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Sunday, November 06, 2011


Stan Gibilisco

Even ants fight "brutal wars of annihilation." In one of his essays, Henry David Thoreau described one such conflict that he witnessed with great fascination.

White blood cells attack and destroy bacteria with systematic precision and ruthlessness.

Does the fundamental software for life on this planet contain a line of "war code"?

"War Code": Great title for a science-fiction suspense thriller! And the seed of huminity's final days, too, I reckon -- if the asteroid doesn't get us first.

Stan Gibilisco

I meant to say "humanity's final days." Or maybe it was "humidity's final days." Same difference, I guess.


Have you ever heard of a place called "Get Official Samples" on the web, they give out a free samples of major brands to promote their products. I just got mine.


Two questions:

A) Can we be certain that helping behavior exhibited by humans is unlearned?

Parents begin helping their children even before they are born. Babies learn to mimic their parents in many ways, even before they walk. Couldn't children be mimicking their parents' helping behavior as well?

B) Without employing the aid of a pet psychic, how do we know what a chimp actually understands?

You write, "Neither chimp understands that the other has to do his part, nor does either expect, let alone demand, that the other cooperates."

But maybe this lack of expectation isn't due to a lack of understanding.
In the following clip (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOrgOW9LnT4), the featured chimp certainly seems, to me, to have expect cooperation from his human friend. He also seems to exhibit some of the helping behaviors you note that human children have. I acknowledge that his behavior is learned, rather than innate, but his behavior seems to indicate that he does have some idea of how cooperation works.

larry kurtz

Good post, Ken. Likely the influence of Marx on the human condition:


Ken Blanchard

Miranda: the experiments are carefully controlled to make sure that the child is not cued in any way by the experiment and that the situation is novel. When animal behavior depends on learning it requires a lot of contextual cues. Those can be controlled for.

The chimp will keep pulling the bar as long as gets his food, regardless of what the other chimp does. If one partner ceases to cooperate, the other will make no attempt to get his partner back in the game. Children will frequently stop as soon as the other player stops and will try to get the other player to rejoin the effort.

Bill Fleming

My cat brings mice in from her hunt for me to share (I pretend to be grateful, my wife, not so much). In return she (the cat, not the wife) expects a bite of cheese whenever I make myself a sandwich. May I recommend Jared Diamond's "The Third Chimpanzee" for further reading and enlightenment on this subject. Within, he outlines the very behaviors we have yet to evolve past. Among them xenophobia, genocide, and a propensity toward substance abuse/addiction.

larry kurtz

Sorry to jump threads on you, Doc; but Stan wondered whether there were any Liberal economists with integrity. Here's one, Stan:


Stan Gibilisco

"...Stan wondered whether there were any Liberal economists with integrity."

I did?

Actually I'm starting to wonder if there are +any+ economists with integrity.

larry kurtz

Halloween, i think. the put-egg-on-my-face-comment. Not you? I've been walking by the Rec in Deadwood nearly every morning on my way to Pump House Coffee at about 6:30. Come on over if you want and I'll buy.

Stan Gibilisco

Six thirty in the morning? Middle of the night! I usually swim at the Deadwood Rec Center at around 9:30 and get out around 11:00.

Alas, my sunrise swimming ritual has faded into a distant memory, South Beach and Kona, sunburns and sandflies, echoes of a bygone millennium.

Now all you'll see is a pallid wraith staggering around Deadwood and Lead with a bottle of Diet Dew.

Ken Blanchard

Bill: my sympathies for your wife and cat. Diamond's "Third Chimpanzee" is indeed a fine book. I frequently use his speculations about the evolution of concealed ovulation in my course.

Donald Pay

I work with a few people who have autism spectrum disorders where typical human social skills and reciprocity are affected. Although these people may lack an ability to express or show empathy in what we would recognize as normal, we can communicate with a few people who have some intellectual, though maybe not an emotional, understanding of empathy, or if they have an emotional understanding, they have a limited ability to demonstrate it. I have always wondered whether autism spectrum "disorders" might represent the phenotypic expression of an artifact of human genetic history.

Ken Blanchard

Donald: your last comment was very interesting. I think you are on to something. One interpretation of autism is that it represents a mode of awareness that is common to other animals. This is no insult. It might be that autistic persons offer us a window into the world of our nearest relatives on the family tree of mammals.

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