10. Animals Again
by, 25-08-09 at 16:42 (348 Views)
It is illogical to assume that animals do not have consciousness. All animals (including humans) evolved from a common source and it is not sensible (with apologies to. Teilhard de Chardin) to assume that humans, at one particular point in their evolution, had a "soul" deposited into them. Ever seen a chimp examining a pimple on his face in a mirror? It’s an incredibly human thing to do. If they have consciousness, why not life after death and re-incarnation?
Here is another snippet of information (picked up from The New York Times): Since the 1970s, animal behaviourists have trained apes to make requests by using sign-language or symbols and acousticians have detected that whales and elephants make sub-sonic calls, mice and small animals and fish make ultra sonic sounds, and suspicions have arisen that animals may have more to say than humans realized. More recently, German researchers reported in the journal Science that Rico, a border collie , could not only fetch 200 objects by name , but could also learn the name of a new object by inference if it was in a group of other objects he already knew.
Dr Emily Savage-Rumbaugh who has worked with apes for 25 years reported that some bonobo chimps she works with at Georgia State University have been talked to by humans since birth. By pointing to symbols, Kanzi, the best among the bonobos, can form sentences or can hear and act upon English words such as “get the tomato that is in the microwave” and “fetch the red toy”. Other studies of chimp communication by signing reveal that they use expletives. It follows then that other primates have language, including syntax and grammar capabilities even though they do not have the biological apparatus for vocalizing in human-speak.
Francine Patterson who has worked for nearly 30 years with Koko, a gorilla, said Koko could “speak as well as a 5-year old child” using sign language and modulate her vocabulary of nearly a 1000 signs by raising her eyebrows (a very human trait) to indicate questions, and making moves “that would be described as grammatical” by users of sign-language. In an article on the human propensity for lying, by the Science Editor Sunday Times (20/11/2005), it was noted that other primates may manipulate the truth. An example was Koko the gorilla: “after ripping a steel sink from its moorings, the ape signed to claim that her friend the cat had done the damage”
Gorillas are born with an international sign language of gestures that they use to communicate, scientists have discovered. Researchers from St Andrews University in Scotland found gorillas using the same signs despite being born and raised on different continents. The team watched four groups of gorillas in Africa and Europe and found they had a repertoire of more than 100 distinct gestures, 40 of which were common to every animal. About 160 gorillas – 130 living in the wild and 30 in zoos - were monitored. More than 5,200 hand gestures were observed in a month. Richard Byrne, the co-author of the study, said: “Social transmission did not play a role. We conclude that the great majority of intentional gestures are universal.
The findings are published in the journal “Animal Cognition”
Linguists have been accused of moving the standards of their definition of language ever higher, so it can never be met. “They will always deny that animals can talk” Dr Savage-Rumbaugh states “because it doesn’t fit comfortably with their view of the universe. One animal that can speak our language, normally in mimicry, is not a mammal but a bird. Experiments with parrots have indicated that they also understand what they are saying to some degree, if taught, and can respond intelligently. A technique in training parrots, by having another person present who will compete for the teacher’s attention, stimulating the parrot to greater efforts, is now being used in teaching autistic children. I sometimes think "If nothing in nature has no purpose, why have animals been endowed with vocalisation if not to communicate with one another". Because humans do not understand such vocalisation does not mean it is meaningless.
When I had a heart attack in 1997 and was carted off to hospital in an ambulance, our cat (who never slept anywhere except in a downstairs room) decided to sleep on my bed till I came home. She did the same again the following year when I was hospitalized again. What went on in her mind, I wonder? She was 16 when she died and during her life-time we regularly had mutual admiration sessions when we gazed into each others eyes and she did her best to communicate before regretfully giving up as I was too thick to understand her language although she obviously understood much of mine. The writer Beverley Nichols observed that cats have one language for their own kind and a totally different set of vocalizations which they use on humans. When visiting my brother-in-law's farm I was taken to see a newly born foal. Politely, I said hello to the mare, the foal's mother, and held out my hand for her to sniff which she did. She then moved closer and gently held the side of her muzzle, which was incredibly soft, silky and warm, against my cheek for a few seconds. I found that a profoundly moving experience and really felt that I had communicated with an animal who was letting me know she found me ok.