You

The BBC recently published an article claiming that "A tiny rodent may have the most sophisticated language of any animal", in reference to the language of a particular species of ground squirrel, the prairie dog. Wow! This is a bold claim, since I was under the impression that humans have the most sophisticated language of any animal.

Anthropocentric views have not disappeared, as is sometimes claimed, but remain embedded in the most innocent of statements. It may seem that prefacing "non-human"  to "animal" in the above sentence was unnecessary, but why? One of the shifts in worldview alleged to have been brought about by evolutionary perspectives was precisely the positioning of humanity in the wider context of life - the admission, in effect, that humans are animals. But a great many people do not think this way. They still see 'animal' as a category set apart from 'human'.


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And I though the communication used by dolphins has been found both to be very complex and at the same time mostly uninterpreted by people.
Combined with the physiology of their brain, I though they have the potential to beat human brains.
Not sure if they could beat prairie dogs.

It does suggest an inter-species language Olympics: humans versus dolphins versus prairie dogs. Fight! :D

While I agree, it's based on independent evidence. Careful with this.

Assume that anthropocentric views have indeed disappeared. Then, the 'non-human' is redundant because we can tell it only includes non-humans from context, rather than being redundant as 'animals' is non-human by definition.

In Olympics, I'd bet on whales over dolphins. Round two!

Alrenous: reading about Speculative Realism (which by embracing nihilism believes it is finally expunging anthropocentrism - a claim I find doubtful), I discover I have a powerful inclination to push in the other way - to resurrect anthropomorphism in a new form.

For instance, for centuries scientists of various kinds have argued of the danger of interpreting animal behaviour in human terms - but having spent considerable time observing certain species (especially squirrels) and studying neurobiology, I now begin to suspect there is a common perspective here that can reasonably be applied between species. To say the squirrel does not feel pain or fear, for instance (as once might have been claimed) is patently absurd.

When one can find certain behaviours in vertebrates from frogs to dogs, this suggests to me not that humans have to be treated differently in all respects, but rather that there is both common ground and unique distinctions throughout the animal kingdom. Perhaps what I'm proposing is not anthropocentrism but "pananthropic" principles...

I shall continue to mull...

"In Olympics, I'd bet on whales over dolphins."

I don't know, if it's on land they're both in trouble. :p

I once grabbed a housefly by a leg to watch it respond. Its response was clearly panic.

Or; the fly response to threats is so close to the state we term 'panic' that marking the difference is probably just pedantry. However, this doesn't address the issue about whether we should have sympathy for flies or not, which is probably found in your unique distinctions.

But I hope not. I can't even remember what I ultimately did with that fly.

"I don't know, if it's on land they're both in trouble. :p"

Elephants, then. Round three!

Alrenous: Yes, we enter a weird space with insects... they have "proto-emotions" that are recognisable, but it seems apparent that they don't cognise the world in anything like the manner we do. What this means ethically is, as usual, a question for the individual to determine.

I try to treat insects with respect - with the exception of mosquitoes, for which there is a standing death sentence in my house. (Indeed, even closely resembling a mosquito is punishable by death under my roof).

As for the elephants, short of extinct forms of life they'd seem like a good bet on land. ;)

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