Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I know Chimpanzees have wars,

But do they have genocides? Are they capable of that level of cruelty, or is that a particularly human thing? And if it's human, what has our intellect given us that hasn't been more than made up for with our peculiar brand of evil?

Perhaps Rousseau was right - our society, the very things that make us human, is only a breeding ground for inequality, brutality, and evil. We'd all be better off if we lived like gorillas. Or something.

Dolphins are the only other animals that have recreational sex. I think they "murder" and "rape" too. (Or at least there's stuff like it? How would you know if a dolphin raped another dolphin? I guess you can tell if one of them is trying to swim away and fails. It seems like it would be so rare that it would be hard to catch in the act. And it also seems like you would need to. It's not like you can talk to dolphins and ask them if they had ever been raped.) Do they have serial killers? Despots? Is our desire for recreational sex at the bottom of our cruelty and violence, and not perhaps our conciousness? We have libido to repress, and it comes out in violence. Whereas other animals do not have to repress their libido, so they can live in peace. That'd be... weird. Almost biblical in the twisted sort of way that my mind works.

According to Elie Wiesel, evil is a particularly human thing. Animals aren't evil, people are. Which brings it back to what started this, which is Hitler, and genocide, and what it says about our existence, our species, that we can create something like that.

On a happier note, the Hiesenberg Uncertainty Principle is awesome for the following two reasons:

1) It states that you need to take a finite time to get an accurate measurement of energy -- that you cannot know to an arbitrary accuracy the instantaneous Energy of a particle. Hence, you can have a violation of the laws of conservation of energy so long as it only lasts a very short while. I imagine this is like God keeping an eye on some meddling kids and looking over his shoulder to make sure they aren't messing with the laws of the universe - shouting "Hey! Quit playing with conservation of energy! That's important!" The kids can get away with it if they are fast enough. (On a side note, I TOTALLY want to be one of those kids when I grow up).

2) It applies to macroscopic objects like cars and people too. So the next time you are pulled over, you can definitely say that the police officer couldn't write you a ticket because if he knew exactly how fast you were going he couldn't have known where you were. (Except for the fact that the uncertainties intrinsic in our devices more than cover the necessary uncertainty, so... except for the fact that that would be totally false.) It would be a great way to get arrested for being flip to a police officer. You should try it!

The preceding has been Elizabeth after too much studying.


Duff said...

Well, two things come to mind:

First, bonobos (another species of chimpanzees) also have recreational sex. Further, a book I read, called On Killing by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (the book screams Durkhiem, for he has an analysis that focuses upon the necessity in most case for a concerted social effort to create someone who kills, usually for the cause of those who expended that effort. Surprisingly, Col. Grossman is unfamiliar, given that he examines Freud and Jung in his argument), which is actually a good book, if a bit repetitive (he makes his case well), claimed (I didn't check the reference) that you do see animals practicing acts we might count as atrocities, like foxes killing whole flocks of birds, beyond what they could possibly eat. He does point out, though, that humans seem to be the only species to practice atrocities on our own species.

Further, regardless of whether animals do what we see as evil, I am unsure as to how far one can call it such. For it seems that for evil to be done, the possibility of deliberation must be present, and animals do not attain deliberation in nearly the same fashion or complexity that we humans can. Many of the worst genocides of the last century were thoroughly thought out and deliberated upon, not spur of the moment, let's go kill some Jews/kulaks/"capitalists".

ayn said...

All cat sex is basically rape.

I agree in large part with what Duff says about deliberation relating to acts that could be considered "evil." Pre-meditation, as it were. And from my sense of it, pre-meditation (of any variety) requires a certain amount of symbolic thought, and this could be what's missing in many cases.

I think we spoke once about the example my philosophy prof used in class, when talking about language, of the chimp who lied to her caretaker. Something along those lines is what I'm thinking of.