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  • dduck12

    It’s a good thing they can’t talk; we would be embarrassed by some of the things they see us do and say.

  • AustinRoth

    Yes indeed. And if you are a dog lover (which I know you are Kathy), you probably heard your whole life how dogs really didn’t know ‘words’; they just reacted to tones and attitudes in our voices. Well, new research seems to vindicate those who said they do too understand us:Your family dog may be smarter than your toddler

    • kathykattenburg

      Counting ability is tested in drills such as one in which treats are dropped, one at a time, behind a screen. When the researcher either sneaks away one of the treats or stealthily adds an extra before raising the screen, the dog will wait longer — appearing to puzzle over the bad math — before eating the treats.

      From that article you linked, AR: Too, too funny. I really do love dogs. All animals, really.

  • Silhouette

    Assuming they have no cognitive abilities was a subject of a heated debate between myself and my Psych 101 professor at university. In the end he and I were at loggerheads.To say an animal cannot think, feel or reason like we do is to say that a mute person cannot either. Which is ridiculous. They just can’t speak like we can or use opposable thumbs. [animals that is] That’s the only thing that really set man apart. Forget the family dog being smarter than a toddler. I know some animals that are smarter than most of the guys down at the pub.They’ve been studied for years in comparative psychology. Skinner’s rats. Pavlov’s dog. We know the comparisons are out there and that we fall in line. We just don’t want to admit them to ourselves. After all, we eat them so they can’t have feelings right? I’ve got to shoot a goat this week and it just bums me out every time. Even though she’s suffering and it will be for the best, it still pulls me up short to just walk up to an unsuspecting critter and BAM!, put their lights out. I suppose it’s a good thing that it bothers me a bit. I’d hate to reach the point where it didn’t..Every little living thing is part of the Plan [with a capital P]. How do we kill and eat that which we love and tend to? That’s a farmer’s moral tightrope to walk for sure. The native american’s resolved the issue by praying for each life they took and making the most of the resource. They assured ‘The Spirit” that someday their body would also serves as food for something else and they spoke aloud that they were thankful. They consider animals to be their brothers and they are keenly aware of how precarious their own lives are each and every single day. This humbles the tendency to become a hardened slaughterer and puts a spiritual aspect into the act of taking another life for food or protection or whatever. I think this is a large part of why they consider[ed?] the invaders to be absolutely bonkers mentally. That and their refusal to bathe regularly. I digress..sort of. I mean we are comparing people and animals right?..lol..I’ve seen animals interact for decades. Each species has their own language and it is quite effective for carrying on the business particular to each type. I’ve learned to “talk” to them in their own dialect and you can too. If you watch their body postures, various myriad and subtle eye-gazes, or even their lashing out at or cuddling with each other, you can tap into their lingo. There is also a method I use to communicate, especially with animals I’m training and that is, as silly as it sounds, to “feel like I like them”. I just put my hand near their head, gaze into their eyes and “tell” them without words that I like them, that I’m not going to hurt them and that what I’m doing will be OK. Without fail the head will drop, the mouth relax and the bond of trust will begin.

    • kathykattenburg

      My daughter has been a committed vegetarian for years. I have to admit I’m not there yet — I still eat chicken and fish. But I do greatly admire people who have taken that extra step as part of their love for animals.

    • archangel

      Sil, the ‘anthromorphizing’ of animals is a very old, crud science, stance, that many good people still carry, and some dolts carry too. I see y ou rest on your own experiences. That’s good. A few of the profs and students of profs who still stand on that old junk psych re animals, also tend to underestimate human beings too.

      • AustinRoth

        the ‘anthromorphizing’ of animals is a very old, crud science, stance

        But so is the opposite stance, anti-anthropomorphiztion – the denying that traits that are considered uniquely ‘human’ exist in other animals. The list of those that have over time been disproved is very extensive, such as self-awareness, tool use, cognitive thinking, true family and tribal units, recreational sex, awareness, memory of and reverence for their own dead, empathy towards both same-species and non-species members, etc.

        We have a strong emotional and intellectual need, it seems, to identify ourselves as something more than just the dominant species of the planet, to be the one that is ‘special’ compared to all other animals.

        But for those of us who do not believe in the Divinity of Man, i.e., that we are endowed by some God, Entity, Force, whatever, with a true innate uniqueness and superiority over the other species, the simple fact is that we are indeed just another animal of the planet Earth, more evolved in some aspects and less evolved in others when we compare ourselves to the other species, and that all the traits that make us ‘human’ in our minds can be found to one extent or another in one or another of those species.

  • Father_Time

    “They just can’t speak like we can or use opposable thumbs. [animals that is] That’s the only thing that really set man apart”–

    Ahem…..Monkey.

    “Every little living thing is part of the Plan”–

    What plan? If you can imagine a plan then you can rationalize away far to many critical actions that need to be, or, should have been taken for the advancement of the human species. Being careful not to dwell in fantasies helps us spend or concentrations on objective facts and empirical evidence.

  • DLS

    “Without fail the head will drop, the mouth relax and the bond of trust will begin.”

    And to make it timely, the repeating will then begin: “Hope.” “Change.”

    • kathykattenburg

      And to make it timely, the repeating will then begin: “Hope.” “Change.”

      DLS, you are pathetic. Really. Just pathetic. This is the difference between you, and any of the other conservatives I argue with here — even the ones where it gets most heated. You just have no capacity for connecting on any other level.

      • AustinRoth

        even the ones where it gets most heated

        Hmmm. That group wouldn’t include me, would it? Actually, does it include anyone other than me?

        🙂

        • kathykattenburg

          Well…. yes and no. There are others I disagree with here on pretty much everything, but if I post on something unrelated to politics (which admittedly I don’t often do), they are still capable of responding in a way that does not bring the subject back round to their political disagreements with me.

  • Silhouette

    … I guess I should clarify:The “Plan” is just my own belief system. You need not subscribe. I don’t involve the colts I train in politics so I don’t whisper “hope” or “change” in their ears…lol.. OK, well if I’m asking them to change the lead they’re on maybe..

  • DLS

    “I don’t involve the colts I train in politics so I don’t whisper “hope” or “change” in their ears…lol.. ”

    Susceptible, exploitable members of the public are being trained, or at least this is being attempted. That lies at the core of the continued “campaign” strategy of Team Obama eleven months after winning the election. (You know, like “revolutions” that continue indefinitely in leftist nations after the government has been overthrown.)

    • kathykattenburg

      That lies at the core of the continued “campaign” strategy of Team Obama eleven months after winning the election.

      DLS, I know you can’t help yourself, but I would appreciate it if you would keep lines about “Team Obama” off of my thread about animals and humans. This thread is about my post on animals and humans. It’s not about partisan politics. Ninety-nine percent of the other threads are about politics, and God knows I love arguing about politics. So spout off on one of those other threads, not this one, please.

  • mikkel

    People seem to have a hard time hitting the right balance between appreciating animal capabilities for intelligence, emotion and even “morality” while not over anthropomorphizing them. In the past we (well scientifically speaking) have treated animals as more like machines that are preprogrammed and have nothing in common with us, but all too often I hear people that object to that going overboard in assuming that animals do things for the same reason.

    When I heard about the Dog Whisperer I thought he would just be along the same lines (like so many pet psychologists that analyze behavior as they were furry people) but he does the best job I’ve seen of respecting ability while also making it clear that motivations and communication are entirely different in dogs and that by not being aware of that, it makes a lot of dogs upset.

    • Mikkel —
      I definitely agree with your premise. I think the original article did a pretty good job of keeping the anthropomorphization to a minimum. I was holding my breath waiting for some large generalization about “we see that monkeys display [x behavior], therefore it’s only natural for men to cheat on their wives and for women to be money-grubbing whores!”. Drives me up the wall. It’s pretty fair to say that animals have emotions or “morality”, and to try to understand evolutionary development of social animals, but so often these articles go too far. I was glad to see this one didn’t.

    • kathykattenburg

      Oh, I *love* the Dog Whisperer! Sadly, I cannot watch that show anymore because it’s on a cable channel I can no longer get. Did you see the episode where all Cesar Millan’s former clients threw a huge party for him, and the Surprise Guest was Lassie, and Millan almost cried when he saw her? That one did me in.

    • CStanley

      I’m agree completely with your comment, mikkel. Not sure if anyone is still visiting this thread but I didn’t get a chance to check it out yesterday, and my immediate thought just at the title was in regard to the exaggerated anthropomorphizing that often happens when reading these kinds of studies lately (whereas in the past I also agree that there was a completely utilitarian attitude toward animals.)

      And interesting that you brought up Cesar Milan because I agree completely there too. He respects dogs for being dogs, with all of their unique qualities, and that’s why he is able to bond and affect behavior so well. I recommend his techniques to all of my clients, but I often find that people don’t ‘get it’ because they actually prefer to think of their pets as humanoid companions and they don’t want to think about how the dogs react to being treated that way. And that’s fine as far as it goes, but it’s frustrating for someone to ask my advice on changing a behavior that they can’t live with when they’re unwilling to change other behaviors that they find desirable.

      Anyway, I’ll also mention that another thought I had before reading the thread was that it might have been about this story, which I really did find rather touching.

      • mikkel

        Yes, chimps and gorillas have complex social rules that really come out when there is a death, but for my money I’d say the most amazing display is amongst elephants. Not only are the important elephants given “funerals” but they send out the call over hundreds of miles and elephants from other groups come to “give condolences” and leave while the host herd waits for days. That is incredible to me.It also highlights another point that has been long overlooked but is starting to get more attention, and that is how important social mores are for trying to infer intelligence. Elephants have the most complex death rites I know of, and given that it’d be tempting to say that they were really intelligent. While they are fairly intelligent, it’s hard to judge how much. That’s because most intelligent creatures are predators and are either solitary or based on small groups, while elephants have scalable herds and social structures that are completely dependent on the distribution of food available. You’d never see a chimp or gorilla give respect to a different clan because their social structure would forbid it. Similarly, the great apes are really touchy about the dominance of the alpha male and the amount of display shown seems to be related somehow to his acquiescence. Elephants have a more distributed social power structure.

        • CStanley

          Elephants are my second favorite animal after dogs, so I find the grief rituals fascinating too.

          I think the take home points about intelligence and social structures is that each species has its own adaptations based on the social needs of the species- and that’s again a reason not to anthropomorphize. Of course just the fact that there’s evidence of the evolutionary basis for social adaptations and advancements which rely on more advanced cognition can be a source of discomfort for some people with religious viewpoints, but personally I don’t consider it any more of a deal breaker than heliocentrism ultimately proved to be.

          • kathykattenburg

            Elephants are my second favorite animal after dogs…

            What about cats? 🙁

          • CStanley

            Cats are interesting to me, and individual ones are really, really cool- while others I just don’t connect with as well. Although I try not to let on to my clients, and have a great rapport with my feline patients (I’m told) I can’t deny that by nature I’m much more of a ‘dog person’.

          • kathykattenburg

            Spoken like a diplomat, Christine. 🙂

            I know you work in a vet’s office, but I’m not clear on what you do. Are you a vet yourself? A technician?

          • CStanley

            I’m a veterinarian, yes.

  • Silhouette

    ROFLMAO!””I don’t involve the colts I train in politics so I don’t whisper “hope” or “change” in their ears…lol.. “Susceptible, exploitable members of the public are being trained, or at least this is being attempted. That lies at the core of the continued “campaign” strategy of Team Obama eleven months after winning the election. (You know, like “revolutions” that continue indefinitely in leftist nations after the government has been overthrown.)”~DLS*******Here’s some more animal/farm wisdom for you: “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”…lol…

    Here’s some more bucolic wisdom:

    1. Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

    2. The pot ought not to call the kettle black.

    3. Remove the log from your eye before you ask someone else to remove the twig from theirs.

    Back to the subject..

    As to anthropomorphizing animals..this was the gist of the debate between my professor and me. We have no real actual way of saying they don’t have feelings, thoughts and so on. But we do have ways to tell if they do. And there is much evidence to that. I like to hang my hat on a solid peg instead of a theoretical one..

  • JSpencer

    “I know some animals that are smarter than most of the guys down at the pub.”There have been (and are) animals in my life whose company I prefer to that of many people. They often act with more dignity, intelligence, and good sense than people do, and are usually more tuned in to what is going on around them. Maybe I’ve just been blessed with particularly high functioning critters. 🙂 That said, my aussie went out and found something nasty to roll in a few nights ago and I had to give her a bath. Not a very dignified action, although I expect it made more sense to her than to me.

  • DLS

    Kathy, calm down. The opportunity for a quick space shot was right there, a tee ball. You even diverged yourself, into vegetarianism (which isn’t strictly related to animal intelligence, but to ethics, morality, and philosophy, as my vegan friend in DC would be happy to recall aloud). Should I, too, overreact and start yammering at you? (No, and I won’t.)

    • JSpencer

      “Should I, too, overreact and start yammering at you?” ~ DLS

      Interesting comment. I wasn’t aware that you’d ever stopped.

      • kathykattenburg

        Interesting comment. I wasn’t aware that you’d ever stopped.

        🙂 🙂

  • DLS

    “over anthropomorphizing them”

    Sometimes they clearly are intelligent, and at other times they may be imitating humans, or viewing humans as not that different from themselves. When I was growing up, we had a cat who clearly had learned the cause-and-effect relationship between turning a door knob and opening a door; when it wanted to go from one room to another in the house, we saw it reaching up with its paws on the door knob, attempting to turn it, and we’d check at other times if the cat wanted to go through the doorway by holding it up to the door knob; if it wanted to go through, it would reach for the knob, otherwise it would not, and sometimes turn away.

    • mikkel

      You can teach a cat to be toilet trained, but I’ve read it’s not advisable to train them how to actually flush the toilet because most cats are mesmerized with running water and will flush it for hours on end.

      Still, most of the stuff I’ve read about how to train them takes the cat perspective and how you have to coopt their natural impulses to channel it into a human oriented appliance.

  • DLS

    “Here’s some more bucolic wisdom”

    Not where it doesn’t apply, Sil — and if it may be projection, that’s where it is remarkable.

  • DLS

    “how you have to coopt their natural impulses to channel it into a human oriented appliance”

    In addition to being a vegan, my friend in DC is an animal rescuer and home-finder, and (sane) animal rights activist. She finds that at some point this cooption and channeling is wrongful (and anthropocentric), from an ethical standpoint. (I’m preoccupied with thinking about the difficulty and the danger where the big cats are being trained, who cannot be domesticated, but merely tamed, and even then, far from reliably so, necessarily.)

  • DLS

    “I wasn’t aware that you’d ever stopped.”

    You have demonstrated numerous problems lately with your “awareness.”

  • “Elephants are my second favorite animal after dogs…What about cats? :-(“Reptiles rule, mammals drool!

  • kathykattenburg

    Reptiles rule, mammals drool!

    Um, should I take this to mean you like neither dogs nor cats? 😐

    • Dogs and cats are cool, but neither hold a candle to the coolness of a snake or a skink. 🙂

      • kathykattenburg

        Is a skink a skunk? I’ll tell you something. I once allowed a python to be placed around my neck. It was on a field trip I went on with my daughter and her sixth-grade science class. Her science teacher (an extremely cool man — one of the best teachers Maggie ever had) was standing right there to leap into action the instant I would start to lose it. :-)But I had to at least match his coolness. :-)Having said that, I think I will stick with cats (and I hope, very soon, dogs).

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